January Restaurant Weeks: Eat Well and Save Money

As your stomach recovers from holiday overstuffing, you might not be too inclined to eat out. But restaurant associations in several major cities are doing their best to change your mind this January with a Restaurant Week. These “weeks,” which nowadays tend to last much longer (see New York’s eight-week “restaurant week” last summer), may be a great time to visit higher-end restaurants you’ve been meaning to check out – or to go to your local restaurant and trade in “the usual” for a 3- or 4-course meal. Participating restaurants offer fixed price meals for lunch and/or dinner, and more and more interesting restaurants have joined in on Restaurant Week throughout the years.

Below is a list of cities hosting Restaurant Week this January – with California and South Carolina both promoting state-wide events. All of these have their own dates and fixed prices, so check not only for your city but also to see whether your January travel plans match up with another Restaurant Week as well.

City Restaurant Week Dates Lunch Dinner
Alexandria (metro DC) January 13-22 $35
Baltimore January 20-29 $20.12 or 15.12 (3- or 2-course) $30.12
Charleston January 12-22 $20-40* $20-40*
Los Angeles January 22-27
January 29-February 3
$16-28* $26-44*
New York January 16-Feb 10 (M-F) $24.07 $35
Philadelphia January 22-27
January 29-February 3
$20 $30
Sacramento January 9-18 $30
San Diego January 15-20 $10-20* $20-$40*
San Francisco January 15-31 $17.95 $34.95
Toronto January 27-February 9 C$15-25* C$25-45*
Washington, DC January 9-15 $20.12 $35.12
Vancouver January 20-February 5 C$18-38*

*pricing varies by restaurant

While most participating restaurants don’t require reservations, Restaurant Week tends to bring in a lot of customers, especially to the more upscale restaurants, so it’s worth making a reservation if you can. Besides, with OpenTable co-sponsoring several of these events, participating restaurants tend to also be members of the online reservations program.

To ease the guilt from dining out after a food-packed holiday, consider the OpenTable points you’ll earn from making your reservation online and how much you’ll save at that restaurant you’ve been meaning check out when you take advantage of its Restaurant Week fixed-price menu instead. Bon Appétit!

On Amtrak: Ride Two or Three, Get a Summer One Free

Money Under Your Futon has covered the Amtrak Guest Rewards program several times before, noting that it is a spending-based rather than miles-based program, as it gives points according to the price of the ticket rather than the distance traveled.  The number of points needed for a free ticket also varies by line, with the Northeastern and the Acela being two of the most expensive points-wise.  But until March 13, 2010, riding on the Northeastern – which goes through Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston – or its expressed version, the Acela, may turn out to be a good deal: Amtrak is offering a free Northeastern round-trip ticket for the summer if you take 2 round-trips (or 4 one-way trips) between January 7 and March 13, 2010.  On the Acela, it takes 3 round-trips (or 6 one-way trips) to earn an Acela round-trip ticket for the summer.

Without this promotion, earning enough points for a free trip on the Northeastern or the Acela takes quite a while: to accumulate points, Amtrak Guest Rewards gives one point for every dollar spent on a regular Amtrak ticket and 500 points on the Acela; but a one-way trip on the Northeastern usually requires 3,000 points, and, on the Acela, a business class ticket (there are only business and first class seats on the Acela) goes for 8,000 points.  That is, for a free one-way ticket, you usually have to spend $1500 on Amtrak or take 16 one-way trips on Acela (or a mix between the two).  In contrast, with the current promotion, you only need 2 trips on the Northeastern or 3 trips on the Acela to earn a free round-trip ticket on the respective train.

For both promotions, the qualifying trips must be taken by March 13, 2010, and the free ticket will be valid for travel from June 1, 2010 and August 31, 2010.  Taking advantage of these deals may require some forward planning (and having an idea of your summer plans), but at least enrollment is easy.  To register for them, just log into your Amtrak Guest Rewards and, under the “promotion registration” tab, enter code 10810 for the Northeastern and/or 10710 for the Acela.