Restaurant Foods That Are Ripping You Off

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Sides are another area featuring unpalatably high mark-ups, especially when sold as "family style" servings to be shared by the table.

"Diners have a hard time deciphering value when portion sizes become more abstract," says Pennette, something that makes it easier to add extra dollars to the check.

Throw in exotic, luxury or ethnic ingredients, like caviar, saffron, or fresh lemongrass even in the tiniest quantities, and again the diner swallows a disproportionate price hike.

"People are thrown off the scent of seeking out value with foods they are unfamiliar with and don't know how to cost," adds Pennette.

Despite inflated prices in the appetizer sections, there are still parts of the menu where diners can find good value. Red meat and seafood dishes will get more bang for your buck—and don't forget the dessert list.

"Dessert used to be a low-cost, money-maker until the ambitions of the modern day pastry chef got in the way," says Pennette.

Nowadays, indulging in elaborate, luxurious desserts is reason alone to eat out. Go on, order that triple-layered chocolate torte. You owe it to your wallet.

In Pictures: Restaurant Foods That Are Ripping You Off

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