Food & Wine
5 Ways to Get More Out of Restaurant Week
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Restaurant Week 2016 has just started in DC. If you don’t mind crowds and rushed service, you can score some great food deals — $35 for a 3 course dinner, $22 for a 3 course lunch. Working at a nonprofit for years, this was my chance to check out some of the Capitol’s nicer restaurants on a budget.
Along the way I figured out some shortcuts to have a better experience and service:
- Make a Reservation
People around here go crazy for Restaurant Week, so don’t count on getting a table without making a reservation in advance. Open Table lets you book online, but if the place you want isn’t showing availability, it’s worth calling them directly as they often hold back tables.
- Maximize the Value by Picking the Expensive Restaurants
Shoot for the $$$$ restaurants when narrowing your list. $$ restaurants typically have entrees under $20, so you’re only getting a the equivalent of a free appetizer or dessert at the $35 price point. If there’s a cheaper restaurant you’ve been eyeing, wait til after the Restaurant Week rush to go and have a better overall experience.
- Look at Menus in Advance & Go for Lunch
Many restaurants will post their Restaurant Week menus online, which gives you an opportunity to see if you really want to go. Some of the nicer places create “Restaurant Week” specials that are good, but not representative of their usual fare. Check if a a restaurant has the same menu for lunch and dinner. Going mid-day will not only save you $13, but possibly make it easier to get reservations.
- Check for Restaurant Week Extensions
Some places will extend their Restaurant Week options beyond the official week, sometimes for the rest of the month. Booking a later date is a great way to get better service and avoid crowds to the week before or after. Check their websites to take advantage of extensions as a way to avoid crowds and space out your restaurant visits.
- Don’t Look or Act Cheap
Many waiters dread Restaurant Week because it draws frugal diners unlikely to tip generously. Stand out from the mob by dressing up and asking to see (and perhaps upgrading to) non Restaurant Week options. Even ordering a bottle of wine for the table can send a good signal. On one memorable experience at Prime Rib, the tables around us were rushed through while we were encouraged to stay and brought specially concocted desserts brought out to pair with our wine. Most of all, don’t forget to leave a decent tip!
If you are using Restaurant Week as a way to visit some of the restaurants on your wish list, keep in mind its not necessarily representative of the usual experience. You may want to save up and go another time. And if you’re trying to avoid the crowds, Washington DC Eater has a list of 50+ restaurants NOT participating in 2016 Restaurant Week. 🙂
It also appears the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has created a Restaurant Week Loyalty Program of sorts.Completed reservations booked through their website automatically enter you to win prizes including a restaurant gift cards and a free cruise.
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