DC’s Restaurant Week, WHICH STARTS ON MONDAY JANUARY 13TH AND GOES TILL JANUARY 19TH , is a mixed bag. We ran this guide before, and a lot of it is forever usable, since the rules remain the same.
Opine away: For the under-funded, it’s a great way to enjoy a meal at a nice restaurant without racking up credit debt and for the occasional restaurant-goer, it’s a good reason to get out of the house or change the routine. For others, the specter of the bi-annual Restaurant Week filling their favored restaurants with the teeming masses, dumbed down menus and driving down quality sends them scurrying to those places not among the 200 participating in the promotion. If you decide to test the waters, a three-course lunch goes for $20.14 and three-course dinners run $35.14, plus drinks, tip and tax. The best spots fill up fast, so make your reservations now
How to plan
- Picking the right restaurant is critical – you can end up paying for a $35 Restaurant Week meal at a place serving $15 entrees, or walk into a place where the menu is littered with up-charges, turning your $35 meal into something much pricier.
- The best tool for Restaurant Week is Open Table. Start plugging in times and neighborhoods, see what’s open and book a meal or two. They have a dedicated page set up just for restaurant week.
- When planning for dinner, realize that Restaurant Week is a trying time for restaurants. Many of the kitchen and front-of-house staff are working doubles through the week, a lot of the diners are not experienced restaurant-goers, some menus are limited and later in the week some items will be unavailable. Use the opportunity to try new things and make sure to keep it simple. Restaurant Week may not be the best time to pull a really large dinner party together and it may not be the best opportunity to celebrate a special occasion.
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.
- 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)
The Best Bets
- Read our 2013 FOOD ROUND UP by some of our favorite food writers around town and bee-line for those. These people eat and drink for a living, they know what’s going on.
- See who won The Rammy’s. Go there.
- Check out Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Best Restaurants” (actually now on sale for 2014, though 2013 is still the only one available online) and pick a few places that sound good to you. Then see if they are participating in restaurant week.
- BAD NEWS: Rose’s Luxury and Red Hen are NOT participating in this edition of restaurant week (YOU SHOULD STILL GO TO THEM AND GO TO THEM SOON-maybe use the opportunity of EVERYONE being at Restaurant week restaurants and making your move now). Neither are A LOT of new 14th street spots (like Le Diplomate or Barcelona or Ghibellina or Etto or Doi Moi), probably because they’re so busy anyway. Once again-maybe this means they’ll be a LITTLE less busy.
- GOOD NEWS: a lot of 2013’s most exciting new openings ARE, and it is a great time to do some sampling. May we recommend: DEL CAMPO , Arsenal @ Bluejacket, Bearnaise, Kapnos, Malmaison, MXDC, NoPA Kitchen, Osteria Morini, Table and Thally? (clicking on each of these links takes you to a full first look by BYT so you can see photos, get a feel for what’s going on etc)
- ALSO: this is a great opportunity to check out some classic favorites with new menus/chefs etc. Go forth to: ARDEO + BARDEO or J & G Steakhouse, for example.
- ALSO: quality is quality no matter what. In this case, it applies to: Rasika and Rasika West End, Mintwood Place, Bibiana, Bombay Club (which is celebrating their 25th year anniversary AS WE SPEAK), Vidalia, Brasserie Beck, Kaz Sushi Bistro ,Birch and Barley and BlackSalt. All perennial BYT favorites, every single one of them.
- ALSO: this is a great opportunity to try a more streamlined version of VERY extensive menu places. Does tackling RANGE or FARMERS FISHERS BAKERS sound a touch overwhelming normally? Restaurant week is a good place to start your courtship with them.
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).
so, there’s that. feel free to ask us some questions in the comments-WE WILL answer. and enjoy this week ahead, no matter what your dining reasons are: