Mapping the meals even the poors can afford.
Recession Restos aren't just for the US. This financial crisis thing-y is global, and everyone everywhere still has to eat (lavishly).
Heading across the pond, we're looking at Electric Brasserie, a see-and-be-seen hot spot in London's trendy Notting Hill 'hood. Electric is actually kind of a complex, with a sleek bar-and-restaurant next to the Electric Cinema, where you can grab some Champagne and chill on a sofa for two while watching a first-run movie.
But even dinner theaters are having trouble reeling them in nowadays, and Electric is offering a pretty sweet mid-week deal. On Mondays to Wednesdays, you can get a three-course meal and a movie for £28.50 ($42). If you're familiar with London (over)pricing, you know that's a pretty good deal for a menu of steak tartare, pork belly and sticky toffee pudding, followed by a feature film ("The Wrestler," "Waltz with Bashir" and "Rachael Getting Married" are playing this week).
[Photo: Electric Brasserie]
L'Ecole--the restaurant at the French Culinary Institute in Soho--isn't exactly an eatery for those of us hardest-hit by the recession. But for foodies accustomed to the high-end lifestyle who can't quite afford the Nobus and Peter Lugers of the world anymore, this one's got the right price tag.
Because it's a culinary school, you'll be eating grub cooked up by students rather than big-name chefs, but honestly, unless you're a serious gastrophile, it'll be hard to tell the difference.
For moderate prices ($28 at lunch, $42 at dinner), you can get a prix fixe, three-to-five course meal full of high-end French staples like country pate with foie gras and truffles; braised short ribs with sweet potato puree and celery root foam; and pistachio-chocolate crème brulee.
Don't go crazy with the wine list or that price tag will sneak over the $100 mark, but otherwise L'Ecole makes for a relatively inexpensive way to pretend like we're all rich again.
Vegas-sized meal prices at Hawaii's resorts can usually make it difficult to see the state on the cheap. But one resort restaurant that packs a foodie punch without emptying your wallet is Hukilau Lanai at the Kauai Coast Resort. The six-year-old restaurant, which focuses on green, sustainable cuisine from local farms and fisheries, offers an array of high-end-sounding dishes that mostly don't break the $20 mark.
The fresh seafood offerings depend on what locals catch any given day but usually include all the local standbys, like opah, mahi-mahi and pink snapper. Less traditional spins on Hawaiian cuisine include nachos topped with sashimi-grade ahi tuna, sugar cane skewered shrimp and ravioli stuffed with local sweet potato and Feta.
The best choice for cheapskates is sampling all of the above off the happy hour tasting menu, served only from 5 to 6 pm. With all that plus 20 wines priced under $20, you'll think you're back on the mainland. Or at least out of the resorts.
We've been highlighting recession restaurants lately, but what we're looking for is restaurants that make us forget we don't have money anymore. You know, give us those truffles and filet mignon and arugula... for half-price!
But we're a little perplexed by the most recent trend popping up: Restaurants are seeking to remind us that we're in a recession, even treating it as if it's hilariously cute.
Case-in-point: San Francisco's trendy Mission eatery Luna Park, which recently introduced a "blue plate special" that pays homage to Depression-era soup kitchens with inexpensive meals served on cafeteria-style trays.
We can't argue with the deal--$12 for chef Nick Cobarruvias's French-tinged comfort food--but enough with the recession chic! Give us a break--and can you spare a dime?
[Photo: Luna Park]
A few weeks back, dinner-booking site OpenTable.com announced "The Appetite Stimulus Plan," a promotion offering three-course prix fixe meals at 1,300 high-end eateries around the country. We usually don't get too excited about Restaurant Week-style promotions such as this, because they too often go hand-in-hand with limited selections, poor service and obnoxious crowds.
But Philly foodies are in luck, because one of the city's hottest dining rooms--Lacroix at the Rittenhouse--is running with the idea and offering the deal all winter long.
For $24, you can choose from a (limited) lunch menu of upscale comfort creations. For example, warm butternut squash-and-miso soup for a starter, orzo macaroni and cheese with spinach, smoked salmon, and oven dried tomato for the main and a pre-determined dessert tier.
Yes, $24 may sound like a lot to drop on a lunch, but considering mains alone usually go for that much or more at Lacroix, we're smelling a discount that's worth it.
[Photo: Rittenhouse Hotel]
Manhattan's lunchtime favorite The City Bakery is known for their high-end takes on snacky food, particularly the signature pretzel croissant and the super-rich dark hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow. Now, CB is getting on board the recession resto bandwagon, offering up a new happy hour menu designed to appeal to the cheapskate in you.
City Bakery's New Bad Economy Beer Menu serves up heartwarming fried comfort food snacks from 4 to 8 pm, and everything is priced at $10 or less. There are old school comfort classics like deviled eggs, as well as new inventions like the pig in a pretzel-croissant blanket. There's also the gooey deliciousness that is the bacon and chocolate sandwich. If that can't get you out of a depression, what can?
Serious Eats has a great photo gallery of the entire menu. And don't worry, that over-the-top hot chocolate is still there.
Italian-born chef Roberto Donna is one of DC's biggest culinary stars, so when he closed high-end eatery Galileo for renovations, District power-lunchers were more than disappointed. But their pain was NoVa cheapskates' gain, as Donna used his time off to open a more casual take on Galileo: The new-ish Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City, Virginia.
Given the bustling family-style atmosphere and the sub-$10 prices, you’d be forgiven for thinking Bebo Trattoria is just another suburban Olive Garden clone. But look closer and you'll see the salads, sandwiches and homemade pastas here are all dotted with imported Italian delicacies like Belgian lettuce, pepper-cured prosciutto and guanciale (cured pork cheeks). The newest offering is the selection of pizzas, straight from the wood-burning oven and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt, along with gourmet toppings like Gorgonzola dolce cheese.
But the best deal is the one that grew out of Donna's popular take-out lunch counter service at Galileo. The locally famous pork shoulder panini, topped with provolone and broccoli rabe, are available at lunchtime for just $6.25.
The Bay Area is about as foodie-friendly as anywhere in the country, what with all that fresh seafood, free-range everything and, of course, veggie, vegan and raw options wherever you go. But while you get that weight off your conscious, you will usually feel it in your wallet.
Not so at 900 Grayson, a recession-ready Berkeley café serving all of the above, without the usual double-digit prices.
At first glance, the menu might look like your typical lunch counter place, with a basic array of salads and sandwiches. But look closer and you'll notice the salads are made from high-end ingredients like micro wasabi greens, double smoked bacon and shaved fennel. Or you can trade in that sorry tunafish sandwich for one made with coriander crusted tuna steak, house pickled ginger and carrot slaw. And the burger--natural beef, of course, topped with crispy onions and that double-smoked bacon--was named best in the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine.
With prices ranging from 8 to 12 bucks, you can even splurge for a pitcher of local fave Berkeley Trumer Pilsner beer.
Ever since the market started tanking, we've been on the lookout for restos that indulge our foodie tooth without setting us back big bucks. Downtown LA newcomer Wurstkuche looks like it fits the bill.
This gourmet sausage outlet offers a wide array of encased meat, from classic sweet and spicy Italian to oddities like rattlesnake and rabbit sausage. All are $6 to $7.75, with no charge for toppings like caramelized onions, peppers and sauerkraut.
Belgian fries on the side are dipped in white truffle oil, strawberry ketchup, cranberry cinnamon mayo and other similarly out-there sauces. The priciest part is the selection of several dozen high-end beers, but even ordering a full meal will net you some change from that twenty.
If you made it to the New Orelans Po-Boy Preservation Festival this weekend, you already know about popular upscale restaurants like Drago's and Grand Isle. But what you didn't get to sample was one of the hottest sandwiches in town: The $7 pulled pork po-boy from Que Crawl food truck.
The purple Que Crawl truck has been anchored outside Tipitina nightclub for the better part of the last two years, and by now most locals know that it serves up some of the city's best (and most affordable) BBQ, along with classic Cajun and Southern sides like cheese grits sticks and crawfish boudin balls, making for some serious alcohol-soaking late-night eats.
And next week, Que Crawl makes a rare move for a food truck: It's going permanent, opening an honest-to-goodness restaurant called Boucherie. The restaurant will be open just for lunch starting next Tuesday, and starts dinner service the following week.
[Photo: Que Crawl]
One of the latest food trends to take over the West Coast is the emergence of Japanese izakayas, which have been spreading like wildfire from Vancouver Island to Venice Beach.
Izakayas are often referred to as Japanese tapas bars because they serve the same function in Japan as tapas bars do in Spain--providing a cheap, no-frills space for diners to hop in, grab a few small plates of snacks and hop out. Also just like tapas, izakayas are coming to America in the form of much fancier, much more expensive eateries--and the dishes aren't get any bigger.
But there are a few genuine (and cheap) izakayas if you know where to look. One of Seattle's best is Wann, which is actually an offshoot of a Japanese chain. The menu here ranges from traditional Japanese favorites like Kobe beef tongue and dried squid tempura, to off-the-wall comfort creations like a Kurobuta sausage corn dog and brie cheese tempura.
But despite their venture into fusion-y, trendy fare, Wann keeps it real with the small plate prices, which start as low as four bucks and don't venture into double digits.
Last week, we talked about the benefits of restaurants that put all their money into quality food and nothing into overhead. Heading back to New York, here's another high-end eatery-on-wheels that is worth taking for a spin.
DessertTruck has been satisfying the sweet teeth of the West Village for over a year now and more recently, those of Park Avenue office drones, too. But unlike all those trendy dessert bars that have popped up around town in the past few years, this one is based out of a truck, so they have no worries about losing their lease.
Jerome Change, a former pastry sous chef at Le Cirque, runs the kitchen at DessertTruck, churning out treats like chocolate bread pudding with bacon crème anglaise; vanilla crème brulee with freshly burned sugar; and molten chocolate cake with a liquid ganache center topped with sea salt and roasted pistachios.
At five bucks a pop, DessertTruck will set you back a little more than Mister Softee, but considering foodies have been known to plop down hundreds for a meal at Le Cirque just so they can try the legendary crème brulee, this one is quite the deal.