I found myself writing this long-winded thing in response to Darren's question about how much we're willing to spend in a restaurant, and I thought it would make a better post than a reply.
I find that the restaurants in which people spend three digits per head tend to be like temples -- this very hushed ambiance where people speak in urgent whispers, where chef-worshippers eat in awed silence and where people who don't eat at such places very often sit uncomfortably and look intimidated. None of those things makes a nice meal for me. (Yes, one mark of a great restaurant is that they aren't intimidating, but the capacity of people to be intimidated is greater than the capacity of restaurants to be welcoming.)
I also have to admit that I've never quite got the buzz around famous chefs. I've eaten at plenty of buzz-worthy places and the food was always excellent, but I guess I tend to appreciate solid technique more than imagination in my meals, which sounds odd given my fascination with food. I'd always much rather have a really great roasted chicken and fried potatoes done perfectly than a long, weird meal containing various foams at El Bulli. What I'm saying is that I like dinner to be food, not art.
That's not to say that restaurants with inventive or imaginative chefs are bad -- not at all, because without such chefs we would stagnate in what we were eating -- I just always feel like I'm paying to be experimented on when I eat at a place like El Bulli or the French Laundry or Babbo. The result is that I tend not to eat in such places, and thus my restaurant bills tend to be cheaper.