Summerlicious is an annual restaurant event in Toronto. During Summerlicious, participating restaurants offer special lunch and dinner menus where guests can have lunch for $15, $20 or $25 and dinner for $25, $35 or $45 – all of which include an appetizer, main and dessert but not drinks, taxes or gratuity. Whether dinner is $25 or $45 depends on the quality of the restaurant.
Chain restaurants are often shunned from the selection process, and many high-end city favourites participate in Summerlicious. Other cities are starting to realize the advantages of such promotions, as Ottawa recently offered special restaurant deals during its winter festival, Winterlude, where restaurants such as Atelier offered a similar style of prixe-fixe menu at a reduced cost.
My friend Melanie and I headed to Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar, which is on the higher-end of things. Here, a full meal for one would ordinarily cost around $100 not including any drinks. On this evening, our separate tabs were just over $80 after tax, not including tip but including…several drinks.
Portion sizes are expected to shrink slightly and key ingredients may be downgraded under a Summerlicious menu. Wildfire Steakhouse’s dinner menu is posted online (which restaurant ordering slowpokes like me are always very grateful for). One can easily see the regular surf and turf main ($55) includes an 8-ounce filet mignon and full lobster tail, while the Summerlicious portion (one-third of an entire $45 meal) is a 4-ounce beef tenderloin and a 1/2 Nova Scotia lobster. Appetizers and desserts are similar (bocconcini in the Caprese salad as opposed to Fior di latte mozzarella) and may be scaled down in selection. In other cases, the Summerlicious offerings may be worlds apart from what’s offered on the regular menu.
Our lovely server Barbara brought us bread and tasty homemade hummus while we made up our minds. We each had the surf and turf followed by New York cheesecake, while I had the shrimp martini and Melanie tried the grilled calamari to start. The shrimp martini came with a zesty citrus-infused vodka seafood sauce and Melanie enjoyed her first taste of grilled calamari. Suggested wine pairings for the Summerlicious selections were also listed on a nearby card, which we took full advantage of. I also pulled the same greasy weasel trick my sister Hannah likes to pull on other diners, waiting for the other person to flail about while trying to pronounce some odd wine selection and then gleefully saying, “I’ll have the same!”
To start, a caesar, followed by 2007 Da Luca Primitivo-Merlot and for dessert some wonderful grown-up Iced Cap called a Pick Me Up that Barbara had the bartender concoct for us using Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, Disaronno and espresso. We shared a pot of spicy drawn butter and much of the main was spent in silence as we focused on cracking shells and gnawing on lobster legs. My beef tenderloin was rare, cut like butter and was served on thick mashed potatoes. Dessert was your average New York cheesecake, but that was exactly what I wanted.
These types of restaurant promotions are phenomenal. They allow us broke-ass normies to experience food and restaurants we’d never be able to afford otherwise, and the restaurants are able to pull in customers during the slowest times of year. Toronto also produces Winterlicious for the same lull that’s seen during the colder months when no one dares venture outside.
Contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences. Check out her website at www.heatherrosewriting.com.