I have to admit, dining out is my weakness. When I moved to NYC from DC, the number of restaurants I wanted to try grew exponentially — and has just continued to spiral out of control from there. Due to the nature of the business, there are always places closing, replaced by the latest and greatest new spots. If you wait too long to visit, you run the risk of finding a different place in the same space.
Below are some things I’ve learned a long the way to help make sure I’m getting the most out of dining out as I’ve made my way around the city. Hopefully you’ll find something in this list to be helpful for you, too!
- Look at the restaurant’s menu in advance. Dining early may mean a deal! Many restaurants offer discounts to try to bring in patrons earlier in the evening. Some even offer special prix fixe menus only available between hours such as 5-8pm. Reading up ahead of time and planning your visit can lead to savings.
- Pay attention to local dining events, from festivals to week-long restaurant weeks. I almost always take advantage of New York’s Restaurant Week, which happens a few times a year and allows patrons to enjoy a three course meal from a limited menu at a fraction of the typical cost. Many cities also have a variety of food festivals, aggregated by neighborhood, food type, or hosted to raise money for a cause. These can be a great way to sample bites from several restaurants at once, rather than needing to visit them all individually.
- If dining out is your thing, make sure you pick a credit card that gives you rewards (preferably added rewards) for dining. I try not to dine out too much, but when I do, it’s great to know that purchase can help turn into something that I can apply towards things I’ll need to buy in the future, such as train trips down to visit my old friends in DC.
- Start a “Must Try List” to make the most of your nights out on the town. My husband and I started a list to make sure that if we were going to eat at a restaurant, it was somewhere we’d agreed was one of the top choices from our personal must try list (known fondly in our house as just “the list”). This way, we don’t waste time trying to come up with somewhere new to visit and ensures we only go to the most compelling places. I always have our list accessible on my smartphone, which has made setting up date night a less daunting task!
- Opt in for weekly emails on dining deals and promotions. I know – if you are like me, you want less email coming to you on a regular basis. However, if dining is your thing, prioritize and pick a few the best. I’m a big fan of Blackboard Eats, which gives you a code you can use at specific restaurants to receive either a discount or something free, ranging from appetizers to bottles of wine. Unlike purchased coupons that you could lose out on if they expire before you are able to use them, there is no cost to opt in here. I have also been impressed by offers through sites like Gilt City and New York Deals. Buying these deals and setting a date to go prior to their expiration can mean a fabulous (and inexpensive) evening out.
- Become the group organizer. Dining points add up through sites like OpenTable! Those turn over quickly into dining checks that you can use on future meals. There are so many restaurants on the platform via their app that you can reserve fairly last minute and still earn those points.
- Do your research. If you’re spending money on a restaurant, you want it to be worth your time and money. I usually look at a combination of critic reviews and customer reviews to see what people are really thinking. It helps me choose which restaurants are really worth trying, as well as identify the dishes I should be eating to make the most of my visit.
What are some of the things you do to get the most out of dining out?