The Good Life For Less: Dine and Drink

Prix-fixe menus are your ticket to fine dining at a discount.

Blackbird in Collingswood.
Photo by Stuart Goldenberg

Long Branch
23 Ocean Ave; 732-759-2900,

For starters, there is the priceless view of the Atlantic Ocean through the dining room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Executive chef Dominique Filoni offers a three-course prix-fixe menu for $28.95 every night from 4:30 to 6 pm, with six choices each of appetizers and entrées and four choices of dessert. (Tuesdays the prix fixe is available until closing at 9 pm.) A typical prix-fixe might include an appetizer of fruits de mer, a main course of a French classic such as beef bourgignon or trout almondine; and crème brulée or profiteroles.

This spring, Sunday is lobster night, with a three-course supper for $36 including salad or soup, a 1 ¼-pound roasted lobster with tarragon sauce, orecchiette pasta, roasted mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, grilled cippolini onions and chocolate pot de crème. Monday night is Moules a Go-Go, with a draft Stella Artois beer, all-you-can-eat mussels and French fries for $19. Finally, anything on the bar menu is half off during Happy Hour, 3 to 7 pm Wednesdays and 3 to 10 pm Fridays.

714 Haddon Ave;

The folks at Blackbird Dining Establishment figure a diner can save as much as $20 off the cost of an à la carte meal by ordering the $30 prix-fixe dinner, available Sunday through Thursday. You get three courses, typically soup, salad or other appetizer; a choice of three entrées, including pasta, meat or fish; and something from the pastry menu. Of course, you’ve already saved because Blackbird is BYO. Wine-and-pasta Wednesdays are $18.95 for three courses, including a choice of four pastas (homemade linguine with wild mushrooms and porcini sauce with truffle essence is a favorite), and vanilla or chocolate gelato with mixed-berry compote. Thursday’s Rib-Eye Night is $18.95 for two courses, including a spinach salad with goat cheese and a rib-eye steak with two sides. Blackbird has flown the coop from its original location at 619 Collings Avenue to larger quarters on Haddon Avenue.

Café Panache
130 E. Main St;

In food and decor, chef/owner Kevin Kohler’s elegant, 85-seat BYO lives up to its name. A three-course lunch here typically costs about $32, but Kohler’s new three-course prix-fixe lunch will set you back only $19.95. Menus change daily, but a recent example included mixed green salad with Dijon dressing, crispy pecan chicken with whole-grain mustard sauce and pomegranate sorbet.

Chez Catherine
431 North Ave, West;

Why fight weekend crowds for a seat at Chez Catherine—home of exquisite, gently updated French cuisine—when you can save $20 by availing yourself of owner Didier Jouvenet’s three-course $39 prix-fixe dinner Tuesday through Thursday? You get a choice of five appetizers, four main dishes and three desserts. The standard $59 prix fixe menu has many more choices, but standouts on the bargain menu include mussels, hanger steak au poivre, and warm verbena bread-and-butter pudding with vanilla sauce.

331 Bloomfield Ave; 973-233-0350,

Though known for his creative, modern Italian cuisine, chef Ryan DePersio remains fond of the traditional Italian-American food he grew up with and still enjoys with his family on Sundays when Fascino is closed. That satisfying fare is available at the BYO every Tuesday. You can savor his version of, say, veal Milanese, chicken parmigiana, clams oreganata or shrimp scampi. Entree prices hover in the teens, compared with $24 to $34 on the regular menu (which is also available on Tuesdays); appetizers range from $8 to $10, versus $12 to $14.

The Frog and the Peach
New Brunswick
29 Dennis St; 732-846-3216,

Three-course à la cartes at this fine-dining pioneer average $55, making chef Bruce Lefebvre’s three-course, $32 Frugal Farmer (named for its seasonal selections) a solid deal. Recently the menu included—as starters—choice of soup or salad or pumpkin gnocchi with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and maple brown butter. Entrées included chicken meatballs stuffed with fontina or beer-battered flounder with pickled vegetables and horseradish malt aioli. Dessert was a choice of caramel pots de crème or poached seckel pear with cinnamon ice cream. The restaurant also offers a lunch prix fixe—$25 for soup or salad, entrée and dessert or glass of wine. A $42 pre-theater menu is offered Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6:15 pm during theater season, including four choices each of appetizer and main courses and three dessert choices.

Red Bank
160 Route 35 South; 732-345-9977,

The preselected three-course $29 menu at Nicholas and Melissa Harary’s temple of fine dining comes with just two slight hitches: it’s offered only in the bar and lounge, rather than the dining room, and it is not available Saturdays. But the value (the three-course prix-fixe in the dining room is $59, and most entrées on the bar menu are $25 or higher) is outstanding. A recent $29 menu featured baby field greens with caramelized hazelnuts, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster with parsnip purée, and caramel-apple cheesecake with ginger ice cream.

6 Roosevelt Ave;

Declare Sunday date night and save on James Laird and Nancy Sheridan Laird’s fine French-inspired food with a locavore bent. The Sunday three-course $39 prix fixe presents two appetizer options, main course and dessert, and selections change weekly. The savings are substantial, given that à la carte prices range from $10 to $18 for appetizers, $27 to $38 for entrées and $7 for desserts.

Stage Left
New Brunswick
5 Livingston Ave; 732-828-4444,

You can’t miss Stage Left if you’re going to the Crossroads Theater, George Street Playhouse or State Theater on Livingston Avenue in downtown New Brunswick. Co-owner Francis Schott says you’ll save about $20 off the à la carte menu with the three-course Petite Tasting menu for $35. Though it changes often, there is always a choice of appetizer, main dish and dessert. A recent menu featured rabbit cacciatore soup or roasted beet salad; a main course of buttermilk-poached organic chicken with truffled poultry sauce or pork loin stuffed with goat cheese and polenta; plus a dessert of chocolate-and-hazelnut bread pudding or warm Valrhona chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Dinner/theater packages combine a slightly enhanced petite tasting menu with tickets to a show: April 1 to 3, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the State Theater, with dinner, for $68, a savings of about $10.


Maplewood Restaurant Week
About 30 restaurants are expected to participate ( in this year’s event, from March 21 to March 27, including these notables:

Verjus: Chef Charles Tutino is offering a $39 prix-fixe menu that his wife, co-owner Jane Witkin, says will return for most of the summer. Witkin says the menu will be similar to one they offered last year and represents savings of more than $15 from the à la carte menu. Last year included choice of soup, salad or paupiette of house-cured salmon; entrée choices included salmon en croute, chicken breast stuffed with honey-glazed carrots and savory mushroom sauce, fillet of salmon and salmon mousse in puff pastry, or beef bourgignon with garlic mashed potatoes, salsify and mushroom sauce; desserts included caramelized apple crepes with whipped cream, chocolate mousse with whipped cream and berries, or ice cream terrine. 1790 Springfield Ave, 973-378-8990,

Lorena’s: À la carte entrées at this tiny, elegant BYO range from $34 to $42. During restaurant week, chef/co-owner Humberto Campos Jr. will be offering a three-course prix-fixe menu priced even less than last year’s $32. “I might do a $27 or $28 menu, because people are trying to cut back,” he says. Last year’s included an appetizer choice of duck confit rillettes or salmon tartare; short ribs or fish for entrées; and panna cotta or chocolate cake. 168 Maplewood Ave, 973-763-4460;

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