American’s are obsessed with food. According to United Press International, people dine out five times a week averaging $16.50 per meal. I would often frequent mid-level restaurants, telling myself I couldn’t afford elegant. Spending an average of $4,000 per year on mediocre dining choices, I made the decision to stop eating at fast food/chain restaurants. Now I save my money for dining experiences.
Le Jules Verne
Although I don’t recall my breakfast at Dunkin Donuts last week (yes, I slipped), I do remember every detail about the evening I spent fifteen years ago at Le Jules Verne on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. While not a perfect experience, the elevator holds seven people and had long lines, it was an amazing event. I’m not quite sure of the franc to dollar conversion, but the price tag was hefty, even for well prepared food. The view of Paris at sunset was, however, worth every penny. I booked almost three months in advance and was lucky enough to secure a window seat. Just the thought of this evening evokes feelings of warmth and wonder over a decade later.
The Signature Room at the 95th
While visiting Chicago recently, I found our own American version of Le Jules Verne on top of the John Hancock Building. While booking, I let them know it was a special occasion. We were able to make a 5pm reservation by the window. Being so early in the evening, we ordered a bottle of Dom and enjoyed the sunset before starting our meal. The seafood tower had a market price of over $100, but it was cooked to perfection. I would not call The Signature Room intimate or “white glove”, it’s actually quite loud, but to view the city lights from that height is an astonishing dining experience everyone should enjoy once.
We were seated in a modern, cozy, circular booth that was facing an ice sculpture of Buddha. On the way by, for luck, we poured rose petals onto the carving. The service at this upscale New York restaurant was attentive, but not perfect. As an appetizer, I recommend the “Ishiyaki.” At $34 it is pricey, but an unusual experience. The waiter brought paper thin slices of raw filet and a hot Mt. Fuji Lava Stone. We picked up the tender, flavorful beef with chop sticks and cooked it on the stone. The food portions at Megu are small; the Kobe Filet Mignon was $98 for a 6 oz. cut, but well worth it. The presentation and atmosphere is only surpassed by the taste and although no evening is ideal, this was another dining event to remember.
The Golden Lamb Buttery
The most unique dinner experience I’ve had was at The Golden Lamb Buttery, located in Brooklyn, Connecticut. It is a price fixed meal, at $75 per person, not including drinks or gratuity. The evening started out at an old barn on a farm. We sat on the deck overlooking the property, but guests can also go inside the barn and peruse historical items. After a cocktail, we took a hayride as a gentleman softly played a banjo. A waiter, driving a golf cart, caught up to our group with drinks on a tray. From there we ambled through a small kitchen where we could see, and smell, our meals being prepared. There are limited items – seafood, beef, or chicken – but what a meal. I had the Chateaubriand and it was literally melt in your mouth delicious.
The New York Times recently reported that mid-level eatery chains are suffering. Instead of eating out multiple times for a commonplace meal, I have decided to spend my discretionary income having dining experiences. If you have a unique restaurant that I must try, please leave a post in the comment section.