Smart Buying

Guide to Restaurant Weeks, 2013

Pay less to eat at the best restaurants in a city near you.

In 1992, restaurateur Joe Baum and Tim Zagat -- co-founder of the popular Zagat books that rate restaurants worldwide -- created the first “restaurant week”: four days when participating restaurants in New York City would offer meals at discounted prices. These deals, they hoped, would attract the thousands of reporters who would be in town to cover the Democratic National Convention.

 

Two decades later, the Restaurant Week concept has exploded, with dozens of U.S. cities hosting days- and weeks-long events every year. Participating restaurants offer special prix fixe menus for Restaurant Week patrons.

Value-conscious diners should steer clear of tempting, full-price items on the regular menu. “Stick with the offer and don’t go overboard,” says Danny Bendas, managing partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants in Irvine, Cal. “You’ll save yourself some money and keep the value where it was originally intended to be." Remember, though, that the servers shouldn't be getting a discount just because you are. Tip a little more than usual to make up for the difference. (For more on tipping etiquette, see The Basics of Tipping or take our quiz.)

Also on various cities’ Restaurant Week menus: Giveaways and rebates for diners, contributions to local charities, and deals on local hotels for out-of-town foodies. More Restaurant Weeks will take place in the spring, and some haven't posted all their fall information yet. Here’s a roundup of upcoming Restaurant Weeks across the country:

Atlanta

  • When: July 27 – August 4 (downtown), September 7 – 15 (midtown)
  • The deal: Brunches, lunches and dinners for $15, $25 or $35
  • On the side: One of the participating restaurants is the volunteer-run Cafe 458, which sends all proceeds to the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency to provide support for Atlanta’s homeless population.

Baltimore

  • When: July 26 – August 4
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $20.13 or $30.13; two-course lunches at select restaurants for $15.13
  • On the side: Restaurant Week diners can take advantage of discounted parking in city-owned garages.

Boston

  • When: August 18 – 23, August 25 – 30
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $38.13; two-course lunches for $15.13; three-course lunches for $20.13
  • On the side: Restaurant Week Boston chooses a charity to partner with for each restaurant week. Its March event saw $5,000 go to First Night, a now-defunct nonprofit that promoted the arts.

Charleston, S.C.

  • When: September 4 – 15
  • The deal: Three-course meals for $20, $30 or $40
  • On the side: The Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, which puts on Charleston Restaurant Week, hasn’t posted any hotel deals on its blog yet, but history is on your side: Several hotels offered discounts of up to 30% off during last September’s Restaurant Week.

Charlotte, N.C.

  • When: July 19 – 28
  • The deal: Three course dinners for $30; select restaurants offer more courses
  • On the side: Get 20% off an Amtrak ticket from Raleigh/Cary to Charlotte when you buy one at full price from July 17 to July 29; local hotel discounts are available as well.

Columbus, Ohio

  • When: July 22 – 27
  • The deal: Three-course meals for $15, $20, $25, $30 or $35
  • On the side: $10,000 will go to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank on behalf of Restaurant Week

Dallas–Fort Worth

  • When: August 12 – 18; restaurants have the option to extend their deals until August 25 or September 1
  • The deal: Three-course lunches for $25; three-course dinners for $35 or $45
  • On the side: Participating restaurants will donate 20% of every meal purchased during Restaurant Week to the North Texas Food Bank or the Lena Pope Home.

Des Moines, Iowa

  • When: August 16 – 25
  • The deal: One three-course dinner or lunch for two for $25
  • On the side: Retweet an @catchdesmoines tweet about the event prior to August 15 and you’ll be entered to win a $25 gift card for one of three local restaurants -- Gramercy Tap, Trostel’s Greenbriar Restaurant and BOS.

Gainesville, Fla.

  • When: July 25 – August 4
  • The deal: Meals for $10 to $30
  • On the side: Gainesville Restaurant Week will kick off with Chamber After Hours at Parks Ford Lincoln of Gainesville on July 25 at 5:30 p.m. If you're a member of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, admission is free; if not, it's $20.

Hartford, Conn.

  • When: July 22 – August 4
  • The deal: Meals for $20.13 or $28.13
  • On the side: Remember, you can park free after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and any time on weekends at street meters.

Houston

  • When: August 1 – September 2
  • The deal: Three- to four-course dinners for $35 or $45; two- to three-course lunch for $20; two- to three-course brunch for $20 or $35
  • On the side: Restaurants will donate $3 to $7, depending on the price of the meal, to the Houston Food Bank.

Jackson, Miss.

  • When: September 29 – October 12
  • The deal: Prices vary
  • On the side: Diners will vote for one of ten charity finalists; the winner will receive $10,000.

Los Angeles

  • When: July 15 – 26
  • The deal: Dinners for $25, $35 or $45; lunches for $15, $20 or $25
  • On the side: If you Instagram your meal with the hashtag #dineLA and share it on social media, you’ll be entered to win two nights at the JW Marriott Los Angeles, four $50 restaurant gift cards and two roundtrip tickets to Los Angeles on American Airlines.

Louisville, Ky.

  • When: September 9 – 20
  • The deal: Two-course lunches for $10 or $15
  • On the side: Enter in a variety of ways to win one of many $25 gift cards from participating restaurants. See the website for details.

Madison, Wis.

  • When: July 21 – 26
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $25, $30 or $35; select restaurants offer lunches for $15

Miami

  • When: August 1 – September 30
  • The deal: Three-course lunches for $19 or $23; three-course dinners for $33 or $39
  • On the side: The two-month-long event will kick off on August 1 with the Miami New Times’ “Iron Fork,” a showdown between chefs Jamie DeRosa, of American restaurant Tongue & Cheek, and Giorgio Rapicavoli, of Italian restaurant Eating House. Ticket prices range from $35 to $90 and get you unlimited samples from more than 45 participating restaurants.

New York

  • When: July 22 – August 16
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $38; three-course lunches for $25
  • On the side: If you register an eligible American Express card and use it to buy at least $25 worth of food at participating restaurants, you’ll receive a $5 credit for each transaction.

Omaha, Neb.

  • When: September 13 – 22
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $20, $30 or $40
  • On the side: 5% of the cost of each meal will be donated to Food Bank for the Heartland.

Pittsburgh

  • When: August 12 – 18
  • The deal: Three- and four-course meals for $20 - $36; specials for $20.13
  • On the side: Enjoy free samples from participating restaurants at a Restaurant Week kickoff party at the National Aviary on August 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Richmond, Va.

  • When: October 21 – 27
  • The deal: Three course dinners for $25.13
  • On the side: Each restaurant will donate $2.13 per meal to the Central Virginia Food Bank and Meals on Wheels through their umbrella organization, FeedMore.

San Diego

  • When: September 15 – 20
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $20, $30 or $40; two-course lunches for $10, $15 or $20
  • On the side: Visit the event’s Web site to win 52 gift certificates from prominent San Diego restaurants.

St. Louis

  • When: August 19 – 25
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $25
  • On the side: You’ll have the option to donate money -- labeled as an “Extra Helping” -- to Operation Food Search, a local food bank.

Tampa

  • When: August 16 – 30
  • The deal: Three-course dinners for $25, $35 or $45
  • On the side: Visit the event’s Web site to enter to win twelve $100 gift certificates to Tampa Bay restaurants.

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