Bread and marketing? Yes. Bread has served not only as a mark of a restaurant’s quality, but also as a generator of press coverage. For many years in New York the bread to have at the best restaurants was Tom Cat’s sourdough. Peter Lugar’s onion rolls are legendary, and most recently in Miami, bread by Zak is the one that gets a mention on menus. And when the bread is really good, don’t you find yourself mentioning that to friends? Butter, too, gets noticed by foodies —peel off butter packets, others you unwrap on the low end ,and the top of the line being soft, unsalted tub butter from France. And speaking about generating press, one of the selling points of a new restaurant, art gallery and lounge opening early next year in Wynwood, Miami will be their baguette oven imported from Strasbourg.
Given all this, I find it short sighted to charge for bread. One could make an argument to diners for serving bread only on request which some restaurants are doing — that it saves waste and eliminates temptation for those on a diet. But charging, especially if a lunch of broiled salmon, baby vegetables and a glass of wine with tip is $50 a person? That was my experience at a recent lunch at an upscale food hall in New York City. It’s a buzzy, exciting place and the food is quite good but to charge for a piece of baguette and butter? Time to relook that policy.