There are plenty of clever ways to lower the check at the country’s best restaurants. Here are F&W’s 10 top tips for dining out on the cheap.

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1.Find places that have a less expensive bar menu.

2.Eat at the bar alone (at places like Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Barbara, right): Instead of splitting a check for several courses and dishes, you can try the food yet stay within your budget.

3.Order two appetizers instead of an entree, they’re less expensive— and you get to sample more things.

4.Try a restaurant while they’re new and might still have a BYOB policy or a discount on price.

5.Go for lunch. It’s often easier to get reservations, as well.

6.Drink a glass of wine at home before your meal, and order just one glass with dinner. Or check to see what the restaurant’s corkage fee is, and bring your own bottle.

7.Ask about a mid-week prix fixe; some restaurants offer them, but may not advertise it.

8.Drink tap water: Sparkling is divine, but you’re at a restaurant to taste the food not the bottled water.

9.Be sure you know what a special costs before ordering.

10.Don’t arrive for dinner superhungry; you might be tempted to order more than you will eat.

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