I love trying out new restaurants in Chicago, but I am also a broke college student always looking for a good deal. So what can a poor college foodie like me do? Just as I asked myself this, I was introduced to one of the most revolutionary concepts ever: À La Card. 

Now, what is À La Card, you may ask? My friend told me about À La Card as we were driving to a restaurant. He showed me a lime green playing card labeled "À La Card" along with the name of the restaurant we were driving to and a short description of the place.

beer, coffee, alcohol, wine
Lindsey Jay

À La Card is a deck of 52 cards, each of which is a $10 gift card to the restaurant on the card. The deck can be ordered online and costs a mere $30 for $520 worth of gift cards to some of the best restaurants in the Chicago area, as determined by the À La Card staff each year.

On their website, the creators state that each year, they come out with a new deck of 52 cards to be redeemed at the respective restaurant, and the deck is valid any day the restaurant is open for the entire year.

This sounded too good to be true seeing that I only needed to go to three restaurants to make the deck worthwhile. I knew I had to order myself a deck, and I waited excitedly for it to come in the mail.

My cards came within a few days, and I ripped open the box and browsed the restaurants on the cards. I recognized some familiar Hyde Park places such as Cemitas Puebla and The Promontory but also unfamiliar ones like El Che Bar and Urbanbelly that I definitely wanted to try out. 

If you're still unsure whether or not you want À La Card, I'm here to convince you that you need this in your life. Here's why:

1. It's cheap.

When else are you going to buy a stack of gift cards that is worth over 17 times its original price? 

2. It's a built-in food guide to Chicago.

Usually I go to restaurants based on my friends' recommendations, but À La Card does the hard work of compiling some of the best places for me to try out. 

3. It pushes you to be social.

If I'm going to be eating at all these restaurants, then I'm going to want to go with friends. À La Card has given me the awesome opportunity of simultaneously catching up with friends while eating amazing food. 

4. It's an adventure.

Because these restaurants are located all over Chicago in many of its neighborhoods, it gives me a good excuse to get off campus and explore many diverse Chicago neighborhoods at the same time.

5. It can be played like a game.

Since it is, at the heart of it, a deck of playing cards, you can treat it as a fun game with friends by drawing a card from the deck to decide where you all want to eat your next lunch/dinner. Plus, it's super convenient to carry around in your wallet.

If you are still not convinced, find me, and I'll take you out to lunch some time, À La Card-style.