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Reflections about Long Island Restaurant Week(s)

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We've participated several years now, most recently as last night. We've used the week to explore upscale restaurants that we haven't been to before to see if we'd like to make them regulars in our rotation. But we always leave disappointed and underwhelmed and have begun to wonder whether this is a good idea at all?

Restaurants are zooey and loud, portions are small, food is fast but not great, and it's even downright bad at places known for consistently superb cuisine by all reports. I think both the price points and the overwhelming response (victim of success) have made quality control over the dining experience as well as what's on the plate less than it might otherwise be, and we end up soured on a restaurant that might impress us more favorably on a normal night.

I'm deliberately not naming the disappointing venues we recently visited because I'm beginning to think that restaurant week isn't a fair test. In fact, I doubt we'll ever bother participating again, to avoid any more loud, zooey evenings eating food that we don't love at places that probably do better ordinarily.

Am I alone in thinking they either have to raise the price $10 or give it up? Would the price increase help matters, or is the mobbing for a week the problem, or both?

Interested in others' thoughts about this.

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  1. I've had similar experience at restaurant weeks in other locations. I have seen restaurants take one of two strategies. The first is to serve dishes from their regular menu at a discounted price in hopes of building up their clientele. Others put together inexpensive specials which do not match the quality of their regular menu items. I certainly respect the small profit margins that restaurants operate under but I believe they are doing themselves a disservice by offering inferior quality menu items just to participate in a restaurant week. A lot of people do use restaurant week as a way to try out new places and if the diner has a positive experience they are likely to comeback. Same goes if its a disappointment. So I think restaurants really need to offer specials that stick with the spirit of their regular menu.

    I've seen restaurants use the promotion successfully. I checkout the restaurant week menus and look for the places that are offering at least one regular menu item with the specials. That's a tip off to me that they take it seriously.

    1. I know many restaurants that stopped participating because of disappointment on their end too. Diners just want a glass of water, etc, and never return when prices are normal. When chefs are proud of their food, they can feel insulted, as if people come only because it's cheap and not because of the food itself. Not exactly a win/win situation.

      1. I think you both raise interesting points. I think even if a restaurant is offering a regular menu item, the crowding, the rush may still compromise execution, but I think it's an interesting strategy to choose those who do offer regular menu items. I will say that even paying a supplement for some menu items is no guarantee of improvement over the typical restaurant week execution, we've found. dinehuntington week was a similar disappointment, with our table neighbors sending a dish back that we ate despite its complete lack of taste. We'll go back because the chef brought them a replacement and apologized, while the hostess brought us comped dessert wines and apologized. Clearly, things went amiss, but they take pride in the dining experience.

        Coll, I think I'm going to stick to non participant restaurants like those offering parallel prix fixe meals at their own price points. Honestly, the din and crowding is a really unpleasant aspect to the whole experience for us, too. I think if they don't rework some elements of restaurant week, there's going to be more and more attrition because chefs are doing themselves no favor participating under these circumstances, and neither are diners.

        1. With respect to the Huntington restaurant week promotion, virtually every restaurant linked to a page on which they posted their menu. And it seemed almost every menu was atypical for the restaurant. I've never seen so many entrees featuring Tilapia.

          I agree they should raise their price points. They don't want to lose money at $24, so it's all tilapia, chicken and pasta. I'd rather see $35, the regular menu, but with maybe smaller portions.

          4 Replies
          1. re: sbp

            They actually have raised their price points in effect, by having price supplements for the more expensive dishes. But it's still no picnic. The dish that was so bad that we got comped and the next table got an apology from the chef and a new dish was beautifully tender calamari that was described as spicy, but had NO taste, nada, not even salt. I've never eaten anything more bland in my life. It doesn't really cost more to add the spices, y'know?

            I think restaurants aren't staffed or prepared for the hoards that descend upon them during these weeks.

            You're right about the tilapia, though.

            1. re: mcf

              Just ate at a Newsday four star restaurant during this promotion and we all agreed the meal was underwhelming. Flavor was lacking. Choices were somewhat boring. Should have went with our first choice of sushi.

                1. re: sgny

                  Yes, I've had the same experience more than once, not just during restaurant week.

                  I don't know if that's due to reviewer recognition by the house during visits, or failure to account for slippage some time after the reviews. I don't know how often or consistently they revisit.