I’m sure you’ve all heard of social coupons– Groupon, LivingSocial, and a few of the  less popular entities I’ve only just learned about like Seize the Deal and Moocho (just for college students). While these sites seem to increasingly be basing their daily steals on laser hair removal (c’mon, Groupon, really?) and auto detailing, they historically have and still semi-frequently do offer half-price vouchers to restaurants.

In truth, it’s better to look at these vouchers as “X dollars off” rather than as being half-priced, because by the time you get to the restaurant, you’ll forget that you paid for it a month ago and almost certainly go over your limit, even before tax and tip. Still, these coupons offer a great reason to try new places, and in the case of my broke-college-self, dine in places I couldn’t otherwise afford without thinking about the pricetag once I’m there.

Take Valentine’s day (or, in holiday crowd avoidance honesty, the Friday after) for example. We’d had a LivingSocial coupon to Selba for a long time and even tried to go the month before, but like the uncivilized creatons we are, didn’t realize the establishment all but requires reservations. So, we planned ahead for this unholiday, and arrived at 7 on Friday.

Perhaps it’s something I’ll grow into with age, but I really can’t stand exceptional service. I mean it. I understand how finer dining works (laugh all you want, the atmosphere in Selba is a big step from say, The Melting Pot, which sort of caters to the less comfortable with this sort of thing), but there is no way I can just continue a personal conversation over someone silently attempting to refill my water! Maybe one day.

Awkwardness aside, the food was fine. I ordered the side green salad (manakintowne lettuces and lemon-thyme vinaigrette) to start, and it was just what I expected– light and very cleansing. I might not have gone with this choice had I known that there was a miniature version plated with my entree.

For the main course, I ordered the roasted vegetable wellington, which specifically, is “Roasted carrot, shiitake, Hubbard squash, black garlic and beet greens wrapped in brick pastry with marble potatoes and vegetable demi-glace.” I’ve had my eye on some vegetable wellington recipes lately, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to try.  The mushrooms, squash, and black garlic played very well with each other, but the impermeable nature of the brick pastry meant that the insides stayed try– I felt the filling would’ve really benefited if it could soak up some of the demi-glace (I know this only because, blasphemously, the last few bites marinated in my fridge over night, and man!). The marble potatoes, on the other hand, were swimming in it, and undoubtedly the best thing on my plate! They had a very delicate crisp to the outside and were cooked to a perfect level internally.

My date ordered the vegetarian baked pasta (mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, tomato ragout, chickpea ditalini pasta, house-made mozzarella and feta), and while it wasn’t a far cry from many other house pasta dishes, it was yummy.

The atmosphere was extremely loud the first time we tried to go, but this time, it was pretty calm. The decor was swanky, and our server was… just doing his job and not treating us like college students. All in all, a fun “fancy” experience but I don’t know that we’ll be coming back. Still, go social couponing!

Do you use social coupon sites or know of any others than the ones I’ve mentioned? If you’re young, do you feel strange in finer establishments?

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