How to Eat for Less With Dining Rewards Programs

Stretch your dollar, and your stomach, with some of Boston's most creative loyalty offers
February 11, 2014
by Scott Kearnan

You've seen them at your local sub shop: Wallet-sized cards prepared to be riddled with punch holes and promising offers of "Buy 5 subs, get a free Coke!" Or maybe "Order eight espresso drinks, get a ninth for free!" Rewards programs can be nice, but most of the time they're reserved for hole-in-the-wall pizza joints - or places you'd rather not frequent. But we found a few elevated options around town that offer similar ideas with finer food as the bait. Pledge allegiance to these loyalty programs. 

TicoStar chef Michael Schlow has created a "Tico Lunch Club" at his Latin American-inspired spot in the Back Bay, so you might want to make it your regular work week break spot. For every five lunch entrees ordered, you earn a sixth free from a selection that includes the "Kitchen Sink Chopped Salad" (pictured), braised short rib with potato puree and lime gremolata, and chorizo risotto with pasilla chiles and green onion. 

Las VentasThis South End market and counter service spot is not your average takeout shop. The Spanish sandwiches are truly stellar, including an El Cubano with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and house pickles; and a bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari with aioli). And here's another reason to discover this neighborhood find: buy 10 bocadillas, and your 11th will be a freebie. 

Del Frisco's. The upscale steakhouse chain isn't inexpensive, so it's good to know you can earn points for every dollar spent at the "Double Eagle Steakhouse" or its more casual Del Frisco's Grille. Each dollar equals one point, which can be accumulated and redeemed for discounts described here. You'll have to invest an initial $25 in the "Rare Rewards" membership card, but if you're a big meat eater that cash karma will come back around in no time. 

BOKX 109Sign up to become a "BOKXstar" at the American restaurant in Newton's Hotel Indigo, and you'll have access to a $29.95 nightly tasting menu that is available only to program participants. And there are a few other bells and whistles: like invitations to special wine tastings and entries to "staycation" sweepstakes. 

Da Vinci RistoranteWith a unique Italian menu that adds flourishes from chef Shingara "Peppino" Singh's Indian heritage, this Back Bay-South End straddling restaurant is worth a visit. But it doesn't hurt that you can register to receive your own unique bar code, accessible from a mobile phone, that you can use to gain loyalty points for discounts and redeem special promotions sent your way. Check it out here

Skipjack's. Sign up here to receive a membership card that earns points for each dollars spent at the Back Bay seafood spot, typically an after-work and business-casual scene. For every 200 points earned, you get a $20 credit. Tomorrow's power lunch just got cheaper. 

Smith & Wollensky. Joining the steakhouse's PPX Loyalty Program (that's "Person or Persons Extraordinaire") earns members priority seating, amuse-bouche for the table during each benefit, and tiered bonuses: from gift certificates and birthday steaks (Green level) to VIP chef's dinners for four (Gold level). And every year, randomly drawn winners receive even grander gifts, like a trip to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Check it our here

Abe & Louie's, Atlantic Fish, Coach Grill, and Joe's American Bar & Grill. These five restaurants comprise the "Back Bay Collection" of Tavistock Restaurant Group, which offers another easy-to-remember preferred guest program. Sign up here and start accruing points for every dollar spent across all properties; 300 dollars earns a $25 certificate. And though there's a $20 enrollment fee, you'll earn it back by receiving a $20 gift certificate. 

Papa Razzi. The "Bene" program at the local Italian chain offers another dollar-per-point system, offering $25 for 300 accrued. You'll also get a special treat during your birthday month.

Estelle's Southern CuisineAnd now, a little something for the beer lovers in the crowd. Join Estelle's Mug Club to undertake the following challenge: Consuming all 130 beers offered (between tap, bottles and cans) in 180 days. You're limited to five per day, and Estelle's will electronically tally your list to keep you apprised of what you still need to sip. The prize? An engraved 25-ounce mug that will be housed at Estelle's awaiting your arrival - and will entitled you to pay only pint prices for filling up the super-sized stein. Drink up.