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Old 03-27-2009, 06:27 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: Arabidopsis-ville
Upscale Restaurant Deals

I love food. I love good food. So when I saw this article, I became excited. Where do I find these delicious upscale restaurants with good deals? I don't have anyplace that comes close to being called upscale in my little town, but you TFP Foodies in major cities - what are the good restaurants, and where have you seen deals on high-end diining?

Upscale restaurants rolling out dining deals
By Marnie Hunter

(CNN) -- Americans hungry for feel-good fine dining are reaping the benefits of the struggling economy.

Wine deals, bar menu specials and three-course, prix fixe meals for $25 to $40 are popping up in high-end eateries across the country to lure customers as business and leisure travel dips and diners stay closer to home and make more value-driven decisions about eating out.

For Manhattan restaurateur Paul Grieco, sticking to good food and the warm, hospitable philosophy of his East Village restaurant, Hearth, is key to devising dining promotions to combat a 20 percent dip in business from the same period last year.

"Every restaurant out there is leading with the discount, and the consumer -- it's become one big blur. We're all competing against each other -- none of us are coming out winners," Grieco said.

To differentiate Hearth this winter, Grieco and the restaurant's chef created five winter soups available at the bar for $5 each, paired with $5 glasses of sherry. This spring, Grieco plans to offer $5 spring salads.

Hearth's Cucina Povera, a rustic $35 three-course, prix fixe meal featuring entrees such as braised lamb shank, is another offer aimed at budget-conscious diners.

"A year ago, to be honest, I didn't have to hit that three-course menu at $35 a head. Now you have to," Grieco said.

Grieco said he hopes the special menu items and prix fixe offering will attract more local diners to Hearth, one of the most expensive restaurants in the East Village.

"You need that neighborhood crowd, and because of our price point, maybe not everyone in the East Village was able to come to Hearth. Well, we need to change that," Grieco said.

Taking menu price inflation into account, the National Restaurant Association expects the restaurant industry's sales to decline by 1 percent in 2009. A similar drop in 2008 makes for the first consecutive back-to-back decline for the industry since the organization started tracking sales in 1970.

"This is currently the most challenging environment for restaurant operators in several decades," said Hudson Riehle, head of research at the National Restaurant Association.

While the decline is relatively small compared with other industries, pricier restaurants take a bigger hit in a down economy, and establishments that rely heavily on travelers are likely to feel the economic slump acutely as total travel expenditures in the U.S. are expected to dip by 6.7 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

At national seafood chain McCormick & Schmick's, 35 percent to 40 percent of the customer traffic, on average, comes from business travelers, according to CEO Bill Freeman. Sales through the end of February were down 13 percent from last year.

The restaurant is offering a steak and lobster dinner with dessert for $29.95. Increased focus on local promotional opportunities around holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day and an enhanced preferred guest program also are part of the company's efforts to drive sales. The preferred guest program allows diners to amass points that can be redeemed for food in the restaurant and some travel-related awards.

In Charleston, South Carolina, where many upscale restaurants rely heavily on tourism, those that are coping best are adding value without compromising their price integrity, according to Robert Frash, an assistant professor in the College of Charleston's Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

"Rather than lowering their prices or offering coupons and discounts that are inconsistent with fine dining, they're trying to give [customers] a better value. Perhaps where they were priced a la carte before, now it might be more of a prix fixe menu," Frash said.

The Charleston Grill, in the Charleston Place Hotel, started a dinner at dusk promotion in January. The three-course menu for $39 is available seven days a week to diners who are seated before 6 p.m.

Similar value-driven promotions are available at other hotel-based restaurants. 606 Congress, in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel in Massachusetts, will resume a popular "appetite stimulus" menu on April 13. For $25, guests receive an appetizer, entrée special, dessert and a glass of wine.

Wine promotions are another customer lure. Patina Restaurant Group, which operates more than 20 restaurants, is wrapping up a wine promotion at East Coast establishments March 31 that gives customers 25 percent off all bottles.

The promotion finished a successful West Coast run at the end of February, and the company is now waiving corkage fees at most West Coast restaurants.

"That is something that has been wildly successful ... just getting people in the door," said spokeswoman Amanda White. "We figure if people don't need to pay for wine, they'll spend more on food."

Promotions and sales declines aside, Americans are still dining out, according to Riehle of the National Restaurant Association.

"Restaurants have become so ingrained in American lifestyles now, and the consumer reliance upon them in some cases deems it a much more essential experience than a discretionary experience."
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Old 03-27-2009, 07:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Oregon
Almost all of the good restaurants in town have specials going on right now. Once of the fanciest restaurants has a different prix-fixe special every weekday evening. The bars are also advertising their happy hours more. Several of the restaurants here have also started giving discounts when students show their university ID. Also, more of the high-end restaurants are showing up in the coupon book given to students through Res Life. The fancy restaurants here are also opening more casual outlets--one of the nice Italian places has opened a deli inside the restaurant.

For the first time this year, the restaurants in my town got together with the Chamber of Commerce for a promotional week wherein every participating restaurant offered a discounted tasting menu, and the Chamber offered a coupon for people to take with them. We weren't able to go as they scheduled it for right in the middle of midterms, but hopefully they'll do it again next year.
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Old 03-27-2009, 08:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
NYC has restaurant week. Usually the plates are a sampling of the normal fare or a specially prepared prix fixe set menu. Usually it's something priced the year of the week.

Many cities participate in something like it.

restaurant week - Google Search

Also, try to go during lunch. Lunches will have similar if not same food offerings. Some restaurants have a grill next door where again the food is cheaper but doesn't pay for the white table cloth experience.
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Old 03-27-2009, 09:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
Denver has Restaurant Week as well. A lot of the nicer restaurants put together either a prix fixe menu or a smaller menu to choose from for $52.80 (5280 feet=one mile; Denver=one mile high). I think this year, Restaurant week lasted two or three weeks. Fort Collins, north of Denver does a similar thing with meals at $18.70 (year the University there was founded). Fort Collins doesn't have as upscale of restaurants which accounts for the difference.

I think it is a good thing that restaurants are doing this. It is putting the restaurant out there while times are bad in hopes that once things turn around, people will be more willing to come to these restaurants for full price.
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
Here you can find good deals on dining with outstanding food. Check out this article on Denver Restaurants.

Last edited by genuinegirly; 05-21-2009 at 04:54 AM..
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Old 05-25-2009, 07:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
Originally Posted by genuinegirly View Post
I love food. I love good food. So when I saw this article, I became excited. Where do I find these delicious upscale restaurants with good deals? I don't have anyplace that comes close to being called upscale in my little town, but you TFP Foodies in major cities - what are the good restaurants, and where have you seen deals on high-end diining?
I love good food too! But I don't think that it has to be "upscale" to be good. Often the only things that seem to have been scaled up are the prices and the vocabulary. Sauces are "infused" instead of flavored with. You find a sommelier instead of a wine steward. A surfeit of stuffy formality and a wait staff with attitude.
And I think you sell small towns short. I've had wonderful seafood in small towns in New England. There are some world class bar-b-que joints in small towns in the South. Great steaks in the midwest and high plains. Great Mexican in the Southwest, or just about anyplace if you find a local taqueria and stay away from the franchises.
I think that the only areas where upscale establishments really stand out are pastries and desserts.

I travel by car quite a bit, and this is a great website for great food, including small towns
and it's free.
They also have a premium (upscale) pay site, but I tried it for a year and didn't think it was worth the money. Just like a lot of upscale restaurants.

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Old 05-26-2009, 04:44 AM   #7 (permalink)
Eat your vegetables
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Location: Arabidopsis-ville
Nifty site, Lindy! Thanks for sharing.
"Sometimes I have to remember that things are brought to me for a reason, either for my own lessons or for the benefit of others." Cynthetiq

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Old 05-26-2009, 05:57 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Toronto has Winterlicious and Summerlicious... these are just like Restaurant Week in NYC.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:11 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Try here too:

Chowhound Boards - Chowhound

They've always given me good advice no matter what area of the country I'm in.
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deals, restaurant, upscale

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