Confession time. I spent over $40 for my wife and I have breakfast yesterday. We didn’t feast on caviar. We both had meals focused around eggs (yellow, not green) and ham. As for the atmosphere, the table was clearly worn, the walls had tears in the wallpaper and the napkins were your every day paper variety.
On the other hand, the food was some of the best I’ve had in some time. The place, The Old Coffee Pot in New Orleans has been featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It has a historic vibe (which explains the condition of the tables and the wallpaper. The waitress, Miss Shirley, who looks like she’s been a fixture for a while will occasionally belt out a an Amazing Grace. During our meal she didn’t sing. I didn’t know she did sing until I got home and did a little more research in the place. However, her positive energy ran throughout the place. One gentleman in the corner went to two ladies visiting from England and asked if they’d partake in a glass of champagne for him. You see, his problem is that he didn’t want to open a whole bottle for just himself, but if he had the company of a couple others to share a glass with it would make his morning. If I ever watched Downton Abbey, I imagine it would have been the New Orleans version of a scene. (Note: my entire view of Downton Abbey is shaped by this hiliarious Saturday Night Live Skit not from actually watching the TV show.)
Not only was atmosphere great, but the food was great too. As a lifelong northerner, the opportunity to have grits and biscuits doesn’t come along very often. The Callas Cakes were fantastic. (Odd coincidence: It was the second plantation meal that I’ve had in about a month while on a trip.)
Despite this great breakfast, I’m reminded of what a friend said to me a month before, “If I’m going to spend $30-40 on a meal, it should be a dinner, not breakfast.” It’s an amazing point. We could have had a dinner at Friday’s, Applebee’s, etc. for the same price. It’s not just the Old Coffee Pot either, it seems to be true of nearly every place in Northern California. It seems like nearly everything at any place I go to is in the $8-10 range. Add in tip and tax and it can get to be $12-15 per person. Whatever happened to the $5 breakfast burrito?
One sign of the importance of breakfast to restaurants is that fast-food chains are joining in. For example, Subway started serving breakfast about 18 months ago. Taco Bell joined the party (in some locations) recently as well. (Taco Bell, if you are reading this, please open up before 8:30 if you want to be serious about breakfast.)
Personally, I’ll stick with making breakfast at home. I’m a big fan of the Jimmy Dean’s D-Lights Sandwiches which are fairly cheap (not much more than $1 a sandwich) at the military commissary where I shop.
Ask the Readers: Are you finding that breakfast prices are creeping with dinner prices in your area? Do you find yourself going out for fewer breakfasts because of it?
Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says
Generally, I either skip breakfast or grab an RC and M&Ms.
Yeah, a lot of people claim that it’s the most important meal of the day and that it helps metabolism and such. Personally, I don’t need my metabolism to work any faster than it does (5’11” and about 155), and the only thing a big breakfast kick-starts for me is my acid reflux. The later I eat my first big meal of the day, the better my days will be.
(Yeah, I know, pop and chocolate are huge AR triggers for a lot of people, but not for me. Most varieties of potatoes, on the other hand, are. The doctor doesn’t understand it, either.)
In any case, if the bill is $40+, I expect there to be a steak on the plate.
You’re comparing a nice breakfast in a place with a great vibe to Applebees or TGI Fridays?
I’ll take a fantastic breakfast over a crappy dinner any day, and it’ll be $40 well spent.
Lazy Man says
Nathan, the nice breakfast was a reminder to write the article. Even the run of the mill places in Northern California that are very basic are up there with Applebee’s or TGI Fridays.
If you wanted to take the “niceness” out of it, you could compare Denny’s to Applebee’s (for example) and find that they are pretty close in price. I don’t believe it used to be that way.
Jeremy @ Modest Money says
I’ve noticed this trend when I go out for breakfast too. It usually is just as much as going out for lunch. The part that always gets me is them charging $2.50-$3 for a glass of iced tea. Most days I am just happy to have a bowl of cereal at home for about $1.
I looked into buying a Subway franchise about 18 months ago and talked with a lot of owners. They all told me selling breakfast was just a way for Subway Corporate to get them to open an hour earlier so they’re ready for the lunch rush!
One thing I’ve found is that going to a small independent sandwich shop costs about as much as ordering a sandwich at a restaurant. Something is off with the prices.
I’m with Nathan. I loooooove a good breakfast. I have noticed the higher prices, though. But since I don’t eat meat, it’s slightly cheaper for my plate. Here in NJ a basic diner breakfast always includes homefries and toast. If you wanted eggs and either of those items a la carte, it would end up being about the same. We cook a fantastic breakfast at home at least 2x a month, and the cost of that is probably less than $5 for all 3 of us.
Even though I typically drink my breakfast (ahem, coffee that is), I love a good quality breakfast out occasionally and am willing to pay for it. The price creep you are noticing may be true, I think the breakfast market is just becoming more and more competitive, as you noted.
I say if you are going to splurge on breakfast, go some place cool (like you did) and make it count.
Certain experiences are worth the money. I couldn’t tell you off hand what the prices are, but Red Arrow in Manchester, NH and Cabot’s in Newton, MA are worth every penny I’ve ever spent there. Sometimes it is the food, sometimes it is the story. I have no idea if House of Nanking in SF is in line with other Chinese restaurants, but I won’t go anywhere else.
Lazy Man says
Cabot’s is fantastic. I went there for the first time last year on a trip back east.
House of Nanking has steadily gone downhill in the 5-6 years that I’ve lived in SF area. It is still great, but it isn’t head and shoulders above everything else like it used to be.
I think I might have made a mistake with this article. I used the experience I had at one place to trigger an article that I had been meaning to write for some time, which is that breakfast seems to more expensive in general now than it was before.
I just got back from a business trip to Vancouver, Canada. I stayed at a downtown hotel and paid 30 dollars Canadian for a breakfast consisting of: a bowl of oatmeal, a bowl of fruit, and coffee. It was almost the same amount I paid for dinner in the same hotel. Glad I’m not paying for it out of my own pocket.
Most breakfast portions are huge these days. My husband and I would hit the local grocery store for bagel and cream cheese when we travel or stay at hotels that provides free breakfast.. There is no way I would pay $30 for breakfast.
Lazy Man says
It’s a good point about the huge breakfasts. If my wife and I get take out we can typically split a breakfast and be quite happy with it.
Give me a heaping plate of hash browns, eggs and sausage and I’m a happy guy. If the plate is really stacked, it’s worth the money but when you go to one of those places and only get a small portion of each and then they charge you $10, I walk out feeling like I got ripped off. I agree with you though, that breakfast has been creeping up in price so that it’s comparable to dinners!