There’s no such thing as a free lunch—but there are plenty of discounted dinners.
Not all the meal specials in Asheville vanish when spendthrift tourists come to town. Although we’re in the off-season for gastronomic bargain hunting, many local restaurants are still offering deals that make dining out a less-pricey proposition.
Some of the best promotions are wine-related, which means folks who take advantage of them aren’t just getting a bottle on the cheap: They’re earning an affordable wine education. Half-priced bottle nights are a terrific way for aspiring oenophiles to make like industry insiders and acquaint themselves with unfamiliar wines at wholesale prices.
If you don’t have a yen for wine but still want to take advantage of the area’s most notable deals, it helps to have a child: Kids are the beneficiaries of some of the most generous giveaways on offer.
But the real secret to stretching your dining dollar is knowing when to go to which restaurant. That’s why we’ve put together a cheapskate’s calendar of specials, highlighting some of the best culinary deals available weekly in Asheville. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it guaranteed. Restaurants have the right to exercise whimsy in this realm, and often do. If a promotion draws enough diners, the eatery may suddenly—and sensibly—rescind its magnanimity.
Is it considered good parenting to inculcate your children in wonderfully fresh Cali-Mex cuisine, or are you setting them up for a long life of heartbreak, studded with disappointingly leaden burritos and unsatisfactory fish tacos? If you lean toward the former philosophy, get thee and thy offspring to Don Papa’s in south Asheville, which feeds kids for free on Mondays. Owned by the same family responsible for Papas and Beer, the lively Mexican restaurant features terrifically fresh takes on Cali-Mex classics.
Don Papa’s Mexican Grill
1996 Hendersonville Road, 684-4882
Forget Fridays. Serious penny-pinching gourmands dine out on Tuesdays, when restaurants are starved for their business and have the promotions to prove it.
Tuesday is one of three nights downtown diners can take advantage of Bouchon’s much-touted seafood steal: all the mussels you can eat for $12.95. (Amazingly, the restaurant has had to add a “no splitting” disclaimer to its Web site: Unless you’ve just gotten off the boat from Prince Edward Island, quibbling with the cost here is unseemly at best.) The first serving comes with frites. If this promotion appeals, mark your date book for Mondays and Wednesdays as well: fortunately for bivalve lovers, Bouchon isn’t stingy with its bargain, offering it all three nights.
62 N. Lexington Ave., 350-1140
Imagine finding a clearance bin stuffed with bottles of Ridge zins, Hogue merlots and lovely-for-summer Sokol Blosser white blends. That’s the scenario at Pomodoros on Wednesdays, when every bottle on the restaurant’s four-page wine list is 50 percent off. The Grecian-inspired eatery, which recently opened a South Asheville location, advertises the special as “an opportunity to expand (your) experience in food and wine pairing.” They’re not just whistling Zorbas …
1070 Tunnel Road, 299-3032
75 Long Shoals Road, 687-3884
Downtown’s Café on the Square gives frugal eaters four reasons to dine out, with specials available Monday through Thursday. But it’s the Thursday promotion that gets the nod here for being a spot more luxe than most edible deals. For $18, you can feast on a plate of tenderloin and crab-stuffed prawns. That’s right, they’re offering a sale on steak. Carnivores know these deals are rare indeed. Café on the Square has cultivated a reputation as a celebrity haven, and this special will at least help you eat like one.
Café on the Square
1 Biltmore Ave., 251-5565
If you’re set on saving money, it’s probably best to make a date with a kid on Friday. Most ritzy eateries shelve their specials on the weekends. But there’s always Moose Café, the vaunted home-cooking joint that does a brisk business in grapefruit-sized biscuits and crispy fried chicken. The restaurant makes its comfort food even more comfortable for families by offering it to children at the eminently reasonable price of free. Kids eat free every day after 4 p.m. (And really, with portions this sizeable, it could be the only meal they’ll need all day.)
570 Brevard Road, 255-0920
Diners who’ve gotten into the habit of Sunday brunching at Sunny Point in West Asheville would be well-advised to try the restaurant’s playful dinner menu—especially on Saturdays, when bottles of wine are sold at half-price. While the list here doesn’t rival the selection at restaurants that don’t sideline in stuffed French toast and cheesy grits, there are a few offbeat and organic gems available. Check out the black cherry-rich Chateau St. Jean merlot or the unabashedly fruity Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc.
Sunny Point Café and Bakery
626 Haywood Road, 252-0055
So people have been busy all week, scampering after your fourth order of mussels, uncorking your scandalously cheap wine and cleaning the last bits of tenderloin off your plate. Tonight is their night to enjoy well-priced food, thanks to the thoughtful special available at Sugo, the downtown Italian eatery that does a downright beautiful job with straightforward rustic flavors. Sugo chops 15 percent off hospitality workers’ food checks on Sundays, which makes it easier for F&B folks to enjoy the eatery’s well-chosen wine list.
90 Patton Ave., 251-5552