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Beyond Groupon: Online Cheapies and Freebies for Culinary Adventurers

By now, almost everyone knows about the Phoenix version of Groupon.com, the website where you can sign up to get e-mails on a mega daily deal. They've offered everything from waxing services at 75% off to $40 restaurant gift certificates for $20. We admit we anxiously await our e-mail from them every day hoping to score discount deals for our favorite culinary hotspots. But there's more to online life than Groupon.

Here are a few other websites you should check out for awesome local dining deals:

LocalDines.com - If you love trying new restaurants but feel totally put out when you drop a wad of cash on a place that turns out to be so-so, start here. Sign up and you can purchase a gift certificate to one of about fifty featured restaurants for half-price

We're not talking Chili's and Applebee's, either. They've got top-notch restaurants from 5th & Wine to Avalon to Eddie's House. (Tip: LocalDines often gives away free "Dines Dollars" which can be used to purchase gift certificates on the site through radio station contests and at parties, so be on the lookout.) 

Pros: Encourages you to try new places, great discount, free sign-up, good restaurant selection.   

Cons: Certificates expire after 3 months, you have to give your info to "The Man" and risk a buttload of spam.

YWaiter is an iPhone app that lets you purchase grub from participating restaurants including Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen, Lenny's Burgers, and Majerle's Sports Grill using stored credit card info. Click on a restaurant, place your order and checkout. Shake your iPhone and someone from the restaurant will contact you.

They also have a Rewards program where you can score free Amazon gift cards if a restaurant you suggest signs up for the YWaiter program through your e-mail link.

Pros - Quick and easy way to do takeout, possibility of free gift cards.

Cons - Very limited restaurant selection, need an iPhone, have to provide credit card info.

Restaurant.com - This website allows you to purchase discounted gift certificates for tons of restaurants including Mucho Gusto Mexican Bistro, Mad Chef Gastropub and Thai Basil. Get $50 of pasta for $25, $10 worth of sushi for $4, etc, etc.

Pros - No registration required, good selection of restaurants around the Valley, excellent deals.

Cons - read the fine print and bring friends...most certificates require a minimum table order that could easily be way too much food for two people. 

 

Dine4AZ.com - This locally run website aims to bolster the economy by encouraging people to dine out. Yeah, it seems counterintuitive to spend money on restaurants when people are getting laid off and losing their houses. That's why the site offers hundreds of coupons for cheap or even  free food -- you get discounted eats and all of those restaurants hopefully stay in business.

Pros: Great discounts, HUGE selection of restaurants from pizza to Chinese takeout, no sign-up needed to print coupons.

Cons: Lots of chain restaurants to weed through.     

Open Table - Ok, you're not going to get cheap food or discount coupons just for using this site. What you will get is an easy-peasy reservation to your favorite restaurant. This way, you can avoid the hateful dagger-eyes your sweetie will flash at you when you neglect to get anniversary dinner reservations on a Friday night...again. *gulp* Just find a restaurant on the site (Rokerij, BLT Steak and SKYE are among our faves), choose the date/time and enter your info to hold a table.

But wait, there's more.

Keep using the site -- and showing up on-time for your reservation -- and you'll accumulate Dining Rewards points that can be redeemed for free meals. Sweet!

You can also score reservations through PhoenixRestaurants.com, which offers online reservations, a few weekly coupons and a chance to win a $100 gift certificate if you sign up for promotional e-mails.   


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