Almost 10 years ago, Jay and I started exploring new cities by exploring new food places by way of what we have affectionately referred to as the “Team M Progressive Dinner.”
Progressive dinners are not a new concept. In fact, they’ve been around for quite a long time, but usually refer to a dinner party with successive courses prepared & eaten in different homes. For Jay and I, we discovered that most of the time when we travel, we are typically in a new city or place for only 2-3 days at the most. So, really, that’s only 9 opportunities to try the locale cuisine…and that’s just NOT enough. 🙂
It all started years ago when we were day-tripping up to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s one of our favorites places on earth (especially because it was the birthplace of our daughter<3). A city like Asheville presented the common problem we are faced with…too many incredible food places and not enough meal times!?
So our solution was to start with breakfast #1, where we would split something (most likely the most recommended menu choice, etc.) and then move on to breakfast #2, and do the same. We would walk around, explore the city and then come back around for an earlier lunch #1, split & share, walk to lunch#2, and repeat for dinner #1 and #2. We typically save the most expensive, decadent places for the lunch options because most places have a more affordable lunch menu, but with the same high caliber of food. Thus, the Masanotti Progressive Dinner.
This is the way we’ve explored almost every city we’ve traveled to: New York City, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Sonoma, Charleston, Wilmington, Asheville, Black Mountain, Chicago and more.
Living in a thriving and growing city like Charlotte, this is even our preferred method of exploring our OWN ‘hood as well. Date nights are few & far between with a 2yr. old at home (#babysittersareexpensive) and there are SO many great restaurants — new & old — in Charlotte that it would take FOREVER for us to try all of them. So, the progressive dinner is the way for us to go try the latest & greatest a few at a time.
Here are some my tips for planning a super fun progressive dinner:
- Pick the Right Places: A typical progressive dinner includes one course at a different location: appetizers & drinks at one place, main course at another & dessert/after-dinner drinks at a third.
It’s easiest to pick a food theme to explore or places with a similar cuisine so it’s not completely random. I mean, I can eat all the food, all the time…but I typically don’t start with sushi, move on to lasagna and then finish with fried mochi ice cream…or do I? No. Kidding. Don’t do that, just pick places that have a similar thread.
- Examples of our PDs in Charlotte have included:
- Location & Travel Time: Try to plan the progressive dinner locations to be within walking distance or no more than a 10min. drive in between. As long as the 1st & 2nd places are close and the 3rd is near or on the way home, that works too!
If you’re pulling an all-day affair in an uber-walkable city like New York and plan for the breakfast #1, breakfast #2, etc., combo I mentioned above…THEN it’s probably better to space out the various food establishments a little more to allow for more digestion time.
- The Funds: Unless you’re #moneybags, you might want to space out the $$$$ places in between the $ or $$ places. Typically it’s cheaper to do apps or shared plates at the more expensive places and then you can get an entree at the cheaper ones. Or flip it around, just don’t go all 4-$ on all three stops, that’s just crazy…or if you do, invite me:) Eating the progressive dinner way should be easier on the wallet because you can split & share smaller plates at more places to try the best dishes!
We actually JUST walked in from our latest Date Night/Progressive Dinner in Charlotte, and it was good, but not great. We started at RockSalt for their $1 Oyster Happy Hour and it was SO. DANG. GOOD.
They never disappoint and have the best oysters. Then we walked across the parking lot with grandiose plans to do dinner at the new HOT spot, Flourshop, before ending with drinks at Dot Dot Dot or Amelie’s. BUT when the restaurant doesn’t take reservations or use the NoWait App, you usually end up with a wait. Ours was 45min. which typically wouldn’t be a problem, but 30 of those minutes we watched a 4-top sit EMPTY…the same 4-top that we were then sat at around the 45min mark. Something went down, I have no clue what…but we STARED at that empty table and it was pretty disappointing. The food was pretty good from what I could tell, but we had to order & eat SO fast (#babysitterproblems) that we really didn’t get to enjoy it…nor did we get to do dessert. But c’est la vie, we enjoyed the night with friends (ALWAYS the best part) and the food.
Which brings me back to the biggest point I made earlier…when you do a progressive dinner you HAVE to be able to roll with the punches. If you need help picking places for your own progressive dinner, shoot me an email! I really would LOVE to pair different places together for you to try…date night, girls’ night, family night, whatever!
Happy Eating & Happy Weekend ❤