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Just as you’ve finished digesting the huge amount of food consumed from Thanksgiving through New Years comes a special event that only happens twice a year. Yes, “Restaurant Week” is in its 12th year and offers diners a chance to eat a three-course lunch or dinner (varying by restaurant) for $20.08 or $30.08 respectively. So why blow your money at these places the other 50 weeks of the year? (Just kidding)

Since I’ve experienced restaurant week from both sides of the kitchen, I’d like to give you some opinions, tips, etc. Also, I’ll point out a handful of the 175 participating restaurants to spotlight. (I wish I could do every single one, but I am only human).
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Tips:

+If you haven’t made reservations already, do it now, like, right this second. Since this event happens only in January and August, Washingtonians thrive on this week of cheap eats. If you can’t score a Friday or Saturday reservation, try something earlier in the week. Also, there are 175 participating restaurants, if you can’t get your first choice try number 2. OpenTable.com is your new best friend for this week.

+Restaurant week is a “turn and burn” operation, which greatly affects service. Basically, restaurants are full every night of the week, and since most tables are limited to three courses (why you would even go to a restaurant this week and not order the special menu is beyond me) these places will try to maximize revenue by booking multiple parties at staggered times on the same table. Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a 15 or 20 minute wait when you show up for your reservation. Just head to the bar and knock a couple back in the mean-time.

+Restaurant employees call “Restaurant Week” amateur week for a reason. This is the time when everyone comes out of hiding to dine out. Server’s tempers are just waiting to be tested by the extensive lack of etiquette they encounter on a nightly basis, so do yourself a favor, be kind, be patient and have fun.

+GO EAT AT RESTAURANTS YOU CAN NOT USUALLY AFFORD!!!!! After all, this is the reason Restaurant Week exists.
Splurge on a nice bottle of wine. Since you’re only paying $30 for dinner, why not try a nice Napa Cabernet or my personal favorite, a Puligny-Montrachet. You’re already saving on food, so this is a chance to get the bottle that you’ve always wanted or couldn’t always afford.

+Finally, although we’re all critics in our own right, it’s hard to judge restaurants integrity during this week. Most likely, the staff will be working doubles or long hours every day this week without a day off. The staff will be accommodating their full capacity all seven nights. We’re only human, and humans get burnt out. Restaurant employees genuinely want to give you a good experience, there is a reason why they’re in the hospitality industry. Like I said earlier, hopefully you will have a great experience, but don’t let it get you down if there are some issues. Personally, I wouldn’t be totally offended unless the entire experience is completely fucked.

Highlights:

As I was flipping through the Post today, I came upon the full page ad with every restaurant listed. All of the participating establishments can also be found at restaurantweekdc.org. There are also direct links to Open Table on the site. Here’s a handful of Restaurants that I suggest you check out:

100 King (Alexandria): Although I haven’t had the chance to dine here, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful reviews of this place. I’ll probably head there to check it out myself.

701 Restaurant: A Washington institution. Might as well rub elbows with the “Brooks Brothers” clan here.

B. Smiths: Great Southern Cuisine, too bad the “Hells Kitchen” Champ Rock isn’t there anymore.

Bistro d’Oc: Good, simple, French.

Café Atlántico: Go check out Celeb Chef Jose Andres’ flagship restaurant, and while you’re there sneak a peek at minibar.

Ceviche (Silver Spring): Eat some Nuevo Latino cuisine before or after catching a flick at AFI.

Charlie Palmer Steak: DC Power at its best, and good meat too.

Corduroy: Another one I haven’t dined at yet, but it always ends up on the bloggers top ten Restaurant Week lists.

Firefly: Swank and loungy (is that a word?) my pal Kate loves this place and will swear by it forever.

Georgia Brown’s: Soul just hit mid-town, go eat it.

Gerard’s Place: I had a friend work for this guy for a year or so, she said he was fucking insane, so he must make good food.

Hook: I’m a little disappointed that they’re only doing lunch, but Chef Barton does know his seafood (fun fact, he taught me how to cut fish in school).

All three Jaleo’s (DC, MD, VA): More of Jose Andres’ local empire.

Kinkead’s: Bob Kinkead knows what to do with seafood, and wants you to eat it.

Mendocino Grille: After a great lunch at Hook, walk down the street and drink good wine and eat good food with good friends.

Napoleon Bistro: Sure, you’ve done drinks and dancing downstairs, but have you had dinner there yet?

The Palm Restaurant DC: Another power spot that is wayyyyyy overpriced. Better go there and eat cheap while you can.

Phillips Flagship: Get some crab soup down by the wharf.

The Prime Rib: See the Palm description above.

Seasons (at the Four Seasons Hotel): Great French-American cuisine, a chance to sit in Oprah or Clinton’s favorite table, and impressive wine list and five-star service. Eat cheap at dinner and blow your load on $14 cocktails in the lounge afterward, it’s the best chance to see a celeb or politico in the city after dark.

Sushi Ko: Hands down, my favorite sushi joint in the city.

Vidalia: Jeff Buben sure does his southern cuisine well, and they have a great reputation for offering wonderful menus during this week.

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