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Good Food at Fair Prices in New York Pt. 2

August 12, 2010

Technically, none of the comments from last week’s post on Good Food at Fair Prices in New York qualified for Ask the Profussor, because officially none of them were questions.  All the same, I wanted to address some of your thoughts and clarify a few points.

There are countless different ways to compare restaurant prices.  There is no perfect method.  Each approach really tells a different story.  One must attempt to choose the best comparative method for the story one is trying to tell.

In my case, I was looking for quantitative and qualitative proof that there are better and less expensive restaurants than the best our fair region has to offer.  I chose Café Capriccio not to single them out, or attempt to get them to change their pricing structure, but rather because is you asked 100 people what is the best upscale Italian restaurant in the region, a majority would claim it to be this Albany institution.

They may even be right.

While looking at the average price-per-ounce of a grass-fed steak in Albany versus other metropolitan areas in the state would certainly be interesting, it would not answer my burning question of why there are so few places in the region that offer great food at modest prices and in a handsome setting.

Yes, there are more restaurants in New York City.  And yes, competition is fiercer.  But inarguably real estate and consequently rent is also vastly more expensive.  Yet, restaurants there still seem to be able to deliver high quality food at a relative value, even with the high cost of doing business in the state of New York.

Mr. Dave suggested that a more appropriate comparison would be with Utica or Rochester.  In the realm of DMAs – which is where I bide my time – these metropolitan areas are well beneath Albany’s #57.  Rochester is a full 23 spots away at #80 and Utica is all the way down at #170.  To me Buffalo at #52 would be a more fitting comparison.

And in Buffalo, they have an Italian restaurant that sources farms right on the menu, cures their own meat, and even goes as far to provide free-range mother-fed veal from a nearby farm.

In fact, you can get this veal in the form of the Blossom Hill Farm Grilled Veal Cutlet which consists of, “Humanely raised veal, lobster claw ‘Cassoulet’: Blossom Hill Farm smoked belly, cannellini bean, swiss chard.”  And it costs less than the eggplant with four cheeses at Café Capriccio.

Mr. Dave also suggested to look at the entrée price of the ultimate Italian dining experience in New York City.  With the exception of their grilled ribeye for two, all the entrées at Babbo are $29 or less.  To keep my comparison consistent, the majority of entrées at Café Capriccio are $30 or more.

My point in calling out these discrepancies is not to get the restaurants to change.  They have a business model and that works for them.  I understand that.

Rather, my point is to try and disrupt that business model.  Hopefully by exposing people to the options that exist beyond the boundaries of the capital region, they too will be dissatisfied with the local options as they are.  I say stay in.  I say save that disposable income for good meals when traveling on vacation, instead of squandering your hard earned money on local restaurants that charge too much for the food they serve.

Mind you, that’s not to say there aren’t local restaurants that are doing a great job and using great ingredients.  Some of them are.  There are even a few who are providing good food, at a fair price and in a nice setting.  And I look forward to helping those chefs promote their good works in the weeks and moths to come.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    August 12, 2010 10:33 am

    One word: depressing.

    Let’s hope you can make a difference.

  2. August 12, 2010 1:47 pm

    Oh, I get it. You would be Don Quixote. Can I audition for Sanchez? And thanks for explaining all the Albanians in Babbo.

  3. August 12, 2010 2:51 pm

    I love Babbo and Cafe Capriccio and yet don’t feel the need to directly compare them somehow. Babbo is a pain in the ass to get into and the Cafe is welcoming and accessible. The dining experience in each of these spaces is disparate, one being loud with a tendency towards arrogant service, the other fairly friendly and clearly family run. Value is a personal judgement and I am happy to pay for a meal prepared by a thoughtful chef and served graciously. I think you are on a fool’s errand, sadly. If you truly want to create change, put on your big boy shoes and open a restaurant to show Albany how it’s done. Sorry – I’m just not buying in.

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