Restaurant Week 2010: The Best Bets

Photo courtesy of
‘the joys of civilized living’
courtesy of ‘LaTur’

Restaurant Week is practically upon us and as usual, everyone’s got their opinions. Some love it. Some hate it. And some use it as an opportunity to get to know their own kitchens a little better. I was always a Restaurant Week hater until a couple years ago when I discovered that a little organization, a lot of Googling and a little better attitude can actually a delightful Restaurant Week make. And since you, dear Washingtonians, are a busy bunch these days, I’ll take it upon myself to handle the organization and the Googling – the attitude adjustment is up to you.

My issue with Restaurant Week has always been those restaurants that feel their “special menu” needs to consist of a choice of two or three dishes for each course. Um…no. That is not a menu, and it certainly doesn’t give me a feel for what a meal would be like the other fifty-one weeks a year. Another problem I have is the fabled “upcharge” where a restaurant will gladly charge me almost a 50% surcharge for getting one of their pricier options. When I am getting the entire meal for $35 and you charge me an additional $15 for the steak, I am not a happy camper. Luckily, there are restaurants out there that forget the upcharges and let you choose from the entire (if not almost the entire) menu. This is the Restaurant Week Holy Grail.

There are some restaurants that really take pride in Restaurant Week. First and foremost is Dino. Whether or not you love Dino for its food, they do right by Restaurant Week. Not only do they offer their entire menu, they pepper the meal with other little bites. You’ll get a few little complimentary appetizers before your meal, and save a little room for some homemade truffles at the end. Another joint that goes above and beyond the Restaurant Week call of duty is Farmers & Fishers, which in addition to the three choices you make from their extensive Restaurant Week menu, you also get a free pizza for the table. Free pizza! And at Beacon Bar & Grill, you get the entire menu to choose from plus a complimentary glass of wine with your meal. Free wine!
Photo courtesy of
‘Oyamel 10′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

I also appreciate restaurants that give me more than three courses since in the end, I’m probably trying out a new place and it’s nice to get more of a handle on their menu. At Oyamel, you get five – count ‘em, five – courses. Yes, they’re small plates, but you’ll be able to sample plenty of items off their menu. And while we’re on the subject of getting more for your money, I direct your attention to La Tasca, where you can get unlimited tapas, plus a dessert at dinner (at the Rockville location).

Then there are the restaurants that embrace the real meaning of Restaurant Week and offer their entire menu and let you choose which three dishes you care to try. Tosca (a perennial Restaurant Week favorite), Urbana, Jackie’s, Chef Geoff’s, Lia’s, Zola, Eatonville, and 1789 are all happy to have you sample their whole menu for a steal.
Photo courtesy of
‘West End Bistro’
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’

The last of the Restaurant Week categories contains the restaurants I’m willing to put up with some basic goofiness in order to get a great meal at a lower-than-usual price. Though there are some upcharges and some small menus, now is the time to eat at 2941, Bistro Bis, Vidalia, and Sou’Wester if you’ve always wanted to but didn’t have the bank account for it. Though 2941 has a small menu, I went there for Restaurant Week last year and had one of the best meals I had all year. Sometimes that better attitude really does make it work.

Restaurant Week is August 16th-August 22nd at participating restaurants. Three courses at lunch will run you $20.10, while the same at dinner is $35.10.

Ashley Messick

Ashley is a born and bred Washingtonian who left for college but came running back to the District as fast as her little legs could carry her. By day she is a Capitol Hill brat, but by night she is a lean, mean, eating machine. It’s her goal in life to steal Anthony Bourdain’s job…by whatever means necessary. Contact her at Ashley (at) welovedc (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.