So, we all need to eat. And once in a while we like to treat ourselves to something a little different from the usual fare at home.
But with the recession forcing us to make choices about how we spend our money, something’s gotta give. And, according to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 82 percent of us said that dining out would be easy to dump.
On the other hand, that same survey said 75 percent of diners would support restaurants more frequently if they offered savings on less busy days of the year.
And that’s why restaurants — from fast food chains like Arby’s to local independents like Hollyhock Hills to high-enders like Sullivan’s Steakhouse — are responding with discounts to entice diners. Off-peak pricing. Small-portion options. And boomer-friendly 55-and-old specials.
Check out this list of some the money-saving offers we found in the area:
Applebee’s, 20 Indianapolis-area locations
Its 2-for-20 deal includes a choice of one of four appetizers to share and two entrees from a list of a dozen for $20 a couple. Pair the $7.49 buffalo wings appetizer with the $9.99 7-ounce sirloin steak and a $ 9.99 fiesta lime chicken and save $7.50.
Arby’s, all locations, www.arbys.com
Arby’s Wednesday FREEbies program through August 26 features a different deal each week – either a free sandwich with a drink purchase or a free orange cream swirl shake or FruiTea with the purchase of a sandwich. .
Denny’s, 14 Indianapolis-area locations
The 24/7 store has a $3.99 Value Slam, a mini-version of its $5.99 Grand Slam breakfast meal, with two eggs and two pieces of bacon or sausage. Also, diners age 55 and older can order from a “senior” menu offering smaller prices for smaller portions.
Dufour’s in Irvington
Dufour’s has a 5-for-$5.50 breakfast special featuring more than a dozens items, including potato pancakes, sausage, bacon, cinnamon apples, French toast sticks, English muffin and bagels. They also have $6.89 lunch specials Tuesday through Friday, which usually include soup and a sandwich.
The historic Hollyhock commonly sells it family-style fried chicken, gulf shrimp and broiled fish dinners for $18.95 to $20.95, but is offering smaller-portion “plate dinners for early eaters and those with a lesser appetite” for $11.95 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Children ages 10 and younger pay $5.95. The meal includes entree, salad, vegetables, bread, dessert and drink.
Logan’s likes to boast about its 11 meals priced at $10.99 or less everyday, but it goes even deeper with the discount all day Monday through Wednesday, and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, offering two adult meals for $13.99. As always, the peanuts are free.
Loon Lake Lodge
Diners 60 and older get a 15 percent discount after 6 p.m. every day, and kids 12 and younger eat free from the kids’ menu on Tuesdays with a paid adult meal of $16.95. But one of the best deals in town has to be the Lodge’s hand-cut, USDA 6-ounce filet with two sides for $9.95 on Thursdays after 6 p.m. A retooled menu also features 30 lunches from $6.95 to $9.95.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
Maggiano’s “Today and Tomorrow” promotion for $12.95 lets customers choose one dinner from a list of pasta dishes for dining in and then select another to take home. The deal starts at 3 p.m. daily and runs through Friday. .
Marco’s Cheap Meat Night on Tuesdays is legendary. For $10.99 you get a 6-ounce filet with a baked potato, rice or pasta and a salad or soup.
McDonald’s, 1020 Broad Ripple Ave., (317) 257-4649.
This Mickey D’s in Broad Ripple rolls back the prices after 5 p.m. every Thursday for Family Night. Hamburgers are 39 cents and cheeseburgers are 49 cents.
MCL Restaurant and Bakery, eight Indianapolis-area locations
Mabel’s Value Plate offers reduced entree portions, two sides and bread for $5.15 to $5.65. Entree choices include roast beef, beef and noodles, chicken thigh and leg, chicken and rice and baked tilapia. You’ll save an average of about $3.
O’Charley’s, 12 Indianapolis-area locations
O’Charley’s 2-for-$20 special on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday includes two selections from a choice of five entrees, plus two beverages (soft drink, tea, coffee), and rolls. The restaurant claims the savings could be up to $10.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Order off the Prime Time Menu from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday for $35 a dinner. You get soup or salad, a choice of an 8-ounce filet, mixed grill, stuffed chicken or salmon, one side, dessert and a drink.
Santorini Greek Kitchen
Santorini offers a family-style, four-course meal on Sundays for $20 for adults, $10 for kids 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger – for a meal valued at about $28. A main course of gyros and beef, chicken and pork souvlaki with Greek potatoes, Mediterranean green beans and rice pilaf, is preceded by a sampling of 10 appetizers and a Greek salad. Dessert is a platter of galaktabouriko (Greek custard), rezogalo (rice pudding) and baklava.
Scotty’s runs money-saving specials nightly but the big one starts at 5 p.m. on Sundays when two diners get one appetizer, two entrees and one dessert to share for $20. Kids 12 and younger eat free on Tuesdays and Sundays. Scotty’s Lunch@Night deal starting at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday offers 15 lunch specials with a soft drink or tea for $6.
SHelbi Street cafe & Bistro
The “two” in this 2-for-$20 deal includes the chef’s choice of the entree and either an appetizer, salad or dessert. Depending on how the chef pairs the items a diner can save from $1 to $8.
Smokehouse on Shelby
The Smokehouse’s Family Dinner for Four includes a choice of 1/2 slab of ribs, 1/2 chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork or smoked meatloaf, six sides, fried biscuits and apple butter and four fountain drinks for $39.95.
Steak ‘n Shake, 35 Indianapolis-area locations
The burger chain’s Snack Pack special includes a steakburger, half order of french fries and a drink for $2.89. The restaurant also advertises four meals for under $4.
St. Elmo Steak House
The nationally famous independent steak house offers a three-course special every Sunday for $30. For starters you get a choice of a house salad or St. Elmo’s famous shrimp cocktail. Entree choices are filet mignon, fresh salmon filet and bourbon chicken, served with redskin mashed potatoes and vegetables. For a sweet finish pick chocolate cherry bread pudding, creme brulee or cheesecake.
At this food court Asian grill, children 10 and younger eat free off the kid’s menu on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 4 p.m. with every adult entree purchased.
The “Summer of ’69” menu menu at the 1940’s Chicago-style steakhouse features a three-course dinner for two for $69. You get soup or salad, a choice of an 8-ounce filet, salmon, crab stuffed shrimp or roasted chicken, two sides and a dessert. The deal is good through Sept. 7.
Texas Roadhouse, six Indianapolis area locations
You can choose from 10 complete dinners (entree, two sides, fresh bread) for just $7.99 when you eat before 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Choices include 6 oz. sirloin, pulled pork, chicken critters, and more — plus three entree salads (no sides with these).
The Donut Shop
Sure, their donuts are yummy, but check out the cheap house specialties: spaghetti with meatballs $4.25, barbecue chicken breast $5.25, fried perch $4.99, gyro platter $5.25, pork chop $4.99, country fried steak $4.45 — each with two sides. Breakfast? Try one of the seven omelets under $5.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Oceanaire’s three-course special for $32.95 includes a choice of steamed mussels, New England clam chowder or spinach salad, an entree choice of Lake Superior whitefish, Dungeness crab cakes or saffron-tomato bouillabaisse shellfish fumet and a dessert choice of cookies and milk, chocolate mousse and strawberry-rhubarb crisp.
Yats, four Indianapolis-area locations
Owner Joe Vuskovich keeps it simple: huge servings from a daily menu of six to 10 cajun/creole dishes, plus two large slices of bread slathered with butter, for $5.50 — $4.50 for a half-order or $6.50 for a combination. Plus, there’s no wait staff to tip.