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6 Ways to Stretch Dining-Out Dollars

July 16, 2008

By Helen Schwab, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Jul. 16–Even folks who eat out often want to squeeze their dining dollars harder. So here are six strategies, with some specific examples, for making your money mean more.

Look at Latino; survey Vietnamese

All cuisines offer some dishes that make the most of less-expensive ingredients, but these are particularly hard-working ones. Among them:

Double-corn-tortilla, meat-and-cilantro-stuffed soft tacos for $1.50 each at Taqueria Mexico (7001 South Blvd.).

Fat Honduran baleadas at Lempira (5906 South Blvd.), starting at $2.12.

Pho, the phenomenal and fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup, at Truc (4520 N. Tryon St.), where a huge bowl sets you back just $7.50.

Think before

you drink

A Coke here, a glass of wine there, a cup of coffee to cap it all and you’re ratcheting up your bill exponentially, perhaps without thinking about it. Make all your beverage choices intentional, and you can save significantly.

Buffets

Though I’m typically not a fan, the fact is that some are incredible deals. Ru San’s has a midday sushi buffet for $8.75, a crazy price, considering how much a single plate of the nigiri and maki would cost from the regular menu or at the grocery store.

Be early

I mean this three ways. First, seek early-bird and pre-theater dinner packages, which abound. (Easiest way to find them? Check the Web.) Second, go to dinner before Friday and Saturday; midweek specials also abound.

And here’s a bolder step: Make lunch dinner. Eating your biggest meal midday can get you terrific food at mid- and upscale places for much less than you’d pay at dinner.

At Lulu (1911 Central Ave.), the estimable burger is $7 at lunch, $11 at dinner.

Slim your selections

That means making a meal of shared appetizers, splitting an entree, buying a whole entree but planning to take half home for tomorrow’s lunch, and the like.

Hit the Web

E-mail offers, Web site coupons and more lurk on the Internet; make them work for you. The Harper’s Restaurant Group Web site recently offered a $5 coupon just for signing up to get e-mail from its many venues. Browse sites such as charlotte rewards.com and restaurant.com.

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