In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus to guests as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multicourse inclusive meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte pricing in American restaurants (no booze, thus no buoying booze sales), but surely this trend also reflects the dining public's insistence on choice. We want options, balking at being told, "You get this appetizer, followed by this entree and culminating in this dessert. Deal with it."
The pendulum may be swinging back. These days a value-oriented, multicourse prix fixe sounds pretty good. Many American cities are running with this notion, offering a restaurant week (or month) during which participating restaurants offer inexpensive prix fixe menus. New York does theirs in the dog days of July, Sarasota conducts one at the end of May, Miami's is in August and September, and Orlando's Magical Dining Month is September. It's a win-win. Restaurants are full during traditionally slow weeks, potentially snagging new regular customers while raising awareness through shared publicity. Diners get to try unfamiliar restaurants relatively risk-free, keeping more cash in their pockets at meal's end.
In its ninth year, Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month warrants heading east on Interstate 4 for dinner. More than 75 of the greater Orlando area's best restaurants offer three-course meals for $33, excluding beverage, tax and gratuity. This includes heavy-hitters like celebrity chef-driven Todd English's Bluezoo and Roy's as well as all the sophisticated independent restaurants that crowd Winter Park and Orlando's trendy Thornton Park neighborhood. You can plan where you want to go in two ways: Go to orlandomagicaldining.com and read about the restaurants, or click through and base your decision on the posted menus. Make reservations, indicating you are coming for the special menu.
And this year, savvy diners can turn an evening out into an overnight stay-vacation with one of several Magical Nights dine-and-stay packages offered by participating hotels, starting at $149. A full list of restaurants, menus and hotel packages is available on the website.
Convention Area: Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, the Capital Grille, Cuba Libre, the Oceanaire Seafood Room, Spencer's for Steaks and Chops (Hilton Orlando)
Disney/Lake Buena Vista: Todd English's Bluezoo (Walt Disney World Dolphin), the Venetian Room (Caribe Royale), Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen (World Center Marriott)
Downtown: Funky Monkey Wine Company, Kasa Restaurant & Bar *, Mingo's *, Maxine's on Shine, Citrus Restaurant, the Boheme (Grand Bohemian Hotel)
Restaurant Row: Bistro CloClo *, Eddie V's *, Dragonfly Sushi, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Seasons 52, Roy's Restaurant
Universal/CityWalk: Emeril's Orlando, Emeril's Tchoup Chop, Bice Ristorante and Mama Della's Ristorante (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel)
Winter Park and North: Luma on Park, Mitchell's Fish Market, Chez Vincent, Luigino's Restaurant, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse * (Altamonte Springs and Longwood locations)
Surrounding Areas: Le Coq Au Vin, K Restaurant, Texas de Brazil *, Yuki Hana Japanese Fusion *
* New to Magical Dining Month
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.