What is the Cost of Eating Out In Boston?

How much will you spend?

Unless someone else is paying the bill, most of us like to know roughly what the cost of eating out will be when we go to a restaurant.

But how do you estimate this?  One person may order just a main dish and drink only water, while another may order several courses and a bottle of wine. 

Some restaurants offer a fixed price menu (typically called a "prix fixe" or "chef's tasting menu" in Boston) as well as a la carte menu.  Where available, these can be a relative bargain, especially if the restaurant offers a wine-included option.  Fixed price menus can also affect the cost of eating out - for better or worse, depending on what you might have ordered otherwise.

So to help you estimate costs in our Guide to Best Boston Restaurants, we provide ranges based on the price of the majority of the main dish selections on the restaurant menu. 

$ Less than $10
$$ Between $10 - $20
$$$ Between $20 - $30
$$$$ Over $30

Please note that these ranges do not include beverages, tax, or tip.  Nor, for that matter, do they include appetizers, soup, salad, side dishes, dessert, or anything additional that you might want to order. 

So these ranges are not what you'll spend (you'll spend more - sometimes much more!).  They simply reflect what a typical main dish for one person will cost.

No, I’m not trying to put you on a diet!   This approach simply lets you compare general price ranges between Boston restaurants. 

If you order, for example, a dinner entrée for $26 . . . plus a salad, dessert, 2 glasses of wine, and coffee . . . your cost of eating out for one person will easily be well over $60.   And that's before tax and tip!

If the restaurant’s dinner entrees are in the $30-plus range, other items will probably also be higher . . . so your total (again, before tax and tip) could be over $100.   And keep in mind that some $30+ range restaurants charge waaaay over $30 for most entrees.

Please remember, prices can go up without warning.   We do our best to keep this information updated and accurate . . . but it may not be! 

If the restaurant also serves lunch and if the price range differs significantly from dinner, we show that separately.   If the restaurant offers only a fixed-price menu, that's what the cost range reflects.

If about half of the main courses are in, for example, the high end of the $$ range and the other half in the $$$ range, we use the higher $$$ range.  Sometimes, especially for inexpensive restaurants, if you could eat happily in a couple of ranges, we show both: $-$$.

More About Costs of Eating Out

In Boston Restaurants

Lunch prices tend to be lower than dinner prices, although portions are usually smaller and the preparation of the food may be simpler.   But this isn’t always true, especially at lower-priced restaurants.   And sometimes, the dinner menu (and prices) applies all day on weekends.

Also . . . some Boston restaurants charge “market price” for seafood items - meaning that the cost varies from day to day depending on supply and demand.

Taxes, Tips, and a Tip or Two

Massachusetts state sales tax on Boston restaurant meals is 6.25%. Tips are customarily 15-20% of the food and beverage charge.

Here’s a tip for you: If you have leftovers, ask to have them wrapped so that you can take them home.  This is perfectly acceptable and often expected, even in upscale places.  Think of it as a complement to the chef.  

In fact, wait staff in some places will look pained if you have leftovers and don't want to take them. 

Maybe it's Yankee frugality?  

If your hotel room has a refrigerator, you’ll have a tasty lunch for the next day - plus, you'll cut the cost of eating out in Boston by 50%, since you'll have 2 meals for the price of one.

Here are our Boston Restaurant Guides where you'll find these guidelines used:

Boston Restaurant Guide Boston Seafood Restaurants
Back Bay Restaurants Boston Steakhouses
Bay Village Restaurants Italian Restaurants in Boston
South End Restaurants French Restaurants in Boston

Fenway Restaurants

Theatre District Restaurants
Boston Cheap Eats Dim Sum Restaurants


If you found Cost of Eating Out interesting, check out:


Like this Page? Please Share!