Economists love to point out that there is no free lunch. But there is something else nearly as good: fine dining for lower prices at lunch time.
On a vacation with your partner or family, splurging on lunch can have many benefits, first of which is clearly money. Many top restaurants offer lower prices for lunch than for dinner. Consider Paris, where a quick scan of some top spots shows the spread: Taillevent has a 70 euro lunch compared with 140 or 190 euro dinner menus. At the summer dining room at the Hotel Bristol, there’s a 90 euro lunch menu as opposed to the more expensive a la carte in the evening. And at Pierre Gagnaire, it’s 90 euro prix fixe lunch vs 225 for dinner.
You might have noticed that this is still dropping over $100+ on lunch–and we haven’t even gotten to the wine yet (tax and tip are included, however!). But I chose these high-end restaurants because they illustrate the cost-savings that are available at many restaurants in Paris and beyond.
In New York, reasonable gourmet lunches abound and are a fraction of Parisian prices. Consider Jean Georges, with its two-course lunch for $28 with each additional course, $12 (compare at $95 for dinner–still quite reasonable. Unlike Paris, tax and tip aren’t included in NYC lunches.). David Bouley offers six courses to midday diners for $38. Alto, a three course “espresso” for $30 ($75 for a four-course prix-fixe at dinner). Asiate, two courses for $24. Le Bernardin may seem pricey given this competition with a three-course lunch $55, but it is half the price of the four-course offering at dinner. Fleur de Sel has three courses for $25, Gramercy Tavern, a three course lunch, $36 (same at dinner is $76).
Sadly, wine, the real profit center of a restaurant, remains regular prices during. But, hey, the savings on the food side can underwrite more wine expenditure!
Having your finest meal of the day at midday while on vacation also provides the advantage of being to walk off the meal during the afternoon. Viewing art at museums burns calories, you know.
And perhaps the best thing about having a nice lunch is that there’s no rule saying you can’t have a nice dinner too.