It's that time of year again, when restaurateurs, in a desperate bid to appeal to those locals whom they've shunned for the prior ten months, try to make nice. Fair enough. I mean a deal is a deal, and $22 for a 3-course meal and $35 for a 3-course dinner can represent real savings at a lot of these places. Except some restaurants offer scant and uninspiring (sometimes downright chintzy) menus - during restricted days and hours. That's not nice.
The first three Spice menus have trickled across the wire: Area 31, Red The Steakhouse, and The Grill on the Alley. Deal or no deal? Read on.
Diners are offered a wide selection of appealing items. Ostensibly you
could order Hot Stuffed Peppers, Pork Chops, and Peach Crisp, which
would normally cost $63 -- thus saving $28, or almost 50%. And if you
go on a Wednesday, when all wine bottles under $100 are half-price, you
have even a better bargain.
The menu will rotate through the two months. In the sample printed below, regular menu prices are placed in parenthesis.
($9) Red House Salad~ Baby Greens, Candied Walnuts, Westfield Farms Goat Cheese & RED Raspberry Vinaigrette
($9) Caesar Salad ~ Romaine Lettuce, Garlic Croustade, Housemade Dressing
($15) Soup Du Jour - King Crab & Sweet Corn Bisque
($16) Brad's Hot Stuffed Peppers - Housemade Italian Sausage & Tomato Sauce
Main Course Options:
($39 for an 8oz filet) 5-ounce Petite CAB Prime Filet with Béarnaise Topped Asparagus & Potato Gratin
($28) Atlantic Salmon w/ Basil Pesto w/ Béarnaise Topped Asparagus & Potato Gratin
($27) Ashley Farms Double Chicken Breast w/ Béarnaise Topped Asparagus & Potato Gratin
($32) Double Cut Pork Chop- w/ Béarnaise Topped Asparagus & Potato Gratin
($28) Bucatini, Meatballs and RED Lead
($34) Trenne Carbonara - Gulf Shrimp, Garlic, Peas & Pancetta
($15) Peach Crisp w/ Vanilla Bean Gelato
(Not on menu) Housemade Sorbets
offering choice of Grill Chop Salad ($9.50) or Soup of the Day ($6.75).
"Dinner entrée options include items such as Pan Seared Salmon with
Shiitake Mushrooms (with lemon butter sauce and sautéed spinach) and
the house specialty Skirt Steak (marinated in citrus juices, soy sauce
and garlic and served with vegetables)." The flank isn't a menu item,
but the salmon and mushrooms go for $27.75. Chocolate Mousse and Key
Lime Pie ($8) are the featured desserts. The savings is thus $7.50 or
$10.25, depending on whether you start with soup or salad. These rather
dull, limited selections are available only Sunday through Thursday.
Area 31 - The dinner
menu "begins with the appetizer Tuna Tartar (with sour citrus, caviar
and capers) and features entrees such as Local Yellowtail Snapper (with
red lentil, sumac, and preserved citrus); Braised Short Rib; and
Grilled Escolar (with Vidalia onion and sweet corn)." Dessert is a
semifreddo made with honeycomb, Greek yogurt and local fruit.
All of which sounds rather appealing. But it is implied that tuna
tartare is the sole starter choice, which is way limiting. The tartare
isn't on the regular menu, but tuna tataki is $15. Short rib is the
only entree offered whose price can be gauged on the regular menu -- it
goes for $28. Desserts are all $8, but, again, offering just one is
being stingy. And semifreddo isn't a thrilling dessert. The lunch
promotion is offered every day of the week, the dinners only Sunday
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through Thursday. Assuming portions are similar, the total cost of this
meal would normally be about $51, for a savings of $16. Not bad, but a limited menu, served on limited nights, makes the worthiness of
the offer...well, limited. Too limited. No deal.