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Feb 11, 2009 12:51 AM


Brooklyn's Restaurants have already taken a hit from the economic situation. People are just not spending as much, and better restaurants in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope like Henry's End, Petit Marche, Noodle Pudding, Tempo, Convivium, Saul, Grocery, et al are reporting business down 20-30%. Lower end places are doing even worse. Many of the lower end places doubt they will be able to survive.

So, what can we do to help support our favorites now that Valentine's Day is upon us.

Almost all the above mentioned restaurants are offering special Prix Fixe menus from $45-$60.

Where will you be dining with your Sweetheart Saturday night?

A good time to visit TEMPO, where Robert and Michael have donated their entire restaurant to a Charity called "Modest Needs". They are now on salary, the employees will all keep their jobs and your dinner check is 70% tax deductable, as if we need additional incentive to dine on their fabulous food.

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  1. Since my husband is away on business, I will be dining with a GF at our fave neighborhood spot, Baci & Abbraci. If you haven't tried their beet gnocci, now's the time! There is a$45 prix fix for 3 courses, but the standard menu is also available.

    1. If those restaurants want to win my heart they'd drop that "special menu" tactic. Almost invariably the special menus aren't as good as the regular menu and the prices are higher. It's a tactic designed to gouge people who feel obligated to dine out on a holiday.

      BTW, my GF loves Sripraphai so we're going there for Valentines day. They will *not* be serving a special menu.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Well said. I feel the same way

        1. re: Bob Martinez

          Hopefully, the better restaurants in Brooklyn will be full on Valentine's Day, and the special Menu is their way of making a special event better with a special Menu.

          I don't know if you are aware of it, but many of these restaurants are teetering on the brink of collapse, others are down 20-30%.

          Read Frank Bruni's column from last week. You can get a reservation almost anywhere same night now... places that were booked months in advance.

          Even the highest end restaurants in Manhattan are being hit.

          Restaurateurs are in it for the love, not for the money. They have to be able to keep their restaurants going, pay their staff, rent, etc.

          If you can't afford it, don't go. Don't ask them to take even more of a hit by lowering their prices. That just means lowering their quality and service, and their ultimate demise.

          1. re: Fleur

            "Hopefully, the better restaurants in Brooklyn will be full on Valentine's Day, and the special Menu is their way of making a special event better with a special Menu."


            Lets see if we can get Steve R. in here to tell us about Queen's "special menu" from last year. He's still ticked off about it. I'm still plenty annoyed about last Christmas when Barbuto pulled this trick, an effort to pump up the average check by $60.

            I've got no problem with a restaurant, especially one I like, making money. And if they want to add a couple of specials to the menu, that's fine as long as the server tells me the price when they recite them. But don't swap out the regular menu with what amounts to overpriced wedding food. If you do that, I will *never* come back on a holiday because you have no respect for your customers.

            1. re: Bob Martinez

              Jeeze, Bitterman, party of one... I agree with Fleur and the OP. Why not go out and support your favorite local establishments on that night if you can? I could be wrong, but I have a hard time believing all the places the OP listed have "dropped" their standard menu for the evening.

              We usually stay home and cook on Valentines day, but other places I can recommend in my neighborhood are Aurora Brooklyn (special menu as well as prix fix) and Dressler (not sure what they are doing but i trust it's not something "sketchy").

              1. re: malibu

                I don't mind supporting local restaurants. Hell, I do that 52 weeks a year, not just on the holidays. What I will *not* do is pay a 30% surcharge to eat inferior food from a "special" menu.

                If a restaurant is serving their regular menu then I'll be glad to go. I recommend that anyone planning to go out on V-Day call the restaurant and ask about the menu before they go. Good food is a lot more romantic than overpriced mediocre food.

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  I'm with Bob on this -- makes Valentines day more special?? Please lol. I think if the restaurants had a reasonable V-day menu that looked more like their day to day menu, they'd have an easier time filling up. The overpriced menus are the reason so many people stay home.

                  Any any restauranteur who is in it for the love and not for money isn't going to stay a restauranteur very long.

                  1. re: Nehna

                    I think both Bob and Nehna are spot on. Just last night I saw an ad for a local restaurant's ,"Special"Valentine's Dinner Menu." It's a slightly dressed up version,( EG: Tilapia Vs Tilapia with seafood stuffing) of their regular Mon-Thurs dinner specials ....Only on Valentine's Day it's $79 as opposed to the usual price of (Wait for the drum roll) ...... $19.... Insane!
                    I don't mind a slighty increased cost, but a $60 diffrence???? Phuleeeze!
                    The best part is that they have both menu's posted side by side so you can clearly see the difference in cost for essentially the same menu! Outrageous. Anyone who would accept that sort of thing is either foolish, on a first date or about 18 yrs old, :-)

                    1. re: Nehna

                      FYI, the better restaurants, like TEMPO, CONVIVIUM, HENRY'S END, etc are full up for their specisl Occasion Menus.

                      Wrutung about the hospitality industry, restaurants and food in particular, I can assure you that most people are in the field because they love it, and they love dealing with the public.

                      That is certainly the case for the restaurants in Brooklyn I mentioned.

                      Any restaurateur needs to have good business sense and good business and management skills to do well.

                      What is your point, exactly? That restaurants that make money, i.e. create jobs, and keep money circulating in the economy are somehow not good things?

                      1. re: Fleur

                        The point is its a bit silly and misleading to suggest, as you did, that a business person is not in it first and foremost for the money. That's why one opens a business. Sure, they love what they're doing, as hopefully most of us get to at some point in our lives with work. But in the end, its about making money...and I never said that was a bad thing :) Otherwise, they'd be selling their food at cost.

                2. re: Bob Martinez

                  It's no secret that Fleur and I like many of the same restaurants. And it's no secret that I know several of the owners and chefs in these places & like them. But I couldnt disagree more with Fleur's statement , "Restaurateurs are in it for the love, not for the money. They have to be able to keep their restaurants going, pay their staff, rent, etc." Nope... it's a business. And, like any other business, you either sell something that people want at the money people can afford or want to pay, or you go out of business. I sincerely hope that my favorite places stay in business but I dont eat out as a donation to their business, I eat out to get a fair meal at a fair price & I wont go to an event that I think is just a come-on for making more money at my expense. And, at Queen a couple of Valentine's Days ago, that's just what it was... substandard food (compared to their regular food) with double the tables squeezed in at much higher prices.

                  Just to be fair though, I have gone to Xmas Dinner at Henry's End for years and appreciate that, although it's been a limited menu at a somewhat higher price for the last 5 or so years & they serve a set menu for that price, they add in a glass or two of champagne & some side dishes (olives, etc). Bottom line is that, there at least, I dont feel ripped off but only that I'm forced to buy a set meal... a reasonable price to pay (if you like the set meal of course) for a special event. Tempo is also setting things up so that, with the tax deduction, no one gets ripped off. Basically I'm with Bob on this, as many places use the opportunity to gouge without conscience. But, where there's a quid pro quo that I can rationalize, I have no problem with going.

                  1. re: Steve R

                    I agree with these comments as they relate to "Special Menus" which dont always work out that well. If everyone in the place (or around a big table) are ordering the same thing the quality of the meal just about always drops. I can think of a few exceptions but usually these have been disappointing experiences for us.

                    whether its for love or money, I do think its good to support our neighborhood restaurants - I cant be the only hound that has an urge to cut back expenses these days.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I always have the 'urge' to spend., lol! I agree with you and make it a point, now more than ever, to support local restaurants. Like you and many other 'Hounds, I have the sense and personal fiscal responsibility to cut back when and wherever possible so. I think that's why I was so annnoyed by the restaurant ad I read in my local paper RE::A Valentine's Day "Special Menu" (See my posting of 2/12, to Bob and Nehna, above)

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. these special menus are a crock of shit. it's pathetic to see restaurants trying to wring out dollars from their customers. my GF and i wanted to go to tempo, but the 3-course menu was $60 and i didn't even think the food sounded that interesting.

                as far as frank bruni's article is concerned, i'm not sure he did his research right. almost every restaurant i spoke to in the neighborhood is booked solid for this saturday - you might think it's an anomally b/c of v-day, but try calling scarpetta or convivio or corton and see if you can get a table to two this friday night at 7:30. try rolling in to momofuku at 9:00p w/ a few friends and see how long the wait is for a table. same goes for a million other places. i don't believe a word of it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: the_state

                  Re: Tempo. First of all, 3 courses there on a regular night will run an average of $8app, $22entree & $6.50 dessert = $36.50. If you order the "higher end" of the menu, it easily runs to $45 for the 3 courses. I just went to their web site and looked at their V.Day menu. Three courses for $55, 4 for $65. What they're serving is not on the regular menu & basically is the equivalent to their higher end dishes. So... if it's $10-$15 more per person than usual for an event menu and it's 70% tax deductible because of the charity, exactly where's the rip-off?

                  If you dont like the sound of the food or have a bad experience, then fine. But at least be accurate.

                  1. re: Steve R

                    I agree with you Steve. The Menu includes choices of Crab Risotto, Foie Gras, and Roasted Lobster... all iterms that have a higher cost at the market, and require more preparation time.

                    BTW We had the Roasted Lobsrer a few weeks ago, and it was delicious.

                2. According to the charity's website, they've donated the revenue from saturday nights to the charity, not the entire restaurant...just to be clear. Pretty cool thing of them to do though.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Nehna

                    Do you actually know the circumstances and the owners of the restaurants in Brooklyn Heightds and Park Slope? It is my profession to know, and I do know.

                    As of February 1, the owners of TEMPO have donated their restaurant ro Modest Needs", which is, BTW, the Charity rated **** that was used by Presidents Bush and Clinton to distribute the funds they raised for Katrina.

                    They are no longer owners, but salaried employees. That is why 70% of your check is tax deductable, every night of the week. They are doing it for business reasons, because it is the only way they can guarantee their restaurant won't go under as so many will, but choosing to take a personal cut, and donate to Charfity, is somethiung I applaud, and hope others would follow.

                    Restaurants are suffering terribly. The 20-39% decline is a conservative figure.

                    The better restaurants are booked up for Valentine'es Day, and have a somewhat full house during the weekend. The problem is during the week.

                    Frank Bruni may not share a lot of my opinions, but he an honest, truthful reporter.

                    1. re: Fleur

                      That isn't made clear either on the Tempo web site nor on the charity web site...which seems pretty odd to me?

                      1. re: Nehna

                        Nehna, my feeling is that neither website has been updated recently, i.e. since February 1.

                        I agreewith your previous post that what Michael , Robert, and Chef , the owners of Tempo, have done is a terrific way to deal with the downturn in business. They are very business savvy, and generous of spirit, which is a great combination.

                        It guarantees that the restaurant will survive the crisis ( unless the worst happens), it keeps the people who work there employed, and secure in their jobs, it gives the owners a guaranteed income, and, just as importantly, gives the consumer a 70% tax deduction on the price of their meal. It also assures that Tempo can keep up their high standards of buying top quality food to create their great dishes.

                        When you do go to Tempo, what are your favorite dishes?

                        We love the Sadinian bucatini with Pistachio Pesto. That has to be one of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten.

                        I also love the Pasta dishes at Convivium and Al Di La.

                        1. re: Fleur

                          Willing to take one for the team and do some investigative reporting, Ginny and I gave up our planned home cooked Valentine's Day meal to eat at Tempo last night. Lucky for them, they didnt rip us off but, instead, provided an excellent meal, worth the $55-$65pp fixed price. From the scallops and foie gras apps, to the middle course raviolo (we shared this course), to the lobster and veal chop entrees, to the dessert trio... all very nicely done, with interesting sides and sauces and gracious, efficient service. I still basically believe that Bob M. is correct that going to one of these "special" holiday dinners in NYC is risk taking in the extreme (and my Queen experience bears that out big time) but not every place is like that and Tempo, once again, was the exception. By the way, Fleur is correct about the entire operation going to "Modest Needs"... it'll be announced very soon but Robert was telling many customers about it last night.

                          1. re: Steve R

                            I went to Tempo a few years back on Christmas Eve when they featured a special menu. It was priced fairly and there was enough choices so I didn't feel that I was forced into one of those "will you have the beef of the fish?" choices. Overall the experience was good, but I think Tempo is an exception.

                      2. re: Fleur

                        Fleur wrote: "Do you actually know the circumstances and the owners of the restaurants in Brooklyn Heightds and Park Slope? It is my profession to know, and I do know."

                        Errrr, as an industry insider, should you be commenting on this board?