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The Inn At Little Washington - With 2001 National James Beard Award Winner Patrick O'Connell


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OK, we just got back so here are my impressions. The Inn is, as you can imagine, breathtakingly beautiful. It's like you're walking onto the set of Downton Abbey. Some of the décor bordered on Liber

My wife surprised me with a trip to the Inn for dinner. Until we left, I wasn't completely sure where we were going. She rightfully decided to find a more affordable place to stay, since $800 a night

Well having just dined at the IaLW, I can absolutely see why people consider it special and noteworthy after all these years.  The service just blows away the best service anywhere else in the DC area

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On 5/14/2019 at 4:57 PM, mtureck said:

And now choosing the cheese course instead of dessert is an $18 up-charge. 

I'm really glad I had the chance to go here a few times before the prices got crazy...can't see myself going back. 

But.... you can have as many cheeses as you would like. Not quibbling with you about prices, but the lack of restriction does provide some more value.

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4 minutes ago, Keithstg said:

But.... you can have as many cheeses as you would like. Not quibbling with you about prices, but the lack of restriction does provide some more value.

Last time I was there we were told to pick 5 or 6, if I remember correctly.

Either way, I just find something distasteful about a $18 upcharge during a $238 meal.  

I understand a big tasting menu upcharge for a super special ingredient...a perfect white truffle, real Kobe beef, etc., but adding a small (relatively speaking) upcharge for something that has always been included just strikes me the wrong way. 

Maybe Cameron just wanted a big raise. 

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1 minute ago, mtureck said:

Last time I was there we were told to pick 5 or 6, if I remember correctly.

Either way, I just find something distasteful about a $18 upcharge during a $238 meal.  

I understand a big tasting menu upcharge for a super special ingredient...a perfect white truffle, real Kobe beef, etc., but adding a small (relatively speaking) upcharge for something that has always been included just strikes me the wrong way. 

Maybe Cameron just wanted a big raise. 

I hear you - I still remember being offered still or sparkling water at Il Laboratorio and being annoyed at a rather arbitrary water charge at the end of the evening (all bottles were shared among tables - I guess the charge was split?).

Last month we could pick however many cheeses. Would be a bummer if that's changed, or not consistently applied. Cameron was much less engaging on our last trip, though. Maybe having an off night.

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15 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

My wife and I went here...hmmm...1999? We keep talking about going back at least one more time - I keep thinking yes. Should we?

Depends...do you mind paying a LOT more money for food of the same quality, but with fewer choices than you had last time?

I think the Inn's food is excellent, but not transcendent. 

Slam dunk yes at the $160 or so I spent last time. At $238, I'm not so sure. 

I do love the ambiance there though, and if you can convince yourself that you're really paying for the whole experience,then go for it. 

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16 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

My wife and I went here...hmmm...1999? We keep talking about going back at least one more time - I keep thinking yes. Should we?

If you go, consider sitting at the chef's table in the kitchen.  Sure it will up your bill by 300 bucks or so (this info is more than 5 years old, so ymmv), but most of my strongest and best memories of that night had more to do with sitting in the kitchen, than with the actual food.  The food was fantastic, but I keep thinking more about the non-food aspects of the night.  There are a lot of extra frills when you sit in the kitchen.  I won't mention any of them here because some are sort of dramatic and will be more effective if I don't spoil the surprise.

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1 hour ago, Bart said:

If you go, consider sitting at the chef's table in the kitchen.  Sure it will up your bill by 300 bucks or so (this info is more than 5 years old, so ymmv), but most of my strongest and best memories of that night had more to do with sitting in the kitchen, than with the actual food.  The food was fantastic, but I keep thinking more about the non-food aspects of the night.  There are a lot of extra frills when you sit in the kitchen.  I won't mention any of them here because some are sort of dramatic and will be more effective if I don't spoil the surprise.

$595 per table now...

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2 minutes ago, reedm said:

$595 per table now...

Wowzers!   And I see that price is for any day of the week.  When I did it, it was on either Thursday or Friday, which was cheaper by maybe 100 bucks than the Saturday night price.

I'll revise my original comment:  "Consider sitting at the chef's table in the kitchen with 5 close friends".  100 bucks per person (6 people) is much more palatable than 300 bucks per person (2 people)

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1 hour ago, Mark Slater said:

The busboy dressed as the altar boy swinging incense was a little much. 

As was the kid strewing rose petals in our path.

Did you know that the mooing that Bessie the Cow (the cheese cart) makes is done with a little hand-held device that the poor fromagier must repeatedly turn over as they walk through the dining room? 

Folks, in case you haven't noticed, fine dining in DC has gone from being "an excellent value" to "an extreme luxury" in just ten years. You can say "O'Connell and Andrés," but I think the one person at the vanguard of this (inevitable movement) was Trabocchi.

We have world-class prices, but we don't have the restaurants to match. If I'm dropping $1,000 for two people, I'm going to be at one of the best restaurants in Europe, where I can spend the night and can also have breakfast - and I'm going to do that about once a year, well, going forward, maybe twice.

Do you remember, maybe 5-10 years ago, when people in DC were implying that 'fine dining was dead?' Well, it wasn't; in fact, at the highest levels, I don't ever again see it being the value that it once was - only a general economic calamity could change the course of things at this point. Ultra-luxe dining is now reflective of the extreme disparities in wealth in the general population (to some degree, it always has been, but not like this).

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54 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Did you know that the mooing that Bessie the Cow (the cheese cart) makes is done with a little hand-held device that the poor fromagier must repeatedly turn over as they walk through the dining room? 

Folks, in case you haven't noticed, fine dining in DC has gone from being "an excellent value" to "an extreme luxury" in just ten years. You can say "O'Connell and Andrés," but I think the one person at the vanguard of this (inevitable movement) was Trabocchi.

We have world-class prices, but we don't have the restaurants to match. If I'm dropping $1,000 for two people, I'm going to be at one of the best restaurants in Europe, where I can spend the night and can also have breakfast - and I'm going to do that about once a year, well, going forward, maybe twice.

Do you remember, maybe 5-10 years ago, when people in DC were implying that 'fine dining was dead?' Well, it wasn't; in fact, at the highest levels, I don't ever again see it being the value that it once was - only a general economic calamity could change the course of things at this point. Ultra-luxe dining is now reflective of the extreme disparities in wealth in the general population (to some degree, it always has been, but not like this).

"Nice" or "Fine Dining" service in Washington bears no resemblance to the 3 Etoiles MIchelin restaurants in Paris. When you experience them, it becomes clear why it is not feasible in the US.

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53 minutes ago, Mark Slater said:

"Nice" or "Fine Dining" service in Washington bears no resemblance to the 3 Etoiles MIchelin restaurants in Paris. When you experience them, it becomes clear why it is not feasible in the US.

As someone that has not experienced it, why isn't it feasible in the US?

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9 minutes ago, mtureck said:

As someone that has not experienced it, why isn't it feasible in the US?

In Europe, waiter is a profession. Students train at vocational schools (something the US sorely needs more of) starting at age 15 and get jobs for life. The three star I am most comfortable at and have eaten at the most is Eric Frechon at the Le Bristol. After my second visit, Raphael, the maitre d', remembered me, as did the sommelier. The sommelier there one Sunday night was 21 years old and had been studying for 6 years. The busboys have apprentices who are not allowed to approach the table. None of that would fly here, I'm afraid. Socialism!!

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5 hours ago, mtureck said:

I think the Inn's food is excellent, but not transcendent. 

Slam dunk yes at the $160 or so I spent last time. At $238, I'm not so sure. 

I do love the ambiance there though, and if you can convince yourself that you're really paying for the whole experience,then go for it. 

it's been about five years since the bf and i went to the inn, but our impression of the ambiance was that it wasn't to our taste.  it's a bit too ornate/stuffy/like the home of my fictional very-rich-and-slightly-eccentric spinster great-aunt.  perhaps unsurprisingly, we also aren't fans of the old school european service/ambiance that michelin seems to favor; our tastes run much more to the komi/copenhagen model of fine dining, where the service is warm, the decor is minimalist, and the (interesting!) food is the star of the experience.  (not only do i not care about a white tablecloth, i actively prefer to see a gorgeous bare wood table.)  we've debated going back to the inn for years, especially as it continues to rack up accolades/stars (although we don't really put much stock in michelin's comparative rankings), but newlywed friends on a mini-moon just had a "we're not rushing back" experience this month.  as mtureck observes, my impression of the food was that it was very good but nothing was spectacular.  my strongest memory of the experience is how much i disliked that mooing cow cheese course performance; i couldn't now tell you a single dish that we ate. 

so for those with more experience with the inn than i have: what are we missing?  i don't mean to sound snarky; i'm genuinely interested in understanding what it is that makes the inn so beloved.  (is it possibly a bit of a generational thing?  i don't mean that to sound age-ist.  my friends and i are in our mid- to late thirties.  we're not your stereotypical dinner-instagramming millennials, but nor do the guys want to be required to wear suits to experience dinner.  i can't imagine ever wanting to go back to a restaurant where the actual food was secondary to the ambiance.)

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7 minutes ago, jca76 said:

it's been about five years since the bf and i went to the inn, but our impression of the ambiance was that it wasn't to our taste.  it's a bit too ornate/stuffy/like the home of my fictional very-rich-and-slightly-eccentric spinster great-aunt.  perhaps unsurprisingly, we also aren't fans of the old school european service/ambiance that michelin seems to favor; our tastes run much more to the komi/copenhagen model of fine dining, where the service is warm, the decor is minimalist, and the (interesting!) food is the star of the experience.  (not only do i not care about a white tablecloth, i actively prefer to see a gorgeous bare wood table.)  we've debated going back to the inn for years, especially as it continues to rack up accolades/stars (although we don't really put much stock in michelin's comparative rankings), but newlywed friends on a mini-moon just had a "we're not rushing back" experience this month.  as mtureck observes, my impression of the food was that it was very good but nothing was spectacular.  my strongest memory of the experience is how much i disliked that mooing cow cheese course performance; i couldn't now tell you a single dish that we ate. 

so for those with more experience with the inn than i have: what are we missing?  i don't mean to sound snarky; i'm genuinely interested in understanding what it is that makes the inn so beloved.  (is it possibly a bit of a generational thing?  i don't mean that to sound age-ist.  my friends and i are in our mid- to late thirties.  we're not your stereotypical dinner-instagramming millennials, but nor do the guys want to be required to wear suits to experience dinner.  i can't imagine ever wanting to go back to a restaurant where the actual food was secondary to the ambiance.)

Fair enough...the dining room is certainly a bit kitschy for my taste...but I was referring more to the overall experience.

Driving out to the country, wandering around the town, walking through the gardens looking at the produce, dessert outside when the weather allows, etc. 

As for why it's so beloved, I think it has nice all around balance. Fancy, but not stuffy. Interesting food, without it being over the top. Balances the traditional luxury ingredients... lobster, foie gras, truffles...with seasonal/local ingredients. And it used to be a reasonable price. 

As I've said here before, I liked it better when they had a prix fixe menu, with more choices per course than it has now. 

But I've also had some fantastic food there. I can remember an amazing truffled mac and cheese, a cold peach soup that actually stunned me, a beef short rib that was one of the most intensely flavored things I've ever had, and many other dishes. 

I think the prices are simply reaching a point where expectations are getting too high. 

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On 5/30/2019 at 8:26 PM, Pool Boy said:

My wife and I went here...hmmm...1999? We keep talking about going back at least one more time - I keep thinking yes. Should we?

 

19 hours ago, mtureck said:

Depends...do you mind paying a LOT more money for food of the same quality, but with fewer choices than you had last time?

I think the Inn's food is excellent, but not transcendent. 

Slam dunk yes at the $160 or so I spent last time. At $238, I'm not so sure. 

I do love the ambiance there though, and if you can convince yourself that you're really paying for the whole experience,then go for it. 

Larger points about the growing disparity between the quality of fine dining in the U.S. vs the price aside (which I agree with), I do think we owe the Inn fair comparison.  $160 in 1999 is $245.42 today adjusted for inflation - one could argue the Inn has stuck to the price point with remarkable consistency.  Though if given fewer choices than previously, that should be taken into account.

 

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30 minutes ago, genericeric said:

 

Larger points about the growing disparity between the quality of fine dining in the U.S. vs the price aside (which I agree with), I do think we owe the Inn fair comparison.  $160 in 1999 is $245.42 today adjusted for inflation - one could argue the Inn has stuck to the price point with remarkable consistency.  Though if given fewer choices than previously, that should be taken into account.

 

The $160 figure was from about 5 years ago.

No idea what the price was like in 1999.

 

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2019 at 5:04 PM, jca76 said:

it's been about five years since the bf and i went to the inn, but our impression of the ambiance was that it wasn't to our taste.  it's a bit too ornate/stuffy/like the home of my fictional very-rich-and-slightly-eccentric spinster great-aunt.

Nailed it!   I feel the same way and always wondered why this isn't noted more in reviews and write ups.  The décor feels decades out of style.

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That San Pellegrino 50 best list is even more bunk than Michelin 2 and 3 stars? At this point, I've had enough meh or worse meals (Akelarre is literally my worst restaurant meal in 2015) at Michelin 2 and 3 stars to think that expecting greatness in one is not a good game plan.

If it makes you feel any better, we ate at 4 of the 5 Viennese 2-stars.  Only Konstantin Filippou was worthy.

Cosme in NYC is also just fine and about 300% overpriced.

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4 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

IIRC, it was like $135.

thanks.  I haven't been there in about 25 years.  (so my life changed a little).  I think last time I was there I think it was about $100/person --maybe $120/person.  Ample wine.  Great meal and fun.  The price has gone up significantly since then.  Wonder if it is better??

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On 5/31/2019 at 5:04 PM, jca76 said:

it's been about five years since the bf and i went to the inn, but our impression of the ambiance was that it wasn't to our taste.  it's a bit too ornate/stuffy/like the home of my fictional very-rich-and-slightly-eccentric spinster great-aunt.  perhaps unsurprisingly, we also aren't fans of the old school european service/ambiance that michelin seems to favor; our tastes run much more to the komi/copenhagen model of fine dining, where the service is warm, the decor is minimalist, and the (interesting!) food is the star of the experience.  

so for those with more experience with the inn than i have: what are we missing?  i don't mean to sound snarky; i'm genuinely interested in understanding what it is that makes the inn so beloved.

I'm 5-10 years older than you and would say that maybe the inn isn't to your taste, and that's fine. You aren't missing anything if you can find experiences that you are interested in and value more - which is a good thing!

FWIW, I enjoy the inn - though the decor in the dining room is a bit much for me - I wouldn't necessarily call it dated - just a very defined point of view that isn't my own. The Claiborne House, as Don mentioned, is more my speed of interior design, and quite a bit lighter. 

I'm interested in traditional fine dining, and have done Noma, among others in that vein. My issue with Noma in particular, and the Copenhagen model in general, is that oftentimes the ability to create a dish, or do something "interesting", is more important than the actual taste of the food - and don't get me started on the nonsense "natural" wines pushed at many/ most of these establishments.

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54 minutes ago, MarkS said:

At Charleston, desert or the cheese cart, is included with dinner.  These are current prices.  I think food and service is on par if not better then the Inn.

https://charlestonrestaurant.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/MENU-MAIN_06.03.19.pdf

3 courses $79

w/wine $135

4 courses $94

w/wine $164

5 courses $109

w/wine $192

6 courses $124

w/wine $222

At Le Bernardin, the tasting menu includes cheese or dessert at $225 (chef's tasting) or $187 (regular tasting). Wine parings round up to $370 (chef's) and $282 (regular). I think the food and service are better than the inn. Of course, like Charleston, Le Bernardin is nowhere near the Inn, and is a fundamentally different restaurant, so...

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Part of me still wants to go back here before he's dead or it closes. But the price seems kind of outrageous. Without any beverage whatsoever with tax and tip you walk out for $620. You throw in wine pairings You are basically over $1K (with tax and tip). Even if you order carefully from their wine list, cocktails and/or after dinner drinks, it's still quite expensive.. It does look like you can pay a $50/$75/$125 corkage fee for any wine you bring as long as it is not on their list and is limited to two bottles, so that's a way to economize at least.

Then there's the whole 'I am so over tasting menus' thing. It looks they have 3 to choose from, but I assume it means you pick one of them in their entirety - no picking this dish off of this menu and that one of of another, etc as long as the total combined courses are identical. 

Hmm - will have to think about this.

@MarkS - thanks for reminding folks of Charleston - I really need to get back there and looking at a recent menu I cannot believe I have not been back sooner.

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11 minutes ago, Pool Boy said:

Then there's the whole 'I am so over tasting menus' thing. It looks they have 3 to choose from, but I assume it means you pick one of them in their entirety - no picking this dish off of this menu and that one of of another, etc as long as the total combined courses are identical. 

You may choose any dish from any menu. No need to chose one menu or another in its entirety.

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We are early 40s and tend to go to hipper places in DC and went a few weeks ago for a baby moon dinner. It was expensive but I had prepared for a $1000+ bill before so we just went in with a spirit of enjoying it. The decor is plush and fun and avoids being stuffy somehow. The staff also were great but unstuffy. Many of the dishes were spectacular (there was a red pepper soup I can still taste). The cheeses were good and the cheese kitch amusing. As people who love fine dining but hate stuffy it was a great meal. 

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The Inn  has been taking reservations beginning 5/15.  As of today, the evening is sold out. The Governor of VA, as of right now is slated to launch “phase one” of opening the state, not specifying what part of the state is to open. How is this gonna happen? Would you dine at the Inn on 5/15 with no definitive plan of reopening restaurants for dine in, documented? Please discuss.

Screenshot 2020-05-07 at 23.08.02.png

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On 5/7/2020 at 10:59 PM, curiouskitkatt said:

The Inn  has been taking reservations beginning 5/15.  As of today, the evening is sold out. The Governor of VA, as of right now is slated to launch “phase one” of opening the state, not specifying what part of the state is to open. How is this gonna happen? Would you dine at the Inn on 5/15 with no definitive plan of reopening restaurants for dine in, documented? Please discuss.

Screenshot 2020-05-07 at 23.08.02.png

Yes, but as with most things I don't think that there is any "correct" answer other than one that works for each individual. In fact, will see about a reservation this AM.

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I think VA restaurants that open can only seat people outside in this phase. Unless the weather turns around quickly, that could be mighty chilly.

For DC residents this is a no-go anyway: Mayor Bowser was asked about VA's potential reopening a few days ago and she emphasized that, while DC residents are under a stay-at-home order, they cannot go eat at Virginia restaurants if they open.

(Sorry, I guess I'm not playing along with the question:ph34r:.)

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4 hours ago, Pat said:

I think VA restaurants that open can only seat people outside in this phase. Unless the weather turns around quickly, that could be mighty chilly.

For DC residents this is a no-go anyway: Mayor Bowser was asked about VA's potential reopening a few days ago and she emphasized that, while DC residents are under a stay-at-home order, they cannot go eat at Virginia restaurants if they open.

(Sorry, I guess I'm not playing along with the question:ph34r:.)

Just curious, how would Mayor Bowser possibly enforce this? And I say this as a former “Green Team” fan. No allegiance now that I don’t live in DC...

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31 minutes ago, Keithstg said:

Just curious, how would Mayor Bowser possibly enforce this? And I say this as a former “Green Team” fan. No allegiance now that I don’t live in DC...

You'd have to seriously choke if you got pulled over on the way back into town.

"Where you coming from, son?"

"Oh, I was in Arlington at a restaur, erm, buying a gun!"

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6 hours ago, Keithstg said:

Just curious, how would Mayor Bowser possibly enforce this? And I say this as a former “Green Team” fan. No allegiance now that I don’t live in DC...

I doubt there's any way she can or would even try. Attempting to would chew up a disproportionate amount of resources. I think she wanted to emphasize that people are not supposed to be going out for non-essential purposes, regardless of what the policies are in other jurisdictions.

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I know people generally complain about restaurants being too loud but with Inn I already had the opposite problem.  When I ate tgere last year I got seated in that back hallway area and it was so awkwardly quiet I found it hard to enjoy my conversation because literally everyone in that hallway would hear 100% of what I was saying.

Anyways I don't know if sitting in a room of mannequins is less awkward than an empty one but it certainly is an interesting idea.

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53 minutes ago, FranklinDubya said:

Anyways I don't know if sitting in a room of mannequins is less awkward than an empty one but it certainly is an interesting idea.

Rod Serling thought so. :)

AnneFrancis.jpg

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1 hour ago, curiouskitkatt said:

I don’t know about showmanship, but I gotta give credit to Patrick for making a grand ( peculiar) entrance for reopening. 

I've spent twenty minutes scanning the internet, and have only seen very gentle mockery. I think I've read about 1/3 "epic cool," 1/3 "slightly creepy," and 1/3 no comment - can someone link to a derisive statement?

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7 minutes ago, saf said:

I find it scary.

Eater used the phrase "slightly creepy," and people have piggybacked on that. I don't see how you *can't* gently mock this, especially because it's so ferociously expensive; I have yet to see any derision (which implies contempt), although knowing the internet maggotry, I'm sure it's out there.

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1 minute ago, DonRocks said:

Eater used the phrase "slightly creepy," 

It makes me think of that castle on the Isle of Man, where all the rooms have tableaux of past people. Also, wax museums. Yes, I am a wimp, but the castle made me a little freaked out, and wax museums frighten me. (Peele Castle, I think? Had scary mannequins and 2 Manx cats who patrolled the grounds and castle. Cats were cool.)

Once I had to do an event at Madam Taussad's. Oh my god. Such a strange evening.

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21 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Eater used the phrase "slightly creepy," and people have piggybacked on that. I don't see how you *can't* gently mock this, especially because it's so ferociously expensive; I have yet to see any derision (which implies contempt), although knowing the internet maggotry, I'm sure it's out there.

Eater...enough said. 

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6 minutes ago, MsDiPesto said:

Eater...enough said. 

I would say the same about Facebook and Yelp, except nobody would read it, because everyone is over on those two multi-billion dollar platforms, preaching about the importance of supporting local mom-n-pop restaurants.

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