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Dec 20, 2001 04:43 PM

great deals/cheap meals

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Dear Chowhounds,

I'm planning to go to Campanile's "grilled cheese night" tonight (every Thursday at the La Brea venue) and am wondering if anyone knows of other fine (and usually prohibitively expensive) restaurants in the city that offer great deals--or cheap meals--during the week.

Any suggestions would make this impoverished grad student very happy.

Thank you!


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  1. Wow, what a coincidence! I'm planning a post-Xmas meal with some grad school friends next Wednesday, and went looking for cheap-ish meals with the same criteria you posted. Here's what I found:

    CARAFE (Melrose)
    $15 and $22 3 course prix-fixe, available Sun-Thurs.
    Been here before, and I posted a review of it a while back so you can do a search. The food was so-so, but for $15 and in that beautiful mirrored room, it's a bargain.

    ALTO PALATO (La Cienega, near Bev Ctr)
    $25 3-course prix-fixe, 40% off of wines, Wed only
    Wonderful Italian food but I haven't tried yet their "Taste of Italy" menu (which is what they have on Wednesdays for that special price). What I did order off the menu the one time I went before was spectacular. Excellent service besides.

    JOE JOE'S (Sherman Oaks)
    $25 and $32 4-course prix-fixe
    Superb ahi dish from what I recollect. IMO, much better food than Cafe Bizou or Paul's Cafe down the road.

    JOE'S (Venice)
    $38 and $48 4 course prix-fixe meals
    Haven't had a chance to get here yet but I imagine it would be a wonderful dinner, no matter what the menu.

    EMMANUEL (Studio City)
    $30 and $38 3 course prix-fixe meals
    Ditto. My sister has been and raved about the food, especially the souffle at the end.

    Enjoy... let me know if you find out any others so I can check them out too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jennifer W.
      michael (mea culpa)

      Being wrong never felt so right.

      1. re: Jennifer W.

        I have been to Alto Palato's prix fixe nights several times and found them to be well worth the money--not spectacular but interesting as culinary tours of the various Italian regions. I've had better things on their regular menu (I love their pizzas) but easily would gp back and the wine discount is a good deal.

      2. m
        michael (mea culpa)

        wondering if anyone knows of other fine (and usually prohibitively expensive) restaurants in the city that offer great deals--or cheap meals--during the week. >>
        This is an excellent question although I suspect that the day of the early bird dinner (except at places like Denny's) is past. More likely you'll find expensive restaurants following the Parisian model of having a second less expensive place, e.g., Spago/Puck's Cafe, Valentino/Primi/Posto, Chianti/Cuccina, Matsuhisa or Nobu/Ubon, Patina/Patinnete. Hope I'm wrong and you get all sorts of hot posts.

        1 Reply
        1. re: michael (mea culpa)

          Not so! Denny's on Beach Blvd in Anaheim just north of Ball Rd has a $2.99 dinner for seniors from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. Nothing abbreviated either - same as the $5.99 to $7.99 items on the menu. Only shortcoming is the limited selection - or else I'd eat there every night. Quality is good. Staff is Mexican for the most part.

        2. I've always been of the opinion that lunch at Cafe Blanc topped the quality/price ratio index. While the tariff is a bit steeper than that for grilled cheese at Campanille (approx $20 for 3 courses), one does get to dine on, not merely eat, food that both tastes and looks like the works of art they are. Four to six course prix fixe dinners are also available, in the $30 to $48 range, including an all vegetarian menu and the chef's menu of the day. The wine list has one of the lowest markups I've encountered, and corkage is also a $5 per bottle bargain.
          At the risk of restating the obvious, family dinner nights at both Campanille (Mondays $35 for 3 courses) and Lucques (Sundays $28 for 3 courses) provide opportunities to experience those restaurants at discounts off the usual pricing. This past Monday, I thoroughly enjoyed Campanille's oysters rockefeller, roast goose, savoy cabbage and potatoes, and figgy pudding. And I'm planning to return on 7 January for duck a l'orange and asparagus hollandaise. In fact, January family dinners at Campanille all will have a French theme - I recall trout and steak frites as entrees planned for later in the month. Lucques doesn't plan that far ahead; typically the Sunday menu isn't set until the preceeding Wednesday afternoon.

          5 Replies
          1. re: u4ik

            Excellent!! I didn't even check those restaurants out because I figured that they would be too expensive, but thanks to you, I see that they aren't.

            Do you know of links to their menus, or how do you find out in advance what will be served?

            1. re: Jennifer W.

              Being the old fashioned kind of guy that I am, I telephone Lucques and Campanille to find out the family dinner menus. At Cafe Blanc, I typically send the chef a glass of each of the wines my party is planning to drink along with a request that he prepare a dinner surprise to match them, specifying the number of courses and any food dislikes or allergies possessed by the group. However, I'm sure the friendly staff will explain the menu to you over the phone.

              Cafe Blanc 310 888 0108
              Lucques 323 655 6277
              Campanille 323 938 144

              Giving the original posting a bit more thought, Zax has been serving a huge 3 course lunch for $14. Great food and big portions, making it an effort to eat anything for dinner later that day.

              Zax 310 571 3800

            2. re: u4ik

              These are all great suggestions! I also dug up this article from the L.A. Times on weekday specials. Most of these places were already mentioned in recent posts, but the Vida "family style dinners" are a new addition.

              Thursday, March 8, 2001

              CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
              How to Beat the Crowds, Enjoy the

              By S. IRENE VIRBILA, Times Restaurant Critic

              Fridays and Saturdays, most restaurants are packed. No problem for restaurant owners. But what about the slower weekday and Sunday nights? Restaurateurs are discovering they can draw a crowd on those problematic nights with special prix fixe (fixed price) menus at more modest prices. Not only does it fill the restaurant, it's also a terrific way to introduce their cooking to restaurant-goers out of the special occasion format. It also means people who love a restaurant can afford to eat there more often. The appeal is not only economic. On these special nights, the atmosphere often is more unbuttoned, and regulars tend to show up with lots of friends and family in tow. It's festive and fun. Some places, such as Campanile and Alto Palato, have been offering special menu nights for a while, but more restaurants are joining in. Check this page for updates. Meanwhile, here's a roundup of some of the more appealing options. Prices are per person and do not include tax and tip.

              The long-running family night at Campanile features a different dish each week. It could be bollito misto, tapas, cassoulet or Southern fried chicken. Next week it happens to be grilled bluefish. A price of $35 gets you a three-course meal served family-style for the entire table. It's generous and festive, in short, what a family-style meal should be, and includes one of Nancy Silverton's fabulous desserts. Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles;(323) 938-1447.

              Vida in Los Feliz offers a four-course menu for "the friendly neighborhood price" of $21. Why Wednesday? Because that's when Fred Eric visits the Santa Monica Farmers Market and makes up the
              menu on the spot. This is what he served last week: Joy Luck Club (a warm sweet-potato noodle salad with baby blue crab), Porcini Anglitooti (fresh-made anglitootes--whatever those are--with porcini Cabernet reduction) and a lemon thyme zabaglione, Charley the Chicken (as in seared sesame chicken in ginger-soy broth) with Asian veggies and "plenty of rice." And there's dessert: crepes with orange, almonds, ice cream, and most importantly "etc." Add $8 and he'll match it with wines. Vida, 1930 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 660-4446. By reservation only.

              For close to three years now, Alto Palato in West Hollywood has offered a menu from a different Italian region each Wednesday night for $25. Next week the kitchen will visit Sicily with arancini (fried rice balls filled with peas, veal, onions, tomato and saffron), pasta alla Norma (that's spaghetti sauced with eggplant, provolone, tomato and sweet basil), followed by stewed rabbit with capers, raisins, pine nuts and olives. the wine list when you buy wine by the bottle. Which means you can afford to drink up. Alto Palato, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-9271

              Until Gino Angelini, who just left Vincenti to pursue his own restaurant, finds a new home, on Thursday nights he's cooking a three-course ($42) menu at Alto Palato. Tonight it's cardoon soup with chicken meatballs, vegetable ravioli in a shrimp and orange sauce, veal casserole with crispy wild mushrooms, and a sweet pastry with zabaione and balsamic vinegar. (See Wednesday for address/phone.)

              At The House in Hollywood, Scooter Kanfer writes her three-course Sunday dinner menu ($30) the Thursdays before. Last week's offered a choice of deviled eggs or her dad's favorite salad (baby red Bibb lettuce with crispy bacon, vidalia onions, hard-cooked eggs, and Maytag blue cheese dressing) to start, then chicken and dumplings with Meyer lemon and roasted garlic au jus or pan-roasted black bass with marinated beets and potatoes and a horseradish creme frai^che, and for dessert, chocolate malted po^t de creme. The House, 5750 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 462-4687.

              Sunday supper at Lucques is a relaxed affair with two choices for appetizer and entree, though everybody gets the same dessert. Call on Thursday for the menu. Last week, Suzanne Goin cooked roasted beet salad with beluga lentils and horseradish creme frai^che, followed by either seared gulf shrimp with green garlic, roasted
              tomato and aioli toast or grilled beef tri-tip with crispy potatoes, roasted shallots and gorgonzola butter. Dessert was chocolate cream puffs with caramel sauce. Lucques, 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 655-6277. Reserve ahead.

              1. re: Elizabeth

                Another addition: Thursday night multi-course family style meals at Angeli Cafe on Melrose. $25. Their past menus look very good, but they haven't planned out the 2002 dinners yet.

                Link: http://www.angelicaffe.com/new.htm

                1. re: Elizabeth

                  Regarding Weds. at Alto Palato:

                  It looks like the wine list comment was truncated. Am I to understand that there is some sort of discount on wine on that night?