All words: Yasaman Sadeghipour
DC’s summer restaurant week is upon us (August 13-19 to be exact). Are you one of those people who get caught by surprise as another restaurant week comes and goes? If so, don’t fear, your survival guide is here.
Don’t get caught with your pants down:
- Restaurant week happens twice a year, once in January and the second in August or early September.
- If you sign up with Open Table, they will send you an email notification a few weeks before restaurant week starts so that you can get those hard to get reservations. Better yet, most of the participating restaurants have their online reservation system through Open Table, so you can check availability and make reservations quickly.
Don’t freak out:
- Yes it’s intimidating. You’re looking at a list with more than 200 names and wondering how do I pick one? Or five?
- Take a deep breath, and stop looking at the list. Do it! The best way to figure out where you want to go is to figure out where YOU want to go. Are there restaurants that you’re dying to try but can’t afford on your intern/researcher/analyst/project manager salary? Make a list of those places. Now check your list against the participating restaurants.
If you want to try something new or have no clue where to start then you have a few different options.
- Open table has a page dedicated to Reastaurant Week with an average ranking for each restaurant based on costumer reviews. That is a good place to start and you don’t have to switch back and forth to read Yelp reviews. But beware, not all participating restaurants are on Open table (as City Eats is slowly but surely making their moves). So check out DC restaurant Association’s website for the complete list of participating restaurants.
- See who won The Rammy’s. Go there.
- Check out Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Best Restaurants” and pick a few places that sound good to you. Then see if they are participating in restaurant week.
What to watch out for:
- Many restaurants use Restaurant Week as a chance to get new customers. That’s great, but be a smart consumer. In some cases you may end up at a restaurant whose menus cost the same as the deal offered, or you may find yourself eating a moderate meal in a hotel lobby. Beacon Bar and Grill, we’re looking at you.
- Given rising food costs and the crush of Restaurant Week, some restaurants end up serving reduced portion sizes. This is a shame as quality, less-expensive ingredients are readily available and so many restaurants are able to put together great plates for their diners. Be advised that if a menu claims a lot of luxury ingredients, you should probably speak with your server about portion size.
- If you are TRULY on a budget-please keep an eye out on your drink orders (trust us, we’ve been there)
- ALSO! Places with smaller plates, even though loved and delicious, are not the way to go on Restaurant week, since you’ll pretty much end up with the same deal as you would year round (Zaytinya, Oyamel, Graffiato etc)
Everything is booked, now what?
You’ve waited too long and all the cool places are booked, what now? Don’t worry:
- a. lunch is the unsung pleasure of restaurant week-check out some bound to be booked dinner places mid-day: we love the Bourbon Steak lunch, as well as J&G’s lunch
- b. some restaurants offer extended restaurant week options. You can find this information on your favorite restaurant’s website, Open Table, or www.restaurantweekmetrodc.org
Last words of wisdom:
- Check out the menus online first. Some places only offer a few options for each course which could be problematic if you have dietary restrictions or are a picky eater.
- Expect to spend roughly $60 on a dinner for one. That breaks down to a 3 course dinner ($35), 1 drink ($10), tax and tip ($15).
The Best Bets
- Dining in DC has a nice round up of the newcomers for the Summer Restaurant Week Scene 2012 including the much buzzed about Bandolero, Rasika West End, and Unum), which is a great first-line-of-attack place to start.
- If you’re in the mood for something a little different, Rogue 24 is offering a 16-course “progression” menu ($100.12) and the 24-course “journey” menu ($140.12) instead of the usual $20.12 lunches and $35.12 dinners. Washingtonian has the full details
We’re also big fans of using restaurant week to check out places off the beaten path. So maybe check out:
- El Manantial in Reston, Farrah Olivia in Arlington or the always glorious BlackSalt in the Palisades
- or one of the fancy hotel restaurants you keep hearing about: J&G Steakhouse @ W Hotel DC, Susur Lee’s Zentan @ Donovan House, Sou’Wester @ Mandarin Oriental, POSTE @ Hotel Monaco….
Plus, according to the meals we had this year:
- SEI in Chinatown provides fantastic food and the restaurant is quiet enough that you don’t have to scream across the table at your friend.
- Fiola is fresh off a pretty amazing restaurant award circuit (Best New Restaurant in DC RAMMY, a James Beard Nomination for Best New Restaurant IN THE COUNTRY) so it is obviously a must. Well worth the extra cash: Jeff Faile’s cocktails at the bar.
- Sushi Taro’s and Kaz Sushi Bistro’s restaurant week menu is the best way to gorge yourself of fresh sushi and sashimi without breaking the bank.
- All of Ashok Bajaj’s restaurants are doing restaurant week, and are an awesome choice either way-whether you pick RASIKA, or 701 or BIBIANA or Oval Room or The Bombay Club-the standard of food is going to be amazing
- ADOUR @ St. Regis – because sometimes you want a beautiful place to eat your beautiful food in. And ADOUR’s dining room (designed by The Rockwell group) is one of our favorites in town.
Let us know in the comments WHERE YOU ARE planning on going.