Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, March 26, 2017
Eons ago, when I was in college, I found a mistake in the check after eating dinner with a bunch of friends at a local Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. I called attention to it. I insisted on paying what we owed.
Needless to say, not many of my friends who were present at that meal wanted to join me for repasts in the future.
Yes, I’m a bit bizarre. I don’t like being undercharged. That’s because I believe in fairness on both sides when it comes to dining out. So you can imagine what I thought after a feast my wife and I enjoyed at Excellent Dumpling House on 23rd Street the other day.
We ordered five kinds of dumplings. Servings were generous; fillings ranged from shrimp to beef. Presentation was charming, with the compactures sometimes featuring different colors that suggested what ingredients they contained. The eatery itself: spacious, comfortable, simple. The waiters and waitresses were friendly.
But the bill. Oh, yes: the bill. For all of that, it came to approximately—wait for it—44 bucks. That’s including enough lip-smacking food to satisfy two people, plus service and atmosphere. Forty-four big ones. That was all.
Now, normally you might say: “Wow, what a deal! We’ve got to come here more often.” Yet I was almost offended. How could they get away with charging so little? This dinner was beyond a good value. It was nearly being given away.
Here’s part of the reason why I get so riled up about this: I believe in equitable behavior for munchers and munch-providers alike. The eatery had a number of people on staff that day and featured a large room on a very busy, desirable block in Chelsea. Rents must be high. Payroll, too. Couldn’t this spot charge a little more and be OK with it? Bigger checks would be quite fair, in my opinion—especially given the fact that many other restaurants in the area showcase much higher prices on their menus. What gives?
I spoke to some of the staffers at this location of Excellent Dumpling House, and they seemed bemused that I would kvetch about something like this. It was also indicated to me that this was a good way of competing with other establishments in the neighborhood. Can’t argue with that, I suppose.
Still, I wonder if such eateries could take a good look at the quality they offer and assess the fair value of their products less conservatively … as well as gauge customer reactions more comprehensively. It isn’t always that a customer will complain about the check being too low. But it may happen again in the future—from someone other than me. That’s always a possibility. It’s almost like restaurants such as Excellent Dumpling House, which do their best to please and succeed on so many levels, are being too fair. Foodies will forgive them for a little uptick now and then. It’s part of the game.
At any rate, it’s hard not to recommend this place for reasons of inexpensive, high-quality noshing, and I can’t deem my reasons for being outraged as anything to have qualms about. I do, however, believe a couple of dollars more here and there on the menu wouldn’t faze any serious gastronomes, and maybe such a price hike is warranted. Of course, now that I’ve suggested such a thing, I can guarantee that I won’t be able to find as many friends who are willing to join me on my culinary quests … particularly if they’re paying. Guess that’s the price of decency.
It would be indecent to expect anything less.