New Yorkers who love to dine out are reeling from the latest affront — huge price hikes for standard dishes with no “luxury” ingredients such as foie gras or truffles in sight.
Roast chicken for $40. Halibut for $50. Pasta dishes starting at a whopping $42. Rampant inflation has landed with a splat on Big Apple restaurant menus, and it’s taking a big bite out of customers’ wallets.
The cost of eating in a “midmarket” Manhattan restaurant has soared. Remember when appetizers typically cost $15-$25, with entrees in the $20 and $30 range? Based on my own experiences and owners’ estimates, New Yorkers going out for a meal should be prepared to pay 20% more across the board.
The escalation shows up in my every restaurant meal these days, from neighborhood diners to the priciest luxury spots. My usual party of four, accustomed to paying $400 before tip (including one cocktail or glass of wine each) for a “midrange” dinner, now routinely coughs up $500.
A delicious (but not very large) cut of halibut at Times Square’s reborn Lambs Club weighs in at $50. The 12-ounce, gorgonzola-cured Wagyu steak at Andrew Carmellini’s Carne Mare, one of my favorite dishes of 2021, was $72 when the restaurant opened last June. That same cut cost $110 in November, and has since climbed to $115.
Celebrated Italian fine-dining establishment Marea on Central Park South was never cheap. The $39 pasta dishes were a bargain, compared to meat and fish entrees in the $40s and $50s.
No longer: All of Marea’s pasta choices, including the famous fusilli with braised octopus and bone marrow, are now $42.
Down in the Village, Minetta Tavern’s fabled Black Label Burger, going for $33 last summer, is now $38 — just one example of how carnivores citywide are absorbing the reported 14.3% jump in wholesale beef costs from April 2021 to April ’22, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Customers have noticed the unwelcome change.
“I recently moved back to the city from Ohio, and I’m shocked by prices I’m seeing,” said Shubham Chandra, who works in health care. “Brick chicken [$26 for half] went up at Jane, udon [topping out at $39] at Raku, and the prix fixe [as much as $67] sushi at Sugarfish,” he said.
Some new places are more expensive than you’d expect, right out of the gate. A wine-loving Manhattan friend who traipsed to Brooklyn to try Clinton Hill wine bar Place des Fetes thought that $17 shrimp toast might be shareable.
“It was three bites,” she groaned.
Restaurateurs aren’t necessarily trying to make up for business they lost during the pandemic. They’re coping as best they can with their own skyrocketing costs for main elements, basic staples and even nonedibles.
Owners now pay between 12 and 17% more since December for familiar seafood cuts such as striped bass, and even for once-cheap octopus.
East 50s institution Fresco by Scotto pays 37% more for eggs and 57% more for butter over last year, co-owner Rosanna Scotto told The Post.
“These were our highest variances, but practically everything else is up in the 10% range,” she said.
Penny Glazier, co-owner of Morgan’s Brooklyn BBQ and nearby Tiny’s Cantina, said they pay 50% more since March 2020 for paper bags, containers and napkins — a whopping three-fifths of that in the past three months. It’s a huge expense, as both places do a brisk takeout and delivery business. Both Morgan’s and Tiny’s raised menu prices an average of 10% in the past few months.
“As a result, we find that some people are choosing the less expensive items,” Glazier said.
Alexandra Morris, co-owner of Spanish tapas bistro Gaudir in East Harlem, said her costs for eggs and chicken “quadrupled” in the space of one week. She and chef Cédric Durand raised the price of their 15 oz. ribeye steak by $5 to $34; most dishes have gone up 20% since the end of 2021.
Some operators hold the line on basic prices but find ways to tuck in less-visible increases. At many places I’ve been, wine ordered by the glass fills less of the glass than it once did. Prix-fixe lunches now come with supplementary charges for items that previously came at no additional cost.
But the sneakiest strategem to camouflage the blow is at Daniel Humm’s all-vegan Eleven Madison Park, where the price of the prix-fixe menu hasn’t changed, but $335 per person no longer includes, as it once did, the tip. Other restaurants are taking notice — David Chang’s Momofuku Ko will unbundle gratuity from their prix-fixe as well, beginning July 1. Without an included gratuity, most customers will now pay at least 20% more.
At EMP, that’s 20% more for a meal without meat, fish or dairy, leaving some diners less than sated. A friend plunked down $450 for a recent dinner he described as “asparagus, fava beans, peas, tofu — yes, tofu — and morels. What a waste of money.”