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Nov 8, 2023

Taking Sides in the Dine-Out Wars

Would you like some meat with your fries?

By Ed Goldman

Some restaurateurs are upset that some younger diners are ordering multiple side dishes instead of costlier entrées, according to The Wall Street Journal. Diners are eschewing rather than chewing big honking meals in favor of little honking meals— the most popular combo being a Caesar salad and French fries.

This proves illuminating for my OSSO (oh-so-significant-other) and me since that meal is precisely what we order—and, as a bit of foreshadowing, what we share—about three times a month. We do so at one of the two locations of our favorite local bistro, Café Bernardo. The place is one of the satellites in the eatery empire owned by chef Kurt Spataro and the late Randy Paragary.

Edgy Cartoon
Weight right here

As a personal-vanity aside, it tickles us pink to know we’re doing something younger diners do, at least when they’re in public. It isn’t hastening us to cut holes in our jeans, throw objects at rock-concert performers or skateboard down a tot-lot slide but we definitely feel youthfully refreshed. 

What the article doesn’t mention is the health and fiscal benefits of meal-sharing, which I’m duty-bound to warn you is the topic of today’s sermon (remember, I foreshadowed it in the prior paragraph). 

Even though the salad and spuds are “sides” they still offer us enough calories to sustain us as we return to our physically demanding jobs of sitting at desks, typing and phoning. (Do I hear someone reciting “O’ Pioneers” in the hazy loam of the morning frontier?)

Meal-sharing was new to me when we started doing it but I swiftly grew to love it as the suits in my closet began to re-grow. They had inexplicably been shrinking over a period of years, a phenomenon I attributed to humidity—until I was reminded, possibly by my admirably slender OSSO, that Sacramento, where we live, has a remarkably dry climate. 

At that point I began to blame excessive aridity for the problem and considered shipping my wardrobe to Houston every summer and Florida year-’round for re-moistening.

I also came close to enjoying, for the first time, receiving the check at the end of the meal, which suddenly no longer required me to issue calls for a co-signer.

As you know, smokers, drinkers and atheists who undergo lifestyle conversions tend to view their former cohorts as deaf, dumb and blind. I don’t feel that about people who don’t share their meals but I have to say that when I see an entrée delivered to a table and it not only fills the plate but forms a mashed-potato mountain—if there’s also gravy, it resembles the kind of meniscus you’ll find at the border of an infinity pool (though it’s a mirage) or if you suffer from water-on-the-knee (which is real)—I semi-gag. I can’t believe I ever ate that much food in a single sitting.

Ah, but I did. What was a coffee shop breakfast if it didn’t include eggs, some form of meat, hash browns, toast, butter and jam, the last being the only thing restaurants provide in tiny little packets as though a teaspoonful of (usually) grape jelly is as precious as painite, the planet’s rarest gem and rarest mineral. 

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Lunch had to be a sandwich, enhanced by the presence of potato chips or fries. Dinner was just lunch-plus: the fries might morph into a slimming baked potato (with sour cream, cheese, chili and real butter) and the sandwich was now a slab of meat the size of a loose-leaf notebook (but encased in au jus rather than fattening bread or the aforementioned gravy). We also started these repasts with a salad or soup and concluded them with pie ala mode, figuring we’d behaved ourselves all day, why not make going out for dinner special?

I’m not suggesting that having even half of those kinds of meals will lead to eternal life or mere cardio godliness. I’m also not implying that since switching to shared meals has resulted in my being flooded with male modeling assignments (though I think I’d be suitable as a photo stand-in for a live-acton Teletubbies reboot. 

But I do know that this relatively new practice in my life has lowered my blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol count and credit card debt. So, Hail Caesar! And pass me the ketchup.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


What does it mean to “get your money right”? It means having what you worked so hard to attain turn around and work equally as hard for you.

Get your money right means overseeing your personal finances— which can involve budgeting, tracking your spending, saving, and investing, among other tasks. Get your money right keeps you in control and on target for achieving your financial goals.

When prioritizing the payment of your bills, for example, you should make sure to pay for necessities first, such as housing, food, utilities, healthcare, and insurance. You’ll also want to make sure you pay your debts—which could include student loans, car payments, and at least the minimum on your credit card bill.

What are some common mistakes people make with their money and how can you avoid them? Common money mistakes include not having or sticking to a budget, accruing too much credit card debt, and not having an emergency fund, among others. You can avoid these issues by getting on a money management plan and budgeting effectively.

There are some resources available for improving your financial literacy.

Start with your bank: SoFi Bank, N.S. offers financial content and tools to build your financial literacy. Podcasts by well-regarded and -reviewed specialists are another option to explore. Lastly, you may find classes and seminars at local community and continuing-ed organizations.

Either way, here’s a good answer if you’re asked how you handle your financial life: “I manage…to get by.”

Golden Pacific Bank is now Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC 2023 Golden Pacific Bank. This information should be used for informational purposes only.

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