Granted, I was at the most pretentious food hall in northern California, the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in San Francisco. Boccalone's $8.75 Muffuletta sandwich, even with a $1 water charge, is one of the cheaper meals available there.* I probably would have paid $9.75 for it without complaining.
* (In the only time I'll ever eat at Boulette's Larder, I ordered scrambled egg(s) with squash blossoms for $16. When it arrived and was small enough that I'm not sure whether or not "egg" was plural, I asked about toast and was told it would cost an additional $6.)
But still, $1 for tap water? Or, to use Boccalone's vocabulary, $1 for a paper cup? (There's also an option -- I'm not kidding -- to pay $20 for a Boccalone metal water bottle, with which you get unlimited free refills. Of tap water. Which means you probably don't get refills if you only buy the cup, but there's always the restroom sink.)
Is this a profit center that restaurants need to survive?
It seems to me that any restaurant that provides seating for immediate consumption (not to mention meals based around salty preserved meats) should provide water as a service to its clients.
As I walked away to dine more happily at King of Thai Noodle, where a bottomless glass of water is free -- but where I had to pay a "San Francisco health care charge" of 3% -- I couldn't stop thinking about the $1 cup of water.
Will this become something we can expect to see more from cash-strapped restaurateurs? Has Boccalone crossed a line that food stands in less smarmy environments would be economically punished for? (I walked away, but nobody behind me in line blinked.)
Is it a greedy greenwash grab, based on the idea that $1 for a "compostable cup" is better for the environment than $3 for a plastic bottle of Dasani?
I grant you that I'd rather drink San Francisco's high-quality tap water than pay for Dasani, which is also essentially tap water. And who knows, maybe Boccalone is filtering its water or adding vitamins or getting a priest to bless it.
But if somebody can forward this post to Boccalone's proprietors, including local star chef Chris Cosentino, I'd love for them to explain themselves. Are you guys on the forefront of a new way of thinking about beverages? Do you recommend that every restaurant charge $1 for each cup of water? Or have you confused San Francisco with "Dune"?