With New York City Restaurant Week in full swing, our thoughts turned to favorite places to find epicurean feasts for less. We love gourmet food, great chefs — and bargains. Happily, we know how to find them all, from coast to coast, Portland to New York City — and even a gem across the Atlantic, tucked away in a London cookbook shop.
A slim townhouse, the James Beard House was the Greenwich Village home of America’s first television celebrity foodie, James Beard. Now, it houses the James Beard Foundation, an organization that celebrates exceptional food and the chefs who make it.
We’re looking forward to early February dinners from Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard of Chicago’s Girl & the Goat and from Ryan Poli, chef-owner of Chicago’s Tavernita. The meals cost $170 each, a bargain for the quality and amount of food. A $29 Friend membership gets you the newsletter and a $50 gift certificate toward your first James Beard House event. Springing for the $125–$500 memberships makes you eligible for membership meal prices ($130 in the case of the aforementioned February dinners).
We also love L’Ecole, the restaurant attached to the French Culinary Institute in New York City. The kitchen is staffed by students and chef-instructors, and the restaurant’s earned high marks from the Michelin Guide, Zagat, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. A four-course dinner costs $47 for three courses prepped by pros, or four courses made by students. A three-course lunch costs $30. Brunch, served on weekends, is a la carte.
New York’s not the only pricey place to find an edible bargain. London’s fab Notting Hill cookbook shop, Books for Cooks, houses a test kitchen where recipes from the cookbooks are tried out. Savvy customers stop by for fine lunches — £7 for three courses; £5 for two courses, plus a little extra for coffee or tea.
If you’re in Portland, OR, take advantage of the restaurant at the Oregon Culinary Institute. A seasonal three-course lunch will set you back $9; a four-course dinner, $18. Tip generously, because gratuities go to the Student Award Fund, funding today’s students and tomorrow’s chefs.
You’ll find locations of Le Cordon Bleu’s Technique Restaurant in 14 cities throughout the U.S.: Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, as well as Portland, OR; Orlando, FL; Austin, TX, and Scottsdale, AZ.
At lunch, you’ll get three courses for $10; for dinner you have a choice between three courses for $10 and four courses for $15. Restaurants are not open every day or night, but only when class is in session, and some take as few as 10 reservations in an evening. Plan ahead, call early, and you can nab a table set by the top culinary talent of the future. Even when splurging on wine, it’s hard to spend more than $30 a head.
Technique and the Beard House offer private dining, as well — something to bear in mind if you have an event to plan.
Where do you find gourmet meals at bargain prices?
Photo credit: Mitzi Morris, courtesy James Beard Foundation