7 Tips for Maximizing Restaurant Week

By: Genuine Joy Contributor, Briana Berg

Across the country, cities are gearing up for one of the most wonderful times of the year! And no, I don’t mean Christmas. I‘m talking about summer restaurant week – a week (or sometimes two weeks) where cities and towns host restaurant deals and specials for diners. Three course dinners and two course lunches are offered for a set price with a set menu. Basically, a foodie’s paradise.

New York is in the midst of RW ($38 for a 3 course dinner) and Washington D.C.’s (about $35 for a 3 course dinner) will start up mid-August. And with hundreds of restaurants to choose from, it’s easy to get lost and miss out one of the best meals of your life (am I exaggerating too much?).

Below are my seven tips for getting the most out of RW in your favorite town or city. Where will you be eating during your favorite summer’s RW? Let me know what your town or city is up to for #RestaurantWeek2014 in the comments section below.

1.     Find a menu that has more than chicken, steak, or fish for your entrée options. A lot of times, restaurants opt in to RW just to get all of the promotion involved in participating. Their menus aren’t thought out, and you end up feeling like you’re at a bad wedding. Check menus ahead of time so you aren’t disappointed. You can make a piece of chicken at home…this is your opportunity to try new foods and get a great deal!

2.     You don’t have to just order the RW special. Last year I went to a RW in New York and found that I could order an appetizer and an entrée for less than the 3 course price. I didn’t want to eat dessert anyway, so it was certainly the way to go. Check ahead and make sure the 3 course price is worth it. If not, you may want to save that spot for any other night. If you’re in a group, don’t feel pressured to do the RW deal.

3.     Make reservations in advance. I learned this the hard way and ended up calling Salt in Baltimore (I needed those duck fat fries) three times a day until the hostess finally gave me someone’s cancelled reservation. If you know you want to go somewhere, make the reservation ASAP. A good deal goes fast.

4.     Try a light lunch for your wallet and waistline. Lunch is a great way to get in on the deal if you don’t feel like splurging on the 3 course dinner. Three courses can hurt your wallet and your diet. The two course price is cheaper than dinner and you still get to try a new restaurant or go back to a favorite spot. It’s also a good way to test the waters and see if the restaurant would be a good place for a birthday dinner or romantic evening out.

5.     Pricey places get in on the deals too. A steakhouse where the average steak is $45 or an all-you-can-eat style restaurant are often on RW. This is a great opportunity to eat somewhere you might not be able to afford normally. These reservations go fast, so book in advance.

6.     Forgive and forget. Sometimes RW can be crazy for the kitchen and wait staff. I’ve had a bad RW meal at a place that I know was consistently phenomenal. I chalked it up to RW and moved on. The next meal I had there was great and I’ll still return…just not during RW.

7.     Here’s a tip: tip! Tipping on the RW price is certainly fine, but do tip generously. You are getting a deal, so adding a few more bucks onto your tip will make your server very happy.