The grill next door: Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink.
The grill next door: Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink.
Mark Manger

Does a diner label put a lid on what people will pay for a burger?

The price tag on the burgers at Tom's Urban 24, which I reviewed last week, resulted in a flurry of comments -- a bigger flurry than we've seen in the skies today, in fact. Some readers thought the price was too high -- "$13 for a friggin cheeseburger?" -- while others said it was the going rate for loaded, half-pound burgers, maybe even "a bargain" considering the location.

Is the issue really the burger, or are expectations to blame?

See also: - Tom's Urban 24: Is this upscale diner ready for prime time? - Troy Guard's latest gives people what they want: fun on a bun - Photos: Punch Bowl Social Food & Drink unveils its winter menu

As I wrote in my review, Tom's Urban 24 feels like a diner, even though it doesn't bill itself as one, and diners are linked to affordability, long hours and comfort food. Is that why some choked on the higher price the way they would on a mug of cold, stale coffee?

Interestingly, the same discussion could've ensued after my review of TAG Burger Bar, in which I raised an eyebrow over the value of the meal (patties were a third, not half, a pound, and fries weren't included) -- but it didn't. Could this be because folks are willing to shell out more for a burger as long as they're eating that burger in a restaurant rather than a diner?

And what does this mean for Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink, which owner Robert Thompson calls a diner (even though many folks see it as a bar/play space) and which also charges $13 for burgers?

"We battle this pricing topic a lot," he says, explaining that the notion of what constitutes a diner is evolving and that PBS is "on the front end of that evolution."

Find out if the Punch Bowl burger is good enough to justify its price when my review is posted here tomorrow.


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