IT’s Restaurant Weakness

IT likes to eat. When we can, we like to eat well. But if gourmet’s not an option we have no qualms admitting that we’ll eat our fill of pretty much whatever you put in front of us. The week before last, though, we were delighted to have the opportunity to eat gourmet food in gourmand quantities. This worthy endeavor—which included dinner at Galileo followed the very next day by lunch at Vidalia—was brought within reach of our entry-level-salary-sized pocket books by the Washington, D.C. incarnation of Restaurant Week.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, restaurant weeks have sprung up in cities across North America as a way to boost business at top restaurants during otherwise slow periods (the dog days of summer, post-Christmas belt-tightening), generally by offering three-course prix-fixe lunches and dinners at deeply discounted, often cutesy, prices—lunch cost $20.06 in Boston this year, and $24.07 (24/7) in New York.

An example: Jessie’s $30.06 Galileo feast of baby octopus, black cod with couscous, and roasted peach in zabaglione would have cost more than twice that on an ordinary night.

While it’s too late to partake in the festivities here in the nation’s capital and a number of other cities, some places (New York, Baltimore, Dallas, Providence) have extended their promotions, either in their entirety or at individual establishments. Philadelphia, on the other hand, waits for all the college kids to get back before its restaurant week (September 10-15), and Miami has an entire restaurant "month" (which encompasses both August and September). For the last two weeks in September, nine cities and counties in Canada and the U.S. will participate in Dine Out (called City Dine north of the border), serving discount prix-fixe repasts and raising money for anti-hunger organizations.

So, there are plenty of opportunities left to splurge while feeling virtuous (both for saving yourself money and for helping the hungry). If you don’t manage to dine regally on the cheap this year, keep your eyes peeled in 2007 for the crop of winter restaurant weeks, generally found to sprout in New York, San Diego, Vancouver, and Denver, among others.