Restaurant Week Hacks: How to snag a deal this summer

Carpaccio at Due Mari: 40-day dry-aged sirloin, watercress, capers and lemon
Michael White's Due Mari in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Michael White’s Due Mari in New Brunswick, New Jersey

From coast-to-coast across the country, advertisements are popping up for “Summer 2017 Restaurant Week.” Many of the offers are so appetizing that they are almost irresistible!

In New York City, the “week” is actually nearly three weeks long, extending from July 24 to August 18. Prices are slashed for fixed price, multi-course menus that are priced at $29 for lunch and $42 for dinner.

For food lovers, it’s a time to sample new restaurants, try different cuisines and discover new dishes, or to return to tried and true favorites at much reduced prices. For restaurant owners, it’s an opportunity to show off and attract new patrons during the traditionally slow summer season (when many people go away on vacation).

Tripping over Restaurant Week in New Jersey

Earlier this week, we were traveling through New Brunswick, New Jersey (where we went to select a slab for the countertop in our new townhouse). When we used Yelp to find a nearby restaurant, we realized that we were only minutes away from Chef Michael White’s highly-rated Italian seafood restaurant, Due Mari (two seas, in Italian).

The menu at Due Mari emphasizes fresh seafood, handmade pastas, and grilled meats. Operated by the Altamarea Group, the restaurant is under the same corporate umbrella as the two Michelin-starred Marea, one of our very favorite restaurants in New York City.

Only after we got to the front door did we see the sign outside noting that we had, by dint of good luck, tripped over New Brunswick Restaurant Week (July 8-22). The fixed price lunch special at Due Mari was priced at $19 for two courses.

Restaurant Week Menu at Due Mari
Restaurant Week Menu at Due Mari

In addition to the appealing prices, we wound up loving the meal at this new-to-us restaurant. The dining room was beautiful, the service attentive, and the food delicious.

Crispy calamari with baked kale chips and lemon crema
Crispy calamari with baked kale chips and lemon crema at Due Mari
Carpaccio at Due Mari: 40-day dry-aged sirloin, watercress, capers and lemon
Carpaccio at Due Mari: 40-day dry-aged sirloin, watercress, capers and lemon
Capesante at Due Mari -Pan-seared scallops, English peas, house-cured bacon
Capesante at Due Mari -Pan-seared scallops, English peas, house-cured bacon
Tagliatelle - thin ribbon pasta, traditional Bolognese meat sauce and ricotta
Tagliatelle – thin ribbon pasta, traditional Bolognese meat sauce and ricotta

8 Restaurant Week Hacks: Tips for taking advantage of Restaurant Week

Here are some tips to make the most of Restaurant Week this summer:

  • Many of these “weeks” (like the one in NYC) extend longer than a week; be sure to check the dates.
  • Lists of participating restaurants, which usually grow and vary from year to year, include old standbys as well as newcomers.
  • Fixed price menus are generally offered for both lunch and dinner—although there are restrictions. Be sure to read the fine print. For example, the special menus may not be available on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The restaurant menus are more limited than regular ones so make sure they include selections you would want to order. (We loved the menu at Due Mari but discovered that the restaurant had a regular fixed price lunch menu—available throughout the year—that included some of our favorites for only a few dollars more.)
  • Popular restaurants get booked early so make reservations as soon as possible; reservations can often be made on OpenTable. Some cities, like NYC, have sophisticated websites that allow you to search for restaurants and make reservations through the same site.
  • To find out about restaurant weeks available in your city or one that you’re traveling to, Google the “name of the city” and the term “Restaurant Week.”
  • Most cities/towns have two restaurant weeks, one in winter and another in summer. If you miss the summer offerings, you can always look forward to winter!

* NB: Unrelated to Restaurant Week: A nice touch at Due Mari

A two-course lunch was ambitious so I asked to take a portion of my pasta dish home. After the server took my dish away to be packaged, he returned with a claim check (similar to a coat check) so I could pick up the leftovers on my way out of the restaurant. Nice touch!

My ticket to enjoying my meal a second time
My ticket to enjoying my meal a second time
The homecoming:-)
The homecoming:-)

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  1. Restaurant food weeks are always fun and a good way to try out new dishes and new restaurants. Thanks for the great article and the great photos! Always a pleasure to read your articles and enjoy the photos.

      1. Yes, we also have some very interesting and diverse restaurant weeks here in Canada. I love trying many different types of food. It’s fun and entertaining.

  2. It looks like we managed to be on a cruise ship in the Sea of Cortez during Philadelphia’s 2 winter restaurant weeks this year. I’m “down the shore” for the summer. I googled Atlantic City Restaurant Week. Not surprisingly, it’s in March because the summer is their high season—-while Philly is a ghost town–relatively speaking. The next restaurant weeks in Philly are in September, but I’m hoping to still be hanging out in NJ. Your suggestion to Google restaurant week and the city/town to which you will be traveling is a good one. In fact, real foodies might even time their visits to coincide with restaurant weeks.

  3. Just read that it was Restaurant Week in NYC next week so I can’t wait to book a lunch reservation. We’re going to the MET Costume Exhibit so I’m going to plan to try Fig and Olive on the upper east side.

  4. As a lover of good food but alas, not a “foodie”, I have to confess my ignorance of Restaurant Week so thanks for the introducing me to this great way to discover new restaurants and dishes. After salivating over your pic of the pan-seared scallops, I’ll have to make sure to google the “Find Restaurants Week” website next time we visit the US.

  5. I remember restaurant week in NYC, so many good memories. Such a great time to try a bunch of new restaurants.
    We have it in Vancouver too but have sometimes found that many serve a subpar menu during the event.

  6. Great advice on taking advantage of Restaurant Weeks. Most cities have them and it’s a great way to eat at places that might be beyond your typical dining budget. I love the idea of the claim check for the lefties. We have a restaurant in Chicago The Italian Village that’s a favorite when going to the theater. They’ll hold your leftovers and you can come back and pick it up after the show. It’s less than a block away from one of the most popular theaters so it’s just perfect.

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