Indeed. As counterintuitive as it may seem, even a $20.10 three course lunch at swanky L’Espalier is not much of a deal.
When I worked at the Kittle House, people started making their reservations for RW in January. Three months in advance. This seemed like nothing short of madness – realize that you’ll be dining on high volume nights where the kitchen will be slammed and servers will be handling more tables. You’ll also be ordering off an abbreviated menu. Some restaurants only offer two choices for each course during RW – and if you don’t like it, too bad.
The price cut is nominal in many cases – about equivalent to what you’d save by going there for lunch instead of dinner, or skipping the appetizer. Barring check average heavyweights L’Espalier (which only offered a lunch RW, more on that later) and No 9 Park (normally $65 for three courses), you’re really saving in the neighborhood of $7-15 in many cases. Wouldn’t you rather give up a lunchtime burrito or two and get the full experience?
And if you’re not keen on their dessert offering, three courses are superfluous. It might be cheaper and more satisfying to order your favorite entree off the a la carte menu and then head out for ice cream afterwards.
My advice: do your research. If the price cut is significant, the sample menus look right up your alley, and you don’t mind dining on a busy night, RW may be a good deal. But for most people, a little research and planning goes a long way. Most restaurants offer lower prices at lunch anyway, and you won’t competing with the masses for limited spots, or dealing with stressed-out waiters.
It’s not about the calories-per-dollar ratio. Which brings me back to L’Espalier. They actually offer a three course $24 lunch Monday through Friday all the time. It’s $3.90 more, you can go anytime, and you can linger as long as you like. Why deny yourself?
— Credit where credit is due: Post inspired by Ezra Klein’s excellent WaPo column.