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Feb 23, 2009 04:31 PM

Economy = Cheaper Eats?

About three weekends ago, hubby and I ventured to Towson Town Center Mall. It took us 15 minutes to locate a parking space. The mall was over run with people--actually shopping, not just "malling around.' People had shopping bags.

At 4:40, we decided to just grab a bite to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. We determined that it wouldn't be crowded at that time on a Saturday, early winter (after Holiday--pre holiday, i.e., Valentine's Day). WHOA!! A MIMINUM of a one hour wait. Same thing for P.F. Cahng's.

So, we trotted to the parking garage and drove out to Padonia Road to the Macaroni Grill. We arrived about 5:15 and were informed that there was a 40 minute wait. Oh, come on. What is going on?

We declined to sit around and wait for mediocre food. (Usually, on the weekends, we "Dine Out" at uupscale restaurants. But., like many of us, we are scaling down. And, on that particular weekend, we just didn't feel like doing the "gourment thing."0.

So, now we were really irritated and acutally very hungry. So, we popped into the Natilus Diner on York Road. Fortunately, we were immediately seated, albeit, into a tiny booth--there were larger booths available--most of which only two people occupied the booths.

We were just grateful to get seated, otherwise we would have pointed out that we would have preferred a more spacious seating area. Okay--when we ordered out entrees, my hubby selected a special of the day--roasted chicken. Our server came back after an awfully long wait, only to be informed that the entree was "sold out." AT 5;30!!!??"? The special was already gone? Hubby then ordered the prime rib "RARE"--NOT. It certainly was well past rare.

Anyhow, if the economy is so desperately in a funk--everyone seems to be deprived or depraved--well, go to any of the local malls and chain restaurants on a Saturday and you'd believe otherwise--that the economy is booming.

Now, I know that the restaurants I mentioned are more affordable then the upscale places.

But, Valentine's weekend--did anyone attempt to make a last minute reservation and garner one with any success? Lucky you if you did.

We opted to dine out at Flemings on Friday the 13th, at an early hour. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner--a prixe fixe at $89--two salads (choice of Caesar or house)--an entree of wonderful rack of lamb and a lobster that had been prepared by cutting up the lobster meat and seasoning it then placing it on rice in the lobster shell-it was too spicey for Hubby, but just enough heat that I could handle).. There were delicious roasted vegetables, etc. We were quite happy with our meal. Usually, we never take advantage of those holiday fixed menus, but were completely satisfied.

But, we were told that the restaurant was booked for the entire weekend. Okay--between that and the mall/restaurant incident I previously elaborated upon, where is the recession?!


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  1. Fois,

    I understand what you mean. Every time we go to the Columbia Mall, I see the same thing- tons of people with shopping bags. The last two times we went to Charleston, the place was packed. One time was even a Wednesday night. I'm not complaining, mind you. I love Charleston and am thrilled that it seems to be doing well despite the economy. The same thing with the mall- I'm glad to see people buying and supporting local businesses. Maybe we are just seeing a small portion of what's going on. Maybe retail therapy and a night out of the kitchen are giving people a small break from the weight of the problems with the economy. Let's hope these small breaks turn into a long term solution!

    1 Reply
    1. re: mdfifi

      I haven't noticed more crowds at restaurants (I ate at home on Valentine's Day) but prices seen to continue to rise, and deals and discounts are getting either skimpier or harder to use. More 2-for-1 coupons that don't apply to a single meal (unless I order two meals by myself) and smaller amounts off a more expensive meal.

      One of my regular lunch spots, three or four times a month, is Baja Fresh. The cash register receipt used to offer $2 off on a future purchase of $5 or more for filling in a survey code number, so I could get a decent and plentiful $5 lunch. Recently, they upped the minimum to $8, so until they raise prices, I have to order more food to get the discount. I can still come out ahead by adding a $1 cookie to one of my usual orders and save a buck, but it costs me a buck more than it used to for more than I want to eat.

      Times are tough all over for us tightwads without a huge appetite.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. I think there's a lot of activity, but there are a lot of factors. I think THIS particular area - the whole span of this board, is somewhat insulated. Certain areas more than others.

        On another front, everyone is scaling down to a degree, which leaves the truly high-end resto's at the biggest loss - but just like golden parachutes their customers might be plentiful enough.

        On still another front, I think you might end up where I'm at, spending my dollars with EVEN more decision. Where I used to be okay spending some here and there at Chipotle or Baja, I will definitely rank more local places above (and drive to make it). The down side is that - potentially - sheeple will make the opposite decision.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dennis S

          I just posted about this on another sight. I too was at Towson Town a couple of weeks ago. My daughter is going on a school trip and needed many things. The place was packed( I am not a shopper) and waited 2-3 people in line every place we went

          Last week a friend and I were talking we both still go out 2 or 3 times a week here is where we had been recently. Roys, Oceanaire, b, Salt, Bicycle, Capital Grille, Woodberry kitchen, jacks, PF Changs , Kali's Court , Milton Inn, Tapas Teatro... all packed and no last minute reservations available at the places that take reservations. We both said recession what recession. Agree Media and political driven

        2. *in before the delete*

          Kaz on V-Day was full.
          Granville Moore's is always packed when I want to go.

          1. I tried to get reservations for Restaurant Eve and Central for last Saturday about a week early, booked, we went to 2941 and it was pretty busy. BTW 2941 was really good, I had a guinea hen preperation that was great. Everyone in the party enjoyed it. I was glad we had the chance to go with the new chef, but look forward to what he does in the future.

            But I have noticed cheaper places being more full, lately.

            Amex concierge said trying to get last minute VDay reservations this year was crazy. Maybe since so many are eating at home more often VDay was a bigger thing this year?

            I have cut back on lunches more than dinners, but we are eating at more neighborhood mom and pop eats. But we still have been to some nice places lately, but probably not as many.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ktmoomau

              My husband and I eat out far too much and have noticed that it is much slower on weekdays than before the recession. I recently read a news story that stated that people are eating out on a 'budget' by cutting courses not trips out or making bigger events of eating out i.e opting to make quick pasta dish at home rather than carryout to save the money for a good dinner. Many people are skimping on tips to cut the bill as well - not that I agree with that, it was simply mentioned in the article.