How much is a dinner for two at the French Laundry?
October 13, 2004 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering making a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in January, and was hoping someone could give a me a realistic estimate of the total cost (food, wine, anything else?) for dinner for two.

On the web page I've found the meal prices (I'm budgeting for the $150 tasting menu), but the big variable (I think) will be wine. Since neither my girlfriend nor I know much about wine, we'd want to take the sommelier's recommendations as much as possible, but how much is this likely to cost us? Most of my online research has told me that eating there is expensive (no shit) and that it's worth it, but my google fu has failed to find me any good estimates of the total cost to expect. For reference, blue thread here.
posted by rorycberger to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
well, since you don't know what type of wine you want, budget 100 for the wine just to be safe. also, make sure to tell the sommelier that you do have a budget (since it sounds like you do) so that they don't recommend some 80 year old wine that costs a lot of money.

so 400, plus tip and tax, puts you in the 500 dollar range. and i'm basing this on the 2 other 4 star restaurants i've been too (still planning on hitting up the french laundry one of these days).
posted by Stynxno at 6:02 PM on October 13, 2004

My friend Jen went to French Laundry not too long ago, and she wrote about the experience here, mentioning that the sommelier did a rather adroit job of sussing out how much they wanted to spend on wine without actually coming out and asking. It sounds amazing.
posted by astruc at 7:08 PM on October 13, 2004

A related French Laundry question: How do you get a reservation? Web site says they take them two months prior, by phone...what has been anyone's experience with getting one?
posted by GaelFC at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2004

I ate at FL solo last summer and spent almost $400, but I went nuts.

As for reservations, they take them two months to the day in advance. If you can't get through, you aren't getting that day. Don't make travel plans until you get your reservation -- it took me three days to get through, I know people who've been unsuccessful for a week or more.
posted by o2b at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2004

It was about $200 a head when I went with three other people. We kind of freaked when we saw a bill for dinner that could be used to purchase a fine laptop, but it was the best meal of my life. Even if you drink a couple bottles, I can't see it going over $250 a head unless you really go nuts on the wine selections. Our sommolier had some great picks at several points, and one person had a few special wine glass pairings, and it was still only about 50-75$ per person for wine (for four people).
posted by mathowie at 8:11 PM on October 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, I was sort of figurring $50-75 apiece for wine, so I'm glad your experiences support this.

You can make reservations on too - again, up to two months in advance. I have no idea how fast they go relative to phone reservations, or how the "line" works, etc. Anybody gotten their reservations on Opentable? Also, if you read some of the older blog entries, they talk about going in person to get your reservations, but today I read somewhere else (I forget where) that they no longer take reservations in person.
posted by rorycberger at 8:25 PM on October 13, 2004

Thanks. I marked my calendar to keep trying OpenTable, and have not once found a date with an opening. That's why I'm curious as to how many folks have succeeded in getting in.
posted by GaelFC at 8:40 PM on October 13, 2004

my ex-boss, a famous wine nut, said he got reservations earlier by going in each weekend and inquiring about cancellations. they got to know him, and he eventually got his reservation. but, he is the type who travels to wine country every weekend, so it was convienient for him.
posted by Hackworth at 9:21 PM on October 13, 2004

From what I understand, the OpenTable spots open just like any other restaurant, but they just get snatched up extremely quickly. So just keep trying your luck, or trying the phone.

I have been twice, and it is an excellent restaurant. If you're going to be in the area, I suggest nearby Bistro Jeanty for excellent French fare... for lunch perhaps. Jeanty is much easier to get into, so you should still schedule around the FL reservation.
posted by swank6 at 9:26 PM on October 13, 2004

the best part about french laundry is for some dishes, the waiter will arrive with a little dish of shaved truffles to sprinkle on your an italian place might offer to put parmesan on your pasta. genius.

minor caveat: french laundry is good, but it's not necessarily the best eats in that price range / rough geographical area. back in '97 at least, charle's nob hill in sf had better food, although not as decadent with the truffles and foie gras and all of that. (don't bother with charle's now though, from what i understand it's being converted into a steakhouse).
posted by juv3nal at 10:40 PM on October 13, 2004

My brother and his wife go there about once a year. They spend about $500, and I think they go for some of the pretty good wines.
I think they usually start planning about 6 months in advance.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:57 AM on October 14, 2004

My advice:
Budget a sum, say $500 for two.
*allow* yourself a buffer zone of about 33-50%.

I find that the most frustrating thing is having a strict budget in a luxurious restaurant. You can't enjoy your meal and wine if you're counting down to your last cent.
(For my ex-SO's birthday I paid for that type of meal experience, except that i was such a budget freak that we couldn't chose what we wanted, we didn't toast champagne and neither of us were satisfied by the experience.)

You know, tasting that rare $200 bottle with your complimentary truffles is really, really, really much nicer than a $40 wine you could have bought yourself. Shame to miss out.
posted by ruelle at 5:15 AM on October 14, 2004

I have to agree with juv3nal. The food at FL is good - without doubt - but the room and the service are super stuffy. I never felt comfortable. I recently ate at Gary Danko in San Francisco - and it was amazing. The room was more my style, the service was brilliant and the flexibility of the menu was something I wasn't expecting. When I ate at FL I left thinking - ok checked that off my list - don't need to go back. When I left GD I was trying immediately to think of an excuse to go back - and soon.
To note - there is not a lot on the wine list at FL in the lower range and there is a TON you can spend a small fortune on. I went with a group and we made the mistake of letting a very bad man pick the wine. We didn't find out until the bill came that he had spent $1100 on two bottles of wine. And you know - I just can't say they were worth it. I disagree totally with ruelle on this one - unless you really know your wines - price seems like a very poor indicator of goodness when it comes to wine.
posted by Wolfie at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

gotta echo wolfie. especially if you don't know much about wine: you'll probably be able to tell the $200 bottle of wine is better than the $100, but you almost certainly won't think it's worth the extra $100.
posted by juv3nal at 5:45 PM on October 14, 2004

Maybe it depends on your general past experiences with wines: I'll agree that if you can't appreciate the difference it's best not to go for the expensive bottles, especially if that extra $100 is going to be dearly missed.
From a personal point of view, I'm not too fond of places like the French Laundry, wine or not. The bill always totals a lot of money no matter how you look at it. I enjoy dining out often, so such waaay upscale restaurants like FL aren't worth it. (Example: The C.I.A. is a nearby restaurant I'd prefer. This cooking school doesn't have such exclusive prices/seating but it is just as delicious and memorable.)
More generally, a great restaurant to my mind is something like Delmonico's whose website doesn't look like much but the food is heavenly (and the final bill is thankfully affordable - last time it was about $200 for three courses, two decent wines and two people.)
I guess it all boils down to what's the "doable" price range for you. Food and wine for $600 is way too much for me, who loves fine dining, but $200 a meal is fine from time to time.

Yes, I do understand that this is a pointless discussion if rorycberger has his intentions set on the FL. Bon app├ętit to you and enjoy the meal experience. :)

[and Wolfie, I'm really surprised and sorry that FL's sommelier picked for your group two bottles for $1100... sounds like he abused your trust.]
posted by ruelle at 4:27 AM on October 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the tips, now i'm mulling th idea in my head. My original logic was that if I'm taking a trip to Napa, and I'm probably going to have to spend $200-300 for a good dinner, why not spend $500 on the best meal of my life? Sounds like my assumptions may not have been quite in line with reality, but you've given me a lot to think about. Thanks again!
posted by rorycberger at 11:03 AM on October 15, 2004

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