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Tips for Navigating Restaurant Week

"Restaurant Week"

In Borderstan area, look for Restaurant Week participants on Connecticut, P, U, 9th, 14th and 17th Streets NW. (Luis Gomez Photos) (Luis Gomez Photos)

Editor’s note: The following story first ran on August 16, 2010. We thought you’d again enjoy Alejandra’s advice for bi-annual Restaurant Week, since it arrived again Monday. Metro DC Summer  Restaurant Week runs August 13-19. For participating restaurants in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, see Borderstan’s Restaurant Week’s 24 choices in the Neighborhood.

Pricing? Lunch is $20.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal and dinner is $35.12 for a three-course, fixed-price meal. Beverages, gratuity and tax are not included. You can make reservations through Open Table and City Eats DC.

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From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at alejandra@borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

The bi-annual DC Restaurant Week is upon us again. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either the perfect week to dine out like a mad (wo)man or it’s the perfect week to cook at home. Some have even gone so far as to call it amateur week for diners. I wouldn’t go that far — but the week certainly has its pluses and minuses.

The complaints I hear most often about Restaurant Week are that service is slow, menus are limited and the plates are unimpressive. In turn, restaurant industry folks say that people have unrealistic expectations, that restaurants are slammed with numbers far beyond usual and that it’s not a true showing of what a restaurant can give you. I can appreciate both perspectives.

Tips and Favorites

No matter how you feel about Restaurant Week, there are certainly some tips to getting it right. Here are my six tips and some favorites places:

  1. Dining in DC blog. Check out Lisa Shapiro’s Dining In DC blog (she’s a local food writer) for her take on menus — and the places worth checking out. Doing your homework is the first step in making sure you’re getting the most out of the week.
  2. Places to avoid. Don’t go to restaurants that are already good deals (read: tapas places or ones that have a portion of the menu on happy hour at the bar)… or ones that you have been to before. Or if you do, manage your expectations. NEW TIP: check to see if places have a prix fix menu year round… target those that don’t for your Restaurant Week reservations.
  3. Menu offerings. Hit up restaurants that have the majority of their menu up for grabs. Nothing is worse than sitting down only to find out the already limited menu is minuscule. NEW TIP: Many places are offering bottles of wine at half price this go around — be sure to see if there is a deal on wine… or if dessert can be exchanged for wine or other beverage options.
  4. Lunch. Try lunch reservations in your work neighborhood. Some of my best Restaurant Week experiences have been during lunch, not dinner.
  5. Ask around. Talk to friends and coworkers: What restaurants do a bang up job no matter what?
  6. Watch Twitter and follow the foodies. Reservations will be dropping like flies and generous folks will be offering them up. If you’re on Twitter, watch closely! Follow some foodies and pick up a few extra options.
  7. Favorites. I put together some Restaurant Week favorites with help from my foodie friends on Twitter (find me @frijolita):  Rasika, Bibiana, 1789 and Dino top the list.

So… what are your Restaurant Week tips?

This post was written by:

- who has written 143 posts on Borderstan.

Owens a communications pro for a large association by day. By night she writes about food and restaurants for Borderstan and directs social media strategy for the site. She has her own food blog, One Bite At a Time. Follow Owens on Twitter @frijolita; email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com.

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2 Responses to “Tips for Navigating Restaurant Week”

  1. M says:

    Meh. Not at all a fan of RW. Usually the menu is so limited I get something else. And, as always, you get what you pay for. If you pay for a cheap meal, you get a cheap meal. Also, I know for a fact that waiters universally HATE RW. Basically, all the super-demanding cheapskates come in, get great service on a deeply discounted meal, complain about some trivial thing (i.e you took 2 minutes to bring me catsup, my gazpacho is cold, etc.) in an attempt to get the whole meal comped, and then they get stingy on the tip with a bill that is already lower than it should be (or they don’t tip at all…super-classy). IMHO I think if you can’t/won’t do 20%, you shouldn’t go out to restaurants.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting these tips. I once was a fan of RW because the concept was great. It was a way for fantastic but otherwise pricey establishments could bring in more customers during the slow months of the year for restaurants and also give a diner who wouldn’t/couldn’t try the restaurant at full price. Or wasn’t sure about spending XXXX dollars and not sure if they’d like the place so RW was a great opportunity for both sides. Now, many restaurants don’t seem to honor that original premise as much and people are noticing.

    The excuse that restaurants are serving numbers higher than usual is not true. August, for example, is notoriously slow in the restaurant business; this is why they are participating in the promotion – to get people in the door and maintain business for the month. Please stop using that as an excuse because that’s all it is – an excuse. Either do it right and do it well or don’t do it at all.

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