If You Don't Want To Split The Bill, Split The Meal Instead

Have you ever gone out to dinner with a friend who, frankly, has more money than you? Maybe you're a student. Perhaps it's the end of the month, and your paycheck won't hit until tomorrow. Or, maybe your friend has expensive taste and always suggests the trendiest, priciest new restaurant in town. You might find yourself ordering an appetizer, skipping the wine to keep the bill low, and then forking over an extra $20 to finance half of your dining partner's surf and turf. 

If you can relate to these scenarios, it might be time to switch up your eating-out practices. According to the February 2023 Consumer Price Index, food away from home is at an 8.4% year-over-year increase (via U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). But, passing on eating out altogether might not be the only option for foodies on a budget; there are thrifty ways to still enjoy the good stuff.

Earlier in March 2023, the internet went wild when President Joe and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden ordered the same dish at a restaurant. While the whole debacle made for a pretty weird news headline, the point is that not everybody wants to split their meal with another person, which is fine. That's a preference you should discuss with your dining partner before ordering. But if you're both on board, go ahead and ask your server for an extra plate. And if you don't want to split the bill, consider splitting the meal instead.

Splitting your meal creates an opportunity for affordable adventure and free conversation

If splitting an entrée salad and a pasta dish with your dining partner feels a little foreign to you, we recommend zooming out. Krishnendu Ray of New York University tells The New York Times that to the rest of the world, "elite Western norms of eating [are] absurdly cold, isolating, peculiarly self-consumed, and uncivilized." The idea of "this is my meal that I ordered for me" is a primarily American institution, but it has been transformed by way of smaller shared plates. The menus of many Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants are often built for sharing plates — it's the entire idea behind Spanish tapas joints. Iranian-style restaurant Masquerade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, crafts its menu for building a meal of multiple dishes to share.

Sharing allows foodies to sample more dishes and explore the menu, and it's a great tip for enjoying the same food for half the price. Many pasta entrées and heartier steak-and-potatoes type dishes are served in such a large portion size that trying to finish the entire thing by oneself is an Atlassian feat anyhow. Utility aside, sharing also orchestrates a shared experience. By splitting a meal, you can talk about specific flavors and textures of the same dish. Like going to a movie with a friend, you can talk about it afterward and share your unique experiences of the same stimulus when you watch the same film. If nothing else, it facilitates conversation.