In today’s slow-paced economy, getting a three-course lunch for approximately $20 and a dinner deal for $25 may seem almost too good to be true. But that is the idea behind the 10-day “Dine-in Brooklyn” that boasts 195 restaurants and cafes offering bargain meals.
Food connoisseurs can enjoy cuisines from all over the world, including juicy burgers, cheesy gnocchi, grilled hiramasa and spicy Indian curry.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz started “Dine-in Brooklyn” after 9/11 as a way to assist businesses in tough economic conditions. Now, it also serves as a great marketing tool, driving traffic from all across New York to Brooklyn.
“We want to publicize and promote Brooklyn’s restaurant scene, not only to Brooklynites but outsiders as well,” said Jon Paul Lupo, director of communications at Markowitz’s office. Lupo also boasted that the restaurant week, now in its ninth year, has grown to be the biggest in New York City.
Mathieu Reboul, owner of Cadaques, an 18-month-old tapas bar in Williamsburg, estimates the increase in customers to his restaurant at approximately 25 percent.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Maslanka, executive chef at 67 Burger, who is participating in Dine-in Brooklyn for the first time, sees the deals as a way to show “customer appreciation.” 67 Burger, a classic burger joint, has reworked its menu to meet the criterion of multi-course meals for Dine-in Brooklyn.
“Previously, we didn’t participate because our menu didn’t fit the traditional multiple-course criteria. But seeing the benefits of the venture over the years, we decided to innovate and tailor something specifically for this,” Maslanka explained.
The burger joint’s $20 dine-in lunch special, which includes two sandwiches or salads, regular French fries, two soft drinks and two ice cream sundaes, would cost approximately $26 on a regular day. The prices are reduced to attract more customers and compensate restaurants for lower margins through a larger volume of sales, according to Lupo, Markowitz’s communications director.
But Mimmo Capiello, owner of Baci & Abbracci, a 6-year-old Italian eatery that has participated in Dine-in Brooklyn every year since it started, is of a different opinion.
“We do it because we can afford to do it. No business owner would take part in anything that incurs him losses.”
Capiello explained that he can’t offer steak or veal to his customers with the pricing structure, but he can offer an equally tasty palette of chicken or pasta. He also emphasized that the lower prices do not mean a compromise on the quality of food or ingredients.
Lailah Mejnoon and Roberto Gravitae, Manhattan residents who occasionally go to Williamsburg for shopping, are not particularly excited about the week. According to Gravitae, the prices are not as great as they seem at a glance, especially if the restaurants are not offering organic food.
“Most of the non-organic food that food joints sell are mass produced in third world countries at one quarter of the price. So unless, these places are offering organic food, I don’t think the prices are that great,” Gravitae said.
Lisa Fontaine, a graduate student and food fanatic living in Williamsburg who is experiencing the week for the second time, disagrees. She thinks that the affordable prices encourage customers to be more adventurous with their choices.
“It is not pleasant having to pay a huge bill for something that you might hate,” Fonatine said, “but with $25 you can take that risk.”