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Ask Mark: Restaurant Prices

Mark Orwoll, seasoned traveler and Travel + Leisure's Managing Editor, is here to help you with your travel questions. Think of him as your personal concierge, and ask away...

If you can't send email through your browser, you can send it through your regular email account to askmark@amexpub.com

Q. As a subscriber to T+L, I was reading a great article in the April 2001 issue, "Pacific Heights," on San Francisco restaurants, by Anya von Bremzen. I was wondering about the price quotes for each spot mentioned, such as "dinner for two: $60," etc. What does this typically mean in T+L bucks? Is it two entrees and H20; or does it include two glasses of wine, possibly one appetizer?How do you determine this price guide typically? Please let me know. I would be most appreciative.

A. For an answer to this question, I went to Travel + Leisure's esteemed research editor, Mario Mercado, who oversees the magazine's fact-checking department:

"Yours is a very good question. Here is how we determine our restaurant meal prices: in general, we quote an average dinner price for two based on an appetizer, main course, and dessert, but exclusive of tax, tip, and beverage. Taxes vary state to state and can even vary city to city within the same state. A beverage estimate is not included because the price can vary markedly depending on what one orders: tap water, soda drink, a glass of wine, or a bottle of a rare vintage. Also, all prices are obtained from the restaurant as close to our editorial close deadline as possible.

"The San Francisco story demonstrates some exceptions, in the very best sense. Allow me to explain. Because Ms. von Bremzen's choices are well-considered and include a superb range of the variety that San Francisco currently offers, some of the price quotes are particular to the restaurant; if the restaurant is informal (such as the Swan Oyster Depot), we print the price that reflects the average meal cost for lunch (say a lunch special with dessert; of course, if a restaurant serves only lunch but offers an extensive menu, we stick to our three-course pricing). As a service to our readers, we list the price for a specialty on which the writer reports, for example, tapas at César, breakfast at Ella's, dim sum at Ton Kiang, or if a prix fixe is the best or only way to go we also specify.

"I trust this information is useful. One last bit of insider info. We enjoy producing these stories for our readers but we find that when we are working on them, between the text and the photography, we are always hungry."

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