When a seemingly simple meal out ends up costing over $60/person

In the last two years as we’ve really felt the impact of inflation, not just through our grocery bills, but also our restaurant bills, every time I go out to eat, I wonder whether what I’ve paid for, whether it’s food or drink, is really “worth it.” It seems like the more we go out, especially when we’re socializing with friends, it’s more and more impossible to see main dishes cost less than the high 20s. In many cases, main dishes seem to be up in the 30s and 40s, and that’s even during lunch/brunch times when people generally will assume that the cost of a meal will be lower than at dinner time. Today, we went to Park Slope to meet friends and dine at Masalawala & Sons for brunch. Masalawala is owned by Unapologetic Foods, a food company also responsible for one of our favorite Indian places in Long Island City called Adda. They like to market themselves as being “unapologetic,” authentic to the regions of India they represent, and also at reasonable, “not” expensive price points. But I couldn’t help but blink a few times when I saw that their main (“large”) format dishes were in the high 20s, 30s, and even 40s. The portions were decent, but even some of the appetizers, which were quite small (meaning, among four of us, we’d probably have a bite each at most), were around $20. Without even really thinking about it or over ordering in the least bit, when we split the bill, it ended up evening out to about $65 each. This wasn’t even supposed to be a fancy or “special occasion” meal. It was just meant to be a casual brunch catch-up with friends on a typical Saturday.

The food was definitely good and different than the average Indian restaurant. The decor was beautiful on the inside, complete with flowers, endless brightly colored wall paintings and interesting decorations adorning the walls and ceilings. I also really appreciated the super clean and muraled bathrooms, both of which had a changing table (which, of course, I was excited by, and Kaia was even more excited by because she knows what the changing tables look like before they are pulled down, and she insisted upon a diaper change before beginning lunch because she had had a heavy pee diaper. She kept yelling over and over, “Change diaper! Change diaper!”). The service was really friendly and attentive. It’s not that I could really critique anything about the restaurant at all. The price points just felt very steep. As I told Chris after, as he had commented about how steep the prices were, I told him that unfortunately, a place like this could not be a reliable everyday “neighborhood restaurant” where you’d stop by without thinking… because it would just hurt the wallet too much. But it seems like almost every restaurant that isn’t a total hole-in-the-wall is like this now in New York City. Once upon a time, we used to spend $8-15 on lunch. Then it became $20 for a weekday work lunch. Now, you’d be lucky to get out spending $25-30, and that’s before tax and… of course, tip. It almost just makes you want to eat even more of your meals at home now.

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