Gabi Moskowitz is a chef, writer and the editor-in-chief of the nationally acclaimed BrokeAssGourmet.com. Gabi launched The BrokeAss Gourmet in February 2009, a website featuring daily gourmet, restaurant-inspired recipes that always cost less than $20. The site also features a pantry item list, affordable beer, wine and cocktail recommendations and grocery shopping tips. Gabi and the site have been featured by MSN Money, UrbanOutfitters.com, TIME, and a plethora national food and lifestyle blogs. Gabi is also one of the main contributors to the Appetites app, one of Apple’s top apps for 2011. She lives, cooks and writes in the Mission District of San Francisco, California.
With my first cookbook, The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook, just coming out, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen at home creating high-quality, low-cost recipes. But every BrokeAss girl (or boy!) needs a break sometimes, and that means eating out at a good restaurant or two. Here are a few of my favorite tips for people who want to eat out, but still maintain a healthy budget.
• Don’t be afraid to order two appetizers instead of an entrée. They’re frequently more interesting and less expensive than the listed entrées (even if you order two).
• Look for dishes that are grain- or vegetable-based with accents of meat, such as risotto, gnocchi, or filling grain salads, such as quinoa or couscous. There is a happy trend going on in food these days — the use of meat as an accent, rather than the focus of a dish. Typically, this means dishes are less expensive on the whole, since grains and vegetables make up their bulk. It’s a great way to eat well without spending a ton.
• Seek out happy hours with good food deals. Some of the nicest restaurants in my town (San Francisco) —ones with dinner menus that are totally out of my budget — offer fantastic happy hours with affordable drinks and even more deliciously affordable food! A few small plates and a half-priced cocktail can make a mighty fine supper for the high-quality/low-budget-focused diner.
• Go for brunch or lunch. Many fancy restaurants have the same or similar offerings as their dinner menus at brunch or lunch for half the price.
• Look for bumper crops. Corn, beans and zucchini (depending on the season) grow like wildfire during the peak of their season and restaurants, eager to use them up, will sometimes offer dishes with them at a discount.
• Ask for the special! Like the above tip, a restaurant’s special is sometimes a means to get rid of a particular ingredient. As such, it is sometimes discounted.
• When it comes to wine, always ask if the restaurant has a flight option. This is a great and affordable way to try several types of wine, often for the cost of one mid-price glass.
Got questions for Gabi? Leave them in the comments!