Fare Game

The Intolerable Foodie on the indignity of paying for a meal

It’s tacky, all these numbers. A menu gaudily festooned with dollar signs is fine for a fast-food shack. But with fine dining, I’m not buying provisions; I’m enjoying entertainment. Microcalculating an artist’s work this way—$16 for the buffalo mozzarella with shishito peppers and $17 for the buffalo mozzarella with shell beans at Mozza—sullies the experience. I dine to escape, not haggle at the bazaar.

Worse yet, restaurants fail to abide by a rule so rudimentary that it is followed by people in the world’s oldest profession: Get the money out of the way first. Instead, in desperation, they hide the bill somewhere supposedly fun, like in a cup, a paperback, or on a clipboard, as if it’s the anti-afikomen. And we have to wait endlessly for it, after the meal’s over, when I am gripped by a sudden, irrational, Charlie Sheen-level desire to leave.

At Trois Mec, along with New York’s Brooklyn Fare and Chicago’s Alinea, Next, and Elizabeth, they’ve ended this brutish practice. Instead I buy a ticket for the prix fixe meal and tip in advance so that I know what I’m spending. I am assigned a time, so I don’t have to wait at the bar and pretend to be impressed by a twentysomething’s ability to crush herbs. My waiter doesn’t try to upsell. I have no decisions to make. I am no longer a customer but a patron. And I feel, in every way, less cheap.