The internet is a treasure trove of restaurant discounts.
My fave is www.RESTAURANT.COM where you pay ten bucks for a twenty-five dollar restaurant voucher, but they go on sale regularly for two dollars. Someone is paying me twenty-three dollars to eat out. That’s a deal no frugalista could resista. Also, when I’m going on a trip, I punch in the zip code I’ll be visiting and print out a few vouchers to bring along.
WWW.OPENTABLE.COM is free to join, and I often use it to make reservations. It’s faster than calling, plus there’s a savings plan. Each reservation gives you one hundred points. When you reach two thousand, you get a twenty-dollar credit. I like the idea of earning money while I eat.
www.CHOWHOUND.COM is another great site, where foodies swap info on affordable restaurants all over the world. We used it when visiting Palm Springs, where we found a terrific Thai place.
www.BLACKBOARDEATS sends you local offerings. We got 30% off at our neighborhood Greek taverna.
www.Groupon.com offers restaurant discounts. We paid $20 for $40 worth of food at one of our favorite Italian places. You still get the most bang for your buck at Restaurant.com, but this particular eatery was not listed there.
I make frequent use of www.losangelesmenupages.com so that I can check the menu and prices of a restaurant before trying it.
Restaurants make more money on wine than food, so that bottle of Cab-Sav is way overpriced. I have a lawyer friend who actually has the guts to say, “I’ll have your second cheapest bottle of Chardonnay.” Note the choice of “second cheapest” rather than “cheapest.” Classy!
I often call ahead to ask the restaurant’s corkage fee. (That’s what they charge if you bring your own bottle.) If the fee is fifteen dollars or under, it’s a good deal. Word to the wise: the waiter will look at your bottle and comment on the choice, so avoid embarrassment and leave the Two-Buck-Chuck at home.
EAT TILL YOU DROP
I can never resist any kind of BUFFET restaurant. Just the idea that I can have as much as I want of whatever I want thrills my greedy little self to the core. Lots of Indian and Thai places offer buffet lunches, and there are many Korean all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurants that are open till 2 AM in case you have a midnight craving for short ribs. I’m about to try one called Haejangchon in Koreatown.
I occasionally splurge and enjoy an extra-fancy restaurant. Some places are a little too precious, and serve concoctions that bear no resemblance to real food. I avoid them at all cost, not being a fan of squid-cheek mousse injected with watermelon sorbet. But a lot of yummy swanky places have low-cost specials on certain days.
In Los Angeles, for example
• Jar has Mozzarella Monday
• Campanile has Grilled Cheese Thursday
• JiRaffe offers a twenty-four dollar three-course meal with seven-dollar wine carafes on Mondays.
• Lucques has a thirty-five dollar four-course Sunday dinner.
These special offerings are not just for peasants like me: I ran into Patricia Heaton – an old friend from acting class – at Campanile’s grilled cheese night.