Your “How To” Guide on Surviving Restaurant Week
Dining out at posh restaurants in metropolitan cities such as Manhattan, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston can seem very tempting for an initial date, but if you are a young professional it can be very expensive! One of the best inventions of the 90’s was Restaurant Week. In NYC, the first Restaurant Week began in 1992 and originally began as a promotional lunch-only event. Since then, it has expanded to offer lunch and dinner at over 275 restaurants and it is held twice a year in many other cities throughout the U.S. Diners can enjoy prix fixe lunches at $24 and prix fixe dinners at $35 at some of the top restaurants in the city. If you are a big foodie, this is the perfect opportunity to impress a date and enjoy a quality meal at a reasonable price.
However, surviving restaurant week is not as easy at it sounds. With over 275 restaurants to choose from, and a palate that differs from your date’s, you have to put some quality time into choosing the restaurant that will work for both of you and trying to score a reservation in time (no easy feat). For example, Nobu was offering a promotional lunch for Restaurant Week, but it was sold out within the first day it became available on Open Table. If you are a serious foodie, I would recommend making your “wish list” of restaurants before Restaurant Week begins to ensure your highest chances of scoring your top choices. If you really want to score reservations at the most sought out restaurants, you have to be dedicated to the cause!
After securing a few reservations on Open Table, present all options to your date. It is better to present your date with three different restaurant choices than with one restaurant only to find out he/she doesn’t like fish and you secured a reservation at David Burkes “Fishtail.” This recently happened to me and it will ruin the whole mood if you are a serious foodie! Always check with your date about menu preferences before deciding on the restaurant.
Restaurant Week “Due Diligence”
Finally, make sure you have researched the atmosphere of the restaurant. For example, if you are going on a first date and you booked a reservation at Jean Georges “Nougatine,” this may seem very stiff for a person you have never met, and it may appear that you are trying to over impress them. Because of the fair prices of Restaurant Week, you are able to take your date to upscale restaurants you would otherwise never think of taking them to in the early courtship process. Keep this in mind as many dates could be scared off if they think you are “too into” them too early on if you take them to very nice places. If you are a serious foodie like I am, share this information with them so they know it is a hobby of yours! This will lighten the mood. Also, if you love to get dressed up, let your date know this ahead of time so that they do not appear under- dressed at the restaurant.
Here are my top tips for successfully ordering off of a Restaurant Week menu once your date finally arrives:
1- Be flexible- Understand that the prices are reduced because you are getting a sample of what the restaurant typically offers. You have to be flexible in what you order as the whole menu will not be available to you.
2- Snack before you go- Restaurant Week menus are typically much smaller portions than what a restaurant would usually serve. Eat a few crackers or a small snack before dining out or else you will be starving and end up ordering off the regular menu, which will annoy your date who took you to the restaurant because they thought there would be reduced prices, rather than the regular prices.
3- Order different meals- One of the best things about Restaurant Week is that you can try a variety of different entrees at the restaurant that would otherwise be very expensive. You and your date should order as differently as possible so you can sample each other’s foods and if you are lucky, share a dessert at the end.
A word of caution
While Restaurant Week is a great way to try great new restaurants in your city, it is also an ideal way to observe key factors about your date that may otherwise not come out until much later on in the courtship process. For example, notice how your date acts at the restaurant – do they easily fit into the atmosphere or do they complain that it is “too stodgy and old” and that there are no young people around? Do they enjoy getting dressed up or tell you they had to search for a nice dress shirt since they never get dressed up to go anywhere? Do they tip the waiter, valet and coat check accordingly or do they pay no attention to them? Do they comment on the calories in your dessert or do they say they are glad you are enjoying your meal?
Dining out at nice establishments can bring out glaring differences in socio- economic statuses and it is important to keep this in mind. While you may easily fit into a very restaurant atmosphere, your date may not be used to it or may have grown up in a family that did not often dine out. Be aware of the date that immediately holds resentment or makes comments about this very early on. It is worth letting them go as you will never really get to enjoy your meal if they are pointing out everything that is wrong with the meal or the restaurant.
Finally, if you can’t get enough of Restaurant Week, do not fear! A new company called Klobe Card has just come out with a card that will offer diners 50% off their food bill (minus liquor). With Klobe Card, 2 people eat, 1 person pays- it is the equivalent of 100 free dates. NYC diners will be able to reap the benefits of restaurant week prices all year long!
NYC Restaurant Week
Kristen Ruby is the President & Founder of Ruby Media Group, a Social Media Marketing, Public Relations & Personal Branding Agency. Follow Kris on Twitter @sparklingruby or via her blog.