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What to Do If a Restaurant Menu Is Pricier Than You Expected

What Would You Do?

We've all been in crazy situations, and I want to know how you handle entertaining fiascoes and bad restaurant behavior. I'll present a situation and you tell me what you would do. Here's today's scenario:

Your parents are visiting from out of town. You want to take them out to a nice but not too fancy dinner as a send-off, but it's Sunday and lots of places are closed. You've been wandering around for a while, and now everyone is hungry! You duck into one of the city's regarded restaurants on the off chance they have a table, and they do.

When you sit down, you realize this is much more of a fine dining experience than you were seeking. Three-course meals are the only option, and the price tag is high.


Not quite French Laundry level, but you were looking for something more casual. You can afford it, and since you're already seated, it's awkward to leave. What do you do? It happened to me, actually. Find out what I did.

First, I told my parents that this wasn't what I was expecting and that if they wanted to leave, I'd happily embarrass myself and tell the hostess. They protested, so I told my dad, who had initially offered to pay for the meal, that I would split the cost with him. He said that was silly and said that we might as well just enjoy the experience since we were already seated. The meal ended up being delicious and fun, but it lasted far longer than I expected — and it was really expensive. I wish I hadn't even walked in, but it was certainly a learning experience. How would you have handled the scenario?

Source: Flickr User robertpaulyoung

Join The Conversation
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 7 years
I would simply order something inexpensive and enjoy my meal.
tiaramh tiaramh 7 years
in real life i probably would have left and asked the hostess for a good, more casual place nearby. But i would reccomend inquiring about share plates, or courses that might have enough food for more than one person and that way everyone gets their fill but you save a little.
Food Food 7 years
Leslievanhouten, it definitely wasn't Masa's. Actually I had been there before, but it was a while ago and the menu had changed pretty dramatically — and it wasn't posted outside. Thankfully, everything turned out great!
goddessru goddessru 7 years
I don't know what I would have done because it wouldn't have happened to me. I research restaurants extensively, and always have a new one I want to try with all the facts laid out. I almost never fall into a situation where I just walk in and the foods too expensive at the moment (though, if I leave it up to my fiance, this can happen at any given moment because he does not plan). However, in your situation, though expensive, every now and then, its nice to have a nice meal.
rockd_out_vxn rockd_out_vxn 7 years
If I could afforded the meal... I would have stayed. It's your parents - splurge every now and then.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 7 years
Was this how you ended up at Masa's?
dclsweetspot dclsweetspot 7 years
When I was in my 20's I wouldn't have sucked it up and stayed even if it was too eexpensive but I guess with age comes the ability to not feel a bit embarrassed or awkward about leaving after being seated. I've done it before and I am sure you wouldn't have been the first or the last to do it at that restaurant. I've learned life is too short to do something I'd rather not do for fear someone I won't see again might think of me.
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 7 years
This has (kind of) happened to me and I did the same. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse. Even though the sign was there I couldn't bear to walk out of the restaurant because of the price. Now I research everything!
HaterTot HaterTot 7 years
This wouldn't have happened to me because if it was a "regarded" restaurant, I probably would know what to expect, even if I hadn't been there before. (Also, unlikely.) I eat out a lot, and follow the restaurant/bar scene really closely, so there's just no way I wouldn't have known what to expect. I guess I'm confused as to how a writer for a food blog was in her home city and didn't know what to expect at a "regarded" restaurant, even if she had never been.
eshellmoyer eshellmoyer 7 years
That happened to me and my mother. We went to a restaurant that a dining guide gave one dollar sign and it ended up actually being a formal Italian place, where each course was meant to be ordered (and paid for) separately. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the prices, but my mom convinced me that since we could afford it and since we were already there, that we should stay. I don't think I would ever go there again, but I'm glad I did once. Once I got over the horrible awkwardness and shock, we actually had a lovely time.
doogirl doogirl 7 years
Ha! This kind of happened to me and my husband once! We were young and on vacation at the coast which we couldn't afford. We decided to have one nice dinner out, for our anniversary, and we walked into a place and were seated. When we looked at the menus we both got huge eyes and muttered under our breath, "uh oh!" It wasn't a terribly fancy place, so we just ordered appetizers and chalked it up to experience. If I had been in your position, with my 34 year old wisdom, I would have left. But if you had a good time and a good meal and you could afford it, then look back on as a great memory and trust me, you'll get to a place where you can laugh about it!
Spectra Spectra 7 years
While I'm normally very frugal with my money, I think I'd just offer to pay for the meal and I'd enjoy it. I think leaving the restaurant would be kind of tacky. If you don't eat out often, you can afford to splurge on a nice meal every so often. It's not like you'd be eating at a place like that every day or anything.
finzup finzup 7 years
I always look for the posted menu outside... I guess there wasn't one available so I think what you did was completely fine and within reason.
hippiecowgirl hippiecowgirl 7 years
Like partysugar, I like to plan ahead so I probably would have selected something earlier. In your situation, I would have done the exact same thing.
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 7 years
If it was my parents, I'd definitely talk about it, and they'd probably offer to split too. But even if it was with other friends, I wouldn't leave. It would be expensive, but you'd also get something special out of it.
nikkisoda nikkisoda 7 years
Mmmmm French Laundry. My mouth is watering and my mind is filled with flash backs of my fabulous dinner there.................Ohhhh soooo gooooood. I'm sorry, what were we talking about again?
kea718 kea718 7 years
I think you handled it fine. I probably would have done the same thing. So you spent more then you were expecting, BUT, you had an enjoyable meal and got to try a well regarded restaurant.
partysugar partysugar 7 years
What restaurant was it?! I'm dying to know. Also, I wouldn't be in this situation. I'm a total planner and knowing it was my parents last night I would have had a suitable restaurant picked out.
AlexisSF AlexisSF 7 years
i'd ask everything if this restaurant looks ok, if everyone says yes, we stay. if not, i'd just politely tell the server that we would not be staying — it's keep it simple and codorial – they don't need to know why you're leaving.
lickety-split lickety-split 7 years
i think that worked out really well. your parents sound awesome. lucky you. unfortunately, if i had said anything like that my mother would have thrown a hissy ft and then told everyone who every met me that i invited them to dinner and then couldn't afford to pay for it. she'd do it in a "joking" way, but you get the idea :faint: so i would just have to suck it up and pay for the meal. i wouldn't enjoy any of it, though i wouldn't say anything :(
skigurl skigurl 7 years
agree with chrstne, i would have just up and left, mentioning it to the server on the way out that we were looking for a quick bite and were in a rush to catch a flight or a show or whatever...i wouldn't mention that it was the prices that scared us off...and i also wouldn't really care if i looked weird to patrons around me because i don't know them (well, i would probably care but i know i shouldn't and if i really didn't want to stay, i'd suck it up anyway) frankly, i hate when stuff like this happens because my family wouldn't be a big fan of a really fancy place and we'd have more fun somewhere more casual i chose a "known" restaurant for my grad dinner and it was just awkward being there when we all wanted to be somewhere a little less formal and a little more loud
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
Given that I could afford it and everybody is hungry, I would have went ahead with the meal, and enjoyed it. I am a very budget-minded person, but sometimes, other matters come first. In my opinion, per the circumstances, this is one of those times. Besides, I am very good with my money at other times. This "splurge" would not harm my personal economy. :)
Chrstne Chrstne 7 years
If I hadn't looked at the menu beforehand, I would have told the hostess, "Ya know, I'm really sorry to do this, but we were just looking for a quick meal. I think we're going to head out and grab a pizza" or something like that. If you really don't want to wait around for a long time, or it's more expensive than you would like, leaving is not a bad thing to do. It might be awkward, but not inappropriate.
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