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Analyzing Dine Out Boston, Part 1: $15 Lunches

Photo: Ristorante Villa Francesca/Official Site

Dine Out Boston, formerly known as Restaurant Week, kicks off this Sunday, March 16, and runs through Friday, March 28. The premise: Visit a restaurant that perhaps you wouldn't normally try and save a bit of money on a prix-fixe meal that hopefully resembles what the restaurant usually serves. Discover new places to love and hopefully return for regular meals at a later date. Unlike in past years, there are now three price tiers each for lunch and dinner, and restaurants have more freedom deciding how many courses to offer. As always, there are good deals and bad ones.

Eater Boston has combed through the available options at each price level and analyzed them based on three factors: roughly how much money you're saving (or not) based on the usual prices of the available dishes (or similar ones), the number of available options on the Dine Out Boston menu, and how realistically the options actually represent the restaurant's real menu. Point values were assigned to each restaurant for these factors, and ties were broken by a subjective look at the "interestingness" of the offerings. This listing does not factor in quality of the restaurants in general or quality of the particular dishes being offered. Also, keep in mind that restaurants may alter portion sizes, so even if something seems like a deal based on the regular menu price, the Dine Out Boston offering could show up half the size.

First, let's take a look at the lunch options available at the lowest price tier, $15. This is the first of a six-part series; check back later this week for the remaining lunch and dinner options. (UPDATE: Here are the $20 lunches, the $25 lunches, the $28 dinners, the $33 dinners, and the $38 dinners.)

Here are all of the places offering $15 lunch during Dine Out Boston. Several options have been omitted from Eater's analysis because they haven't shared their Dine Out Boston menus, regular menus, or both: The Dean's List (Boston), The Elephant Walk (Boston and Cambridge), Masa (Woburn), Venezia (Boston).


· Ristorante Villa Francesca (North End): Save around $5-$16 and choose from 17 options (lots of pasta choices), which are a solid representation of the regular menu.
· Aquitaine (Chestnut Hill): The best bet of the three Aquitaine locations. Save $15-17, choose from three options for each of three courses, and get hints of the regular menu. One of the entrees, the gnocchi parisienne, and a couple of the desserts are normally available, while some of the other options are specific to Dine Out Boston.
· Durgin Park (Faneuil Hall): Save $7-16 and choose from two or three options for each of three courses. All available options are on the regular menu. No word on whether you get to experience the restaurant's signature amusingly grouchy service.
· Osaka Japanese Sushi & Steak House (Brookline): Save $7-$15, choose from seven options (including sushi and hibachi), and get a good representation of the regular menu.
· Bambara (Cambridge): Save $3-11 and choose from the entire menu. A couple of options have a small supplemental price.


· Turner's Seafood Grill & Market (Melrose): Save $7-9 and choose from seven options, a few of which are on the regular menu.
· Samurai Boston (Back Bay): Save $8 but choose from just three options, each of which includes miso soup, a green (edamame, house salad, or seaweed salad), and a sushi combo.
· Q Restaurant (Chinatown): Save between nothing and $8 (get the hot pot for the best value), and choose from nine options, which are a good representation of the regular menu.
· Ole (Inman Square): Save around $6 and choose from six options, most of which are specific to the Dine Out Boston menu.


· Aquitaine (Boston and Dedham): Better off going to Chestnut Hill. At these two locations, you'll save $6-10 but only have four options to choose from, which aren't great representations of the usual menu.
· Zocalo: Save $3.50 and choose from six options, which are a good representation of the regular menu.
· Back Deck: Save $0-$6 and choose from six options, which are a good representation of the regular menu.
· Cheers (both locations): Absolutely avoid. There's one course available, four options from the regular menu, paired with a fountain soda. Depending on how much value you place on soda, you're actually losing money here, as the dishes are worth $12-14 on the regular menu.

· All coverage of Dine Out Boston on Eater [~EBOS~]