Yes, you can  Do Dine Out Lunch, such as Edible Canada's delicious porchetta sandwich

Yes, you can Do Dine Out Lunch, such as Edible Canada’s delicious porchetta sandwich

Dine Out adds up to a whole lot of tasty fun that can save you a bundle of money—especially if you do your homework.

But there are some ground rules—that can really make it a better experience for everyone

Do: Show up for your reservation

In Dine Out’s early days, a lot of people used to make duplicate or triplicate resos for the same night—and then not bother to cancel.

That problem’s been mitigated since Open Table became involved. Around a half of the restaurants participating in Dine Out use the system. And it’s made the whole process a lot smoother.

These days—beyond the fact that it’s plain bad manners—it’s not a good plan to be a no-show—as you might just find yourself black-listed. And next time you try to make a reso on Open Table, the system may politely tell you “No thanks!.”

Dine_Out• Don’t: Show up without a reservation!

Well, not on a usually busy night late in the week or on weekends, anyway. But to be on the safe side, always make a reservation. Use the Dine Out website to check availability and reserve.

• Don’t: Linger too long at your table

—or be surprised, when you do, if you’re asked to leave. Dine Out restaurants need to turn tables in order to help pay for the deal they’re giving you.

• Don’t have unrealistic expectations.

Someone said to me this week that the Dine Out crowd is a tough one, in part because many of them don’t eat out that often. Maybe that’s not you. But be fair rather than too critical. And realise that most places are doing their utmost to satisfy you and everyone else.

 • Do: Tip decently.

It’s a fact that just about everyone burns out during Dine Out, from hosts to maitre d’s, chefs, servers and dishwashers. When the bill comes, make sure you show your appreciation fairly, even generously.

Credit: Bill Abbott

Credit: Bill Abbott

• Do: Check the wine price before you order a glass.

Most places are pretty fair. Some are not. Just sayin’.

• Do: Check the list of Dine Out special events.

Even though some sell out early every year, there’s always something new happening. This year check out Mijune Pak / Follow Me Foodie’s Jan 20th  6 Course Discourse, featuring some of the city’s most acclaimed chefs, such as John Bishop and Vikram Vij.  Or, Sunday Brunch Crawls, presented by Vancouver Foodster and the West End and Commercial Drive BIA. West End, Jan 19th: Establishments include Marquis Wine Cellars, Buckstop, 1789 Restaurant, WE Coffee, Le Parisien, Just Juice, Central Bistro, Milestones, De Dutch and others. Tix etc here.

East Side, Jan 26th: Venues include Timbre Restaurant, Dolce Amore, Yolks Breakfast, Turks Coffee, Siddarthas Indian Cuisine and more. Tix etc. here

• Do: Remember it’s not only about dinner.

Quite a few restaurants are offering some pretty good Dine Out deals at lunch. Cases in point: Edible Canada, Water Street Café and West.

Absolute Dine Out lunch deal is at The Manhattan – Delta Vancouver Suites Hotel, where you can get the likes of an artisan salad, Ocean Wise seafood trio, or butter chicken, creme brulée or cheesecake, and other other choices, for just $18!

And don’t forget Bistro 101 at PICA—if you can still get in!

If you haven’t seen them, this year’s Top 10 picks are here.

You can still use my recommendations from last year as, as far as I’m concerned, they’re still valid. I’ve tried to update them as best as possible, and most of the links now go to the 2014 menus.

$18 Menus

$28 Menus 

$38 Menus