Have no fear, broke epicureans: you still have three days left to enjoy Restaurant Week. (Or three and a half, I suppose, if inspiration strikes and you decide to head out tonight.) But Restaurant Week is not for the faint of heart. The list of participating restaurants is dizzying, many end up packed, and the specials can be daunting (what the hell is bavarois, anyway?). Here’s how to navigate restaurant week and come out on top—or at least with a full tummy.
DO: Seize the opportunity to eat on the cheap.
There are 18 participating restaurants on Capitol Hill alone, at a slew of different price points. Since you’ll be paying $30 for three courses no matter what, now’s the time to eat somewhere that you couldn’t normally afford. Instead of Skillet or Barrio, check out Crush or Lark for the best value.
DON’T: Forget to tip.
Restaurant week is notoriously hellish for waitstaff, as their restaurants tend to fill up with groups of inexperienced, bargain-hunting diners. Be sure to leave a healthy tip of at least 20 percent—you’re getting a good deal, so you can afford it!
DO: Hop on the bus.
The list of participating restaurants is truly staggering, and you’d be remiss to limit yourself to one neighborhood. Make an outing of it by choosing a restaurant that’s outside your normal stomping ground. For a change of scenery, try the divine cider-bathed mussels at Bastille in Ballard, or the porcini curry at South Lake Union’s Shanik.
DON’T: Limit yourself to dinner.
Many restaurants are offering two- and three-course lunches for just $15, which is a great way to experience restaurant week on the cheap. Sure, a fancy dinner out is fun, but going straight from econ class to La Spiga for gnocchi al pomodoro is the definition of treating yo’ self.
DO: Look up menus beforehand.
Keep in mind that restaurant week deals don’t apply to the entire menu. If you’ve been waiting to try a certain restaurant, be sure to look up their menu on the Restaurant Week website to make sure they’ll be serving up a dish you enjoy.
DON’T: Drop in
Restaurant week is serious business, and tables go fast at some of these places. Be sure to call ahead at least a day in advance to ensure your spot, and be sure to let them know you’ll be dining from the restaurant week menu.
DO: Go to Poppy. Please. Do it for me.
I went to Poppy for Restaurant Week in the spring and I still daydream about it—it’s my top recommendation this time around. If you can only go to one restaurant, go there. Accept Jerry Traunfeld into your heart and he will never lead you astray. They’re doing a lavender-crusted duck leg this time around, so let’s just say I’m seriously considering returning this week for round 2.