Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dining Out Has Replaced The Theater

Quick! What movie is that from? If you guess right, you get bragging rights for the day.

Tip Of The Day: How to eat out at high-end, chef-driven restaurants (which means run by the chef, not driven around by the chef. Which would be cool! But I digress.) in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Tip For Tomorrow: Multi-task your stuff. Cool alternative uses for the things you (may, I don’t like to assume) already own.

Further Elucidation Of My Cheap Deal: In keeping with the whole ‘I Don’t Cook’ theme I have working here at Cheap But Not Easy Empire, I tend to dine out. A lot. Which is NOT cheap, or is it? Can you dine out for less, at places besides McDonalds? Drum roll, please…

Yes. Of course. Or else why would I be writing this post?

Here are a few tips to help you eat well at nice (read high end, not Ruby Tuesday’s, which yes, I love) restaurants in my town and yours:

1. Do your research. Most restaurants post their menus – and their prices – online on their websites. So you can scope out in advance not only what they serve, but how much it costs. They may also list their specials, happy hour deals, or have coupons available.

2. Think small. My Gramma Mac, a frugal German lass, used to just order an appetizer and dessert, and skipped the entrée.
If you read restaurant reviews as religiously as I do, you’ll see that the apps tend to be the best part of the whole menu. At a fraction of the cost.

3. WARNING. Be careful about splitting an entrée. Many restaurants charge a splitting fee – it seems they are wise to our frugal ways. Bastards, trying to keep me down.

4. Let’s do lunch. Many high end restaurants do high end lunches – for about half the price of their dinner menu. You get the same chef-made food, for a lot less money.
Locally, check out Salut in Edina, Mission American Kitchen in Minneapolis, and St. Paul Grill in (wait for it) St. Paul.

5. Another reason to go to the bar. High end restaurants usually have gorgeous bar/lounges. And many of these bar/lounges (really, what is the difference between the two) have separate and less expensive bar menus.
Don’t be thinking it’s all wings and fried things, either. Check out La Belle Vie’s lounge menu – created by HOLY COW HE’S GOOD chef Tim McKee:
Heartland in St. Paul also has a kick-ass, no wings, high end, low price wine bar menu. As Fergie says, check it out: http://www.heartlandrestaurant.com/

6. Go during the week. Restaurateurs are not dummies. They know they need to pull in a crowd during the off days, which tend to be Monday through Thursday. So many places, like Salut in Edina, offer weekday specials.
You can find these specials on the restaurant’s web site, or just call and ask. Don’t be shy about your cheapness.

7. It’s called “Happy” for a reason. Even high end restaurants offer happy hour specials, like jP American Bistro – owned by HOLY COW HE’S GOOD, TOO chef J.P. Samuelson. They have ½ off apps in the bar, wine specials, beer specials, specialty drink specials. In short, it’s a special place to be.

In conclusion, dining out is a treat, treat it like a treat, and treat yourself accordingly. However, if you blow your whole budget on consumable goods, don’t come crying to me.

Now it’s time for a couple of thank yous to the people who have made my week:

Thank you to Bionic Beauty (see right) for nominating me for a Blog Star award. If you haven’t checked out her award-winning blog, go now. Okay, wait. Go AFTER you’re done here.

Thank you to the authors of The Cheap Book, who I interviewed yesterday (check out Fox 9 at 5 PM next week for the results). They are both truly cheap and fabulous.

Thank you to my web master (he he, master) Lou's Husband, for his continued hard work on my soon-to-be-unveiled, brand new, uber-cool web site. If you need a web guru, I have one for you.

Thank you for the glowing Comments I’ve received recently, especially from Mia and Tundra and Parker’s Mom. You guys are the cream in my coffee, the hot fudge on my sundae. I couldn’t do it without your kind words. And to everyone who has ever Commented, keep it up! I’m an attention-junkie and I need your constant love.


Three Monkey's Mom said...

When Harry Met Sally

LaRue said...

You're the best. How could I shop without you? The Cheap Chick is the end-all be-all of thriftiness. The Cheap Chick saved my marriage! The Cheap Chick has taught me everything I know.

(Was that glowing enough for ya? Cause I was trying REALLY hard... Hee.)

Topic: Cafe Maude in Mpls. is SO good. I highly recommend their fries with cheese fondue. Which I can't eat right now, so someone else should! Get going, people!

Parker said...

Awwww... Thanks for making me feel special! I read your blog religiously and as one of your many (and I mean MANY) adoring fans, it's nice to know I am appreciated!

I am spreading the word here in St. Cloud about your cheap and fabulous ways. :)

Rachel (aka Parker's Mom)

P.S. For those of you out there with kids ... check out "Once Upon a Child" for gently used kids clothes. I just bought my 6 year old 6 pairs of shorts for $27.00! Now, I don't DO math, but that's pretty cheap per pair! ;)

The Material Girl said...

I've been looking for a pair of red suede pumps!

The Material Girl said...

I recommend First Course on 56th and Chicago in South Minneapolis. They have half-priced wine on Tuesdays (although I am always at work on Tuesdays - damn them!) and some great food.

Michelle said...

That is so cool that you interviewed the authors of the Cheap Book. Very exciting! I heard them interviewed on FM 107 last week. They had some really good tips on saving money.

Great tips on eating out! Also, the Independent (not really a upscale restaurant) in Calhoun Square has great happy hour specials on drinks and food. On Sundays it's happy hour all day. Woo-hoo!

mia said...

Thanks for the shout out!

Material Girl:

These are 14.00:

These are 15.00:

These are 20.99:

These are 27.59:

These are 36.80:

Ben said...

I must suggest that in these times of economic downfall, it is important to support your local Mom and Pop, middle of the road-type restaurants. They are really feeling the pinch as people are opting for fast food versus spending a few more dollars for a decent meal. The Baker's Square and another restaurant in my neighborhood just closed because of the economy. That hurts not only my craving for a tasty slice of pie, but hurts my town with revenue lost. If you must eat out, keep these restaurants in mind.

Anonymous said...

Oh, just you wait until the FARMER's market season open, your royal cheapness. Will I have cheap deals for YOU.

Tundrababe said...

I just saw your dining out video where you were at Salut. I ate across the street from that place last year (It was some type of Asian food) and took a photo of it, and turned it into a lolcat. Hee!

I like your post but I agree with ben, mom and pop shops are good to support too. Some favorite local Mpls. spots: The Holy Land, Sawatdee & The Jewel of India.