Restaurant Week NYC is a fantastic time for visitors and locals alike to take advantage of the great dining experiences that this city can offer, a personal favorite of ours has been Butter, however this year it seems that it is being offered only in the new Midtown location, which may be different. We also really enjoy Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark (menu here) which we tend to return to annually, and we always like to try out a few new places too. In this post I want to share a few tips to make it an even better value experience, and get even more bang for your buck.
One more recommendation, especially good for tourists would be to visit Harlem, checking out 125th St with the famous Apollo Theater, and stop in at the Red Rooster, from Marcus Samuelsson ($25 lunch menu here) for an amazing meal. For the full list of participating restaurants check here (full list)
The premise of Restaurant Week is that you get to try out somewhere you otherwise would not, and they offer deeply discounted pricing to entice you in. It should be an opportunity for each restaurant to shine, however it has been our experience that many seem to come at it with a degree of reluctance, and that they don’t put exciting menus together. Frequently you will see a ‘green salad’ as the appetizer course, or something else equally cheap to produce and uninspiring to the palate.
It is our speculation that the chefs involved don’t want to play ball, and therefore the restaurant puts out an average offering, and for that reason I recommend you always check the menu of the place you want to visit in advance. Having personally worked as a chef to pay my way through college I can safely say that if a Chef cannot make a great meal which showcases their skill and turns a profit for $25 lunch/$38 dinner then they lack both imagination and skill, and you would do better to skip that joint. The best participants will offer a reduced selection from their regular menu, and allow you to really sample their products.
Pick the right Credit Card and go Dutch!
Amex is partnering with Restaurant week to offer $5 statement credits if you pay with that card. You have to sync it first – do so here: American Express Restaurant Week Registration the terms and conditions state that if you charge $25 to the card you are eligible for the credit. Restaurant week starts at $25 per person (lunch) and $38 per person (dinner). I recommend that couples both sync a card, and then split the check. That means you get double credits, and both receive $5.
The Best Amex to Sync
Personally I think the Fidelity American Express is the best card to sync, it earns 2% Cash Back everywhere, so that stacks on top of your other bonuses, and is probably the most generous rebate you could get.
Sync that card again!
Many people don’t use their Amex as their primary dining card, so make sure you sync it up with a dining network first. Not all participants of Restaurant Week are also part of the dining network, but many are, and you could earn further rebates for free. There are many dining options, personally I have found myself most interested by the iDine network as it offers some really generous Cash Back, but there are dining networks for most of the major airlines and hotels if you prefer to earn there instead, you can only enroll a single card in one program, but you can change that program around, or enroll more than one card.
iDine pays out:
- 5% Cash back for the first $250
- 10% Cash back for the next $500
- 15% Cash back for any more than that
Note – it resets after 12 months back to 5%, but I think is still amazing value. Also, they ask for reviews, which don’t take long to complete, but you might forget about, and I think you only earn qualifying cash back if you use the sync’d card plus leave a quick review (let me know if you have other experiences than that), the airline programs don’t do that.
Use Opentable – Correctly!
Opentable is a great restaurant booking tool, and it pays rewards. For every 1000 points you earn on Opentable you receive a check for $10 to spend at one of the restaurants in their program (that is almost every restaurant I can think of in NYC). You earn a standard 100 points for booking through Opentable, and sometimes they offer a promotion where you can 1000 points in a single dine.
The Catch – and this ALWAYS catches me… you only earn if you click through Opentable. If you were to book through the website of the restaurant, it might be managed by the Opentable software, but it wouldn’t qualify for the 100 points. So you have to look up the one you like, then point your browser to Opentable.com and reserve your table there to earn the points. When you reach a threshold they mail you a check which you take to your next dining experience, we just received one for $20.
Total Additional Savings
If you were to go for a lunch date to the Michelin Starred Nougatine by Jean Georges (located at Columbus Circle) for $25 per person using this tips you would get the following:
$50 cost for 2 people for Lunch discounted to $25 per person for Restaurant Week (amazing value alone)
- $10 Amex Statement Credits
- $2.50 from iDine
- $1 from the Fidelity Amex
- $1 (100 points from Open Table)
Total price of lunch for 2 would be $35.50. Restaurant Week runs from Feb 17th – Mar 7th in New York City.