As a food writer, the restaurants I hear about most are the ones with dedicated PR teams, high-resolution press photos and a constant barrage of events that make for quick and easy stories for our news site – the most expensive and upscale restaurants that the Garden State can offer.
To not much surprise, then, I’ve always been a little infatuated with these five-star eateries that, as a teen living with my single mom, I could only drive by. Hell, I didn’t even have something to wear to these types of places even if I could go.
However, these days, closets, driving distance and hefty bills be damned – I can go to any five-star restaurant that I please, thank you very much. But after my dinner last night at a top-ranked New Jersey eatery that I will not name, I don’t think I want to.
Last night, Mike and I went out for our anniversary at one of the most well-known restaurants in New Jersey. We ate some really delicious things, like hickory-smoked ribeye, clam belly and squab.
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But were they delicious enough to warrant a $500 bill for two people, which is half my monthly rent? I don’t think so.
At what price tag do you become confused at what you’re paying for? How much money can a scallop actually cost, no matter who prepares it or where it’s from?
At the end of the day, however foofy and however small the dish, food is still food. It’s job is to sustain you, make you happy, fill you, bring you together with another human, maybe help you experience a new cuisine or culture. But how often have you left a supposedly five-star meal like this feeling like you’re still a little hungry; that maybe you should stop for a slice of pizza on the way home?
Since my literal job is to applaud these restaurants, maybe this is blasphemous to say, but I’ve never been very good at hiding anything. To me, the best meals aren’t the ones with celebrity chefs or the ones where sous chefs foraged in the woods for the most local mushroom or something.
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It’s the ones where the food is so authentic that your server doesn’t speak a lick of English. It’s the ones that are packed on a Monday night at 9 p.m. It’s the ones where the owner sends you a dessert on the house because he knows it’s been a rough week.
So excuse me, culinary community, but from now on, those are the restaurants you’ll find me at. Frankly, my sanity – and wallet – can’t really take any more.