As today’s economy  becomes increasingly characterized by clipping coupons and “staycations,” people are finding it harder to justify a nice dinner out.  I’ve created a quick system that I call my ‘One in Four.’  If a restaurant passes one of these four tests, we can go.

1)      Is it listed on opentable.com?  This is a fantastic site that lists thousands of restaurants throughout United States, and abroad.  Once you locate your city, you search for restaurants alphabetically, by cuisine, or by neighborhood.  Pick a date & time, book it, and when you check in at the restaurant, you are awarded 100 points.  Sometimes restaurants award up to 1000 points for an odd seating date and time.  After 2000 points, you earn a $20 dining cheque for your next meal out.

2)      Can you get a gift certificate for it on restaurant.com? This site allows you to purchase $25 gift certificates for as little as $2 if you catch an 80% off sale.  Watch the restrictions and fine print but we’ve used a lot of these to discover new restaurants and enjoy past favorites.

3)     Is it in the Entertainment Book?  Every year, students from seemingly every private and public school start peddling the infamous Entertainment Book.  Not only does it have great deals throughout the book, but if you register your card online at entertainment.com, you can receive weekly specials about local restaurants.

 4)      Is it a St. Louis Originals restaurant stlouisoriginals.com ? Anyone can register for a St. Louis Originals Reward card at any of the 40 participating restaurants.  Use the rewards card every time you dine at any of the fabulous locations and accumulate 1 point for every dollar spent.  Accumulate 150 points and receive a $10 gift certificate. The following cities also participate in the Originals program. Birgmingham, Columbia, Charlotte (coming soon), Kansas City, Louisville, Tuscon and Twin Cities.

So, tuck your guilt back in your wallet, make a reservation tonight and enjoy your meal!