I'm a writer with ctvtoronto.ca doing a story on Winterlicious tips for newbies.
Any advice for them?
Is it a good deal in terms of value and a useful way to explore new restos?
How do you tip at, say, Canoe, if you're there for Winterlicious while others are spending $100 or more each?
Please indicate if you're okay with me quoting you in the story.
Thanks in advance for any replies to my topic!
I actually don't think the 'licious events are a good way to explore new restos, and here are my reasons:
- Most restaurants do NOT put their best foot forward during these events. Rarely do you see dishes that would be typical of their menu, as they are often trying to create less expensive dishes in order to minimize the loss. You'll see lots of chicken breast and salmon filets on the menus.
- Service is often harried. The servers are serving more tables than usual and trying to turn tables quickly in order to make up in volume what they are losing in cost. And I hate to say it, but some (not all!) diners at 'licious events do not think to tip on anything beyond the bill. Combine that with some (not all!) diners trying to "keep it cheap" by not ordering drinks, and you end up with some potentially cranky servers.
- I honestly don't think it's that great of a deal. How often do people go out and actually order 3 full courses? If you want to try a restaurant without spending a ton of money, you're better off going with a friend and ordering an appetizer to share and an entree each. At most restaurants, that bill will come out to the same or significantly less than the 'licious price. And you'll be getting the restaurant at their best, not when they are cranking dishes out of the kitchen.
Of course, there are exceptions to all of these. Some restaurants do a wonderful job with 'licious and you'll find creative meals and gracious service. But I'd have to say that these are the exception rather than the norm, in my experience. I'll give a shout out to the Oliver & Bonacini restaurants, which always seem to do well with 'licious. And the servers never make you feel like you are a cheapskate for trying to get a deal.
I'm a fan of the 'licious events. A great time to try out new places. There is always a diversity of views on Chowhound, and 'licious brings these out in spades (perhaps you will find out). We've had our hits and misses, but on the whole the experiences have been positive. A few points:
- We almost always go for the lunchtime menu. Better value and often less busy.
- I tip on the bill, never drink alcohol and have never felt disrespected by a server or host during 'licious.
- Some of our disappointments have been Chowhound recommendations....thinking specifically about Senses in 2011 which was very lauded in 2010. Our past highlights have included Canoe and Starfish.
- Using Starfish as an example, we do not typically experience any quality degradation from non-licious meals. An exception would be Auberge du Pommier which had an OK licious, but superior (and much more expensive) day-to-day menu.
- We've actually discovered places that we've enjoyed a bit more during licious than day-to-day. Thinking about Trio in the North York Novotel and the now defunct Arcadian Court.
- Jerks who don't call and cancel reservations if they can't make it are a big problem for some popular restos during 'licious.
Hi Bill -- Nice to hear from you again after all these years.
For Winterlicious/Summerlicious, you need a strategy or a plan. We always go at lunch, if possible. We go to Oliver & Bonacini owned restos (Auberge de Pommier, Biffs, Jump, Canoe, etc.), We go to hotel restos (Park Plaza, Four Seasons, Royal York, King Eddie). I find that these two categories give the amazing values (check out all the menus).
Basically, there are two things in the licious series -
One is that no matter what you order and pay for, you end up with just a "free" dessert.over and above the "regular" menu. We normally don't eat dessert when we eat out at regular places and prices. So the value is wasted on us. Dessert has to be outstanding. With licious you have to eat it to get value, or you can just leave it. Pangaea usually offers an Ontario cheese plate which we grab as a substitute for a sweet cakey dessert. So licious meals are great for dessert lovers.
Second, you get a chance to scope out the place, checking the ambience, scenery, how service is handled, etc. etc This is useful.
We have avoided weekends and most nights, going on Mon, Tuesday or wed for lunches, and a few dinners. Tip is 20% or so.
It is an interesting experience, well worth going to sometimes. We usually go 4 times in winter and 4 times in summer..
Stay in touch over this, Bill.
Well, I only went to two winterlicious restaurants last summer and I did enjoyed it. I tip 15% if the service is good, 10% if it's not that great. This year I planned to go a bit more, but I may save for the summer instead. I choose places that has interesting dishes I don't see often and am intrigue to explore.
re: Dean Tudor
Agreed - scoping the 'licious menus (they're all posted on the winter/summerlicious site) is a must. You can usually tell by looking at the options for mains whether the restaurant is one that's just trying to get by (on a low budget) or one that's trying to impress.
And to echo T Long - lunches are often your best bet. I've often noticed better protein options at lunch (albeit smaller portions - but that's not always a bad thing seeing you're getting 3 courses).
I enjoy 'licious events and we manage to get at least a couple of meals in each year.
-Avoid something like Canoe on on a Friday or Saturday night to avoid feeling rushed. Opt for something that's more of a neighbourhood gem than destination for a more relaxed meal. Byzantium is a stand by for us and the handle the 'licious like a well oiled machine.
-For a more popular restaurant like Canoe, opt for Sunday or a midweek night. We also tend to make a later reservation around 9ish. Not a problem since we usually eat later anyway but know that's not convenient for some.
-We tip 15 - 20% based on the service as we would on any meal out.