A table with wine glasses

Never Trust a Dark Restaurant

I should have known better. Of all people, I should not have trusted a menu that had no prices on it. But for some reason it just didn’t cross my mind that I needed to.

A table with wine glasses, with Restaurant

Friends called asking us to go out to dinner. It was spontaneous so they looked to me, their fearless cheapskate, to come up with just the right choice. We were all game to try something different, so armed with my trusty two-for-one entertainment book, I led the way through the first 60 or so pages of this exhaustive resource. We eliminated the outrageously expensive and finally agreed on a Moroccan restaurant.

The menu was printed right in the book and indicated, “Dinners: $15 per person.” Assuming that we’d get four dinners for the price of two (that’s the point of this two-for-one book, right?), we figured this was a pretty good deal and a good way to try something new, just in case it was well, gross.

The “Valet Parking Only” sign should have been the first clue. Instead it ticked me off, but I figured an extra buck or two to park wouldn’t kill us. 

It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the dark. I recall muttering something about “Do we really want to do this?” as we were led to our table, more the size and height of a coffee table. The seating resembled very low “sofas,” not designed for sitting as much as for reclining. 

Trying not to laugh too loudly, we greeted our waiter who proceeded to introduce himself and sit right down and join us. How cordial, I thought. He explained that we would be enjoying an eight-course authentic Moroccan meal without the aid of silverware. Gulp.

It was too dark to read the menu, but I could tell there were no prices included. Curious. But we already knew it was $15 per person, so we graciously listened as he described all the details of our meal. 

Armed with large fluffy blue napkins that resembled bath towels we dove into the most delicious meal I believe I’ve eaten in a long time. It was so terrific I stopped noticing that my knees were resting under my chin. And that reclining feature together with the ceremonious hand-washing between courses gave us a whole new appreciation for the Moroccan culture.

As we put away the eighth course consisting of nuts, fruit and mint teas, we kept marveling at the reasonable price (don’t forget we had discount coupons) and made tentative plans to return.

The check was delivered to the table, but we were having such a great time we hardly noticed. When we did, it’s a miracle they didn’t have to call the paramedics. Our ultra-cheap $30-or-so dinner for four suddenly jumped to $150. Sure they have $15 dinners (a piece of chicken, baklava and tea). But the eight-course authentic Moroccan feast–the grandest of all, the authentic quintessential Moroccan experience–is more than double that. To add injury to indigestion, our great two-for-one coupons were worth just $12 each. With tax, tip and valet we got soaked.

I can’t say that I regret the evening. We scraped together the full amount, ended up laughing over the experience and are actually making plans to go back. But you can be sure I’ll be ordering just the bastilla: $7.50 al la carte. I found a light and a menu with prices on the way out. 

rack of Costco rotisserie chickens
A piece of cake sitting on top of a table
chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce
Iced coffee in a tall glass
apple pie in cast iron skillet
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9 replies
  1. DianaB says:

    Those little coupon books can always be a bait-and-switch tactic, depending on your determination and expectations. I usually don’t buy them as the places whose coupons are inside are not normally places in my vicinity or maybe not something I would be interested in. But, all told, expense notwithstanding, sounds like a great night out. I think you guys really could afford it in the first place, you just would not bother. That old saw, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it certainly would apply to most of us, but I doubt it would to your dinner party. Glad you enjoyed it before you got to sticker shock. (And you always present your coupon first to see what it actually covers).

    Reply
  2. Kellie Alexander says:

    I would have checked out reviews online before going. Nothing less fun than a huge surprise bill.

    Reply
  3. trex says:

    I am stunned by two things: first, that you assumed whatever offer they told you about was the same one as your coupon, without asking – and second, that you didn’t present the coupon before ordering to confirm what it was for. You deserved what you got (sorry to sound so harsh, but it’s the truth).

    Reply
  4. PH says:

    I’m surprised you actually thought an 8 course meal in a restuarant would be $15 per person! As you already know, you should have asked about it all upfront so there were no surprises…

    Reply
  5. NY Gray-Jay says:

    As pragmatic frugal folk, the first rule we live by is- if it doesn’t have a price on it, walk away: Either the price is higher than expected, or the store (restaurant)thinks money grows on trees. It happened to me, once. My high school date walked off leaving me to pay the bill. I was in tears, but the waitress ( God bless the woman,) slipped me $12, which also covered my bus ride home for 75 cents.

    Reply
  6. Ann says:

    I know you were expecting it to cost less, but an 8 course meal for 4 people for $150 (minus $24 for the coupons?) is a really good deal where I live. I can’t agree with the ‘soaked’ description, just not what you where expecting. Then again, you didn’t ask ahead of time about the coupon and I think the Entertainment books recommend you check up front.

    Reply
    • Renita says:

      Yeah, I can’t see how you could expect an 8-course meal anywhere, besides maybe Golden Corral, to be $15. Much less $7.50.

      Reply
  7. Jujubee360 says:

    On the other hand, you’ve saved so much by being a successful Cheapskate that an occasional splurge probably won’t break you. You had a wonderful meal and enjoyed a new experience with friends that you probably would have skipped if you had known the price in advance. It sounds as though you got good value for your money…just not as good as you expected. The restaurant did honor both coupons …and sometimes surprises can be good ones!

    Reply

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