Who can resist great food at great prices -- the crusty $2 baguette at Balthazar Bakery in Englewood, the $6.99 restaurant-quality Italian takeout dinners at Jerry's Gourmet, just down South Dean Street from the bakery; and $4.49 for a pound of scrumptious organic spring salad mix at Costco.
You'll find the restaurant version at Lotus Cafe, a popular BYO in Hackensack, where the multi-course dinners for four, six or eight are both filling and delicious -- among the best Chinese food in North Jersey. And you'll pay $20 or less per person, including tax and tip.
Last night, our party made a 6 p.m. reservation and ordered food for six from the special price-fix dinner and banquet menu. We were four adults and three children -- 12, 10 and under 2 years old. With three light eaters, we had plenty of leftovers.
We were served eight courses, with lots of greens: seafood and tofu chowder, three-cup chicken casserole, crispy, aromatic duck; pepper and salty prawns, beef with chili pepper and mustard green, fillet of sole with yellow chive, stir-fried Chinese broccoli with fresh garlic, and ice cream and fruit. Because we are good customers, we also received a warm Chinese rice pudding on the house.
In the past week, I was unsuccessful in finding seven people to join my wife, son and I for a Dutch treat New Year's Eve banquet meal for 10 -- 12 courses for about $27 per person, including Peking duck, prawns, filet mignon, whole fish and braised noodles.
Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in Home Depot-
Pathmark Shopping Center; 201-488-7070; open seven days.