In the last few weeks I've been working on an editing program from Blurb that turns your blog into a book. As part of the process I've been going through each and every post from day one of this blog. It's been entertaining (embarrassing at times), and eye-opening as well. Reading through all the posts I realized that certain places get mentioned over and over again. One of those places is our favorite grown-up restaurant, Peterson's.
Peterson's is a locally owned and operated restaurant that specializes in steaks and seafood. We paid our first visit there on my birthday two years ago. It's no secret that I love to read about food, and that includes keeping up on Indianapolis restaurants. Peterson's was consistently ranked among the best places in Indy for steak, and their pastry chef at the time was racking up his own accolades right and left. I had high hopes for it, especially since it's right around the corner from our house. I love Fishers and all, but it's not exactly known as a mecca for locally owned, unique restaurants. It's more like a sea of chains around our part of town.
So with high hopes and all, we went to Peterson's to celebrate my birthday. And oh my. We were impressed. And full. And happy. And broke. Peterson's is not cheap. So we thereby proclaimed it our special occasion restaurant and dreamed of the next occasion that would bring us back to filet, au gratin potatoes, lobster bisque and dark chocolate cake.
On one visit, I vaguely remember signing up for their e-mail newsletter. Every month or so I would get an e-mail from them, listing menu changes and upcoming events. Around the first of the year, though, the newsletter changed ever so slightly. I'm not sure if it has to do with the recession, or just a new direction for the restaurant, but they started offering specials via the newsletter.
In the spring we were treated to a customer appreciation dinner that included half-off entrees and free dessert. In the summer they offered a coupon for half-off an entree. When your entrees are between $20-$40? That's a big deal to us. In that same newsletter, this little tidbit caught my eye: Peterson's was on twitter. Of course I began following them right then and there.
Peterson's is one of those small business who uses twitter superbly. They tweet often, and they offer great information and deals to those who follow them. I've been treated to a free jumbo lump crab cake appetizer (normally $13) for mentioning a secret word they put out on twitter. Last night we opted to have dinner in the bar to take advantage of half-price cocktails and appetizers.
Peterson's also participated in the 92.3 WTTS Half-Price Radio Mall. The Half-Price Radio Mall is another excellent way to find great deals on things that are local to Indy. In this instance, we were able to purchase $50 gift certificates to Peterson's for $25.
So that brings us to last night. My mom had offered to take the kids off our hands for an evening. We never turn down an offer like that! It seemed like a perfect evening to visit Peterson's. Here's how it went down:
I checked twitter on our way to the restaurant and saw this tweet:
When we see Patron and margarita in the same sentence? We get very happy.
Instead of sitting in the dining room, we opt for the bar (which is a different atmosphere, but just as pleasant as the dining room). Instead of my normal glass of wine (which usually runs around $10) I opt for one of the half-price cocktails. Mike does the same. I normally get the lobster bisque to start off, which is $8. This time I chose a crab cake from the half-price appetizer menu ($6.50). Mike and I chose full-price entrees (they're just too good to pass up). He got a double filet and his favorite au gratin potatoes ($49) and I chose the Scottish Organic Salmon Steak ($29). I saved half of it to bring home, because I can't pass up the phenomenal dessert menu. I ended my meal with caramel apple and walnut bread pudding with vanilla ice cream ($9). It's big enough to share, but Mike doesn't care for bread pudding. What a shame. At some point during the meal we both snuck in another half price cocktail. The grand total for the night, using our gift certificate and half-price deals? $95, including tip (Another touch I love? They always bring you two homemade truffles along with the bill. I guess to sweeten the blow, I suppose).
I realize that $95 for a dinner out is by no means a cheap date. It's not something we could afford to do every date night. When I compare the meal I enjoyed last night to the countless sub-par meals that we've eaten at chain restaurants, though, the real value of the experience trumps the price. A meal at a nicer chain restaurant that included appetizers, cocktails, entrees and dessert would easily cost us $50 or more. And for what? Mediocre meal made with processed ingredients, poor atmosphere, and money that goes to corporate headquarters. I would easily forgo a few of those poor meals, eat better food at home, and save my money for a night at Peterson's. We'd spend more, yes, but we'd be guaranteed a meal of high quality food from a restaurant that strives to use local whenever possible. We'd be guaranteed a pleasant and attentive atmosphere from a staff that is truly glad we're there. And our money would stay here in the community, sending a message that we prefer and are willing to support local restaurants.
My main message here is that it is possible to be frugal and stick to a budget and yet still enjoy some of the nicer experiences out there. If there's a restaurant you love, seek them out on-line. Are they on twitter? Do they have a newsletter or a facebook page? Keep an eye out for special offers in your community that can make that special place just a bit more affordable. Consider swapping a few visits to an unmemorable restaurant for some meals at home and put the money you save towards a really special evening out.
If you have any similar experiences I'd love to hear them. After all, you know how I love to read about a good meal!