What started as a summer promotion within the last ten years has -- thanks to the U.S.'s growing obsession with food -- morphed into, a twice-a-year culinary celebration in cities in both the U.S. and Canada. In the winter, the whole premise is to get you out of your warm living room and traveling to a city near you to eat warm, seasonal food. In most cases, participating restaurants create special menus in honor of the event. This year, with the economy what it is, it's admittedly harder for most people to dine out, but local businesses need the revenue perhaps now more than ever. Consider it a winter indulgence that staves off the January blues, and that you are doing your part to eat, drink, and spend locally. Prices, as you might expect, do not include taxes or tip.
This year, Baltimore's celebration boasts a list of 90 restaurants and counting, and has also extended itself to include two full weekends and more special events. Some restaurants are adding incentives such a chef's dinner or wine flights and pairings that thoughtfully accompany the meals. New additions this year include Geisha Sushi, Saute, Louisiana and Fin Steak and Seafood. www.baltimore.org). Discounted parking is available from $3 at specific garages.
What: Baltimore's Restaurant Week
Where: Baltimore, Maryland
When: January 23-February 1
How Much: Prix-fix, three-course lunches, $20.09; dinners, $30.90
For More Information: tel. 410/659-7300; www.baltimorerestaurantweek.com
Chicago is known as a great restaurant town, and its summertime celebration is well known. But Eat It Up is its second annual winter event and will feature more than 150 restaurants that have put together lunches and dinners -- some of those include Blueprint Restaurant and Lounge, the Drawing Lounge, Room 21, and Topolobampo. You can search for a restaurant by neighborhood or cuisine type, both of which are helpful devices.
What: Eat it Up Chicago!
When: February 20-27
How Much: Prixe-fixe, three-course lunches, $22; dinner, $32
For More Information: tel. 312/567-8500; www.eatitupchicago.com
Now in its fifth year, Denver's restaurant week celebrates the city's scene and is growing, with a record number of 62 restaurants participating as first-timers and over 200 restaurants signed up in total. The price of $52.80 riffs on the fact that Denver is exactly 5280 feet above sea level. The Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau put it together and special menus will be posted on the website by mid-January.
What: Fifth Annual Denver Restaurant Week
Where: Denver, Colorado
When: February 21-27
How Much: Multi-course dinner for two, $52.80; or $26.40 for one.
For More information: tel. 800/233-6837; www.denverrestaurantweek.com
This year, the winter incarnation of New York City's restaurant week boasts more than 250 participating restaurants, and 100 of them are adding Sunday to their offerings for the first time. Old standbys such as Gramercy Tavern are included, along with more contemporary, newer places such as Bar Bouloud, Apiary, and Nobu. New additions this year include Dovetail, Fishtail by David Burke, The Palm Tribeca, and Lever House Restaurant. Reservations are being accepted as of January 5 through the city's tourism site (www.nycgo.com). This event, however, will benefit City Harvest: 25 cents of every dollar spent, up to $10,000, will be donated by American Express and NYC & Company, sponsors of the event.
What: NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2009
Where: New York City
When: January 18-23; January 25-30
How much: Prix-fixe, three-course lunches $24.07; prix-fixe three-course dinners $35.
For more information: tel. 212/484-1200; www.nycgo.com
San Francisco is not the type of place where residents need to be encouraged to go out to eat -- it's home to one of the most thriving culinary and restaurant scenes in the country -- but in case you need a reason to visit, this year's two-week event boasts special lunch and dinner menus from the more than 100 participating Bay area restaurants. Reservations are currently being accepted via Open Table (www.opentable.com); menus are posted on the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau site.
What: Dine About Town
Where: San Francisco, California
When: January 15-31
How Much: Prix-fixe, three-course lunches of $21.95; dinners $34.95
For More Information: tel. 415/">391-2000; www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/dineabouttown
Vancouver is a bit of a melting pot when it comes to restaurants, with Asian flavors making strong, recurrent appearances in many menus, along with local seafood and produce, in season. For the seventh year in a row, the city takes a 19-day extended look at the region's offerings; restaurants offer thoughtful wine and dine pairings. Reservations are being accepted as of January 5 through Tourism Vancouver's website. Special tourism promotions that incorporate hotel stays are also available; click on "dine out." Visitors can also vote for their favorite experiences online for the second annual Best Bite Awards.
What: Dine Out Vancouver
Where: Vancouver, British Columbia
When: January 14-February 1
How much: Three-course, prix-fixe dinners at $18, $28, $38
For More Information: tel. 877/826-1717; www.tourismancouver.com