Stayin' Alive

If you believe that 75% of the oil in the Gulf has somehow miraculously disappeared, you are also likely to be sanguine about the state of the economy, the prospects for the war in Afghanistan, the likelihood of meaningful energy or immigration reformâ?¦.fill in your own, favorite bad-news scenario. Restaurateurs (yes, this is the correct term) are taking no chances; they are resorting to both marketing and menu innovations to retain and recruit customers.

On the marketing front, one of the latest phenomena is the Groupon. You sign up, you get a daily blast offering a huge discount for a local restaurant (or other business), for which you must apply that day. (Validity of the coupon is several months, however.) You may need to wait a day until you can actually print out the coupon. Remember to take it with you. In fact, given the statistics on the numbers of people that never redeem gift certificates, the idea that you might not remember to use it at all may play nicely into the whole promotion. But to take the positive point of view, such distinguished venues as Biga on the Banks have participated. I recently bought a coupon for another well-known downtown restaurant--$30 worth of food for $15, not valid for booze--and will let you know how that turns out when I remember to redeem it. I put it in a particularly prominent place that I am perfectly capable of walking by daily without ever noticing againâ?¦

On the menu side of the equation, folks such as Silo are constantly coming up with new ideas. One of the latest is their 6-9-12 lunch menu on which all plates fall into one of the three, dollar-amount categories. $6, for example, will get you the crispy duck spring rolls, the spicy beef lettuce wrapsâ?¦The selection at $9 is a little better with the likes of the Black Angus burger, the portabella melt and the signature chicken fried oysters. And for $12, the choices widen to include shrimp and grits, chipotle pork tenderloin, ricotta gnocchi with braised duck ragoutâ?¦.all more money than a couple of tacos to be sure, but beginning to look pretty good for fine dining.

If your budget and your appetite are even larger, Silo also has a prix fixe lunch menu to tantalize you and/or your guests. It's a three-course format that includes a choice of three salads and four desserts, with the total price pegged to the entrée selection. For $19, wood-grilled Atlantic salmon, the chipotle pork and the shrimp and grits can be yours. At the $23 level, you can step on up to chicken fried oysters with angel hair pasta, the chef's daily fish selection, seared sea scallops with couscous or oak-grilled beef tenderloin with “loaded” whipped potatoes.

Support your favorite local restaurants, please, or we'll all be out of a job, and that I will notice.

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