A while back, I was at a swanky jazz club when I was charged for rocks in my Scotch on the rocks
. This led to a post in which I ranted about the practice, which led to a lively discussion in the comments section about charging more for drinks on the rocks. Unfortunately, none of us reached a conclusion. Some found the practice ridiculous; others said drinks on the rock contain more booze.
The idea of paying for bread and butter at a restaurant is bound to stoke the same fires. It's something diners simply take for granted -- that bread will be there and it will be free. But that doesn't mean it's always so. (Remember, we used to take paying after you pump gas for granted, too.)
The entire subject came up when the New York Post
wrote an article calling restaurants out
for secret charges -- $1 for water, mandatory tips, 10 percent extra for take-out food. But New York Times
food critic Frank Bruni chimed in and said that instead of vilifying these restaurants, patrons should indeed pay for bread
. "If restaurateurs charged for bread, might those of us who hanker for bread on a given night end up with better bread as a result of the restaurant being able to treat it -- and, indeed, being forced to treat it -- like any other menu item?"
To my knowledge, no local restaurants chargefor bread. But it's the chips-and-salsa corollary: as times get harder, people abuse freebies more, making restaurants more wary about them and causing them to consider charging. I wouldn't be surprised (and it makes sense) if restaurants started charging customers for second or third baskets of bread.
Why some restaurants even serve bread and butter in the first place is a mystery. One of my favorite Italian places has amazing food but some of the worst bread I've ever tasted. Clearly, it's an after-thought there. Elsewhere, such as Room 39 and other Farm to Market
customers, the bread can be a selling point.
In other words, if you're going to do it, do it right. If that means an extra charge for bread, I can live with that. How many other people can though remains to be seen.
(Image from Flickr: Roboppy