Blair A La Carte: How to eat high class for a low price

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Blair Dunbar, Columnist

Small plates seem to be all the rage these days. Modeled after the Spanish tapas, restaurants have begun serving up taste portions of internationally inspired dishes rather than traditional, one-plate entrees. The idea is to go in and taste a variety of foods.

Found, 1631 Chicago Ave., was just named one of the best new restaurants by Chicago magazine. It too is a small-plate restaurant. You can get a plate of fried oyster tacos with bacon and tomatillo, and pair that with a selection of three to five cheeses.

Other small-plate restaurants in Evanston include The Cellar, 820 Clark St., and The Stained Glass, 1735 Benson Ave. Unfortunately, although these tapas-style places are delicious, they are also expensive. As most of us know, college students are poor. So how do you get a delicious dinner without emptying the wallet?

First and most importantly, small plates, as strange as it sounds, are supposed to be shared. Sure, you could most likely finish a salad and some oyster tacos by yourself, but then you might still be hungry and your bill is already at $20. Two people, or three, means the more new foods you can try, the fuller stomachs and smaller bills with which you’re left. For example, a delicious deal my boyfriend and I shared at The Cellar consisted of smoked salmon flatbread, small Caesar salad, lobster mac and cheese and bacon-wrapped dates. Total per person? $16.15. My boyfriend and I eat a lot, and we were both full.

Secondly, order filling foods. Yes, the tempura vegetables are delicious, but if you are on a tight budget, it might be better to order something with a little more protein, like shrimp and grits. The more filling the plates are, the less you have to order and consequently, the less you have to spend. Why drop $3.75 on French fries when you can order a micro burger for about the same price?

Third, avoid ordering wine and beer. Yes, the beverage lists at these places are extensive. No doubt they offer quality alcohol, but alcohol, particularly good alcohol, is expensive. You’re better off skipping the $6 glass of wine and spending those $6 on some delicious food.

College students are on a tight budget, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a nice meal from time to time. Those nice meals also don’t have to cost a whole day or two’s pay. You just have to know how to order right. Next time you have a date or want to go out with some friends or just try some new, high-end food, don’t be afraid to drop by The Cellar, The Stained Glass or Found.