Prix fixe etiquette

Food news, food media and other food-related topics
User avatar
Mike Z
Posts: 494
Joined: 9 years ago
Location: Central Tempe

Post

I grew up in a family that didn't do dessert at the end of a meal, unless it was the rare birthday cake. I'm not fond of sweets in general, and following up a lovely savory meal with sweets seems counter productive to me. Like having a meal and brushing your teeth right afterwards. Maybe that makes me a Philistine . . .

Anyways, I'm curious . . . there are too many restaurants I'd like to try, and special prix fixe meals sound like a great way to try them, especially say during restaurant weeks, but I've never done so because it seems wasteful to decline the dessert. From those more experienced in fine dining, would it be gauche to ask "I don't do desserts, is there something else we can do?", or do you pretty much have to let prix fixe be what it is and not partake?
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Site Admin
Posts: 3468
Joined: 9 years ago

Post

This is a good question. I feel like any good restaurant would happily make that adjustment for you, but on the other hand I do kind of feel like -- barring allergy or something like that -- it's kind of unreasonable to ask. The whole point of a prix fixe menu is that you're getting a little bit of a deal because that allows them to prepare more easily, simplify their service, keep their food costs down, etc. If people start subbing things in, then I kind of feel like that's expecting the deal while not going along with the structure that allows them to bring it to you. But I'd be really curious to hear what restaurant folks have to say about this.

Incidentally, I'm with you... nine times out of ten, just give me another savory course :-)
Dominic Armato
User avatar
Mike Todd
Posts: 242
Joined: 9 years ago

Post

I know this is rather tangential to the core question, but over the past few years I've crunched the numbers for various Restaurant Week menus. In general, the prix fixe rates generally haven't represented much of a (or any) break over that of ordering the same courses a la carte during non-RW times. The RW dinner we had at Binkley's a couple of years ago (which ended with a parade of sweets) stands out as an exception to this pattern.

At any rate, I found it kind of freeing to see that trying out a place on my own terms was no worse a deal than RW.
User avatar
exit2lef
Posts: 416
Joined: 9 years ago
Location: Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa

Post

I'm biased because I almost never skip dessert, but why not request the dessert packaged to go and offer it to someone who might enjoy it? Even if there's no one at home who wants it, most desserts would disappear within minutes if left in the typical office break room.
https://phxrailfood.com
Instagram: @phxrailfood
User avatar
Mike Z
Posts: 494
Joined: 9 years ago
Location: Central Tempe

Post

exit2lef wrote:I'm biased because I almost never skip dessert, but why not request the dessert packaged to go and offer it to someone who might enjoy it? Even if there's no one at home who wants it, most desserts would disappear within minutes if left in the typical office break room.
Great suggestions, exit2lef, and might have to do that in the future. My most recent girlfriend wasn't much into desserts though either, and the animals at work . . . you could put out stale crackers and they'd get eaten. Put out a professional dessert . . . there would be bloodshed, lol
PHXeater
Moderator
Posts: 603
Joined: 9 years ago

Post

So my take is that in a RW/prize fixe/deal setting asking for a substitution wouldn't work and crosses etiquette lines. In high end tasting menu dining I don't understand why not though. I know for a fact that at least one fine dining restaurant in Phoenix will do it on a tasting menu but not all restaurants allow for substitutions (don't get me started on that). Now restaurants may not like it, savory courses are definitely less of a moneymaker than desserts, but they should do it to make the customer happy if the customer is dropping $100/person on food.

Also, if you're going to Chili's for their 2 for $20 deal it may not go over well ;)
User avatar
Mike Z
Posts: 494
Joined: 9 years ago
Location: Central Tempe

Post

Yeah, and that's the rub. I know it’s fixed for valid reasons. But . . .

I'll give an example. I've lived in Tempe or within eyesight of it for 9 years. I've been near House of Tricks a billion times, and hadn't been in until a date night last fall. I finally got in the door, loved the food for the most part, loved the patio. I've since been back in, will be back again, and recommended the place to a bunch of people.

That's the case with a number of places I frequent regularly. Been past them or heard about them and never been in, but once I had something hooked me

So, you take say a Restaurant Week with all the competition out there . . . I went to the website of last fall’s, and there's roughly a hundred places listed with prix fixe specials. All wanting to get people in their door. Sadly I'm going to assume all of them with a dessert offering third course that I'm not interested in. So get my butt in the door once, be cool and swap me out a chocolate whatever for something savory and small I didn't get to try. Maybe I like the place and come back during a normal week, maybe repeatedly. I certainly don't want to be unreasonable, and I know I'm an oddity on the desert thing, but long term it would seem in a restaurant's best interest to be flexible
PHXeater
Moderator
Posts: 603
Joined: 9 years ago

Post

Mike, I completely agree with you that the restaurant should be flexible, but I just think with the inherent nature of RW that it wouldn't go over well. Realistically many RW diners are often "amatuers", they come in for the deal and there is usually not a big chance of them coming back. Plus with how busy the restaurants get it just probably wouldn't be the best experience for you to request the substitution.

Also, I agree that most RW "deals" aren't even deals anymore anyways. Last RW I had a mediocre experience at Christopher's but a good experience at Capital Grille (the +1's choice). It would have been far better for me to just go to Christopher's on a slow night, sit at the bar and share a couple apps and an entree, and spend the same amount of money to try out the food. And yes, desserts are always the negative for me too...they're always fine but I only deal with the desserts at a prix fixe because I have to. I'm at the point where I'm just avoiding them though, I always still drop a decent chunk of change and never leave super happy, or I go and end up ordering a la carte anyways!
SimpleCaveman
Posts: 24
Joined: 9 years ago

Post

The economics of a prix fixe menu in the 3-5 course range is typically that the dessert or first course is "free". Take those $30 RW menus for example. Figure you've got a 8-10 dollar starter, an 17- 20 entree and a 5-8 dessert. So...asking for a third savory dish isn't just a matter of flavor. It's a matter of cost to the restaurants bottom line. Which leads me to this...we'll do just about anything to make you happy if you ask nicely. Humility and a kind word goes a long way. Especially during RW. Act like an entitled jerk toward my staff and I won't hesitate to say no. That's not to say I think you would. I don't mean to imply that. But there are people who would.
User avatar
Dapuma
Posts: 567
Joined: 9 years ago
Location: Scottsdale

Post

Pick one that doesnt have a dessert on it :)

Last time for RW Atlas Bistro had a 3 course for $40 that were all savory and dessert was extra if you wanted it, and it was a crazy good deal IMO

That was one of the few times I have been to RW and said, They really put their best foot forward, and since then have been back and it has been excellent

When the list comes out I would check there first based on what you are looking for