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Eating Out Early and on the Cheap

Ylan Mui

The early bird apparently not only gets the worm, but also saves money.

Last weekend, one of our colleagues went out for brunch at Mosaic Cuisine & Cafe in Rockville and noticed several large parties. Being a journalist, she eavesdropped (just a little!) and overheard one diner's frugal-minded comment: "This was a great idea. It is so much cheaper getting together for breakfast than dinner."

So we called Mosaic chef and owner Thierry Jugnet to find out more.

He said that business on Friday and Saturday nights has been extremely volatile since the economy nosedived in the fall. One weekend the restaurant may get slammed with more than 120 dinners; the next, it may do half that. “No explanations," Thierry told me. "It's very difficult to understand exactly why.”

Brunch, however, has remained strong. He's tried to make the occasion feel more festive for guests by creating custom cakes for their morning events -- a pink or blue one for a baby shower, for example. The average price per person for brunch is $12 to $14, he said. Dinner runs between $18 to $20. (For a list of brunches in the Washington area, check out our Going Out Guide.)

This got me thinking about other ways to spend less when dining out. Lazy Man and Money suggests turning one meal into two. Sense to Save advises skipping the entree and just ordering appetizers and dessert. And CafeMom says restaurants are trying to save you money by offering smaller portions that are also less expensive.

Of course, the truly frugal option is to just invite your friends over and fry up a few eggs! Actually, the truly frugal option would be to go over to someone else's house and eat their eggs for free. But don't tell them we said that!

What are your secrets for saving money when eating out?

By Ylan Mui  |  April 9, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Ylan Q. Mui  
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