Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Restaurant Bargains

Embarrassed to pull out a restaurant coupon? Try this new system.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: May 5, 2011 - 10:08 AM

Is there anyone out there who feels too embarrassed to use a restaurant coupon from Groupon, Living Social or because they think it looks too cheap? Maybe on a date? 

Northeast Social Club / Photo by Tom Wallace

Dealspotter Kiersa Carlson has a solution. A new service called ReservePerks  lets you save 30 percent at six local restaurants and it's coupon-free. Here's how it works: You make a reservation at the site and pay $10 on a credit card. After you reserve, the restaurant gets an email stating that the check connected to your reservation should be discounted.

So far only a handful of restaurants are participating since the program is so new: Joe's Garage near Loring Park in Minneapolis, Santorini in Eden Prairie, Sunsets of Woodbury, Sunsets of Wayzata, Murray's Steakhouse downtown Minneapolis. Northeast Social Club in NE Minneapolis and Rinata in Uptown.  

One advantage that this discount program has over the coupons is that the 30 percent applies to the whole bill, instead of coupon for $25 or $50. That's a nice advantage if you're part of a larger group. One more advantage: the first reservation is free.

Carlson said she liked treating a girlfriends to a meal without them knowing she got a discount. Who else likes the idea of coupon-free discounts? Guys on dates? A couple treating the in-laws to dinner? Employee treating the boss?  Reply on the blog or email me at

Restaurant discounts of 30% starting at 10 a.m. today

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 12, 2011 - 8:35 AM

Be at your computer ready to buy today at 10 a.m., when Twin Cities Originals releases its latest batch of discounted gift cards. Save 30 percent at restaurants such as Afton House Inn in Afton, Biella's in Excelsior, Murray's in Minneapolis, Luci Ancora and St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul, and San Pedro Cafe in Hudson, Wis. Each restaurant offers about 10 $50 certificates and 10 $25 certificates at the discounted price. Certs at restaurants such as Luci Ancora usually sell out within minutes.

The list of TCO restaurants seems to be growing smaller. Recently, I sent an email to asking for a refund of the $25 I spent on a certificate to Town Talk Diner, which has closed. Within days I got a $25 gift card to use at any TCO restaurant.  

Other restaurant deals today: Crowd Cut's daily deal is $30 worth of food at the Edina Grill for $15. Kgb Deals offers a DVD set for $12 (regularly $24) that teaches the basics of cooking. It's called "Cooking for the Clueless."

Free pancakes today at IHOP

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 1, 2011 - 7:39 AM

Yes, there is such a thing as National Pancake Day, but I know of only one restaurant choosing to celebrate it by treating its customers to a "free" meal. IHOP restaurants nationwide (10 Twin Cities locations) are offering each guest a free short stack of pancakes in return for a voluntary donation to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals programs.



IHOP is hoping to raise $2.3 million this year for the children's charity. To find a local IHOP or to donate online, click here.

The freebie is offered all day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, March 1.

If you hear of other restaurants offering free flapjacks today, please add a comment.

Last day for BOGO pizza offer at Punch

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 17, 2011 - 1:30 PM

If it's good enough for Meryl Streep, it's good enough for many Twin Cities pizza lovers. When she was here filming "Prairie Home Companion,"  she ate at the Highland Park Punch Pizza and declared it the best pizza she has ever had.

If you haven't tried it yet, today is a good day to do so. Print off the coupon here and get a buy-one-get-one pizza free. You can use it for dine-in at all seven locations, but Highland Park doesn't allow the coupon for take-out. The other six locations do allow it. 

I gotta be honest--Punch's pizza won't wow you as a visual feast. 



Their pizza looks simple, almost bland. But the crust is chewy and flavor-rich. It's also one of the restaurants where the the phrase "we use the freshest ingredients" really means something. The tomatoes, the proscuitto, the cheese--all fabulous.  The pictured pizza, the margherita extra, is one of the best. It's hard to believer a pizza without meat can taste so good.

The BOGO offer ends tonight , Thursday, Feb. 17

Here's a bargain for a Valentine meal. Who else has one?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 10, 2011 - 9:19 AM

If you want to take your sweetie out for a nice Valentine's Day dinner, most restaurants with tablecloths and a waitstaff charge about $70 per person for a prix fixe meal. Hell's Kitchen is offering a 5-course prix fixe meal for $45. The meal includes a "blossoming pho" soup starter, a classic Caesar salad, a pancetta-filled chicken followed by Chateaubriand beef tenderloin (vegetarian options available too). Dessert is no wimpy sorbet--it's both bananas foster and Creme Brulee to share.

The $45 includes a champagne toast and live music from 5-10 p.m., but the restaurant only has openings in 15 minute increments from 4 to 5 p.m.

But Monday is a school night and you might want to allow plenty of time after dinner to allow for other entertainment.

Any other restaurants want to share a bargain going on this weekend or Monday? Let us know about availability too.




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