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TriState Region Restaurants Feeling the Economic Heat?

I was wondering if any of you have any first hand knowledge whether any or all of our favorite Tri-State area restaurants are feeling the heat from the Economic downturn.

Have any of you noticed whether its been easier to get reservations in the past month? Are restaurants less crowded than usual?

This is the season that restaurants hope to do well financially. from September to December... This is a tough period to face a downturn. Some may not survive the January to April typically slow period if this season is off significantly.

I, for one, know my friends and I are going out to eat a LOT less and have committed to doing so for the foreseeable future. We typically eat out 5-6 nights a week and often at fairly expensive restaurants (by lower hudson valley standards). Our dining out has been reduced to 1-2 nights a week, and we are choosing less expensive restaurants. (I may have to change my login name to "lessfrequentdiner" from "frequentdiner")

Im sure we are not alone. We are rediscovering Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fairway and supermarkets. Pretty soon Whole Foods may be crossed off the list as too expensive.

What are your personal observations and experiences? An inquiring mind wants to know.

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  1. You're quite right, frequentdiner. We were only eating out once a week, but now are more picky and judgemental if everything isn't just right. Given that prices haven't been reduced, I have no patience with imperious restaurant owners/managers.

    I crossed off Whole Foods early on, and have added 'shopping around' to my lexicon, since Stop and Shop is playing games with their pricing. Perhaps they always did, but I have found prices to be better at Pathmark, and like the fact that it's a grubby store.

    Yup, the chickens have come home to roost, and I won't be sorry to see a few restaurants fail. I do hope, however, that my short list of favorites will persevere and in the case of Sunset Grill, come back reallllly soon.

    1. The Times recently had an article about how Westchester restaurants are feeling the pinch. The article sort of made me laugh. First they talk about how business at 42 in White Plains is off, so they have created a "value" prix fixe $79 menu. I haven't been to 42, though I really like Goncalves' food, but if you're thinking that a $79 prix fixe in Westchester is a "value meal," it just shows how out of touch you are. Oh, and they no longer require jackets because times are tough. As if that really makes a difference.

      There are places in Manhattan that are really making themselves over with an eye to the times. For example, L'Impero reopened as Convivio and now offers a wonderful, high-end prix fixe for $59 and have plenty of very moderately priced wines on the wine list. Still not a "cheap" meal, but that is a value, and they're crowded all the time. Unlike 42, apparently.

      I do think that Westchester restaurants will need to get a grip, but we're still early enough in the downturn that they may need a bit of time to come out of denial.

      1. Hi:

        Please help us keep this discussion focused on local chow options, rather than your dining habits or changes at restaurants generally. Such discussion belongs on the Not About Food board. However, discussions about specific places that might be easier to get into these days, or that offer great value and so on are, of course, on topic. Also, predictions about which restaurants may close don't help anyone eat better now and may, in fact, harm those very restaurants.

        Thanks.

        1. Despite the economic downturn new restaurants are popping up all over my neighborhood. One just opened on my strip, another opened a little ways down the road, two more are set to open, and yet another is under constrtuction. Restaurants still seem to have the capital and they still believe people will go to them.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Avalondaughter

            Last night we dropped in for a quick dinner at Piccolo Mulino in Mamaroneck. That is a reasonably priced place that I like pretty well for a casual, neighborhood meal. Every time I have been there, it has been crowded. Last night, there was only us and one other table. And when the other table left, no one came in for the balance of time we were there. We got there around 7:30 or so, so prime dinner hour. I hope it was because people stayed home to watch the debates or something, but it was pretty silent and eerie in there.

            Before going to Piccolo Mulino, we had first tried A Tavola Bistro in Harrison. When we got there, it was closed. I didn't see a sign on the door, but we wondered if they were gone, or just closed for the night. Usually they're open all week.

            1. re: Shawn

              I saw a 15% off cupon for Piccolo Mulino and Zitoune in the Eastchester, Tuckahoe & Wykagyl community cupons fall edition.

              1. re: Shawn

                We tried Piccolo Mulino last night for the first time. It was really nice. They have a great deal $22.95 for app, main and dessert. Yes, it was from a select menu--but I would highly recommend it.

                BTW special menu not available Fri and Sat nights

            2. I have reservations at Rebecca's this Friday for my parents anniversary - I'll report back to see what the crowd is like. I also drive by L'escale every night on the way home and have noticed that traffic in and out of the parking lot has seen a downturn - though this may be blamed more on the changing season.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alex318

                So I have two extremes -

                Rebecca's was packed - with tables being sat after 9:30. When we arrived the bar side seating in front of the kitchen had only one spot available and the bar for drinks was half full. Food was great as always.

                On Monday we went to BlackBear in Stamford to watch a NY Ranger game and I wouldve thought it would be busier with MLB playoffs and NY Giants on Monday Night Football but the place was dead. When we arrived around 7 there were 3 or 4 tables being used and by the time we left it was us, one other table of 2, and maybe 2 or 3 guys at the bar.

              2. Can someone tell me why restaurants are so afraid to bring back the "happy hour" programs? Maybe glasses of house wine for 4 or 5 bucks. Half priced mixed drinks. Special reduced menus? Conn. is full of restaurants that offer half priced bottles on certain nights. Someone should create a website geared just for restaurants that are offering similar values.

                Stopped off in Tuckahoe recently for an event at the Generoso Pope Foundation and had a few glasses of wine at The Tap House. The fact that every 3rd or 4th glass isn't "on the house" is nuts with the economy the way it is. After paying the check I asked why they didn't have such a policy, the barmaid said that the owners feel "if a customer wants a drink, they'll pay for it". Guess it explains why I was the only patron at the bar.

                At the very least, we should start a thread posting restaurants that have "economy friendly" nights. Anyone?

                1 Reply
                1. re: antrogers1964

                  I think that is a good idea. I'm in White Plains (both work and live here) and only a few restaurants offer any type of "Happy Hour". I'm not talking abouto the pubs on Mamaroneck Avenue. They offer happy hours but generate a younger clientele. I do know Blue on Church Street offers a happy hour until 7 with $4 wine. Very few restaurants do buy backs anymore. During the week, most places in white plains are not crowded.

                2. Jfood's flight was 2 hours late last night so mrs jfood looked for a salad+ for a take-out. She said Chef Luis in New Canaan was a mad house and Sole was packed. She ate better than the corn beef/pastrami sandwich jfood ate on theplane at 9PM.

                  1. We went to Cafe Capriccio in Albany last weekend. No change in quality of food or service and they still had live music. It was more crowded then usual, maybe because it was a holiday weekend. Our server did mention that business had been slow.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dolores

                      By now Holiday parties are usually booked and I can only imagine how the restaurants might suffer because companies are not doing holiday parties or are scaling way back. Not to mention New Year's Eve. It will be interesting to look at the New Year's Eve menus and how they might change. Terrior, a small,new wine bar in the city I want to try has "recession specials."

                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                        fidi - i've been to terroir, it's a nice comfy place. the food was good for a wine bar, quite happy that they cut the serrano ham very nicely...

                        1. re: bob gaj

                          thanks, bob gaj. Looking forward to checking it out on a weeknight when I'm not Upstate.

                    2. I just looked on OpenTable and searched a reservation for tonight at 7pm for Westchester. Blue Hill at Stone Barns and X2O still had tables for tonight; also La Panetiere in Rye was giving 1000pts for any time. A couple months ago none of these places would be available when trying to make a reservation on the same night.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Jim P

                        I made a reservation via Open Table for X20 for 2 on one week's notice. I wrote it down for 11/7 at 7:30pm, and when I returned their confirmation call turned out I'd made it for 11/8 at 7:30pm. They had no trouble accomodating us on 11/7. Restaurant was full by 8pm. It was our first visit there, and VERY good all around.

                        1. re: Nancy C

                          I had dinner at BLT Steak at the Ritz last night and the two of us sat down at 6:45 without a reservation but by the time we left at 9:30 the restaurant was full and had been full since 8:00. The bar area was packed. I don't think the economic situation has hit BLT

                          1. re: kaaaassss

                            I wouldn't imagine it would, given the residents of the Ritz.

                            They are not an accurate barometer of the rest of Westchester.

                            1. re: dolores

                              I was at Morton's in Great Neck on Saturday night, and boy was it hopping. We go regularly, and I haven't seen it so crowded in ages. Is it that when people go out, they either go cheaper, or top notch, and don't go out as often? Or are people just talking about the economy and not trying to economize yet?

                              1. re: dolores

                                Mostly business men at the tables. Didn't look like residents of the Ritz. Bar had a mixed older local crowd....

                        2. We had dinner at Tosca in Troy last Friday. Not sure if it was the economy, Dr. MLK holiday weekend or 8:45 pm dining time but there were only a few tables with diners and a couple at the bar. The hostess was off and we were served by the manager and a server. Food quality was top notch and Tosca remains one of the best in the Capital Region.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: financialdistrictresident

                            Had dinner at La Bocca in Whtie Plains on Tuesday evening. Only two of us at the bar and two table for the time we were there. We ate at the bar and food was top notch as always. It could have been the long holiday weekend. We walked the length of Mamaroneck Avenue to the CVS at the very end and we peeked in to the restaurants as we passed and none of them had any business to speak of.

                          2. I had dinner at Plates in Larchmont last Tuesday night. There was one table of 5 celebrating a birthday, and another table of 2. The bar had 3 people. IMHO, the food has declined. My boyfriend's "boneless" sardines had bones, and the Rib Eye was bland. We won't be rushing back.

                            1. Made reservations for X20 for Saturday night today, Thursday, two days before. While the convenience is great, it makes me really uneasy about the economy and I would rather have to wait for reservations and have all of these wonderful businesses thriving. Will report back on the quality of the food...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RawTunaFan

                                I was able to do the same last week, however they were fairly busy and we did have to wait (past reservation time) for the table we requested.

                              2. Just read a markabauman's post that Lime in Saratoga Springs closed. Really enjoyed the food (Caribbean) and ambience. Good value. So sad.

                                On another more positive note we ate at Cafe Capriccio last weekend and our server told us they were fully booked for Valentine's Day (well in advance) and customers were still calling for reservations. Cafe Capriccio is one of our favorites and the eggplant app and duck tagliatelle didn't disappoint!

                                1. In the Mid-Hudson Valley, my observation is that many restaurants are half empty, but some restaurants which serve good food at good prices tend to be doing well.

                                  Poorly managed restaurants tend to not have fared well.