Poll: your thoughts on restaurants charging "MP"

My feelings towards “MP” menu items

  • It all depends on what kind of food you’re ordering.
  • They’re always a huge ripoff.
  • They’re usually a good deal.
  • I love to order MP items.
  • They shouldn’t exist. Just update your menu to reflect the price.
  • I’ve never ordered an MP item.

0 voters

Truth be told, I’ve never ordered a “market price” dish in my life. Is it taboo to ask what the current market price is on a menu item? Or are MP offerings the perfect example of “if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it”?

Feel free to move this to Epicurean Exploits.

Indifferent, no vote. They are not in business to lose money and some items vary greatly in price depending on where they have to be sourced. Printing a new menu every night gets expensive and will raise that MP even higher.

The things that get our dander up. :-p

I understand the MP label, because sourcing prices vary day by day for certain things.

That said, I have zero problem asking what the price is. You absolutely have the right to know.

There are not many times in life where you buy something without knowing the price. Restaurants should tell you, or you should ask.

Restaurants should tell you, period. If the waiter can song and dance on how each special is prepared, down to the purveyor of the microgreens, they can tell you the price of an entree. And if they want to put it on a small card so the whole menu won’t have to be printed, that’s fine too.

Twice in the last month, I have walked into a pub and ordered a beer. Both times, the waiter asks if I want a regular or a ‘large’ beer. Both times I have asked what the price difference is, and told they didn’t know (and obviously weren’t going to find out). Both times I asked the waiter to please go find someone who works at the pub so I can find out what the difference is.

I have always had a grading system for wait staff. I usually tip 20%. If I think they go beyond the call of duty, it’s 25%. Below the call of duty - 15%. I rarely ever go below 15% unless the wait person is rude.

And I see nothing wrong with ‘Market Price’ on an item - usually it’s lobster or oysters - which are up and down in price - But the waitstaff should at least inform you of the prices.

I dislike “market price” on a menu for the same reason I dislike unpriced “Daily Specials” on a menu. I shouldn’t have to ask how much something costs. Just like “Daily Specials” are often on a separate card or sheet, you should have the price marked for any item whose price fluctuates so greatly that you need to mark it up or down like the fluctuating price of gold.

While some restaurants price their “Daily Specials” and MP items in line with the rest of their menu, as a generalization I would say that they often are priced well above the rest of the menu. That doesn’t mean I won’t order it, but the price should be listed. I’m not a fan of having to ask a waiter how much an item costs…


Why is there not an option for “it’s no big deal. Just ask.” Though it probably would be good if they had a chalk board that mentions it or the waiter says says it.

BTW how do you feel about specials that aren’t on a menu, so you don’t know the price? Some restaurants do say something like “Today’s fish special is … and is priced at 18 dollars.” which I’m sure is a little awkward for the waiter, but better than not saying the price.

For those saying “it depends” how often have you been charged what you truly consider a good value? I learned early on to ignore anyone using that model and never bothering to return to the restaurant. But given the results from the how much I earn survey I may simply be in the minority on this point too.

It never occurred to me not to ask if I was interested in the MP item - that seems the point, that it’s something that varies in price so frequently you have to ask.

Ken–This is slightly off the point of the Market Price, but one of the things I don’t like about specials not on the menu is that I spend a fair amount of time deciding what dish to order from the menu and what wine to pair with it. Having gone through that exercise, now the waiter throws a monkey wrench into the work by announcing an off-menu special that requires me to listen carefully to what it is, how it’s prepared, etc. And then I have to decide whether I’m going to order the special vs. what I was originally deciding from the menu, perhaps re-think my wine choice, etc. Plus, if it’s a restaurant that is at all noisy, sometimes it’s challenging to hear everything the waiter says, so often they have to repeat it because someone at the table didn’t catch everything…

Frankly, it just makes my ordering process a lot less difficult if they list the daily specials & price on the menu, or at least a separate card in the menu or written in legible writing on a large board on the wall.


Honestly the only time I see Market Price on a menu it is associated with lobster. Since I never order lobster at restaurants it’s never been an issue. The fact that restaurants do it is not anything that would affect my patronage. I go out for good food not to obsess over whether the price is listed appropriately enough.

A customer, especially if dining with a recent non-business acquaintance, should never be put in the position of having to ask how much something costs. If it’s uncomfortable for the waitperson to say the price, why should that discomfort be passed to the customer? If I ask how much something costs, and am told, and then don’t order it, an impression is given that I wanted that item but now that I know the price, I know I can’t afford it. It does not give the impression that I think the item is overpriced, because I’ve never seen it or eaten it; but even then, business should not visibly intrude on a nonbusiness evening in front of the guest. Ordering without knowing the price is just vanity, intentionally signaling to the guest that amounts under four figures are pocket change. Which has an equal chance of signaling financial irresponsibility or dishonest braggadocio, especially if one arrived in a regrettably pedestrian vehicle.

On the other hand there used to be a rule that it was rude to look at the bill when it arrived when on a date. I think that rule arose when waitstaff were better trained and items had to be entered by hand instead of via button on a computer being punched. I’ve had too many bills include or total things incorrectly, or charge twice for the same dish, for me to think this rule has any validity these days. On a computer generated bill it’s stupid not to look. To look at the bill used to convey a distrust of the waiter’s honesty, now it just conveys a distrust of machinery or a jittery index finger.

Strategically, the way to handle this in front of someone upon whom you are hoping to make a good impression is to imply – tacitly, not expressly, perhaps with a judicious pregnant pause – gentle surprise to the waiter that he or she forgot or was not properly trained to tell you the price. Also, calling him a f***ing idiot and telling him you could have him and his boss fired after you bought the restaurant helps to convey this message subtly yet effectively. Then put your hand on her knee, tuck your napkin under your chin, order for your date without fear of mythical politically correct boogiemen such as gluten intolerance or anaphylactic shock or suffrage, and order a magnum of Silver Oak to go with the Dover sole. Pinky out! And always write her first name on your palm with a Sharpie before dinner. If you’re lucky it ends with an “i”, with a heart always dotting the “i”.

I suppose I can kind of sort of understand this for a huge restaurant that does a massive amount of covers (e.g., Old Ebbitt in DC) that sells some items that do fluctuate in price (different types of oysters, for example) and where you don’t want to update thousands of menus daily.

But for nearly all restaurants, it’s just so easy to print new menus, and that’s what should be done. It’s so much better for the customer to know everything that’s available and how much it costs. I don’t like “daily specials” communicated by the waiter either, or hidden menu items. Just tell me what’s available and how much it costs, and I can decide whether to order it.

The worst is here in Houston, there is an otherwise very good, and very pricey, restaurant that communicates a plethora of daily specials by bringing a portable chalk board on a stand to each table and leaving it there until the table orders. Kind of a riff on the bistro chalk board. But it’s so silly and unnecessary and out-of-place in a high-end dining experience. Not much different than the “desert tray.”

The very first date my wife and I went on was at a nice restaurant in downtown san diego. I ordered the MP surf and turf. We were seniors in college at the time. The dish came out to be a whopping $85 for overcooked filet mignon and a well cooked lobster tail. We still joke about it to this day as I never bothered to ask ($85 would be 2x the price of anything on the menu) but man was the wallet hurting after that meal!

Now, I always ask if there’s a MP. Can’t say I go to too many restaurants with a MP on it though nowadays.

And then there’s this.

Went to Bear Flag (on Newport Peninsula) last Friday night. Always love their food though the total bill can creep up on you neyond what you’d think for an order-at-the-counter place. Anyway… their poke is listed as MP, so I asked the counter guy how much it was “today” and he said “it’s always the same price… $16.95/lb.”. So… I have no idea why the chalkboard menu says Market Price.

MP is an easy way to embarrass diners in front of friends, to overpay.

I live in the Syracuse, NY area, which is sort of a blue-collar town. Almost always the MP item is called out (or written out on a menu supplement) with the price.

Market Pricing is not about restaurants or servers being uncomfortable with pricing. It’s about volatility of the cost of goods needed to prepare the dish so a set price cannot be put in the menu unless it is set exhorbitantly high. My suggestion is that if you are uncomfortable asking about the price of something then either stay home or grow a pair.

It’s been my experience that when there are specials on the menu that the server always offers the price of the dishes after explaining them. Where do you all dine where there are no prices on the menus? Or are your dates getting the menus with the prices in them?