Friday, July 22, 2011

Restaurant Hacking

You're probably familiar with the term hacking. (Perhaps through that amazing 90's film Hackers?) But now a new definition has emerged: any kind of trick, skill, or shortcut that makes life easier and better.

There's crazy travel hackers who have been buying $1 coins from the Fed with credit card points and depositing the money in the bank, all the while racking up their flight points. And I'm inventing restaurant hacking. Here's how to eat out at great restaurants and never pay full price.

I love eating out, but paying the tab or eating at a sub-par establishment is painful. Thankfully one doesn't have to rely on word of mouth or even Zagat's anymore. (Though I do enjoy the Tables for Two column in the New Yorker still.) Now there's the internet!

First search for deals on aggregate sites. There's no use subscribing to each daily deal anymore. Boston has over 20 sites and every other day it seems like the deal is for a Brazillian blowout or teeth whitening. I like Deal Gator the best. The Deal Map is great for narrowing down your search (like restaurants in just your zip-code). Need a deal right now? Groupon Now has just launched, you can buy a Groupon and use it right away on your iPhone.

Next shop the Dig Deals and Phoenix Deals. These deals don't make it onto the aggregate sites because they are actual paper certificates that restaurants give to the papers in payment for advertising. This also, excitingly, means that you can use them for alcohol unlike other deals. The Dig, especially, carries some deals for top restaurants like Gaslight, Aquitane and Bella Luna. is the original deal site - I've been using it since 2004. There's a lot of catches though - you must spend a minimum amount that's more than the certificate and usually not good on Friday or Saturday. That said, they have a wide range of restaurants and you can use them right away. Even better, every week they have coupon codes that make things even cheaper. This week take 70% off $25 gift certificates with the code SWEET.

Before you click buy on any of these, you gotta check out Yelp. 5 stars? You got yourself a winner. 3 stars, you might want to try another place. Want to make sure the restaurant has vegetarian options? Is open? Has outdoor seating? Is in your price range? Yelp basically guarantees you never eat at an overpriced, crappy dining establishment ever again. Eat somewhere without checking at your own risk. And if you want to know the best places round here, just follow me.

Have your coupon? Checked your reviews? Now it's time to reserve your table. Less out of concern for actually getting a seat, but rather to rack up points on OpenTable. Every reservation completed gets you 100 points, and every 2,000 points gets you a $20 gift certificate to any of the restaurants on the site. Even better, eat a bit early or a bit late at some restaurants and you get 1,000 points. Do the math: two 1,000 point table reservations gets you a $20 gift certificate!

Hope that keeps ya'll busy! If not scroll down to the bottom of Beantownonthecheap for the full event calendar.

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