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Restaurants, diners making most of fare deals

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Editor's Note: Don’t break the Bank - The Journal shows you how to save in this series. Part 1: Dining out - today Part 2: Clothing - Tuesday Part 3: Entertainment - Wednesday Good times or lean times, food is a necessity, a pleasure and a comfort. And, even in the tough economy, local restaurants and their patrons are finding creative ways to continue to enjoy dining out. One of the most popular ways to get a deal is through coupons and discount promotions. At Strings Italian Café in North Auburn, co-owner Melinda Cathers said the eatery offers coupons in the yellow pages and Val Pack mailers. “People like to see dollar value off,” Cathers said. “Coupons on Val Pack are 15 percent off for the whole party.” Strings’ newest promotion is a10 percent discount lunch club card, she added. Luigi’s Pastaria in Downtown Auburn offers its coupons through the Internet. “We have a Web site that has all our coupons,” owner Terri Galli said. “We send out a weekly newsletter with promotions to more than 10,000 homes.” Recently, customers could get a complementary crème brulee, “our most popular dessert,” Galli said. “All they had to do was mention the e-mail.” This month’s e-mail special is a $5 poker chip toward any meal. Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery e-mails promotions to customers and also puts coupons on yelp.com. “We get a lot of Bay Area people who check yelp and then they stop in,” owner Alexandra Hastings Carnahan said. “We have a five-star rating on yelp.” Another big way diners can save money is to plan their evenings out around weekly specials. At Strings, it means spotlighting a tried-and-true favorite. “Wednesday night is all-you-can eat pasta for $7.99,” Cathers said. “That comes with soup, or salad and bread.” Luigi’s offers its version of all-you-can-eat pasta on Monday nights, at $8.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 12 and seniors. Often customers save by sharing an entrée. Tsuda’s, which specializes in a deli menu, offers a half sandwich and salad selection. “That’s been really popular,” Carnahan said. Strings charges $3.99 for splitting a meal. “They split the dish on two plates and for $3.99 the second person gets unlimited salad and bread,” Cathers said. Splitting a meal is something Lou La Bonte’s sees frequently. “We do that a lot,” owner Judi La Bonte said. “(Customers will) split a sandwich, a plate of spaghetti or the entrée.” La Bonte’s also offers half-portion salads. Families can save money by going to restaurants that have kid-friendly choices. Strings and Luigi’s have weekly kids-eat-free specials (one child’s meal per paying adult entrée). Lou La Bonte’s and Tsuda’s have children’s menus, with smaller portions at reduced prices. “(Tsuda’s) kids meals are healthy and organic,” Carnahan said. “We have a prize wheel. If kids finish their lunch, they can spin the wheel and win a prize.” Many restaurants also offer senior discounts. Hunger pangs in late afternoon? Check out the possibilities for early bird specials. Other ways restaurants are finding to bring in customers is through special events. “(At Strings), we do a lot of raffle prizes and donations so people can help out a good cause and come in and get a good meal at the same time,” Cathers said. Strings also has winemaker’s dinners, giving customers a chance to try local wine pairings with their meals. And don’t forget takeout. At Luigi’s, customers can get a takeout special for two. “It changes weekly,” Galli said. “Currently it is lasagna, garlic bread and salad for $20. That includes tax. They come in with a 20 dollar bill and they have a great meal.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.