It's that time of year again -- or at least one of those two times of year. Restaurant weeks are upon us once the holidays are long gone. They get you out of the house in the dead of winter, and often come with the incentive of special menus, special prices, and special benefits to various hunger-related charities. Traditionally, these events take place in the summer but increasingly many cities have added the promotions during the winter as an economically driven tourism incentive. Taxes, tips, and alcohol are not included.
What: Baltimore Restaurant Week
Where: Baltimore, MD
When: January 22-February 7
Cost: Three-course, prix fixe lunch for $20.10; three-course, prix fixe dinner, $35.10.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor is great to explore when the weather is milder, but you can still traverse that part of the city, along with other neighborhoods (Little Italy, Federal Hill) in the cold. If you're participating in the third annual event, discounted parking is offered at specific city-owned garages. The site will launch in mid-December and a list of participating restaurants will appear as it becomes available; the last time the event was held, 110 establishments were involved.
For ten days in Kansas City, 10% of the price of your meals at participating restaurants will be donated to Harvesters, a food bank that serves the community. It's the first event of its kind in Kansas City, and special menus are being created in the city's restaurants, which include more than barbecue and steakhouses; expect the gamut of ethnic fare and forward-thinking, chef-driven places, too. Reservations can be made starting December 22; search through the web site to find one you like and follow the link to OpenTable (www.opentable.com). In the meantime, find out which ones are signing up on a daily basis -- organizers expect somewhere between 50 and 75 -- by following the event on Twitter.
What: Winter dineLA Restaurant Week.
Where: Los Angeles, California and metro area
When: January 24-29; January 31-February 5
Cost: $16, $22, or $28 lunch; $26, $34; $44 dinner
The restaurant celebration in Los Angeles is now a twice a year event, on the heels of this past October's success with a Fall dineLA Restaurant week, which attracted 260 restaurants. Nearly all of those establishments are set to return. There are a few different price points for the promotion depending on whether you select deluxe, premier, or fine dining, and some of the restaurants are offering special wine pairings, too, for an additional charge, so be sure to inquire when you make reservations. These are generally taken about two weeks before the promotion starts, but the site will have daily updates about availability throughout the promotion.
Restaurant week is held twice a year in Madison, with more than 60 restaurants scheduled for this winter. The list of restaurants, complete with menus, is scheduled to be posted online by December 15. In order to reserve, you should call the restaurants directly starting December 1st. A range of restaurants can be found in Madison, ranging from Italian fare at Lombardinos, a theatrical, carnivorous experience at Samba Brazilian Grill, farm-to-table ethos of L'Etoile, and the lively Brocach Irish Pub, among others.
What: New York City Restaurant Week
Where: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens
When: January 25-February 7
Cost: $24.07 for three-course prix fixe lunch; three-course, prix fixe dinner $35
New York City offers its restaurant week as a semiannual event, and this year marks its 19th. The prices have held steady since 2006, excluding taxes, beverages, and tips, of course. It's really a two-week affair, except for Saturdays; some places opt to run the promotion on Sundays so be sure to read carefully. Reservations are open to the public starting January 11, and you can expect a list of participants to be listed online shortly before then. In the meantime, mum's the word on anyone who's already signed on. We'll just have to wait.
What: Winterlicious and Winter City Festival
Where: Toronto, Ontario and the greater metropolitan area
When: January 29-February 11
Cost: Three course, prix-fixe lunch $15 to $30; three-course prix fixe dinner $25 to$45
Now in its seventh year, Toronto's Winterlicious (its warm weather companion is called, naturally, Summerlicious) runs for two weeks, including the weekends. Prices range depending on the establishment and currently, 150 restaurants are signed on; reservations will be taken starting January 11. However, on December 3, tickets for special culinary events in conjunction with the promotion go on sale. Winterlicious is part of a larger festival called Winter City, which focuses on "culture, creativity and cuisine," ranging from carnivals with psychics and storytellers to on-demand viewings of more than 5,000 films to special ice skating events geared toward other cultural holidays -- think Chinese Lantern Festival and one honoring Brazilian Carnaval.
Entering its ninth year and occurring twice annually, the Dine About Town promotion in San Francisco presents food lovers with a dilemma: How do you decide where to go in a city known for its fantastic restaurants? Well, the site goes live on December 15, so in just a couple of weeks, you'll be able to scan the list and make reservations; use of OpenTable is encouraged. This year's new participants include 5AS Steak Lounge, Amber India, Eclipse, Midi, and Waterbar. Want to sample a taste from a range of the restaurants involved? The Dine About Town launch party takes place January 13 and the $20 admission goes toward Meals on Wheels.