How much should dinner cost? Obviously, that depends on the dinner, and on you. What kind of food do you like? How much disposable income do you have? Are we talking about a special occasion – a birthday or anniversary, say – or just fuel to get you through the evening? Is a beautiful dining room with excellent service important to you, or is the way the food tastes the only thing you care about (if even that)?
If just fueling the tank is all that’s important, you can get a filling (if not necessarily healthy) fast food meal for a few bucks. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, on the other hand, well … you might be stunned to learn how much that can cost.
Celebrity chefs at some of the nation’s top-rated restaurants these days offer multi-course meals that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars – for one person, not including beverages, tax, or tip.
Just how much money is it possible to spend for dinner? 24/7 Tempo drew on a number of food, travel, and business websites to assemble a list of high-ticket restaurants around the country, then consulted the restaurant websites themselves as well as reservation and local review sites to determine which places are the most expensive.
Click here to see the most expensive restaurants in America
Most of the places on our list have earned the accolade of two or three Michelin stars, considered the ultimate acknowledgement of restaurant quality in the gastronomic world, and almost all of them serve only fixed-price menus, though a few may offer à la carte options as well. (These are the most expensive Michelin three-star restaurants in the world.)
We found so many establishments with prix-fixe menus priced between $150 and $250 per person that we filtered those out and included only those whose regular dining room tasting menus are priced at more than $250 per person. (Some of these places offer abbreviated menus in bar or lounge areas for somewhat less.)
The least expensive restaurants here will cost at least $280 for a full dining room meal. That’s for one person and it doesn’t include tax, tip, or beverages unless otherwise noted (some sushi bars figure a tip into the total price, and one place includes beverage pairings). Of course, those elements can increase a bill substantially. (Here’s a list of the best sushi restaurant in every state.)
Realistically, you probably wouldn’t sit down to a long, fancy meal by yourself, so let’s say that with a $280-per-person menu, you’d pay $560 for food. A bottle of drinkable wine might run $75. In New York City, for example, your bill would incur sales tax of about $55, so you’re up to $690. If you leave a 20% tip, which would be expected at the kind of restaurant we’re talking about, that’s almost $830 for two – or $415, not $280, per person. And that, mind you, is for one of the cheapest places on this list.
On the other hand, you can get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese plus medium fries and a soft drink for $5.79.
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