If newspaper culinary prognosticators are to be believed, it’s going to be a great year for mac ’n’ cheese, plates of beans, and coupon-clippers. With people getting laid off right and left, and even the employed feeling shaky, money-saving dining is in. The staff at the San Francisco Chronicle expect “to see lots of promotions, including more fixed-price menus and maybe even all-you-can-eat nights,” as well as lounges with drinks and appetizers, so those hungering for the good life can have little nibbles of it for less.

The Houston Chronicle further predicts that cheap cuts of meat, pasta, beans, and supermarket prepared foods are all on the way up, and restaurants serving cheap, filling meals like pasta carbonara, pad thai, and spaghetti and meatballs “may escape the sting of the Dow.” Oh, and molecular gastronomy’s in the toilet, because nobody’s going to pay $17 for tomato foam when he’s making COBRA payments.

On the not-as-depressing side, the San Francisco Chronicle writers had some particularly oh-God-yes! suggestions for 2009: no more savory desserts, deconstructed dishes, or lavender in the food. (I have always wondered why people would want to eat something that tasted like my Grandma’s cheap drugstore soap.) Oh, and I hope restaurant managers are listening: “How about banning the obnoxious practice of not seating someone until their entire party arrives? It seems to us that hungry, thirsty people, forced to wait for a late friend, tend to order more drinks and appetizers when they’re sitting at a table.”

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