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Artisanal Reduced to Grilled-Cheese Bar

As we’ve chronicled, restaurants all over New York are trying to lure tightfisted diners with special menus and dinner deals. We’re glad to pay less to eat out, but we also feel sorry for these chefs and their hand-wringing. Today, we commiserate with Terrance Brennan, who has been forced to introduce a grilled-cheese bar at Artisanal. The horror! “The Grilled Cheese Sandwiches ($12 to $15) on the new bar menu include English Cheddar Smoked Bacon & Apple; Pulled Berkshire Pork with Pickled Cabbage & Muenster; an 18-month Comte with Truffle Essence; and Tallegio,” the restaurant announced in a press release. Brennan also made a comfort-food menu that offers entrées like roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese for less than $20. And if you just want a snack, the bar menu has been expanded. Brennan jokes in the announcement that he’s “a chef, not a banker”; but he’s also not a fool. (Note that the "grilled-cheese bar" is largely a rebranding of Artisanal's lunch menu.) The restaurants that will endure in 2009 are the ones that find new and creative ways to attract diners, and that might require some sacrifices on the part of the chef. “There will be less and less opportunity for chefs to cook what they want,” former Fiamma chef Fabio Trabocchi told Diner’s Journal yesterday. “The price point needs to be lower.” Chefs like Brennan may speak the words “grilled-cheese bar” through clenched jaws, but they can also say, as we hope: “This, too, shall pass.”

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