I think it was on the foodie website/blog Foobooz that I read that "$35 is the new black," and I'm seeing that price point everywhere for pre-theatre ("early bird" for those of you in Florida) as well as standard time menu offerings. Restaurants are pretty openly scrambling for your business, as gastropubs, diners, bistros and taverns slowly erode the fine dining customer base in almost every city.
Frank Bruni, the NY Times restaurant critic, wrote an interesting chapter of his "Diner's Notebook" in the paper's Dining section yesterday, surveying some of the bigger players in town and how they are earnestly cultivating repeat and first-time business. Even in New York City, $35 seems to be a common 3-course bargain prix fixe these days. I saw a 3-course dinner at Lever House for $35---gotta go!
Same stuff in Philly. Everyone is touting a $35 pre-fixe; chic, romantic (at least to me) Matyson on 19th St offers a nightly tasting menu at $45, touted by many knowledgable foodies as an absolute steal.
Now I still receive a ton of press releases in my e-mail almost everyday, touting every manner of restaurant, brewpub, brewery, food product, etc. I'm grateful for most of them, because they keep me feeling connected when lately I'm not really getting out very much to drink and dine at all. And many of the most recent releases I've gotten have been about $35 prix fixes. Many of the offers seem meager, almost after-thought departures from the souls of many of the restaurants (no, I won't mention any names, I have enough enemies already, thank you). But the $35 early dinner at Alison Two in Ft. Washington, PA, really caught my eye; the menu reads like a lot of food (or food and drink , if you prefer) for the money:
Creamy Parsnip Soup, Cured Duck, Citrus Hazelnut Butter
House Smoked Trout, Caviar, Fennel, Lemon Crème Fraîche, Chive Potato Cake
Chopped Salad, Romaine Lettuce, Blue Cheese, Poached Egg, Tomato, Asparagus, Herb Toast
Arugula, Duck Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Salad, Membrillo
Skate Wing, Cauliflower Puree, Fennel and Radish Salad, Cardamom Vinaigrette, Roasted Lemon
Grilled Hanger Steak, Bacon & Onion Frites, Tomato Chili
Grilled Pork Chop Al Pastor Style, Crispy Masa Cake, Pineapple & Salsa Verde
Roasted Chicken Breast, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts & Pearl Onions, Salsify Puree, Cider Reduction
Cinnamon Brioche Bread Pudding, Caramelized Bananas, Banana Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Meyer Lemon Creme Caramel, Candied Kumquats with Basil, Lemon Tuile
Chocolate Brownie Sundae, Vanilla Ice Cream, Double Sauce
Choose a glass of wine instead of your appetizer or dessert course: Penfolds Cabernet or Luna Freakout.
Now, I'm not here to shill for Alison Two; they have the very best PR person in the business doing that job. I've never had a bad meal in Allison Barshak's hands; Alison in Blue Bell remains one of my very favorite restaurants; and Alison Two, open just a short time, shows some of the same common sense, value and creativity of the original. This new early menu makes me want to head there soon.