It’s that time of year again: when us poors descend upon the city’s fancy-pants dining establishments looking for something that resembles fine dining. Usually the service and the choices are limited (or completely suck), but hey, when you’re getting a three-course dinner for a mere $35 (or $24.07 for lunch), do you even have the right to complain? Of course you do! As a seasoned poor person and Restaurant Week diner, if I see “organic chicken breast” or “mixed greens” on a prix fixe menu again I will stab someone with a serving fork. You deserve better, and you know it.
Regardless, you should know that your dollar goes a lot further at some of the 300 participating dining establishments than others. More importantly, many offer similar (and often cheaper) deals year round that aren’t as heavily promoted. You don’t want to be that schmuck who dines out during this week or so of discounts to later find out that they could have snagged the same grub for less any other time of the year do you? I didn’t think so.
Read on to find out about some of the best (and worst) menus that Restaurant Week, which runs from January 24th to February 6th, has to offer.
The Modern-Bar Room: The less classy (yet still very much so) Bar Room at the MoMA’s best restaurant offers not one, not two, but twelve appetizers and entrees (and five desserts) on its friggin’ huge menu. The best part is that they’re all taken straight from the selections that the regular folks get, so you know you’re getting the real deal. Also: Beer-Braised Pork Belly. Does any more need to be said?
Riverpark: Tom Collichio’s newest endeavor, located smack on the banks of the East River in that subwayless hospital-dotted void that is Murray Hill, normally only offers a disappointingly limited $28 lunch prix fixe. You’re not only getting a deal here, but the view of the riverfront from the dining room is worth a gander, if you can refrain from shoveling dishes like “Burnt” Flour Fettucine into your mouth with reckless abandon for more than a few moments.
ilili: A full page of appetizers from which each person gets to pick two opens this Mediterranean restaurant’s expansive menu. The plentiful amount of expensive and unusual food such as bone marrow and veal sweetbreads almost makes it ok that most of the more exotic entrees carry a $7 supplement. Surprise!
Perry St.: There’s no denying that the food at any Jean Georges establishment is going to be at least tasty if not mind-blowing, and the prix fixe options are broad at this waterfront West Village establishment. I have no idea what the hell would possess someone to eat here during Restaurant Week though when you can get the same food in a much less chaotic atmosphere for a mere $4 more any other time of the year. If you’re dead set on eating at Jean Georges restaurant, try Nougatine for dinner, where the prix fixe is much cheaper than the normal $68 tasting menu.
Ruby Foo’s: Any restaurant that bills itself as a “boisterous theme park of Pan-Asian food,” automatically makes me anxious/enraged, and this hyper-glittery Times Square tourist trap is no exception. If the flashing lights don’t give you a seizure first, uninspired dishes such as “Peking Free Range Chicken” are certain to offend. Just don’t do it.
Japonais: All seems fine and dandy with this Japanese fusion restaurant’s prix fixe until you look at the fine print. 20% “service charge” added to all checks? Something tells me that the Japonais Fried Rice (I see what you did there) isn’t worth the extra bucks.
Check out the full list of participating restaurants here.