If I pay more than I'm comfortable paying usually and don't get stellar food and service, I am not likely to offer second chances.
Eh, when accessible and consistently-good Castagna is right next door, I expect some bang for my buck.

That is a completely reasonable guideline. I wonder, while you're doing the "second chance" calculation, do you ever think of what the meal would cost in say, New York, and factor that in?
Do I think about what a tank of gas costs in Omaha, Nebraska as I fill up my car in Portland? No.
Eleven bucks for two bites of "citrusy, sweet-and-savory seasonal veggies perched atop a carrot puree" certainly sounds like a valid thing to harp on.

Bigger cities also have bigger economies to go with them and their jobs pay much better; most things are inflated accordingly.
I just have to question the business decision of restaurants like this in Portland, Oregon. We're not a major metro area, 20 miles in any direction you are looking at hicksville fringes.

Having said that, I go to restaurants first to satiate, secondly to relax, and a distant third to be impressed with whatever the owner thinks is hippity/hoppity. So I'm probably not the market for this place anyway.
@tk and code salad

Ah HA! But there's the thing. This is a really really great fish place severing some outrageous and unique dishes.

If not fish, is there anything you might be willing to pay a premium for that may tip the balance of the cost/quantity ratio?

Does it matter what it costs elsewhere?
short answer, Yes. you(and the rest of PDX) are being cheap asses.

Ok, first lets set aside the red herring of NY prices. A $35 risotto in Manhattan is not that expensive if you make the kind of money you would need to make to live in Manhattan to begin with. Economies are what they are......

Now, as far as complaining or saying that a place has to be spot on if it charges over $X, is missing a lot of the point. There are so many things that go into the price of that Uni on your plate, that delving into the minutia of it here is pointless. Besides, I think most half literate people have some notion of what it takes. The question shouldn't be, is it too expensive, it should be, is it a good value. Value is the epitome of subjective. If you are looking to anyone but yourself for help answering that question, you have failed.

I can take a few mistakes at this or even higher price points if other areas of the experience bring it back into being a value for me. A disparate couple ingredients on a plate? ok, but The service is better than I expected.

Why I say Portlanders are cheap asses is that it seems that no matter how good, bad, mediocre a place is, it's perception of quality always seems rooted in its menu prices. No matter were it sits, what it serves, how it serves it. Just doesn't matter. You charge above $X and this town will don its skinny jeans and pull out the torches and pitchforks. Sad really. We truly need to grow up and out of this stage. Just because you can't afford to go there doesn't mean it isn't excellent, it just means you can't afford it.
The cost/ratio/flavor thing is a bit malleable, depending on the place. It's case-by-case, and restaurants set their own bar. I'd be far more forgiving at places I find indispensible (Pok Pok, Ned Ludd, Toro Bravo, for ex.) if I saw prices creep up a buck or two over time. Others I find just good, on the other hand, are on a shorter leash (I'm looking at you The Farm, with some of your main dishes now over 20 bucks)!

I often factor in what I think dishes would cost in London circa 1772, just for a chuckle.
"HA! 3 farthings! Oh, my sides hurt!"
This is interesting to me, since I lived in Chicago for 8 years before moving to Oregon last year. I actually just spent some time thinking about whether I compare restaurant prices between Chicago and Eugene/Portland. Obviously, comparable restaurants here are generally somewhat less expensive. But, I rarely think "oh, this would have been so much more/less expensive in Chicago" about food.

Drinks on the other hand, I'm constantly doing that with. Probably because I see them as more of a commodity. I've definitely complained how outrageous it is that a bar in town (a non-fancy bar) charges $7 for a well gin and tonic ("those are Chicago prices!")...
The idea that "X costs more in Y city, so don't bitch" is fucking retarded. I don't live in that city. Your whatever dish is gonna cost me $500 more just to fly into that stupid city to pay more money.

I'll drop $200 for an amazing meal, but it better be a goddamned amazing meal. Like seven course prix fixe with wine pairings, ya know? (I'm looking at you, Beast).

So I'm half right? We should be responsible for understanding the value of our own meals, but we're still too hooked on egalitarian notions of dining in PDX?

I mean, you're right. Sometimes meals are just not in your price range. Suck it, poors!

Shit. I'm not going to try to get into the French Laundry and then complain about the bill the entire time.

All I know is that the next time I go back to FIN I'm sharing fuck-all with my dining companion. All that deliciousness is mine! ALL MINE!
By the title I assumed the topic of this post was about the non-living wage the Merc pays their food writers.
I just got back from New York, where I dined at Dressler, Lupa and Eatily, among other places. Spent way more there than I did at FIN. Got waaaay better food, too.

My experience at FIN was not so great. One dish had to be sent back to the kitchen because the butter was burnt, rendering the dish bitter. The rest of it just seemed to be trying too hard to be amazing at the expense of being tasty. Just wasn't impressed.
@ TSW good point, and your analogy was hilarious. @ At CO, while I agree with you (and have friends who lived in Manhattan for example), Portland is not New York and for people making the Median living wage, places like this ARE expensive and perhaps not worth the splurge. As you say though, the question is indeed value, and if you feel it is worth it then by all means go for it. I would. I do think they idea of sharing tiny plates (while i do know the origin of it) is stupid in this particular situation
I loved homeboys "fish and chips at burgerville will cost you 11$" analogy.Soooooo....what you're inferring is someone should spend 4-5X that to get something that is not mediocre fast food. You sir must be in marketing. Speaking of prices why would'nt someone go to the Frying Scotsman to get vastly better Fish and chips for 8.50? And now that I'm at it, how is you know what fish and chips at Burgerville cost, eh mr fancy pants? Ha! Caught you! It is akin to getting that 70$ steak at Ruth Chris instead of that crappy 12$ steak at Applebys-there's probably a happy medium, but regardless no fucking way would I pay 11 dollars for a salad the size of a cell phone. Thats just plain stupid. Seafood would be a different story within reason
"Why I say Portlanders are cheap asses is that it seems that no matter how good, bad, mediocre a place is, it's perception of quality always seems rooted in its menu prices."

Oh my goodness yes! And not just with food; with art, with music, with housing: Portland ever a city price-checking and comparing. Aren't all you hippies because capitalism destroys humanity and reduces everything to dollar amounts?
What bugs me is that our perception of quality is so tied to quantity. Portlanders seem unsatisfied if we leave a meal at anything less than gut-bustingly full.

Super rich, super fatty food gets praised to the heavens. Particularly if there is a lot of it.

Sometimes I want to pay for quality. I want to pay 15 dollars for 3 beautiful scallops whose source is so pristine I do not have to worry about my oceanic impact. I want to pay for *less* of *better* because I maybe want to have a rest of the night.

Let's put it this way: After a full dinner at Le Pidg, you are probably just too full to fuck. At Lincoln, or, by the sound of it, at FIN, you'd be just fine. That is a benefit more people should appreciate.
"After a full dinner at Le Pidg, you are probably just too full to fuck."

Well let's back up. My first experience with le Pig was being told an hour wait because we didn't have reservations, but there was ONE couple sitting there eating. We walked on, never to return.

Let's go down to the ultimate dining out experience: I don't want to wait too long for my fucking food, because we live in a world where I can get food easily as good at 40+ other places up or down the street, or make it myself. (the buffalo burger at Doug Fir was yummy.) The idea that restaurants deserve my business due to word of mouth is so far from reality.
You get what you pay for. People wonder why consistency and service sometimes lack, especially at the higher end, in Portland compared to other cities? Well, the price of a meal isn't a bad place to start. What a restaurant can get for a meal from a diner directly affects what they can pay their employees, how much staff they can have, etc. It also affects the quality of the ingredients they can afford. (Portland's lucky to have a lot of local bounty, at least.) Seafood is one of the most obvious. Expensive, spoils easy, quality of product makes a big difference in quality of dishes. Portland has had shit for seafood restaurants as long as I've been here. I don't know how that can't be at least partially tied to Portlanders' unwillingness to pay more than $30 for an entree, unless they're on a corporate budget at El Gaucho.

Gasoline is gasoline. It may suck to pay 30% more here than in Texas, but the product is essentially the same and has nothing to do with its price. But with restaurants, Portlanders' unwillingness to pay more has a direct effect on quality of dining experiences here, especially at the top end. A place like Alinea in Chicago will have 30 people in the kitchen for a restaurant serving what? 70 people? I wonder if any of Portland's top restaurants have more than 5 or 6 in their kitchen. It takes manpower, which costs money, to get the kind of perfection in execution that a place like Alinea can pride itself on. And there are a lot of places between here and there.

Servers in Portland actually get paid better than many other cities because there aren't tip credit laws here. Although, obviously, their wages are tied to the price of a dinner as well, which are lower here than any most larger cities. Also, the food costs can be much higher here than any many other major cities.

Portland is actually a major metropolitan area. Maybe not among the top 10 in the country, but among the top 25, similar in size to Denver, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Orlando, Baltimore, etc.

As to Le Pigeon... You could just, um, make a reservation. What's the restaurant supposed to say to the person with the reservation? "Hey, sorry about your seat being taken, but this guy showed up before you and really, really wanted to try us out, so sorry, bub, thanks for taking the time to call in and all, but he really, really wanted your table." But by all means: blame the restaurant. Ugh.

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