5 Ways To Get More Out Of Restaurant Week

The choices can seem overwhelming, but some planning will pay off.

From New York City to Chicago, Restaurant Week 2024 is beginning to pop up in locations across the country. Local sponsors put these events together as a calculated pre-fixe strategy at lunch and dinner to lure customers to restaurants at slow times of the year.

These events offer diners an opportunity to try someplace new, whether it's a cool bar, an upscale restaurant, or even a delicatessen. Restaurant Week specials typically feature a two- or three-course menu, and some spots might offer as many as four or five.

The lists can be long: More than 630 restaurants are taking part in New York, more than 400 in Chicago, and 37 are taking part in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I live. So it certainly helps to have a game plan. Here are some strategies that can help you get more out of your local Restaurant Week.

Do your restaurant research before you go

Numerous restaurants are listing their Restaurant Week specials online in advance so you can see the options before you make a reservation. Once on site, though, you might have to be a little more proactive.


Over the years, I've learned that some restaurants conveniently "forget" to bring you the (often discounted) Restaurant Week menu, or it genuinely slips their mind since it's out of their routine. If you've come specifically for the special offer, ask for it.

Check the prices

Some cities follow Restaurant Week guidelines that keep prices affordable. For instance, Denver restaurants this year will include four price tiers during their March event: $25, $35, $45, or $55 for a multi-course meal. Meanwhile, Ann Arbor's event will include 14 restaurants offering deals "for two," on the expectation that you'll bring someone with you.


You will want to make sure that the meal is a good value compared with what you'd normally pay if you ordered a la carte—otherwise, you're needlessly limiting your menu options. Sometimes, even if the Restaurant Week prices are ostensibly better, the restaurant isn't necessarily funneling its best offerings into that menu; there might be a simple (and boring) green salad for a starter or a miniature cupcake for dessert.

Understand the restrictions

Always read the fine print. In New York City, for example, Saturdays are excluded from Restaurant Week, and Sundays are up to the restaurant's discretion. No matter where you choose to eat, it is a good idea to make a reservation, and some places might all but require one.


While many restaurants will offer a selection of starters, entrees, desserts, others limit the choices, allowing diners to select only the entree (with a fixed appetizer and dessert), or perhaps presenting an entirely preset menu. If you know yourself or your dining companions to be picky eaters, that isn't the experience for you.

Some, especially high-volume spots, will specify "no substitutions or modifications" to the items offered. That can be a problem if you have dietary restrictions or you don't like an ingredient in the dish. Fortunately, an increasing number of restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan dishes during Restaurant Week, so a group of diners with different needs can be accommodated.


Look for little treasures

The most magnanimous participants in Restaurant Week stick close to their everyday menus. That's a great strategy, because it gives people a look at what they can expect if they come back for a regular meal. Everybody gets chips and salsa included with their dinner at Barcocina, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago. Years ago, a publishing friend and I attended Restaurant Week at La Grenouille in New York City. The last course allowed us to choose any sweet we wanted from the dessert cart. I had a raspberry tart with luscious fruit that I remember fondly to this day.


Seek interesting drinks

Lately, bars and other drinking establishments have signed up to participate in Restaurant Week as well. In New York City, The Good Good cocktail bar is offering six different wines by the glass, along with its food menu. In Ann Arbor, Bløm Meadworks is offering "drinks and a nosh for two," which includes a flight of six housemade meads and ciders, plus snacks like a spinach hand pie and Michigan whitefish pâté. Nearby, Irish pub Conor O'Neill's is offering one dessert: a pint of Great Lakes ale.