Cost of eating out in New York City – at least $30 for a basic meal

A friend and I went out to lunch today at a Korean soup spot that I’ve been wanting to try for a few months near Koreatown in Manhattan. It had been getting quite a bit of buzz, as it originally started as a pop-up from Korea, and also because it literally has just two things on the menu: dweji gumtang, which is a pork bone broth rice soup, and kimchi mandoo stuffed with kimchi, pork, and tofu. The gumtang is the main dish; the mandoo is simply an appetizer. There are a few non-alcoholic drinks you can order, as well, and that’s it. The entire restaurant is counter seating around the open kitchen where all the two servers are doing is serving you those two dishes. For two bowls of gumtang and one order of mandoo, with tax and tip, it cost just over $60 for two of us for lunch.

Yesterday, Chris, Pookster, and I had lunch at a nearby dumpling/noodle spot with my cousin and his wife, who were in town for a work conference. We didn’t order anything fancy at all: two orders of dumplings, two orders of noodles, one order of stir-fried rice cakes, one order of dry-fried string beans, and one beef/scallion roll wrap. The total bill, including tax and a 20% added gratuity because we were a party of five or more (yes, toddlers count as a full head), was $170. For four adults and one toddler (I’d like to call her half a person :), that’s $37.77/head. That’s a LOT of money to spend on a casual lunch!

My colleague, who lives in New Jersey, told me that when he and his wife met with friends in the city for dinner the other night, though they each only had one cocktail/glass of wine, their bill was over $200/person. I told him that it didn’t surprise me at all given the cost of eating out now. $30-40/person for lunch seems normal. So why would $200/person for dinner be unheard of? I’m sure their cocktails cost at least $18-24, while their wine was similarly priced, which would then mean their food would probably cost even more. This is the “new normal” cost range when it comes to eating out now, even for seemingly basic food like pork broth soup.

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