Local independent restaurateurs JEFF ORBIN and AARON TEITELBAUM have introduced a creative way to counter the proliferation of ‘discount dining deals’ everyone seems to be offering of late, and drum up business during a slow period. On Monday and Tuesday nights during January, diners at their Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood can pay whatever they think their meal is worth. Guests will get two checks: one for beverages and one for food. The beverage bill needs to be paid in full, but the food check is open to interpretation. Orbin says the dining discount deals to be had out there dilute a restaurant’s business by loading the dining room with one-time diners, and diminish its brand. He hopes the initiative encourages customers to check out Monarch and decide for themselves what the experience was worth. There’s a possibility the program may continue on after January, and even be offered at the duo’s other restaurant, Herbie’s Vintage 72 in the CWE. Food for thought indeed.

Chef KEVIN SMITH has bowed his new restaurant, Seasons American Cuisine, at 79 Forum Center in Chesterfield. The eatery had its official grand opening Dec. 28 with a benefit for The Women’s Safe House. The menu is focused squarely on sustainability, seasonal fare and local purveyors. Smith, an Oakville H.S. and Forest Park Community College alum, has done time in several area country club kitchens, as well as a six-year stint working for Bill Cardwell at Cardwell’s in Clayton. Most recently he was executive chef at Greenbriar Country Club.

Whiz-Tech Technology Cafe is now open at 1629 Locust St. downtown. The innovative venture is part café—featuring gourmet coffee, baked goods and a full menu—and a tech help site that provides all sorts of IT services, like computer repair and web design, as well as other assorted business support services. Coffee and IT support together? Why even go into the office at all?

Water Street Cafe & Cocktail Bar is coming soon to 7268 Manchester Road, next door to Acero. Not a lot of details to be had yet, but we’ve heard the menu will feature small plates and classic cocktails. More as we learn it.

Make a New Year’s resolution to get smart! Learn the basics of the grape from ANGELA ORTMAN of STLwinegirl. She’ll be teaching WINE 101 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 and Jan. 25, at Bottle Cellars, 6039 Telegraph Road. Cost is $25 per person, and reservations can be made at the store, or by calling 846-5100. The class seating is limited to 20, so hurry! The Wasabi Sushi Bar location at 9983 Manchester Road in Warson Woods is offering a beginners sushi class on the first Monday of the month, starting Jan. 3. For $20 learn how to make (and eat) sushi the right way. More info at 966-7786 or online at wasabistl.com.

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