Sunday, February 26, 2012

Denver Restaurant Week Tips

With the commencement of Denver Restaurant Week (DRW), I feel there may still be some folks who do not know how to properly exploit these two weeks of potential dining bliss.  Each year this time grows more and more popular with an increasing amount of restaurants participating.  It can be overwhelming to choose which place to dine at, and since it sneaks up on a lot of people, reservations can be hard to find.  Because I care about everyone's food interests, I've listed some tips below to help navigate this gastronomic event.

  1. Find the best value.  This isn't exactly what it sounds like.  You're probably thinking that all places cost $52.80, so aren't they all equal?  Absolutely not.  Some of the nicest restaurants in Denver/Boulder participate, so you want to focus your efforts on these places.  If you can't imagine normally making it to one of the very expensive restaurants, then now is the time to make a reservation.  You pay only $52.80 and still get a meal that could normally cost you twice as much.
  2. Steak(is)OUT.  Too many people think nice of a nice restaurant and immediately think of a steak place like Del Frisco's or Morton's or Brooks, but steak is a tricky thing.  Generally, I'm opposed to ever going out to a steak place.  They rarely do anything other than steak decently.  All other food tends to be awful, and the steak better be more than perfect to be worth my money.  So stay away from steak places during DRW, for there are better places to spend your mile high money.
  3. Break the chains.  This is the most important rule.  Do not EVER go to a chain restaurant during DRW (or any other time).  It's the opposite of rule #1.  You end up at a restaurant that you would never spend $52.80 for two people to normally eat at.  I think restaurants like Outback or PF Chang's or Hacienda should be banned from participating.  Think about it.  All of DRW restaurants are equal during these two weeks.  You'll most likely spend a similar amount of money at any place, so you're choosing these awful chain over fantastic local restaurants?  Are you crazy?  Do you care about the taste of food?
  4. Study the menus.  Some restaurants get pretty lazy during this time and their menus show it.  You don't want to arrive at a restaurant only to find that their menu consists of basic roast chicken or salmon (unless it's Thomas Keller, then he can make whatever the halibut he chooses).  Find some restaurants that you've always wanted to try then check out their menus.  Some places, like Rioja, are getting wise to DRW and include their normal menu with small surcharges for various plates.  It's a good idea, but it can add up to what you thought was going to be a cheap trip.
  5. Yelp.  Check Yelp for reviews if you need help deciding.  I have a rule that I only go to a four-starred restaurant or better.  You know that if a place has over 100 reviews and at least four stars, it's probably worth your time.
  6. Act like you've been there before.  This is just general dining advice, but don't act like a jerk when you're out to eat.  I've never understood people who act like waiters and waitresses are subhuman.  These people are great resources to what is good on the menu, and they handle you're food before you do.  Why anger someone who can easily influence the chef to mess with your order?  Be nice and courteous and chew with your mouth closed.  Enjoy the evening and take your time.
  7. Be on thyme.  If you're going to be a late for a reservation, call.  I'm shocked at how thrilled these hosts/hostesses are when I call and say I'm running 15 minutes late.  They definitely appreciate the concern for their time.
Follow these tips for a successful DRW.  If you want to know some of my other thoughts about DRW, you can find them here.  Happy eating!