Bring your appetite, sense of adventure, and an empty stomach to any one of these cities over the course of the next few months for an excellent culinary opportunity. For a lower price than usual, you can get some of the best food the city has to offer with menus created especially for these promotions. Some of the events are designed to get you into a city's downtown for dining, others are benefits and fundraisers, and others still just celebrate food. Most of the prices, unless otherwise noted, do not reflect beverages, taxes, and gratuities -- just food. When you book with the restaurant, it's a good idea that you're reserving in conjunction with restaurant week; most, if not all places create special menus for this event. Some of these events do not have all the details posted yet on their respective web sites, and some cities (Minneapolis, Seattle, Vancouver) have already held similar events this year, but we're putting it on the collective travel radar for those who still haven't planned their summer vacations.
What: Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week
When: August 13-19
How much: $25 three-course dinner, plus tax and tip
Although the list of participating restaurants has not yet been announced for Atlanta's Sixth Annual Restaurant Week, there's already a signature cocktail developed for the occasion. And yes, it involves peaches; it's a peach julep, courtesy of the City Grill and Dailey's. For reservations it's best to call the restaurants directly, but you don't need any passes, cards, or other proof of participation. Some of the establishments are offering casual dining experiences, where the $25 price tag covers two people. The event, a joint effort of Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau is designed to get people downtown, and get them eating. Keep checking the web site, as the list of restaurants and special menus are supposed to be posted in May.
In the seventh incarnation of Summer Restaurant Week in Boston, a momentum is really built because restaurant week is actually two weeks. The event is brought to you by the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau and American Express. More than 140 restaurants are participating in Boston, Cambridge and ten other nearby communities. Past participants include Todd English's popular Olives, a mainstay of Boston (and other cities too) at this point. Reservations and menus go "live" on July 6.
The 27th Annual Taste of Chicago takes place in Grant Park this summer with more than 70 restaurants participating. The festival not only offers a diverse array of food but all kinds of other tie-ins, such as Chicago's Race to Taste on July 1, music performances from the likes of John Mayer, The Black Crowes, Los Lonely Boys, Cheap Trick, Soul Asylum, and more. Admission is free, but it's one of those events that requires you to purchase tickets that have a monetary value, and then exchange the tickets for food at the various booths. Festival mainstays such as Eli's Cheesecake (also a sponsor) will be in attendance. Look, too for newcomers such as Chicago Chocolate Company, which will offer jumbo turtles, and chocolate-covered fruit kabobs, Rice Krispie treats, and strawberries; and Lagniappe-Creole Cajun Joynt, with crawfish boil, beignet, and the unlikely juxtaposition of Cajun fried chicken wings served on a waffle -- a popular New Orleans combo.
This sixth annual Miami Spice Restaurant Month runs again this year, sponsored by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. About 60 restaurants will offer specially priced lunches and dinners, and meals will be 25-60 percent off. It enables residents and visitors to dine some of the city's hottest spots at a fraction of the cost. Last year nearly 80,000 meals were served during the promotion at places such as afterglo, Harry's Grille, The River Oyster Bar, SushiSamba Dromo, Touch and Two Sisters. Check the website for restaurants -- the list is growing -- and special menus.
The 16th annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience takes place in the week leading up to and throughout Memorial Day weekend across the city, and in which an estimated 15,000 glasses of more than 1,000 wines will be poured from over 200 winemakers. More than 100 New Orleans restaurants are participating this year, and last year the event raised $100,000 for a handful of culinary organizations, including the Louisiana Restaurant Association's School-to-Career Program, the Crescent City Restaurant Re-Birth Project and Emeril Lagassee Foundation. You can buy tickets to individual events or pay the full price and experience it all. The event includes tastings, dinners, talks, wine and food seminars, champagne jazz brunch, and even a special event geared around deconstructing the pinot noir.
New York City celebrates its Summer Restaurant Week for two weeks, for the second time this year (they also do this in winter) and the sixteenth year in a row. Details of participating restaurants are hush-hush but on June 12 the participating restaurants will be posted and the site will start taking reservations on June 18, but if previous years' lists of participants are any indication of where this event will take you, gastronomically speaking, if you're in New York, you'll be in for a treat; many of the city's top restaurants have participated.
Toronto's Summerlicious celebrates its fifth year with 130 of the city's top restaurants and it's presented by American Express, which means that cardholders go to the front of the line to reserve before the general public by contacting the participating restaurants directly on June 19 and 20. The city is known for the diversity of its culinary offerings, from the East Indian-inspired food of 5th Element to the regional Italian cuisines at Zucca Trattoria, and restaurants will create special menus for the event. Another component of this event is Summerlicious Wine Sensations, which pairs special, limited-edition wines from Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin of Niagara, RH Phillips of California and Homestead of Australia. Reservations are accepted from the general public on June 21.
What: Taste of the Nation
When: Dates vary by location; May-August
How much: $75-$250 depending on event
Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), a nonprofit organization that fights hunger in American communities, is running a benefit called Taste of the Nation, which is geared toward ending childhood hunger. More than 4,000 restaurants in over 70 cities across the country usually participate in the form of food and wine tastings, seated dinners and even barbecues, designed to raise money and awareness. It's organized by geographical area -- you can click on your region and find out what restaurants are participating and when, and the price of tickets. Upcoming events take place in cities such as Pittsburg; Charleston, SC; Birmingham, AL; Denver, Las Vegas; Miami; Hartford, CT; Kansas City and more. Last year's event raised over $3.8 million and supported 174 organizations in communities across the country. Next year will mark its 20th anniversary.
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