Residents of Charleston, whet your appetites: Restaurant Week is here. And whether you are looking for value, new cuisines or a night out, the talented chefs of the city are at the ready.
What started off as a way to bolster restaurant attendance in traditionally slower months, January and September, has grown into a widely appreciated and longed-for event by the public and the chefs.
“We began with 40 participants and now have 140 signed up to participate,” said Monique Semper-Flynn, special events manager for the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association. “We feel the current list of participants is an accurate reflection of our strong and diverse membership. In addition, the timing in September and January could not be better, as those times are traditionally slower business-wise. We love that we fill the seats in restaurants and offer a great event for diners who can appreciate a creative menu for a great value.”
Semper-Flynn went on to share the background of the successful and popular dining event.
“The Charleston Restaurant Association wanted to adopt the trend of offering a local Restaurant Week here in Charleston. The timing was perfect to implement it when we did since Charleston was rising in popularity as a dining destination and the trend had, at that time, proven itself effective in other cities. We couldn’t be happier with the growth the event has had.”
“Restaurant Week is an excellent opportunity for people to try several restaurants that they may not have been to in a while for a reasonable price,” said TJ Parsell, president of Hospitality Management Group.
And local chefs are excited about the event, too.
Nico Romo, executive chef at Fish, loves to “see people excited about where they will dine, what new tastes they will discover during this great deal.”
Their enthusiasm inspires this French master chef to “celebrate the spirit of this food-forward town.”
Industry veterans Fred Neuville at Fat Hen and Marc Collins at Circa 1886 echo similar sentiments.
Neuville thinks Restaurant Week is “well worth it because it gives the guests the chance to try some items that they may not otherwise try.” He calls it a “win-win for all.”
Collins hears from his guests on the value side of the equation. “They all just keep saying what a bargain it is to be able to come into our restaurant and get the kind of dinner we serve.”
Restaurant Week also serves as a great opportunity to check out the new players in town, and this is not lost on executive chef Nathan Thurston at Stars Restaurant — Rooftop & Grill Room.
Thurston will showcase his signature dishes and celebrate the winter harvest and has even placed the “infamous smoked chocolate S’Mores pie” on the Restaurant Week menu.
For Johnny Williams, general manager at 82 Queen, Restaurant Week is “an experience of fun and energy” where he sees the “local community come out and support the efforts of chefs and restaurateurs.”
Over at J. Paul’z, owner Robb Walker finds it to be a “shot in the arm during the slowest time of the year.” He also says it is an opportunity for he and his wife to try the new restaurants in town.
For the operators at Social Restaurant + Bar, where the emphasis often is on the bar and wine program, Restaurant Week provides chef Jesse Sutton the opportunity to spotlight the food.
“One reason that Restaurant Week is great for is that people think of us as a place to drink, and this gives us a chance to show that we have a lot to offer beyond bar snacks.”
Though many diners find that Restaurant Week is an opportunity to “get a bargain” — they can get three courses for $20, $30 or $40, depending on the restaurant — many owners and operators see the week as a time to give back.
Jonathan Kish, chief financial officer at 82 Queen and Lowcountry Bistro, said “we are excited to open our doors and show our appreciation to the residents of Charleston. Restaurant Week is the perfect time for us to showcase our cuisine and our service at a bargain that is intended to say ‘thank-you’ to all the locals who have supported us and dined with us all these year.”
Patrick Owens, chef and owner of Langdon’s and Opal, enjoys the chance to “showcase the culinary excellence of the Lowcountry while reinvesting in our community. We believe in sustainability, freshness and creativity, and Restaurant Week is a great time to share our passion with old and new patrons.”
Folly Beach operator Mike Spinelli of Rita’s Seaside Grille said he sees more of his regular customers return for the value-priced meals, although his own assessment is that “it is a good way for people to try new restaurants out of their price range, which in turn spreads the word about the great choices in Charleston.”
Much attention is given to chefs and diners this week, but as pastry chef Lauren Mitterer of WildFlour Pastry points out, it is “a super busy time for us because normal restaurant dessert business is about 33 percent or so of their guests, Restaurant Week means 100 percent of their guests get dessert. The sheer volume is noticeable, but we love it because it does expose dessert programs offered and hopefully something new and exciting to restaurant guests. Many restaurants choose to ... showcase their most popular desserts while some take this opportunity to allow some extra creativity on our part. Either, way we love it!”
So is there a down side to Restaurant Week?
For some it is the high volume and demand at popular eateries. For others, being restricted to a special menu is a negative. Expect crowds, bring your patience and have fun.
If value is a resolution for your 2013 budget, here is where you can begin.
Charleston Restaurant Week participants
3 for $20
Al Di La
Barbara Jeans Restaurant
Basil Thai Restaurant, downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant
Boone’s Bar (two people for $20)
Caviar & Bananas Gourmet Market & Cafe
Charleston Crab House, downtown Charleston and James Island
Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House
Five Loaves Cafe, Charleston and Mount Pleasant
Fuji Sushi Bar and Grill
Gilligan’s Seafood Restaurant, Johns Island
How Art Thou Cafe
J. Paulz, James Island and Mount Pleasant
Juanita Greenberg’s, Mount Pleasant (two people for $20)
La Fontana Authentic Italian Restaurant, North Charleston and West Ashley
Locklear’s Lowcountry Grill
Manny’s Neighborhood Grille
Mellow Mushroom, downtown
Nirlep Indian Restaurant (two people for $20)
Noisy Oyster Seafood Restaurant, downtown Charleston and North Charleston
Old Towne Grill and Seafood
Page’s Okra Grill
Queen Anne’s Revenge
Rita’s Seaside Grille
Saffron Cafe & Bakery
Sparians @ River Bowl
Swamp Fox Restaurant & Bar
TBonz Gill & Grill, Market Street
Virginia’s On King
West Ashley Crab Shack (three items for $18.99)
Wild Wing Cafe, downtown Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant (two people for $20)
Yamato Japanese Steakhouse
Yokoso Japanese Restaurant
Zeus Grill and Seafood
3 for $30
39 Rue de Jean
Alchemy Fine Food & Wine
Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar
Angel Oak Restaurant
Barbadoes Room at The Mills House Hotel
Blu Restaurant & Bar
Bocci’s Italian Restaurant
Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill
Butcher & Bee
’Cesca Ristorante & Trattoria
Coast Bar and Grill
Cork Neighborhood Bistro
Eurasia Cafe & Wine Bar
Finz Bar & Grill
Fleet Landing Restaurant
Gennaro’s Italian Ristorante
Gennaro’s Little Italy
Iacofano’s Italian Bistro & Bar (two people for $30)
II Cortile Del Re
Jasmine Porch at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Leaf Cafe + Bar
Long Point Grill
Mercato Italian Restaurant
Morgan Creek Grill
Muse Restaurant & Wine Bar
Old Village Post House
Opal Restaurant and Bar
Osteria La Bottiglia
RB’s Seafood Restaurant
Red Drum Restaurant
Red’s Ice House, John’s Island and Shem Creek (two people for $30)
Saffire Restaurant & Bar
Sea Island Grill at Wild Dunes
Shem Creek Bar and Grill
Slightly North of Broad
Social Restaurant + Wine Bar
Stack’s Evening Eats
Stars Restaurant — Rooftop & Grill Room
The Boathouse at Breach Inlet
The Library Restaurant at Vendue Inn
The Mustard Seed, Mount Pleasant
Tomasso at Turtle Point
3 for $40
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant
Langdon’s Restaurant and Wine Bar
Middleton Place Restaurant
The Atlantic Room
The Ocean Room
Tristan (four courses for $40)
File/Brad Nettles/staff Lowcountry Bistro is among the more than 140 restaurants participating in Charleston Restaurant Week. untry Bistro for Rest. Review. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 8/6/12×
Fat Hen is among the more than 140 restaurants participating in Charleston Restaurant Week.×
Circa 1886 is among the more than 140 restaurants participating in Charleston Restaurant Week.×