Clearly this whole economy thing is confusing us. On one hand, big-name restaurants are going gonzo and offering up packages like I've never heard of before. As Eater reported, "Big Restos Can, And Will, Ignore the Economy." Witness "Dining with the Stars:" For $1900 per couple, you can experience what you might call the ultimate progressive dinner, including Michael Mina, Cyrus and Meadowood.
Then, in the New York Times yesterday, an article in the Dining & Wine section entitled—"Across the Country, Restaurants Feel the Pinch"—reported of NYC: "Many restaurants say more customers are sharing appetizers, buying cheaper wine, ordering less wine and fewer courses, or just not showing up as much." It's a sentiment I've heard echoed by many restaurant owners in SF.
I called up Beretta—the Mission District pizza/cocktail combo restaurant that's been packed since they opened in April—to see how they're faring. Co-owner Deborah Blum says they're feeling it, but maybe not as much as restaurants that don't still have the momentum that newness brings. That, and the fact that people really like to drink. "We haven’t experienced as much of a slowdown," she said. "Part of that has to do with being new and I think being priced the way we are and being flexible. You can come in and order a pizza and share. Plus, our cocktails are priced under $10 and that’s a really cheap price. From a customer’s perspective, we’re a really good value."
This is Beretta when you don't.
If our choices are:
• Go Michelin-star crazy
• Eat leftovers and squirrel away money for the long, hard winter that seems ahead of us.
• Invest in our favorite restaurants when we can so that they can stay afloat.
I'd like to suggest the third.
I think people assume that the restaurants that make SF what is is will be here when we all come out of hiding, but don't be too sure. It's hard enough around here with the Health Care Initiative and the stiff competition. The idea of witnessing my favorite spots shutter makes me want to do the same. You won't see me dining with the stars, but when financially possible, I'd like to make a case for showing up.