What is Restaurant Week? It is a week-long (sometimes longer) event that celebrates the culinary delights in a particular city. Not all restaurants participate, but, those that choose to must adhere to certain parameters set by their city.
Small Plates or a special “prix fixe” menu are popular models for most Restaurant Week events. Prix-fixe means a set price for a complete meal. In some cities, restaurants are challenged to provide a multi-course (usually 3-4 courses) dining experience for a set dollar amount (usually $50 or less but some locations are more expensive). Both of these concepts are great because they give diners the chance to try a place they have never been to before. Or maybe visit a place that just opened. Or sample a cuisine they want to try but are afraid to invest a whole dish on.
Another great thing about the small plates (or the prix fixe menu) dining experience is sharing. In 2019, my SO and I experienced our first Chicago Restaurant Week. We decided to try a restaurant in the city that we had never been to before called Somerset. They offered 4 different options for an appetizer, 3 different salads, 4 main courses, and 3 desserts to choose from. So, between the two of us, we were able to try 8 different dishes. A few days later, we dined at The Hampton Social and again enjoyed multiple small plates. Here is their menu from 2019:
Most cities will list their participating restaurants well ahead of time. The larger cities, like Chicago, will even let you filter the restaurants by location or cuisine (link here). In some cases, you can view the establishment’s menu before you make a reservation.
Not all restaurant weeks happen at the same time. These dates are also set by each city. I found this link last year that lists Restaurant Week dates for every state. Do not be concerned about some of the locations still showing last year’s dates. These “weeks” are updated as the city announces them. Some cities have been updated for 2020, some have not. If your town is not on this list, that doesn’t mean they are not hosting the event. Maybe your personal city is not participating, but the suburb next to you is. Just Google “(City Name) Restaurant Week” and you can find the dates and locations nearest you.