(Sanity) Check Please

Dinner for the two of us cost $332. I need to examine how a single culinary experience could possibly be worth in the vicinity of 17 In-N-Out dates, including Animal Style upgrades.

Toss me in the lower barracks with the rest of the peasants on the Titanic, but for me In-N-Out Burger sets the point of diminishing returns when it comes to fine dining. And once you get to the $50-60 range, discerning any incremental value at all is a challenge.

In my income bracket, anytime you take someone to dinner and end up a third of the way to dropping a G… it merits some reflection. Especially if that someone already knows your income bracket, so there is no opportunity to play smoke and mirrors. Plus there is no incentive anyway, as the chances of getting laid that night are independent of how the date goes.

I saved the itemized receipt and photo documentation to aid with the analysis. Here are five salient points:


When the urbane server set down a plate of four tacos, I should have backhanded them off the table and screamed a variation of the Zoolander line: What are these, tacos for ants?

That would have been so uncomfortably rude though, and a waste of 54 bucks before tax and tip. I wonder what the margins were on that dish. Even without expertise in supply chain, I can confidently assume tortillas aren’t an expensive input.

Sure, what’s inside the taco should dictate the cost, but it helps when the tortilla limits the volume because it’s the size of a Tostitos Scoop:

If you’re wondering, the contents of the tacos were wagyu and uni according to the receipt. I don’t know what those are, but at that price per ounce they should be laced with high-end cocaine.

If you’re wondering whether the tacos were good, I don’t know. They were so small that my brain had to project the taste over a larger sample size. It would be like giving me one almond and asking me to evaluate. I think they were good.


Speaking of margins, everyone knows the big markup is in alcohol. My wife got a couple of $12 glasses of rosé, which wasn’t exactly two-for-one at Sharkeez, but acceptable given the venue.

In a happy surprise, the uppity restaurant had a few beers on tap. I chose the $10 Japanese IPA to try something new, even though I knew it would be bad. People don’t go to Japan to drink IPAs, just like they don’t go to Great Britain for dentistry or Syria for tranquility.

Whereas my Honda Pilot will outlast any Ford Explorer, the Japanese shouldn’t be exporting beer quite yet. California is actually a pretty good place to start for IPAs. This was a case where the exotic lost to the familiar.


People bag on Spirit Airlines for nickel-and-diming, but there is a sensible logic to paying for only the features you use rather than subsidizing other customers for those you don’t.

This was a rock allocated to the sole function of propping up chopsticks at rest. However much the sourcing and cleaning of these silly stones inflated the menu prices, I would have loved to been able to decline the option and be charged the basic economy/rockless rate.


In the same category, the paper towels in the bathroom felt cloth-like enough to make me think twice about whether they were disposable. I hate when restaurants feel the need to do this. Maybe if you’re at the Ritz in the 80s, it’s cool.

Luxurious and wasteful do not have to be synonymous. No one in 2019 will object to the brown recycled paper towels. There’s not that much moisture to absorb unless you’re doing something creepy, and few hands are sensitive enough to warrant the spa treatment during a routine bathroom trip. I should have checked the toilet paper out of curiosity.

As a reminder, I don’t take pictures without people in them. I probably should have selfied here while holding an unfolded paper towel rather than try to get creative with the mirror.


We got to look at boats and water while eating sushi and seafood that averaged $15 per bite. I’m not sure how I would price the premium for ambience, being a strong conversationalist who strives to maintain eye contact at a steady but natural cadence.

I don’t need the help. Put me in a booth at McDonald’s between the ball pit and restrooms, and I will still make good things happen.

If the view was just something nice to have in the background, perhaps we could have ordered takeout for a few less Benjis and flipped on the Chromecast screensaver at home. We would lose a dimension but gain variety in imagery.

When we did go home, I ate leftover lasagna, a bagel with peanut butter, and pita chips with peanut butter. I consumed more calories after dinner than during.

It reminded me of a snooty South Bay steakhouse, where salads had such a lopsided style-to-substance ratio that I could count the number of leaves.

The numbers don’t work out for these types of places in my book, easily outweighed by a Double-Double or certainly 17.

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