The Restaurant Week Conundrum

For the past four or five years, I’ve been going to various restaurants during the bi-yearly restaurant week promotion (though they should really call it restaurant 3-weeks) held in various cities, including New York City and Washington D.C. Every year I typically look for high end and well reviewed restaurants that I might not normally visit due to their high price tag. The restaurant week deal comes in at around $35 per person for a prix fixee three-course meal, which is quite a steal for a place that serves dishes for $25-35 each. Now, on to the conundrum.

While the summer restaurant week 2011 is long gone and winter 2012 is still months away, I got to thinking. Why do I go to these high end restaurants for this great deal, only to be disappointed time after time? I always have high hopes for a great, cheap, meal at these restaurants, only to realize that the food they serve for restaurant week is usually mediocre, the service declines and likely the overall experience is tainted. Is this to say that every RW meal has been mediocre? No, not every one, but enough of them to warrant such a ranting blog post.

Maybe I’m too picky and being cheap, after all, I am getting a very nice meal for a fraction of the cost. On the other side though, why should I be treated differently, even poorly, by restaurants that voluntarily participate in such promotions? It is possible the owner goes along with said promotion to fill seats, while the chef and kitchen staff are resentful that they have to push out course after course of the same dish, likely of lesser quality to make the lower cost feasible. Despite this possible reasoning, I don’t think its ridiculous to expect a similar level of quality of food and at the very very least, decent service. Waiters at these restaurants probably aren’t happy as the total meal cost is less, which in turn lowers the amount patrons will tip. I suppose its a vicious cycle that makes everyone, except maybe the owner, angry and not wanting to give full effort during RW.

If these issues are in fact true, and it has become pretty standard to get sub par food during RW, I think I might as well do one of two things. One, stop going to RW and then I have nothing to complain about, or two, continue to go and stop complaining. Personally, I prefer to keep going and keep complaining (I’m only partially joking).

I think that restaurant week will not lose any popularity in the near future, and while I have had a number of bad experiences during the promotional meals, it is possible to find restaurants out there that can and do serve a quality meal. If there are those out there with good recommendations in New York, I’d love to hear them. And if you too have had awful (or great) experiences during RW, I’d love to hear those too.

Until January, when I inevitably go to a RW and leave disappointed.



About Evan Halperin

I like to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat what I cook. Now, I will share with you what I like to cook. My wife and I may be a vegetarian and a carnivore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cook a nice meal with both, without compromising taste. I will share my creative meals of the Carnivore and the Vegetarian.
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