Restaurants eager to please in recession  FEB 03 2009

NY Times food critic Frank Bruni notes that in this down economy, it's easier to get reservations and deals at even the hottest restaurants as they struggle to remain profitable. And the service is less haughty.

"The attitude that a number of places used to have, they don't have that anymore," Ms. Rappoport said, her tone of voice communicating equal measures bewilderment and relief. "That attitude of 'we're doing you a favor,' that frosty condescending attitude -- I don't find that anymore. And I've experienced that change over and over again." Servers, she said, make double- and triple-sure that her table has everything it needs. Managers circle back to the table more often than ever to ask, with new urgency, if everything's O.K.

For opportunistic diners, there are at least three big advantages to this trend.

1. Great food at relatively reasonable prices.

2. Dining opportunities at great but previously unavailable restaurants at good times.

3. The chance to become a highly valued regular at your favorite restaurant. If they're doing things right and you support them when times are tough (visit often, tip well, etc.), they'll gratefully reward you in better times with reservations at prime times, VIP treatment, and dishes "courtesy of the chef".

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