This is the first in a periodic series on how the global economic slow down is affecting local restaurants and what they are doing to combat it. First up: Jeffrey Buben, owner and executive chef at Bistro Bis and Vidalia. He’s also the recent “winner” of our obsessive chef search.
The Problem: Sales at Vidalia are down almost 20 percent from a year ago, says Buben. That would be bad enough, but the restaurateur is also getting hit from the other end—-with higher food costs. “It’s when you have inflation on the other end, that’s what clobbers you,” Buben says. But Vidalia, located smack in the middle of West End, has also seen its neighborhood change before its very eyes. People are younger, Buben says. They want cheaper dining options.
The Solution: Cheaper dining options—-at least for lunch. On Monday through Friday, Vidalia is offering a three-course lunch for $19.90; it includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. “They’re tasting portions, smaller portions than on the a la carte menu,” Buben emphasizes. Which is a good thing, since you may actually have to work afterward. (Well, those who still have jobs.) The lunch menu not only includes Buben’s famous shrimp and grits—-now available as a frozen entree for charity—-but also chef de cuisine R.J. Cooper‘s pork-belly Reuben sandwich, which may be the messiest, most delicious thing between two slices of (housemade) rye bread.