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Dinner on a dime: Restaurant Week offers discounted dishes to Columbus diners

Save the pizza party and Ramen noodles for another day, during Columbus Restaurant Week, penny-pinching college students can feast for cheap.

Monday through Saturday, more than 50 Columbus restaurants will offer three-course meals for $15-$35, depending on the restaurant. The biannual event, hosted by “614 Magazine,” benefits not only the customer and restaurant, but a $5,000 donation goes toward the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

The list of restaurants includes upper-echelon eateries such as Hyde Park, Lindey’s and Mitchell’s Steakhouse. The three restaurants that offer full meals at the lowest fixed price are the Short North’s La Fogata Grill, Cantina Laredo, located at Polaris, and Grandview Heights’ Aab India Restaurant, all of which feature a full meal for $15.

Each restaurant offers two or three options for each course. At Aab India Restaurant, located at 1470 Grandview Ave., one can start with an appetizer of chicken, vegetable or paneer pakora (fried chicken, veggies or cheese cubes), nan or garlic nan (traditional Indian bread) and a choice of five different entrees, including popular dishes chicken tikka masala and saag paneer. In total, these meals would cost $18-$22 before a tip is added.

Monika Dhillon, manager of Aab India, said the restaurant chose to offer meals at the lowest price point to give students a chance to try something new at an affordable price.

“Some people are afraid to try different foods, such as Indian food, so this is a great opportunity for them,” Dhillom said. “It’s an amazing price.”

Cantina Laredo, located at 8791 Lyra Drive, offers upscale Mexican food. The first course is either chili con queso or quesadilla de polo. The main dish is a choice of chipotle chicken, spinach or chicken enchiladas, stuffed chiles or the fish of the day. And for dessert, flan or mango tres leches (a Mexican-style cake). Outside of Restaurant Week, the same meal would cost $24-$27.

Jason Brown, manager at Cantina Laredo, said he thinks people miss out on their food because the location is “tucked behind Benihana,” and he hopes Restaurant Week will help people discover it.

“You get the maximum quality for your dollar,” Brown said. “We’re the best Mexican (restaurant) in Columbus.”

Molly McBride, a fourth-year in hospitality management and Cantina Laredo employee, said its menu offers better food than something found at campus-area Mexican restaurants.

“Our Restaurant Week menu is a great deal because we have more high-end items,” McBride said. “It’s definitely better food than you’re gonna get at an El Vaquero, or somewhere like that.”

Colin Baumgartner, communication and marketing director at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, said Restaurant Week is a special event because the food bank receives a $5,000 donation no matter how many people take part. For every dollar donated, the food bank distributes $8 worth of groceries, which equals $40,000 worth of grocery products with the guaranteed $5,000 donation. The contribution is near $300,000-worth of groceries over the last three years.

“It’s really kind of a win-win-win situation,” Baumgartner said. “The restaurants get people in, the food bank benefits from the charitable donation and the customers get pretty good deals in the process.”

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