Recently, when one of my staff turned 30, I quipped that I have dishes older than he. It’s true.
Sometime during the late ‘80s, my husband took on the huge task of painting the dark walnut kitchen cabinets white—inside and out. Of course, that meant new hardware and lighting, too. What a transformation. To celebrate I went out and bought new dishes—white porcelain, service for 12.
Those dishes were perfect because they were classic in style, just the right size and super sturdy. Plus they were dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe.
The white dishes became our everyday, special occasion, holiday, all-purpose dinnerware. They went with everything and looked great through every season.
More than 30 years later, nothing has changed there. These dishes have made two major moves, served thousands of meals (at least), and look just as they did back in the 1980s. I just took a quick inventory and find we’ve lost only 4 salad plates in all these years.
The brand is Cafeware from Crate and Barrel, remarkably still available in a slightly upgraded style as Cafeware II. Sold open stock, this dinnerware is perfect in every way.
If my math is correct, today my set of Cafeware would run more than $300 if I were to replace it with Cafeware II. But honestly, I don’t think I would do that. For that price, I could do so much better.
Instead, I would opt for my pick for Best Inexpensive™ porcelain dinnerware, AmazonBasics 16-Piece Dinnerware Set Service for 6, about $30 per set, or $60 to serve 12. While not identical to Cafeware II, these dishes are so close in both quality and appeal it is quite amazing.
For glassware, my pick for Best Inexpensive™ is Galaxy Glassware 12-piece Set. This set includes four each of three sizes—7 ounces, 13 ounces, and 17 ounces. About $21 for 4 place settings.
Here is my Best Inexpensive™ pick for stemware to complete a beautiful table setting: Libbey Wine Party 12-piece Stemware Glass Set, which includes a full dozen 12.5-ounce stemware shaped to equally accommodate red and white wines. About $30.
When it comes to flatware, I may be pickier than average, but here goes: I can’t tolerate eating utensils that do not feel great in my hand. Flatware needs to be properly weighted and made of quality materials. Flatware needs to come out of the dishwasher sparkling. My pick for Best Inexpensive™ flatware is Dokaworld Flatware Set of 20-pieces. At about $30 for four place settings, this flatware is remarkable in both function and beauty. Perfect for everyday and special occasions, too.
As for my venerable Cafeware, in researching for this post, I find that the original dinnerware is fetching inflated prices on the secondary market. And in doing so, I came across four original Cafeware salad plates for a healthy $36—three times what I paid at about $3 each. But given the history and my fondness for these dishes, I went for it. Soon, my set of Cafeware dinnerware will, once again, be complete.