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Dine well for less with 'prix fixe'

Hi Janice: Here is my question for the day: Who offers a prix fixe dinner during the week and/or on weekends? We are especially looking for upscale restaurants.

-- Joanie, Amherst

Dear Joanie: Aren't you the smart one, though! Prix fixe (or fixed price) dinners are one of the best restaurant deals that exist if you want to eat (comparatively) moderately at an upscale restaurant.

A fixed-price meal allows you to order a multicourse dinner, often from a special printed menu, for an all-inclusive price. And that set price is a lot less than what you would pay if you ordered a la carte. Meantime, you're enjoying the ambience of a fine restaurant and food from fine chefs. Wine is usually extra; often coffee is, too.

Sometimes, but not always, the portions are slightly smaller than standard, but you will never notice the difference. Trust me on this.

Of course, most fixed-price meals are served during the week rather than weekends, since weekdays are less busy and the proprietor wants to fill up the dining room. (He's paying his staff and utilities anyway.) So adjust your schedule to the restaurant's and have a wonderful time. Here are a few ideas:

One prime fixed-price deal is offered Tuesday through Thursday by one of Western New York's premier restaurants, Daniels, 174 Buffalo St., Hamburg. It's a homey place in an old house, but owner/chef Daniel Johengen prepares food far above the level of simple "comfort food."

You order three courses chosen from a menu that offers four appetizers, five entrees and four desserts, for $28 -- close to the price of a single entree on the regular menu.

Daniels' fixed menu changes, but you may be able to partake of escargot in a homemade pasta sheet, grilled Tuscan-style steak with lemon truffle oil and roast potatoes, and profiteroles (small cream puffs) with caramel ice cream. Reserve a table ahead of time; you can decide whether to go prix fixe after you arrive.

The Rue Franklin (341 Franklin St.), a fine French restaurant in the Theater District, offers a $29 to $34 three-course menu from Tuesday to Thursday -- appetizer, entree and dessert. The menu changes here, too, but again the savings are considerable. You could pay close to $40 for a similar meal.

You need to reserve here, too. And you may be lucky enough to sit in the garden while the summer lasts.

They don't call it a "prix fixe menu," but the Dinner for Two at Romanello's South, 5793 South Park Ave., Hamburg, is just that. It's $44 or $49 for two people with a choice of entrees, soup or salad, ice cream and coffee. Choose from Italian favorites like veal Parmesan, manicotti and even a couple of steaks. And if you don't like all the accompaniments, and there is just one of you, you can order just an entree for $12.

There are many other fixed-price meals around town; let me know if you find a good one. In the meantime, aren't you glad you asked?

Next Week: Search for the ultimate lobster roll. Readers are invited to submit nominations.


Trying to find the best blue cheese burger? Wondering where you can take your cousin for a real risotto? Send your questions and comments to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at