Depending on how you approach going out to dinner, Restaurant Week is either a blessing or a curse. Everyone in town appreciates that the yearly fundraiser helps raise money for some of the area’s most crucial charities, among them the North Texas Food Bank, but the reality of Restaurant Week is occasionally less than desirable. No matter how you feel about this celebration of cheap(er) food, Restaurant Week is back again this year.
Diners can begin making their Restaurant Week reservations starting on July 13. As in previous years, you can expect that the best reservations (Al Biernat’s at 7 p.m. on a Friday, for example) will be snapped up quickly. Fortunately, because “Restaurant Week” has now been extended by most participating establishment into “restaurant month,” you’ll have nearly three weeks to enjoy your $35, three-course, prix fixe menu.
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Every year, the same chorus of complaints about Restaurant Week arises. Seasoned diners, servers and chefs alike tend to view the three weeks the fundraiser encompasses as “amateur hour,” when people who don’t spend much time in swanky spots come to complain about medium-rare salmon and request a zillion substitutions. Even though Restaurant Week is about raising money for charity, plenty of people view it simply as a good time to score a deal, which doesn’t exactly work out well for the servers who rely on tips to survive.
What’s worse is that menus during Restaurant Week just often aren’t reflective of a restaurant’s cuisine. This kind of high-volume service means chefs must create dishes that are easy to cook and get out to customers quickly, while also staying within the tighter food costs margin created by the discounted menu. In many cases, the Restaurant Week menu is actually a worse value than if you’d just shown up at the restaurant and ordered an appetizer, entree and dessert of your choosing.
Still, there is something particularly attractive about scoring a reservation at The Mansion and walking out the door having just spent $35 ($60 with a decent tip), which is why this tradition likely will persist until the end of time. Before you make your reservation this year, be sure to scope out the menus to ensure you’ll be able to get a taste of what the restaurant does during every other week of the year.
If Restaurant Week is a tradition for you, go ahead and mark July 13 on your calendar. Even if you don’t score a great dinner reservation, try lunch. This year, the lunch program has been expanded and is being offered at just $20, down from $25 last year. As in previous years, you can fire up the OpenTable app and stake your claim whenever reservations go live.