Frugality and dining out don’t often go hand-in-hand, especially when your taste runs to fresh, luxe ingredients and great service.
Prix fixe dining is an excellent way to stick to a budget, or even splurge on a special meal without financial guilt, but is often only available on Sundays, holidays and regional restaurant weeks.
Here are some ideas for your next celebration, date night or kitchen-duty escape that won’t leave you with wallet regrets.
Columbus Inn, at the edge of Wilmington’s city limits, offers a $28 Steak & Cake Night on Monday nights. It includes a salad or soup, a 6oz sliced filet and a signature crab cake, plus choice of gelato or sorbet for dessert.
The legendary Mrs. Robino’s in Wilmington’s Little Italy builds upon its already reasonable prices with a Tuesday night, two-courses-for-$10 deal. Of course, there are multiple pasta-with-meatball entrées, but also gnocchi, and a couple of chicken and fish dishes to choose from. Apps range from soups to salads to antipasto, or even ravioli if you aren’t planning to scratch that itch with a pasta entrée.
Newark’s Stone Balloon Ale House has named its prix fixe “Cheap Date Night.”
Every Wednesday, you can enjoy two entrées, a bottle of wine or 32oz growler, and a dessert for $35… per couple! You can save even more by ordering non-alcoholic beverages versus wine for $25. The entrées change about every four weeks. In addition to meatballs (pictured), recent options, totaling seven, included Crispy Calamari Salad and Pollo Arrabiata over cavatappi as well as a vegetarian entree.
TSD first introduced us to Chef Robbie Jester in July, 2016 when he “Beat Bobby Flay” with his TV-winning cavatelli shrimp scampi.
Banks’ Seafood (formerly Harry’s) “hooks” you up all week long, with a $15 two-course lunch menu served Monday through Friday. The menu appears to change often, and the restaurant has had same-day menu updates online each time we’ve checked. Past lunch course options have included oyster ceviche, sauteed or Thai calamari, trout, ahi tuna and red beet poke and smoked salmon rillettes, as well as truffle fried Brussels sprouts. They also offer on Monday through Thursday a $38.95 three-course dinner.
New kid on the block, Margaux, also has prix fixe on Mondays. Facebook is where you’ll want to seek the up-to-date, $35 three-course menus each week. The November 4 menu included creamy tomato soup, broiled oysters, coquilles St. Jacques, beef Bourguignon, pappardelle ratatouille, and other entrées, as well as pumpkin fluff crepe.
Since we’ve covered Monday through Thursday with the above menus, we searched for prix fixe menus to get you through the busy weekend nights.
Walter’s Steakhouse offers a $36.95 prime rib dinner on Fridays. Salmon, soup, salad, side and sweets round out the menu.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse’s $44 The Sure Thing menu, available daily, gets you three courses in the fancy range. Shrimp and lobster bisque, a steak or a salmon, with all the usual sides, and cheesecake, is a sure thing to set you back over $50 at other steakhouses, and you might still have to pony up for a separate potato. The only sure thing you should worry about is getting a Friday night reservation.
Don’t overlook lunch in the ‘burbs. Within the Wilmington/Christiana Hilton is Market Kitchen & Bar.
It has a month-long prix fixe lunch menu, served throughout the entire month of December. At two courses for $19.95 and three courses for $24.95, their goal is to take the pressure off holiday meals. Butternut squash soup, she-crab bisque and hot potato chips with Dogfish Head beer fondue are just some of the starters. Duck bolognaise and short-rib Stroganoff are a few of the entrée options and desserts are in the cake and ice cream department.
Don’t forget Sundays, when prix fixe brunch deals abound. There are too many to list, but Piccolina Toscana, Harry’s Savoy Grill, The Green Room, Buckley’s Tavern, and just over the line in Pennsylvania, Hearth Kitchen and Brandywine Prime are a few to consider.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Let us know on social media if you have a favorite we missed. We didn’t visit large chains when looking for prix fixe menus, but we know places like The Melting Pot also have such offers every day.
Of course, our TSD readers would never be uptight about a tip when getting a great deal on a prix fixe dinner. Your servers are most happy to welcome you on what is likely a slower night at their restaurant and will work hard for your generous gratuity.
IMPORTANT: Remember that menus are subject to change without notice, so if you don’t like surprises, ask about the menu when you make your reservation. Or just leave it up to chance.