Food & Wine

6 Restaurant Week Hacks: Getting the Best Value and Service

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Taking part in Restaurant Week can be a fantastic experience or it can be an exercise in frustration. DC Restaurant Week is coming up Aug 17-23, here’s how to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.

What is Restaurant Week?
During a designated week in the summer and winter, restaurants offer 3 course dinners for ~$35 or 3 course lunches for $22

Downsides to Restaurant Week

Restaurant week is a good way for restaurants to attract new potential customers. It’s also not always representative of the usual experience. Restaurants are crowded, servers are overworked and making less in tips on the cheaper meals, and some restaurants will often have a special, lower quality menu during this time.

Restaurant Week Hacks

  • Pick the Expensive Restaurants
    Go for the 4 dollar sign ($$$$) restaurants. $$ restaurants typically have entrees under $20, so unless you normally eat all three courses, dining at a less expensive restaurant will only get you the equivalent of a free appetizer or dessert at the $35 price point.
  • Let’s Do Lunch
    Some restaurants have the same menu for lunch and dinner, so if you can go in the middle of the day, you’ll only pay $22 and deal with smaller crowds.
  • Research the Menu
    Many restaurants will post their Restaurant Week menus online, so do your homework and check it out before booking. If you’re going because you wanted to try a specific restaurant, make sure they’re offering the usual fare.  Some restaurants have set options, others give you the run of the menu.
  • Take a Rain Check
    It’s not uncommon for restaurants to extend their Restaurant Week offerings 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.
  • Make Speculative Bookings
    Most, but not all, restaurants allow you to make Restaurant Week reservations on Open Table. If you’re not sure where you want to dine, go ahead and make a reservation and cancel some after you’ve done your research.
  • Tip Like a Boss
    Most waiters dread Restaurant Week because it draws frugal diners unlikely to tip generously or wind up with a large bill. You can stand out from the rest by dressing up and asking to see (and hopefully ordering) the non Restaurant Week options.
    During one memorable visit I asked to see the wine list and selected a nice mid-range bottle. The tables around us were turned over each hour, but we were given a more leisurely pace and even had specially concocted desserts brought out to pair with our wine.

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