Monday, September 1, 2008

Prix-Fixe for Penny Pinchers

The often-mispronounced prix-fixe concept is popular for a reason: You get to taste several items on upscale menus teeming with appealing choices, and you leave feeling just right, thanks to the scaled-down portions. That is, if you can afford it. Many prix-fixe menus can run well over $100, leaving the average diner out of luck. Fortunately, some neighborhood spots have found a way to keep it cheap; these restaurants offer multi-course meals for under $35.

May Street Market
This tucked-away restaurant in West Town offers a full three-course meal every single night of the week for just $32. May Street Market's menu changes seasonally to reflect the freshest ingredients. Currently the fixed menu boasts plenty of fresh, summery foods like Sangria Summer Salad with peaches, berries and oranges. You can choose from three entrees including the Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, grilled organic pork chop or glazed Maine salmon. The most difficult part might be deciding between desserts. The strawberry shortcake with chantilly cream is a refreshing summer treat, but the Market's flight of cupcakes, including chocolate with peanut butter icing, lavender vanilla with Earl Grey icing and carrot with orange ginger icing is just too good to pass up.

La Donna
At $19.95, this just might be the cheapest three-course meal in the city. Every Wednesday night, La Donna gives its guests a chance to pick three items (appetizer, entree and dessert) straight from its regular menu. This is no easy task when the restaurant offers an entire book of traditional Italian fare. If you're not sure where to start, try the gorgonzola-stuffed mushrooms or opt for a classic caprese salad. Once you've whetted your appetite, it's time to move on to La Donna's rustic pasta dishes. Risotto is one of the more popular dishes here and La Donna offers three different takes on the stuff. We recommend the Risotto Della Donna with butternut squash, goat cheese and fresh sage (regular price, $18.95). Other essential entrees include breaded-pork chops, veal medallions and tilapia filets.

A longtime favorite with Lakeview locals, Deleece serves its loyal patrons a steal of a meal every Monday and Tuesday night. For just $20 you get a full three-course dinner, complete with options. The restaurant provides a little something for every palate with its selection of meat, fish and veggie dishes. Past entrees have highlighted grilled salmon with avocado and jasmine rice, basil-ginger chicken with goat cheese and stuffed peppers with sweet corn, chihuahua cheese and refried beans. Deleece's sister restaurant, Shochu, also offers a prix-fixe deal on Wednesdays and Sundays for the same price. Meals to look forward to at this Japanese-inspired restaurant include teriyaki chicken with asparagus and jasmine rice and New York steak with fingerling potatoes.

Leave it to the French to do prix-fixe right. This classic brasserie can make the worst Monday better with its three-course special. For $28.95 you get full reign of Marche's regular dinner menu. The meal includes any appetizer or salad, one entree and a dessert. The special is also available Wednesday evenings. In addition to its twice-per-week dinner deal, Marche offers a fixed lunch all week long for $18.95.

Lula Cafe
Lula's idea of a good meal is one that comes straight from the farm. Stop in to this Logan Square spot on a Monday night when the restaurant cooks up a three-course, farm-inspired meal. The fixed menu is $28 per person and includes the standard appetizer, entree and dessert. Because Lula's menu changes so frequently, you never know what you're going to get. Past prix-fixe menus have included marinated cucumbers and chioggia beets in red wine vinaigrette, lamb meatballs with borlotti beans and eggplant-pepper caponata. Desserts have been just as seasonally sweet with treats like the blackberry linzer torte, prepared with candied walnuts and ice cream. Entrees from the restaurant's regular menu range from $16 to $25.

Chef of Sola, Carol Wallack, likes to get crafty with her prix-fixe dishes. Every month Wallack highlights a new ingredient by incorporating it into each course on her $30 menu. Currently, she's crazy about peaches and she's serving them up in a baby arugula salad and a blueberry and peach tart. Wallack is always looking for innovative ways to use new ingredients. If you let her know your favorite, you just might see it featured on one of her upcoming menus. Sola's prix-fixe special is available Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

This article first appeared on Centerstage.

1 comment:

Etiquette Bitch said...

yay! thanks for the prix-fixe tips. i didn't know ladonna had one -- that's one of my favorites. i love that they let you pick the 3 items -- hard when your date is a vegetarian. thanks for the tip, EC!