Surviving an Evening at an Expensive Restaurant: The Campus Epicurean May 4 - 10

The school year is winding down.  One of your friends invites you and some others to a last supper of sorts for the 2008-2009 school year.  Perhaps some of your friends are graduating, perhaps some are going abroad, but whatever the circumstances, everybody is happy to get together for dinner in the village.  As is often the case with these sorts of events, you agree to go without thinking about how much it will cost.  You walk into a place like Casablanca down in the village and sit at a big table with all of your friends. Once you are at the table, a waiter brings the menus, you open yours... and your jaw hits the floor.  "Seventeen dollars!?" you think, "Seventeen dollars for some measly Lamb Kebabs?"  After you pass off your extreme case of sticker shock as a coughing fit, you carefully check the entrees.  Yep, there's not a single entrée below $16.95.  If only you hadn't spent so much money at Liquorama last weekend, if only ASCMC had processed your check request in a reasonable amount of time, everything would be fine, but as of this moment, you need to pay for an expensive dinner like you need a hole in your head.  You are now screwed, right?  Wrong, follow these steps and you will make it through the evening.

bill#1: Don't get a drink

Most people will be familiar with this tactic.  Drinks in restaurants can be wildly overpriced.  I once ordered a Coca-Cola at a Pasadena restaurant only to realize when I got the check that they charged me $6 for the soda... and $6 for the refill.  Bastards.  While I am all for ordering a Coke when it is reasonably priced, if you are trying to save money, order water.

#2: Skip the appetizers

Appetizers are designed to sound, well, appetizing and they are easy to share.  Sound like a home run for a big group?  Think again.  Appetizers can ratchet up the price of a meal much more quickly than you think.  Most people tend to focus only on the price of their entrée and forget about the appetizers they ordered or shared.  At the end of the meal people then try to pay for the price of their entrée plus a couple of bucks that is supposed to cover tax, tip, and the appetizers.  Not only are appetizers expensive and often unnecessary (due to the size of the entrees), but they lead to who should pay what disputes that can sour an evening out on the town (or the village).  If somebody in the group asks "Anybody want some appetizers?" Try speaking up first and say "No, I think I'm fine, thanks."  There is a good chance people will follow your lead.

Alternatively, if people do order appetizers, try ordering another appetizer as your main course.  They are often filling enough for one person with a little help and are almost always cheaper than entrees.  At some restaurants, like Casablanca, appetizers are their specialty or are better than their main courses so this tactic can be both cheaper and tastier than ordering an entrée.

#3: Order a dinner salad

Most people open up a menu and flip right to the "Entrées" page.  This is a mistake.  Entrées are usually the most expensive dishes on the menu.  Look under the "Salads" section for more reasonably priced alternatives.  At Casablanca I was able to get a dinner salad for under $10 dollars when entrées started at $17.  I could order a salad and an appetizer for the price of a main course.  The salad was big enough that I couldn't finish it.  If you are unsure about the size of the salads at a restaurant, ask the waiter.  Also, if people aren't ordering appetizers, ask the waiter to bring out the salad with everybody else's dishes so you eat at the same time as everybody else.

#3: Go elsewhere for dessert

Lots of restaurants will scam you when it comes to dessert.  Restaurant desserts are often more expensive and lower quality than desserts offered by dedicated dessert joints like 21 Choices, Bert & Rocky's etc.  The cheapest option would be to skip dessert entirely.  However, if people are calling for dessert, suggest going to 21 Choices.  Chances are it will be more affordable, more fun and more satisfying than overpaying for chocolate cake at the restaurant.

Hopefully these steps will come in handy if you ever find yourself unwittingly sitting in an expensive restaurant.  Now onto the menus for the week.

Monday:

Monday looks like an unexciting evening at the dining halls.  Collins beats out the decidedly mediocre bunch with BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Gyros and Turkey Casserole.  As I have noted previously, dining halls may have their weaknesses, but they also have their strengths and one of those strengths is making casseroles.

If you have an extreme visceral aversion to Collins gyros.  Try schlepping up to Scripps for Beef Fajitas, Indian Turkey Burgers, Vegetable Lasagna and Roasted Plum Tomatoes.

Tuesday:

Worried about finals?   Planning on studying hard during reading days?  Runners carbo-load before marathons.  Take a page out of their book and Burrito-load for your long study sessions at Frary's Taco Tuesday.  Very few things relieve stress like a giant burrito.  In fact, very few things do most things like a giant burrito.

Wednesday:

I was so conflicted over whether to recommend Frary or Collins this week that I flipped a coin.  Heads was Frary's Japanese Night, tails was Collins's Sushi Night.  It was tails.  Go to Collins.

For those of you who don't like sushi, never fear, Collins is also serving a Chicken Caesar Wrap.

Thursday:

Thursday traditionally marks the last night of the week when dining halls are free to experiment before the weekend menus kick in.  This Thursday the award for best menu goes to...drumroll please... Collins.  Collins will serve a Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Taste of Europe- Creamy Risotto, Mongolian Beef and Orange Chicken.

Friday:

No surprises in the menus for Friday night.  Mudd is cleaning up once again, mopping the floor with the opposition by offering Individual Pizzas Made to Order, Clam Chowder, Loaded Baked Potato Soup (who knows what it's loaded with, but it's loaded), and a Carne Asada Taco Bar.

Saturday:

Scripps is, once again, wooing CMCers and their meal cards up to the land of fragrant fruit trees and elegant Spanish colonial architecture.  Scripps will serve Grilled Steaks, a Chicken Mo Shu Lettuce Wrap, Herbed Baked Chicken, and Vegetarian Breakfast Burritos.

Sunday:

Try Mudd for Steak, Pitzer for Macaroni and Cheese, or Collins for a Stir Fry from the Exhibition.

That is all for this week.  Thank you for reading!