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July 24, 2008

What recession?



Tim the Classic Music Critic, my deskmate and sometime dining companion, walked in just now and said, "What recession?"

A friend had a gift certificate to Christopher Daniel in Timonium, and they went last night. The place was packed, Tim told me. Every table was taken on a Wednesday night.

He, and I, find that pretty amazing given that a) Christopher Daniel isn't a cheap restaurant, b) in mid-July a lot of folks are away and c) there's supposed to be an economic downturn. ...




The only explanations we could come up with were a) people aren't traveling this summer so by Alice's Law of Compensatory Cash Flow, they feel they can afford a nice evening out, or b) the whole recession thing is just a government conspiracy or caused by the media feeding frenzy.

By the way, someone asked under an earlier post about what's happening with the Taste space. In spite of what Christopher Daniel's Web site says, Daniel Chaustit has left and is planning to open his own restaurant in that Belvedere Square location this fall. Unless, of course, the faltering economy has caused a change of plans. 


(Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:53 AM | | Comments (16)


So, when YOU go, it's because your friend had a gift certificate, but when everyone ELSE goes, it's because there is no recession and everyone is just living the high life? Of course.

We had dinner at Woodberry Kitchen last night and it was pretty crowded. Too bad all of the people outside had to come dashing in as the storm started.

And what's up with them charging $1 for popcorn? That should be free!

I think people get more religious in the face of a recession. So maybe all of those folks at Christopher Daniel have been inspired by the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 8:15 --

“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun ...”

Now, if anyone wants a professionally prepared grace before a meal at CD or any of the Zagat top 40 I could probably make myself available. (Unlike the waitstaff, I'm happy with just 10%!)

Any place I go is as crowded as ever. The only downturn I see is the parking lot of the Red Robin near us is not as crowded as it was a few months ago. The Hops that was near the Red Robin closed but I don't think that was a result of the economy. Red Brick Station is more crowded for lunch on Saturday and Sunday than in the past.

I think business is down at my Monday through Friday coffee bar, but that may be because most of the students are away.

Well, keep in mind this economic downtown is fairly mild. Unemployment is around 5%, a far cry from the double digit rates of 1980-81-82 recessions.

I would imagine the places that are hurting are those establishments that catered to the expense account crowds. Also restaurants located next door to Real Estate or Mortgage offices are also probably hurting.

Business is obviously good at the places you all go to because you are rich. If you were of moderate means (formerly known as middle class and not upper middle class at that) you would be suffering. I guarantee it. Everyone I know is doing without. So far, trimming down trips to restaurants is among the most painless. Cutting out memberships to health clubs, cutting out daily coffee and cutting out buying lunch are also among what I've been hearing and living. What's scary, is that looming large for the next inflationary milestones, are cutting cable, cell phones and internet service. So while you lucky elite are dining at the Zagat restaurants all the time, don't even think about us who would be happy to be able to eat at a restaurant at all!

Well, Joyce, I brown bag my lunch everyday so I can eat out for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Dinner out maybe once a month and never at a place where the total will exceed $100 per couple except for very special occasions. Cuting out daily coffee? I brew my own and carry it in a thermos bottle. Never belonged to a health club because walking is free. We have only basic cable. No HBO etc. Verizon internet for $19.90 a month which is much slower than Comcast but for $30 a month less we make do. My only cell phone is company issued with no frills. Lucky elite? No. I knew 30 years ago that a civil engineering degree would always get me a good job and it has. By the way Zagat reviews cheap places too.

Mark- I'm sorry if you took my remarks personally. I was merely stating that it is offensive to those of us dealing with fallout from the recession to assume that there is no such thing. I'm glad for you that you had the forthought 30 years ago to become a civil engineer so you are not having your back broken by todays prices.

I'm not sure why this post of mine was taken so literally. The government conspiracy remark was a joke, an obvious one I thought. Of course, for most people higher prices are a real problem. My point (actually Tim's) was simply that for whatever reason, some people are still choosing to spend what disposable income they have on going to a nice restaurant. I thought it would be interesting to discuss why that was. EL

Studies show people drink more alcohol during hard economic times. The same might be true with eating out. Especially at places where you get a bang for your buck. Self medication.

EL, I think people took it hard because there is a large group of *cough* elephant-loving *cough* people who claim there is no recession, incomes are up, life is good. And, that is true, if you are in the upper income bracket.

I'm still eating out, but I never did it that much. I'm also danged lucky because I sold my car when I moved to Baltimore, so my transportation costs have been stable. I'm still paying a mortage on my house in Detroit that I can't sell, but I'm in great shape compared to co-workers, people I chat with on the buses, etc.

A lot of people are really hurting, so some of us are failing our humour rolls. As well as not getting our minimum weekly allowance of dinner rolls.

EL- no personal offense taken. Just making a point which I think Lissa made much more eloquently.

Lissa, take heart. I just heard from a friend that her daughter who moved to Boston a couple of years ago finally sold her house here in Baltimore. Things are starting to move--even in Detroit, I hope!

But I agree--this is a serious problem for many people. Hard times tend to make jokes fall flat for many.

Lissa and Joyce have given me a great idea for a new identity. For now on I will post as elite elephant lover.

There will always be some people who do well and some who do not under any circumstance. The job of a caring society is to try to help those who need it most. Remember Murphy's First Law of Dispersion: Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

Retired in Elkridge--that makes a lot more sense to me than that ol' "Trickle Down" theory!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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