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Restaurant Week 2009

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Plans have been announced for Restaurant Week 2009, as noted in an article in yesterday's Chicago Tribune:
www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

There are actually two different groups of restaurants with Restaurant Week events for three different weeks.

February 20-27, over 130 restaurants will be participating in the Restaurant Week sponsored by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. During this period, these restaurants will be offering special prices for three-course meals, usually on a special, limited menu for the promotion. Most restaurants are participating in the promotion for both lunch ($22) and dinner ($32), although a few are doing so only for lunch, and a few only for dinner. You can view the list of restaurants and details at www.EatItUpChicago.com Some have their special Restaurant Week menu posted on their website, and I'm sure more will do so between now and the actual week of the promotion.

January 25-30 and February 1-6, the 14 restaurants comprising Chicago Originals, an organization of independent restaurants, will be running a similar promotion, with three-course lunches ($24.09) and dinners ($29.09). Some restaurants will throw in a bottle of wine for an additional $20.09. This group has not yet posted details on its own website, but you can see the list of restaurants there at www.chicagooriginals.com/restaurants.php

For information about last year's Restaurant Week, see the following discussions:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/489030
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491518

Make your reservations early, as this is a popular promotion.

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  1. Wow thanks for the details...I will definitely be taking part in this and spreading the info to all my friends and family.

    3 Replies
    1. re: LadyintheKitchen

      Any ideas of which of these are worth it? When I did restaurant week in New York, it seemed like some of the places assumed you were just there for the name, and service and food were not to their usual standards. I don't want to go to a place where they make a lot of their special dish up ahead of time and then warm it up and feed it to you like you're cattle.

      1. re: gastronaut10469

        "Worth it" and "great food" are two different things. For example, some of the restaurants listed wouldn't cost much more than the Restaurant Week prices at any other time; at others, they represent terrific savings. So some are "worth it" more than others, even though you may be getting great food either way. The best way to identify the savings involved is to check the regular prices on the restaurant's menu, which is usually posted on their website. (Prices for a few restaurants that don't have prices shown on their own websites can be found on Menupages at http://chicago.menupages.com ).

        It's also worth noting that it's in every restaurant's best interest to give diners a good impression, so that they will return as well as telling their friends. I'm not saying you are guaranteed of a great experience everywhere, but the bad experience you describe in New York would be foolish on the part of *any* restaurant (there or here), and does not represent the typical Restaurant Week experience that I've heard of. I have no experience with RW in New York, only here. Keep in mind too that this is only our second year with this event.

        The only real "catch" to Restaurant Week is the limited menu; for each of the three courses, restaurants typically offer only a handful of selections (sometimes as few as one, but typically 2-4) which are not necessarily the most expensive items from their menus, but at least give you the option to try dining there at a reasonable price. Of course, you always have the option of ordering, and paying more for, items not offered on the Restaurant Week menu.

        I'll tell you which of the RW restaurants I've enjoyed most and recommend. There are two in the tourism bureau's list that are among our very finest high-end restaurants: Seasons (which has RW menus for both lunch and dinner) and NoMI (lunch only). Beyond our temples of haute cuisine, the next tier of Chicago's restaurants, our "casual fine dining" restaurants, is well represented; some of our very best such restaurants are participating in these two promotions. In addition to the very fine dining Seasons and NoMI, the tourism bureau's promotion includes Aria, Atwood Cafe, Bistro 110, Brasserie Jo, Cafe des Architectes, Cafe Spiaggia, Carnivale, Coco Pazzo, David Burke's Primehouse, Fulton's on the River, La Sardine*, Le Colonial, the Lobby, Merlo on Maple, Naha, one sixtyblue, Pane Caldo, Park Grill, Quartino, Rhapsody, Roy's, Topolobampo, and most of the steakhouses. The independent group includes Bella Bacino's in LaGrange, Cafe Central in Highland Park, Cafe Matou, Hemmingway's Bistro in Oak Park, Kiki's Bistro, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Oceanique in Evanston, and Sweets and Savories. These are all excellent restaurants and worth visiting!

        * Although La Sardine is very good, it is not one of the better bargains in the list. If you are interested in trying La Sardine, you're better off going there any Tuesday, when they offer any appetizer, entree, and dessert on their menu for $25, which is less than the RW promotional price.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Several restaurants were added to the Restaurant Week promotion since I wrote the above post listing my favorites among the participants. Of particular note and worth mentioning are Aigre Doux, my top pick among contemporary American restaurants in the city, and Mercat a la Planxa, the widely-acclaimed new tapas restaurant in the southeast corner of the Loop.

    2. Okay, here's the first report of a Restaurant Week 2009 dinner! Remember, there are two groups of restaurants celebrating different Restaurant Weeks: the "Chicago Originals" this week and next, and the ones through the Chicago Tourism Bureau the last week in February.

      Tonight we went to Oceanique, the seafood-focused restaurant in Evanston, part of the "Chicago Originals" group. We intentionally went on a Wednesday because they have another special on Wednesdays, featuring their entrée of "Maine Lobster Steamed w/Roasted Red Onion, with Seasonal Beets, Basil Potatoes & a Saffron-Basil Essence" for $19 instead of the normal $36. So we ordered one dinner from the Restaurant Week menu, and the other a la carte with the lobster entrée deal. (It doesn't mention it on their website, but they are extending the lobster special on Wednesdays through the end of March for $20.)

      We LOVED everything we had! They started with an amuse bouche featuring some John Dory ceviche and a whole bunch of little tasty bits surrounding it on the plate. The "Grilled Calamari & Shrimp w/a Sake Essence, Ginger & an Ocean Salad of Avocado & Daikon Radish" starter on the RW menu was simply wonderful; the calamari and shrimp parts were perfectly tender with just the perfect slight amount of char on them, and that bed of salad was also delicious. We also ordered the "Foie Gras Pan Seared with Pomegranate-Apple Chutney, Yu Toy & Carmelized Pineapple & Yu Toy" appetizer from the a la carte menu and it was excellent too, and a nice sized portion, with two slices rather than the one often found elsewhere. Those were followed by a very nice green apple granite palate cleanser.

      The main we had from the RW menu, "Wild Maine Skatefish with Hubbard Squash, Corn & a Poblano-Cilantro Sauce" was superb; I really loved the way the sauce worked with the fish. Skate is fairly bland, but the poblano sauce is spicy; what made it work is that there was just the slightest amount of sauce, which prevented it from overwhelming the skate. LOVED it - my favorite dish of the entire dinner. Oh yeah, the lobster was excellent too, lusciously tender and flavorful.

      Oceanique's desserts are some of the best around. The RW menu comes with a plate with a small-size portion of each of two desserts, their Day for Night Cake (chocolate mousse cake) and their Meyer Lemon Custard Tart. We also ordered their chocolate pot de crème for the a la carte dinner. Yum!!!

      If we hadn't been there on a Wednesday and the lobster hadn't been on special, I'm sure we would have been happy getting two RW dinners, which would have included the other starter "Salad of Bartlett Pear, Watercress & Maytag Blue, Frisee, Candied Pecans & a Buttermilk Dressing" and the other main "Duck Roasted w/Kumquats & Pomegranate, Belgian Endive, Chanterelles, Bacon", both of which sounded good too. For $29 each, why not! And heck, at that price, if there's something that really sparks your interest that you want to try - maybe a soup or an extra dessert - you can order it on top of the two RW dinners and it won't break the bank.

      The service by the staff was exemplary. This was one of the very best dinners we've had in quite a while, as good as the best dinners I had anywhere in 2008. The fact that the Restaurant Week menu and the Wednesday lobster offer were such a bargain made it even better!

      NOTE: If you go to Oceanique any time other than Restaurant Week, they have several other deals that are worth considering. In addition to their $20 lobster on Wednesdays through the end of March, they have a 3-course prix fixe ($45) dinner Mondays through Fridays. You can also print their website home page where it says you can get $25 off your dinner, but that offer is not combinable with the RW menu, the Wednesday lobster deal, or the 3-course prix fixe dinner.

      Oceanique
      505 Main Street
      Evanston IL
      847-864-3435
      www.oceanique.com

      1. The bigger of the two promotions starts tomorrow and runs through next Friday.

        I see that some other restaurants are holding a similar promotion at the same time, called Chicago Chef Week. I'm guessing they missed out on being listed in the Tourism Bureau's promotion, for whatever reason, but still wanted to make a similar offer available. These include some of our better restaurants (e.g. Vie, Spring, Sola, Vermilion, etc). For details, see www.chicagochefweek.com

        Enjoy Restaurant Week, and post reports on your experience(s)!

        2 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          We have been regular customers of Allgauer's Grill in the Lisle Hilton and note that they are also offering a "restaurant week" menu with 9 dinner entrees at $20.09 each, including soup or salad. We will be there tomorrow night and will report on what the menu offers. Nice to know that suburban restaurants get the idea also.

          1. re: CJT

            I don't know for certain, but I suspect that suburban restaurants were not able to participate in the official Restaurant Week sponsored by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, because it is a City of Chicago agency. Both the earlier promotion held by the Chicago Originals group and the latest Chicago Chef Week promotion include some restaurants in the suburbs. Other restaurants, such as Allgauer's (which is doing the same thing at its other location in Northbrook, BTW), have decided to offer a promotion on their own, which of course they are welcome to do - the more the merrier! Note that the Allgauer's promotion consists of bargain priced entrees, rather than the 3-course specials that the official Restaurant Week promotions entail.

        2. Last night I ate at Café des Architectes as part of the Restaurant Week promotion. My dinner was SUPERB in every way!

          I have created a separate topic for the detailed report I wrote about my dinner. You can read it at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598661

          5 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy

            My wife and I are heading to Chicago this weekend and have lunch reservations at David Burke's Primehouse. I was very impressed by the range of options for the lunch menu. I was wondering if anyone had a strong opinions about about any of the lunch options: Pan-Roasted King Salmon, Petite Filet, dry-aged sirloin or the Waygu Skirt steak.

            Thanks for the advice!!

            1. re: chris in illinois

              You don't mention whether this will be on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. There are different menus each of these three days. On Friday, in addition to the normal lunch menu, they will be participating in the Restaurant Week promotion, offering a special 3-course menu at lunchtime for $22; I don't know what's on it. On Saturday they will have their normal lunch menu; the dry-aged steaks are always a good bet, but I would also discuss the differences among the steaks with your server (and the salmon is good too). On Sunday they will be doing their wonderful "American dim sum brunch" which includes samples of their steaks as well as seafood; to read more about what that's like, see my detailed report about it in the brunch discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Sorry about that, we're going Friday specifically for the restaurant week lunch menu. We get up to Chicago 4-5 times a year and I've been meaning to go to David Burke's and this seemed like an excellent time to do that. Unfortunately, friday dinner and saturday dinner are both at the Hyatt (Wacker) for a conference that my wife is attending.

                BTW, nsxtasy, I appreciate your expertise on this board and look forward to my meal on Friday.

            2. re: nsxtasy

              Last night I ate dinner at one sixtyblue as part of the Restaurant Week promotion. I've posted my detailed report in the separate topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598661

              I see Chris has posted a detailed report about his lunch at David Burke's for Restaurant Week at at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/599974

              Also note that Restaurant Week - the big Restaurant Week promotion from the Tourism Bureau, the one with 130+ restaurants participating - has been extended to March 6.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                We ate at three restaurants during RW this year
                Café des Architectes was fabulous. i had very much the same menu as nsxtasy and was blown away.
                The Gage- very interesting menu and well done. Fabulous dessert
                Old Town Brasserie- Nice, simple menu but well done. However, the choices were the least interesting of the three.

            3. I went to Farmerie 58 for dinner on the first Friday of restaurant week. I must admit, I was surprised to read on this board that Restaurant Week has been a success for the most part, because I tend to be skeptical of getting good service with a prix fix deal based on past experience. But after reading several great threads about the restaurant and restaurant week, I decided to give it a try.

              As nsxtasy pointed out, not all of the restaurants menus represent "a great deal", and indeed, Farmerie 58's RW menu was priced pretty much on par with their regular menu. My bad for not researching the menu prior to making the reservation.

              Even though our reservation was quite early, 7:15 I think, we hardly ever got to see our waitress. But it was RW, so to an extent, that was to be expected. The food took forever to arrive and was just alright. Nothing was so delicious that we felt we had to come back and eat it again.

              The waitress actually sneered at our wine choice, so when I asked her to suggest another wine within our price range, she asked what we liked, and then suggested three wines. None of the wines had characteristics that we liked, but she ensured us that they would go perfect with our meals (which were all different--between four of us, we ordered the entire RW menu). We picked one and were really disappointed with it. We didn't find out until after we got the bill that she went WELL over our price range in choosing a wine. I understand that alcohol is probably one of the ways restaurants make good money off of RW, but I found this to be unprofessional.

              All in all, RW was a big disappointment for me. I hope others had better luck than me!

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodrocks

                Sorry to hear about your experience, but thanks for sharing it with others; information is helpful, whether it's positive or negative.

                Regarding wine, some restaurants offer wine specials in conjunction with Restaurant Week. A good server is quick to point those out. Our server at one sixtyblue the other night did so, and so did our server at Carlos a few months back as part of the "Appetite Stimulus Plan" promotion that was similar to Restaurant Week. Unfortunately, not every restaurant (or every server, apparently) is aware of the need to please customers during Restaurant Week, as much as any other time.