Monday was the first day of DineLA Restaurant Week, which continues through July 26, skipping the weekend. In order to encourage diners to try new spots around town, participating restaurants are offering discounted prix fixe menus. If you choose wisely, you can get some excellent meals for a fraction of the usual price. High-end restaurants like Rivera are offering three courses for the price of a low-end main dish. Often the lunch and dinner menu will be almost identical and you can make out like a bandit by going to the fanciest restaurants at noon.
After devouring countless DineLA meals, I have found that some restaurants offer a simple soup or salad and a vegetarian pasta to stretch that dollar as far as it will go. Places like, oh, (cough cough) Celestino’s for example. Others offer a dull “rubber chicken” plate instead of taking this opportunity to showcase their chef’s talent. Don’t waste your time. Another thing to be aware of is that some restaurants offer only two courses at lunch even though the menu lists three. Read carefully, as you may be expected to choose either a starter or a dessert, and will be charged extra if you order all three.
Also, make sure you check the prices on the menu to make sure DineLA really is a bargain. This week I lunched at Haven Gastropub in Pasadena. I watched hamburgers whizz by accompanied by an impressive if not intimidating overabundance of fries. I asked for a side of fries with my burger and was informed that you couldn’t “add-on” fries to DineLA, you had to order an appetizer plate of fries. Of course, there was no way I was not ordering those fries. After an iced tea and tip, my $15 meal cost me $31. Later I realized that if I had ordered the exact same thing from the regular menu, adding on the fries, it would have actually cost me less.
I still suggest you enjoy DineLA and try some new places. I have had some great experiences, so I don’t want to paint all of the restaurants with the same brush. Just look before you eat.