As I was writing my Restaurant Week hate-post, I realized that the question of whether to go out during Restaurant Week is necessarily comparative: Restaurant Week might not be perfect, but are there better options if you want to try the nicest restaurants without needing to eat ramen for the rest of the week?
Yes. Upscale restaurants, particularly in this economy, offer great deals regularly if you know where to look. These deals typically take place during off-hours where business is slower, so the experience is more leisurely. The customers who use them are the ones who’re willing to sacrifice convenience (going out on weekends) for better value, so the clientèle is more discerning (and valuable to the restaurant), giving the owner an incentive to put out a great product. Finding these deals takes some effort, though not all that much. Check the websites of restaurants you like or have good things about; click around the menus (do they have a prix fixe on Tuesday nights?) or the events page. Try following favorite places on Twitter or Facebook (tons of restaurants have Twitter, and they’re always trying to publicize their special events to get people to come to the restaurant). Finally, try posting a question on a foodie website or blog; Chowhound’s great (depending on what city you’re in), but Yelp’ll probably work too.
Just to show you it’s not too difficult, here’re some great options in the Boston area:
Craigie Street’s Chef’s Whim — Sunday after 9 PM — 4 courses for $40 or 6 for $55:
If you put cost aside, Craigie Street is probably the second best restaurant in the Boston area (behind O Ya). They’re really big into being market-driven (i.e. buying tomatos that are sourced locally, have the highest quality, and cost $5 each), and they’re closed on Monday. Thus (at least this is my private theory), they have produce they’ve bought for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday brunch) that they want to get rid of on Sunday night (when no one eats anyway). Furthermore, the owner is (I think) not super-commercially minded (he only has one restaurant, with no plans for expansion that I know of), so even though you’re paying about a third what you’d pay normally, the items on the normal menu are exactly the same as the Chef’s Whim (though you don’t get to choose).
Rendezvous – Tapas Monday – Monday at the Bar at Rendezvous – $5 tapas (a full dinner’s about 3, maybe 4 at most):
Sort of self-explanatory. Rendezvous also has a three course $38 Sunday prize fixe that’s basically their whole menu.
Rialto – $1 oyster night – Monday at the Rialto Bar
The food at the bar at Rialto is really good in general, but, if you eat oysters (I don’t, since I’m allergic), this is a pretty sweet deal.
Uni – Sake Bomb Tuesdays – $35 for four courses and a sake bomb
Uni’s the sashimi bar complement to Clio (another very high-end Boston restaurant that usually costs way more). I think Uni’s a bit underrated insofar as the food’s almost as good as Clio, but I never hear it talked up. Uni also has Maki Mondays (all you can eat Maki for $32) and Restaurant Week Wednesdays (3 courses for $33.09)
Ten Tables JP – Pick your favorite 3 Wednesday – $33 prix fixe for three courses on the whole menu.
I’ve only been to the JP Ten Tables once since the Cambridge version opened, but, even though Jess and I had a fantastic meal at the Cambridge location last week, the JP version has a certain charm that its newer relative lacks. The Tuesday wine dinners ($40 for four courses with each course paired with a glass of wine) are also a good opton.