5 rules for Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to experience all that Richmond’s culinary world has to offer… if you know what you’re doing. Take a look at five rules that will help you make the most of it.

This post originally ran during the Fall 2010 Restaurant Week. But hey, It’s still relavant! Just like Vanilla Ice.

Restaurant Week in Richmond can be a fun experience for some people. Restaurants are buzzing all week long. People are talking about what places they are going to try this year. New places emerge as “must-visits” on the Richmond scene. There is a lot of energy in the city during the week-long event.

Restaurant week can also be a nightmarish experience for others. The venue might be overcrowded. The food may not be good. The servers might be rude. The experience might reflect poorly on a place that is normally very good.

With all this in mind, I have put together five rules that will help you the consumer choose the best experience for Restaurant Week. Consider these rules carefully.

RULE 1: Timing is everything

When you visit a popular restaurant during peak hours, you should not be surprised to find the place crowded and uncomfortable. The crowded scene may work in New York or Chicago, but Richmonders generally are fans of personal space and do not like to be cramped. There are several popular restaurants (Acacia, Millie’s, Julep’s, Mezzanine) on the docket for Restaurant Week, and it is safe to assume that they will be booked to capacity during the dinner hour. Instead of avoiding the venue all together, consider WHEN you are going to visit it. A reservation early in the week is more likely to yield a comfortable dining experience. If you must go later in the week, pursue a reservation that takes advantage of the restaurant’s initial seating schedule.

RULE 2: Go with experience

No one expects a brand new restaurant to work smoothly; it needs time to work out the kinks. In many ways, a restaurant jumping into Restaurant Week for the first time can be a somewhat similar experience. How many people are going to come? What should the prix fixe menu be? What will the staffing needs be? These are all valid questions for a restaurant entering this event for the first time, and it is highly likely that they aren’t going to get it all exactly right the first time out. It is often a much safer bet to choose a place that has been participating in Restaurant week for a few years.

RULE 3: Don’t go without reservations

If you are planning on just showing up at restaurant on a whim, you are playing with fire. With some places like Millie’s, you can’t help it, because they don’t take reservations. In that case, see Rule 1. If you can make reservations, then do it. As you well know in Richmond, rarely does a reservation mean immediate seating, so combining reservations with Rule 1 will get you the most pleasant situation.

RULE 4: The prix fixe dilemma

One of the benefits of Restaurant Week is that participating restaurants are offering three course meals at a reasonable cost. It makes the unaffordable more affordable. There are, however, a handful of restaurants (Acacia, for example) that already operate with a prix fixe menu that is under or around $25. Logically, it would make sense that these restaurants are already competent at the prix fixe method and will therefore have the experience necessary to provide a wonderful dining experience during restaurant week. The other way to look at it is that of opportunity cost. You have once chance to try a restaurant at an affordable rate. Why use that opportunity to visit a place that provides affordability year round?

RULE 5: Be adventurous

Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try something new at a much smaller expense than you might usually incur. Use it wisely. For some of you who lean toward new and trendy restaurants, use this experience to visit some old favorites. For those are always going to the same places, use the experience to try something new and possibly add it to the list of regular jaunts. For those who normally don’t dine out, try something reputable. Finally, for those who always settle for the steak or salmon, try the Pork Osso Bucco or the Fried Jambalaya Fritters.

At the end of the day, you can break any or all of these rules and have a fabulous experience during the week. These rules are simple guidelines that are designed to help prepare you in order to make 2010 Richmond Restaurant Week a memorable one. With the right preparation, you can reinvent your dining choices, broaden your preferences, and become one of the many that will eagerly await Restaurant Week for years to come.

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Matt Sadler

In the hopes of experiencing the perfect meal, Matt “The Marinara” Sadler searches the foothills of Manakin, the barrios of Chesterfield, and the corners of Oregon Hill only to realize that he is easily satisfied.

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