It's Dine Out time starting on Friday and that means you're inundated with articles highlighting the "best" dishes and the "awesome" deals. But the truth is that the festival has gotten so big—over 330 restaurants this year—that any list is bound to just scratch the surface. Plus, given that the festival hasn't started yet, no one's tried any of the dishes (unless they're just recycling old dishes, which should be avoided).
So instead I'm going to try to instruct you to be like Apollo Creed. When the #1 ranked contender had to pull out of a title fight due to an injury, what did Apollo do? Did he go to the #2 ranked contender? No, he decided to take a chance on an unknown named Rocky Balboa and the result is that we were blessed with one of the worst films ever to win Best Picture (over Taxi Driver, no less!). To be fair, had Apollo taken the expected route he would have avoided getting his ribs broken by a barely literate palooka nor would he have ultimately been beaten to death in the ring in front of his wife while a crew of cornermen (led by the aforementioned palooka!) wearing Hugo Boss sweatshirts looked on. But I digress.
The point is that when you go for the underdog, good things can happen (at least in the short term). The mistake many Dine Out diners make is that they use it to leverage themselves in a fancier restaurant than they'd normally go to, a place that they've worked up in their mind to be some sort of dining nirvana. But what if you did the exact opposite? What if you, like Apollo Creed, chose a place you knew hardly knew anything about? Gave an underdog a shot, so to speak.
For example, what if you chose the Gramercy Grill On Arbutus St? I've driven by it literally 1000 times, but I've never stopped to see what the deal is. But for $34, I can see what they do with tuna tataki and truffle mushroom spaghetti. Or KAVU Kitchen Bar, which is located on Minoru in Richmond where you could swipe some hot North African Meatballs and then Brome Lake Duck Breast and then a carrot cake made with Goldschlager for $44. To be clear—I have zero idea if either of these are good options—I, like Apollo before me just flipped through the Dine Out site and sized up some of the menus of places I'm not familiar with. Isn't that more fun?
Just be careful with the Russian restaurants.