The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.
Bring an empty stomach and an adventurous appetite to any one of these cities over the course of the next few months for an excellent culinary opportunity known variously as Restaurant Week. For a lower price than usual you can get some of the best food on prix fixe, three-course menus created especially for these promotions. Many of these events have the not-so-ancillary economic goal of bringing people into downtowns, and others serve as fundraisers. Some cities, such as Indianapolis, Denver, Minneapolis-St.Paul, San Francisco and Vancouver, have already held similar events this year, and Seattle and Philadelphia will hold events in the fall. For those whose travel plans are often dictated by dining or for those who live near or in these cities, we've looked at a sampling of the summer's options. Many of the tourism bureaus involved in promoting these events are gearing it (and in some cases, related accommodations promotions) toward locals as a way to get out and about without, you guessed it, spending a lot of money on gas.
Now in its seventh year, Atlanta's restaurant week is a celebration of more than two dozen of its old standbys and new and most promising establishments. This year, the latest restaurant trend seems to incorporate rooftop lounges: see new additions Maxim Prime (affiliated with Maxim magazine), French American Brasserie, and Stats, a high-end sports bar. Confirmed participants include standby City Grill, Durango Steakhouse, No Mas! Cantina, Pacific Rim Bistro, Thrive, Room and Tringali's. In a bit of serendipity for visitors and residents alike, restaurant week is also taking place at the same time as the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, which highlights film, music, dance, theater, visual arts, and more. You can reserve through the restaurants themselves or through OpenTable (www.opentable.com).
What: Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week
When: July 21-27 How Much: $25 for three-course dinner
Information: tel. 404/658-1877; www.atlantadowntown.com/HavingFun_RestaurantWeek.asp
For the third summer in a row, Baltimore will host an event across the city involving prix-fixe, three-course meals at more than 80 restaurants, along with culinary events such as cooking demonstrations, classes and wine pairings. Specific parking garages are even cutting their rates for a special $3 parking rate. Confirmed restaurants for the event, which wraps itself around two weekends, include The Bicycle, the Brewer's Art and Amicci's of Little Italy; other possibilities include Greek dining at The Black Olive, and the casual, Inner-Harbor located La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant. Many are already posted on the website; more will be added, in addition to menus and other special features.
What: Baltimore Restaurant Week
When: July 26-August 3
How Much: $20.08 for three-course lunch; $30.08 for three-course dinner
This year, Boston's restaurant week is again a two-week celebration of the dining scene in the city, Cambridge and the suburbs. At press time, the list was not yet complete although 176 restaurants had signed up. On July 18, the complete restaurant list, expecting to top 200, will be posted to the event's website, along with menus and reservations. However, a confirmed new add to the list this year is Persephone, which highlights local, fresh and seasonal ingredients in its contemporary American fare. Others making an appearance during restaurant week include 606 Congress (located on the waterfront), the tapas place Toro; returning favorites include Union Oyster House, Rialto, the Blue Room and Icarus. The tourism website is also making a concerted effort to promote the city via hotel stays in conjunction with restaurant week activities.
What: Restaurant Week Boston
When: August 10-15; August 17-22
How Much: $20.08 for three-course lunch; $33.08 for three-course dinner
Information: tel. 888/SEE-BOSTON; www.bostonusa.com/rw08/index.html
This year, the rest of the country learned, via the show Top Chef, what its residents and devoted foodies and have known for years: Chicago is great place to eat. Now in its 28th year, the outdoor extravaganza spans the gamut of the city's signature foods and restaurants (think pizza and hot dogs in addition to fine dining) and takes place at Grant Park. The event also includes cooking demonstrations, a wine garden and live music in the form of Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, Chaka Khan, and Bonnie Raitt, among others. The Grant Park Orchestra sets the stage for the Fourth of July with a concert the night before the holiday.
What: 28th Annual Taste of Chicago
When: June 27-July 6
How Much: Admission is free, but a strip of 12 tickets, redeemable for food and drink, costs $8
Information: tel. 312/744-3315; www.tasteofchicago.us
In Miami, the city's restaurant celebration is extensive, lasting two months yet again: it takes place in August and September. To give diners a tease, however, a preview event is currently underway through June 30. This year, more than 50 restaurants are confirmed participants in restaurant month, and the list is likely to grow; some of them are even serving both lunch and dinner for the promotion. Confirmed participants, among many others, include B.E.D., Cioppino, Emeril's Miami Beach, Food Gang, Shula's Steak House, Spiga, and Wish.
What: Miami Spice Restaurant Month
When: August 1-September 30
How Much: $23 for three-course lunch; $36 for three-course dinner
Information: tel. 800/933-8448; www.miamirestaurantmonth.com
New York is rife with restaurants, and runs a promotion twice a year -- once in the winter and once in the summer. Some of the participating restaurants will offer lunch and dinner; some will feature dinner, so read the list carefully. The list does will go live on the website until June 23, so the list of participating restaurants is not yet final, nor is the charity that will benefit from the event. Reservations for American Express cardholders will be accepted starting that same date, and the general public can reserve starting June 26, using either OpenTable or the restaurants themselves. Consider making a weekend out of it thanks to NYC & Company's Summer in the City promotion, and after the event is all over you can try your hand at reliving the meal: the visitors' website plans to list some recipes from some of the participating restaurants.
Where: New York City
What: New York City Restaurant Week
When: July 21-25; July 28-August 1
How Much: $24.07 for three-course lunch; $35 for three-course dinner
Information: tel. 212/484-1200; www.nycvisit.com
This summer, more than 130 of Toronto's finest restaurants will offer prix fix menus for lunch and dinner. Restaurants will start accepting reservations from the general public starting June 19 for the sixth incarnation of Summerlicious. Specific regional wines from Niagara's Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin will be featured with select menu pairings. New additions to the list include three Indian restaurants: The Host Fine Indian Cuisine, Amaya, and Jaadu; some returning establishments who participated in the city's Winterlicious event are Autogrill, the Citizen and Greg Couillard's Spice Room and Chutney Bar. Restaurants that already have working relationships with OpenTable accept reservations that way; you'll see the Â?reserveÂ? link on the Summerlicious website. Otherwise it's advisable to call the restaurant directly.
What: Toronto's Summerlicious
When: July 4-20
How Much: $15 or $20 for three-course lunch; $25 or $35 for three-course diner
Information: tel. 416/338-0338; www.toronto.ca/special_events
Finally, Taste of the Nation, now in its 20th year, takes place across the United States this summer in various cities. Restaurants, chefs and come together to fight hunger and donate their proceeds from over 55 dining events to the Share our Strength, a nonprofit organization that aims to end childhood hunger. Upcoming events by city include, among others, one at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami area on July 24, another one on August 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah's Solitude Mt. Resort, and a Napa Valley, California celebration on August 25 at the Silverado Resort. At the end of the summer, from September 21-28, the Great American Dine Out will take place: this week-long fundraising event also benefits Share Our Strength. Several dozen restaurants, large and small, such as Legal Seafoods, Bouchon Las Vegas, and Per Se have already signed up but more will surely be added in the coming weeks.
Where: Select U.S. cities
What: Taste the Nation
When: Through September 28
How Much: Price varies per event
Information: tel. 877/26-TASTE; www.tasteofthenation.com