Restaurant price inflation in the SFBA

I think it’s significantly more than that, if you factor in restaurants switching to less expensive ingredients, more casual service, or and so on to avoid raising prices even more.

For years I never worried about how much I spent in restaurants, but recently I realized that if I didn’t pay attention to which places I go to and what I order that would use up 100% of my disposable income, even though I’m making 50% more than I was five years ago.

I don’t eat out at dinner anymore, mostly because of a stomach disorder that prevents me from eating later in the evening. I do get lunch out nearly every day, so there’s where I notice the difference. Burritos that were $6 are now over $8. Pizza slices at Rotten City, if I’m remembering correctly, are over $4 for a cheese slice. It used to be that $10 was my limit for lunch, but now it’s more like $12 or even $15 at places like China Village, including tax and tip.

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Some places I go into I look around and think that the restaurant cannot charge enough to make a go at it. I’m expecting a shake out of sorts, even among several long-time places - from concept changes to just turning over the keys. If I had a place that was just “getting by” in SF with a Type 47 or 48 liquor license, I’d probably sell it for a cool quarter million and lose my headache. A chef with a benefactor can then open another “$1K for 2” dinner spot.

We have really started rethinking (or maybe just thinking) about some of the places we patronize. A couple of drinks/glasses of wine and a little bar snack while we’re walking around ends up being $40 to $50 out the door. We’re much more likely to stop at Le Petit Cochon on a stroll down Shattuck and stay there longer than we would have in the past (i.e., for a second round, a basket of frites) instead of a longer visit to Cesar, or Revival.

I don’t know how it is all going to shake out, and I’ll continue to eat well, but for the time being, with a bit more discretion in location and ordering. And when a simple dinner for two with a most modest bottle of wine is $100+, perhaps my expectations remain high.

An example from today: there’s a new rotisserie chicken place in the food court on Shattuck in Berkeley across from Cheeseboard, and I wanted to try it for lunch. But a whole chicken there is $25, and a “plate” was $13. Before Zaki closed, they were selling the same size chickens for $15.

I ended up at Cheeseboard, where the slices are still $2.50 and you get a healthy lagniappe to boot.

When the bill for a good dinner for two with wine is under $100, I’m surprised and feel like I’ve gotten an unusual bargain. Usually that’s at a small place owned and operated by the chef where the furnishings, dishes, and glassware are very modest, like Miss Ollie’s or Kronnerburger.