You walk into a nice two-star restaurant on a sleepy Monday evening and see they're running a delicious-sounding special of yellowfin tuna, braised fennel, confit tomatoes and a saffron sauce. Why not go for it?
According to Anthony Bourdain, outspoken celebrity chef, TV host, and author, these are the two words that should leap out at you: “Monday” and “special.”
Lots of our friends have been asking us to demystify what restaurants really mean when they offer specials (and how they decide to charge for those specials). We bring you the 4 steps to take when faced with restaurant specials. Chew on this:
1. Don’t Be Shy About Talking Money.
Restaurant specials are usually more expensive than regular dishes, sometimes as much as double the price. So, don’t let words like “market price” deter you from asking about the cost. “Market price” just means that fluctuations like weather, national disasters, or shipping fuel costs play a significant factor in the food’s price. Your friends—and waiter—won’t think you’re stingy for asking politely, “Excuse me, but what’s the price of today’s special?”
2. Figure Out Whether Your Dish Is The Best…Or Just The Rest.
Specials are either comprised of the best (say, an awesome shipment of truffles) or the rest (the day-before-next-delivery oysters that won’t be edible tomorrow). Order accordingly: Most seafood vendors don’t make weekend or Monday deliveries, so keep that in mind for any Monday fish specials. Most meat purveyors deliver to restaurants on the same day each week, pay attention to the patterns of special offerings at your favorite restaurant.
3. Comparison Shop The Regular Menu.
Is there another, similar-but-different dish on the regular menu for a lesser price? For example, we’ve dined at a restaurant that has trout on the regular menu, but sometimes offers a different rainbow trout as a special…for 1.5 times the price.
4. Get A Half Serving.
We don’t want you to deprive yourself if you really want that special, but consider splitting it with a friend. Half portions was one of the top ten trends on the 2010 National Restaurant Association menu trends list. Splitting your plate may increase the single-serving price by a few bucks if there’s a sharing fee, since many restaurants will split the protein or main dish but give you a full serving of side dishes. That said, you’ll spend less overall—and save yourself from overeating at a restaurant with large servings.