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This week I give my (probably inappropriate) thoughts on Restaurant Week, give an update on 14th Street, ponder the funniest name for a new restaurant on 17th and R, think about horse meat and look at the economy’s effect on your hot waitress.

The Restaurant Week rant:

Restaurant Week…Restaurant Week….Uh, Restaurant Week. Yeah, so August 24 to Aug 30 is DC’s summer Restaurant Week.

Destination DC has all the details and participating restaurants, click here. You can book through Open Table here. Capital Spice has done a wonderful job with their amazing Restaurant Week map, you can check it here. DC Foodies has their excellent and comprehensive restaurant and menu overview here. Also, last year Alex Clifford and I did a guide to restaurant week. You can read it here, and all the advice still applies because Restaurant Week is the same thing, twice a year, but the prices go up.

See, the thing is I really don’t like Restaurant Week. I have some pretty strong opinions about it actually. They probably stem from the fact that my birthday falls during winter Restaurant Week. Every January I struggle to find a place that will take me and a small group for a long and elegant meal. The existence of Restaurant Week negates that. Some people who love food and dining out feel the same way about Restaurant Week that boozers feel about New Years and Halloween. It’s amateur hour, I said it.

I don’t think I’m alone here though. Ezra Klein (why won’t you follow me on Twitter?) gives his opinion over at the Internet Food Association. His advice: “Don’t go. With few exceptions, it’s not as good a deal as it sounds and the food isn’t as good as you’d expect.” Preach Ezra!

Gridskipper did a whole “Why I Hate Restaurant Week” post last year, that I still think is valid.  Gridskipper’s points were 1.) No big ticket items 2.)Little choice 3.)It’s never $35 and 4.) Waiter hostility.

You know why the waiters are hostile? Because they’ve been pulling doubles for a week and so has the kitchen. The chef is pissed off, the sous chef is tired and likely sick, the dishwasher’s hands are raw. The waiter has been on his/her feet for hours dealing with indecisive guests who don’t understand the pricing structure, only order water and tip like shit, because 18% of $35.09 is about $6, and that’s all they are prepared to part with even though they’ve run the poor sucker ragged. And turnovers…the turnovers. You know how many tables a restaurant flips during Restaurant Week? It’s nuts. Like boom-boom eating. There is no pleasure in a three-course meal consumed in an hour.

Katie over at We Love DC took my bait on Twitter and offered a very nice posting “In Defense of Restaurant Week.” She gets it, she knows the service sucks and the food can be hit or miss. But she shines a light on places that do it right, like Dino which serves “practically their entire menu, and not only that, but they throw in added bonuses like muscato before dessert.” She also thinks it energizes the restaurant scene and forces people out to try new things and share their thoughts.

But that’s kinda my point. Why do we need a manufactured excuse to go try new places? Places where you can probably get a better meal for the same price any other time of the year. The planning that people need to do to make Restaurant Week worthwhile puts so much pressure on the experience that it sucks the life out of it.

Alan, our lovely BYT film critic, told me that he’s “generally had a positive experience during lunch” And I think that’s fair. Exploit the $20.09 meal, but please avoid that $35.09 dinner. You’re better off on your own, choosing what you actually want to eat, when you want to eat it.

I know people get excited about planning for a meal they think they couldn’t afford otherwise, and I’m not trying to take that away. But I think it’s important to realize that good food and good dining should never feel out of reach. You shouldn’t feel subjugated to eat food just when the prices are reduced. It’s like the ghettoization of dining and it makes me mad. Good food at a good value is attainable throughout the year. And while Restaurant Week is a good excuse to try new places, you never needed an excuse.

And the round up:

  • The Dakota Cowgirl sign is down, and Birch & Barley and Churchkey may be opening in September. Expect good food and good beer. Remember when 14th Street was full of hookers? I think very few of you actually do.
  • Via POP, The Sacrificial Lamb (yes!) is set to open on 17th and R. It’ll serve kebabs, naturally.
  • If you live in Florida and are buying meat from an unlicensed vendor, you may be eating horse meat. But don’t worry, it’ll taste sweet and you may want more.
  • One good part about the lousy economy…Hot waitresses. I like this quote best: “A Soho restaurateur I know recently received applications from “a couple of classic Eastern European fembots. Once upon a time, these ladies must’ve made $1,500 a night lap dancing. At my place, they’re not going to make that in a week.””
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