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High End Happy Hours and Recession Era Repasts

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 1, 2009

We are told there is still a recession. In the restaurant business, an already trying trade remains challenged by indecisive diners who are more discretionary with their spending and now think twice about credit card debt. There is a silver lining to all of this: schadenfreude. In addition to cash for clunkers and first time home buyer credits there are deals for diners looking to raise the culinary bar for their dining dollar.

I graduated college during a recession, I immediately created a list of every good happy hour in Columbus. “The list” allowed me to eat one good meal for the price of a beer or coke five days per week. This time around, my palate is a bit more refined and what I want in a meal is much more defined. Some of the best restaurants in Columbus have taken hard times head on and created opportunities for an informed eater to eat well on the cheap. Here is my list of the better bargains.

Dine Originals

Four times per year, Dine Originals releases 30% off gift certificates to several of the Dine Originals restaurants. A $10 certificate will cost you 7.50 and a $25 dollar certificate will cost you $17.50. Everything is online and you get a link to your certificate to print when you need it. Places like Alana’s, Basi Italia and the like typically sale out in an hour. However, after the first day, people seem to forget about the certificates. The certificates stay on until the end of the quarter so it is worth checking back to pick up a certificate or two. Last quarter, Dine Originals offered 50% off on the remaining certificates for the last week of the quarter.

Dine Originals also sponsored two restaurants weeks this year and we can expect more in 2010. Many of the Dine Originals restaurants go all out for the fixed price meals for this week looking for an opportunity to wow old customers to keep them coming back and woo new customers into coming in.

Restaurant e-mail lists, twitter accounts and websites

Signing up for every restaurant e-mail list and twitter account is a recipe for information overload and potential twitter sh*ter syndrome. However, a few restaurants are worth keeping tabs on to cut down on your tab.

If you choose only one restaurant e-mail list, choose The Refectory. When you sign up at their site your will receive a coupon for joining the mailing list. You will also have an opportunity to enter in a birthday and an anniversary. Like clockwork, you can expect to receive a coupon you can use for these special dates. The newsletter comes out once per month with highlights of events for the coming weeks. Some of their special dinners are exceptional values mixing fine food paired with select wines and often with a winery owner or distributor to provide some education with your digestion. The best deal to track is the 10 for $10 wine tastings. These occur at least once per month. The pours are served with free appetizers and/or baskets of the Refectory’s house made breads. The Refectory Bistro menu was a pre-recession addition but remains as a high value entry level three course meal at an excellent price. Another meal worth trying out is their annual April Tax Relief fixed price dinner which helps out those that have taken a hit on their taxes or are looking for a reason to spend their refund check.

Take a look at some of your other favorite restaurants to see if their twitter accounts announce specials, deals or discounts. A few others do the same with Facebook.

Happy hours, lunch for less, and the early diner gets the deal

Rigsby’s Kitchen

On an OSU game Saturday while 95% of Columbus is running around in a cult like frenzy, I often take the opportunity to enjoy Rigsby’s for a relaxed lunch away from the fray. During the week, Rigsby’s offers superior $10 lunch specials.

Black Creek Bistro

The early diner gets the deal at Black Creek Bistro. Monday to Thursday from 4 to 7 pm, the restaurant offers a Bistro feature for $10 and a three course dinner for $20. You have to move quick for the ten dollar deal because it does run out on occasion. Black Creek does farm to table dining so many of the selections on your plate are from the Black Creek Farm. Many people believe you can not eat farm fresh for less than a small fortune. That is a myth. Black Creek Bistro proves the doubters wrong.

Deepwood Restaurant

The Tavern menu is a good value for the ingredients used and a great entry point for this under the radar restaurant.

G. Michaels Bistro

Every Monday, G. Michaels presents a fixed price three course meal for $30. Please share this deal only with your closest friends.

Lindey’s

The first web designer that came up with the belief that people want music blaring on a web site should be located, sternly spoken to and threatened with a beating. When visiting the Lindey’s website, go immediately to the top right and click on the music icon to make the inane music go away. Now that I am calmed down here is the lowdown on one of the best deals around.

Slider..a la Lindey's

The bar menu at Lindey’s is hard to beat. This special menu is offered from 4:30 to 6:30 PM Monday through Friday and from 9 to 11 PM on Thursdays as well as 10 PM to Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. You have to sit at the bar to get the menu unless you get a very, very sympathetic server late in the night. There is some variation to the menu but to whet your appetite here is a sample of past selections: Gigantic Meatball (Kobe beef stuffed with Fontina cheese spinach) – $5, All American Burger (ground filet & brisket) – $3 and Lindenhauf Chips (with Applewood bacon, horseradish and blue cheese dressing) – $1.

The Worthington Inn

I believe potential diners get the wrong impression about the Worthington Inn – because of the whole inn thing. People think of dainty old ladies having high tea or a Shirley Temple on the sly. Such is not the case. There is a reason why the Worthington Inn Sunday Brunch is the favorite of those in the local restaurant trade. This restaurant does local food at a significant level without getting sassy about it. The Inn also has some winning wine dinners at a good price, offers jazz on the weekends, hump day specials and other surprises. The deal here is happy hour, Monday to Saturday from 4 to 7 pm. Appetizers are 1/2 price, pizzas are $5 and housemade chips with blue cheese are $3. There are beer and wine specials as well. Expect plenty of room at the bar most nights. This is a spot worth following on Twitter – they rarely exceed one post per day and often announce deals and special events.

That was an appetizer to get you started and should cover you for a week of fine dining deals. There are more bargains out there – if you know of some good ones do your neighbor a favor and post away. I’ll cover some mid-range deals in a future post.

4 Responses to “High End Happy Hours and Recession Era Repasts”

  1. terra said

    +1 for Worthington Inn’s happy hour. We love sitting at the bar and those homemade chips with warm blue cheese are incredibly good.

    thanks for the Lindey’s and Black Creek tips! we are early eaters so those work out great for us.

    I’d also add Barrio’s 1/2 price tapas from 4-6 pm, and Burgundy Room’s limited menu of half-priced appetizers at the bar from 4-7.

  2. Lorence said

    I would add the Prestige Dining Club card to the list of easy discounts (http://www.prestigediningclub.com/). There are many local and family run restaurants, including a few “high end” places. and two for one at a place you’ve never been to but wanted to try is a pretty good deal.

    Also, Barrel 44 seems to have a pretty sweet happy hour deal. A co-worker raves about it. I haven’t been yet, but plan to very soon, already printed out the “menu” for the wife and son to peruse. BTW, their “website” sucks (http://www.myspace.com/thebarrel44 – really, does anyone use MySpace anymore?)

  3. Great info! We’ve added it to our Columbus Conversation feed (http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/blog/index.php/conversation-about-columbus/) so it’s shared with our readers. Thanks for the great post.

  4. Haley L. said

    I’ve been to Cotters Restaurant in the Arena District a few times over the past few months, and have found that they are really affordable and have great food! I went to one of their monthly wine tastings recently and loved it! They offer 7 wines for $10 and free food. Also, a friend of mine went there after a Blue Jackets game to avoid the after game traffic and apparently they have $4 specials after all games. You can’t beat that!

    Just checked out the Dine Originals website for the giftcard offer. That’s a great deal!

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