Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Summer in the City: This is the time of year when tourists disappear and locals stay home and plant themselves in front of their air-conditioning vents. That makes it tough for restaurants to put fannies in their seats. So several are offering summer specials to lure us out.

* The Uptown Dine Around is back. It runs Friday and Saturday nights, through September 4. For $215 per couple (plus room tax), guests get to wander around three of the four corners at 24th Street and Camelback. Through July 10, couples start off with aperitifs at Bistro 24, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Then they walk over to RoxSand across the street at Biltmore Fashion Park for appetizers and a glass of wine. From there, it's west to Eddie Matney's Epicurean Trio for entrees and a glass of wine. The Dine Around returns to Bistro 24 for dessert and a glass of champagne. The walking should do everybody good.

From July 16 to September 4, RoxSand and Eddie switch courses--appetizers at Eddie's, entrees at RoxSand. You'll still end up at the Ritz-Carlton, where, happy and full, you can use the fitness center, or, better yet, turn in for the night.

For more info and reservations, call the Ritz-Carlton at 602-468-0700.
* T. Cook's at the Royal Palms wants you and about a half-dozen of your closest friends to enjoy Table 33. (That's the large table in front of the room's striking wood-burning rotisserie fireplace.) Every Wednesday, through September 15, chef Michael Hoobler will design a five-course menu for your party, including wine. The evening will start off with champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the lounge before you get down to eating business. I can only hope one of my friends sees this and invites me.

The evening requires six to nine guests, and costs $75 per person. For more information and reservations, call 602-808-0766.

Tipsy: Are you beleaguered by $11 appetizers, $35 main dishes and $8 desserts? More bad news is on the way.

The Associated Press is reporting that more and more big-city restaurants have begun adding "gratuity guidelines" to the bill. There's nothing subtle about their motivation: They want to make the tip a little less voluntary and a lot more obligatory.

At one Santa Monica restaurant, for example, the check comes with three boxes, marked 15%, 18% and 20%. You're encouraged to fill in one of the boxes, and the percentage gets added to the bill. That's all dependent, of course, on your not having dropped dead from the shock.

Even more efficient tip "suggestions" are on the way. American Express, for example, has developed a machine that validates your card and then prints out a suggested tip on the receipt.

How do diners feel about this? Some shrug and point out that in Europe the tip is always factored into the meal. Others note that parties of six or more also generally pay a pre-set percentage.

Still, most folks find it insulting. The head of the California Restaurant Association hit on the biggest drawback: "You don't have a way of voicing your dissatisfaction if they don't deliver."

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel