Annual Manual » Food & Restaurants

Food Lover's Guide to Inlander Restaurant Week

The best advice on getting the most out of this annual, 10-day local dining showcase

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Thai Bamboo was one of nearly 100 participating restaurants. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Thai Bamboo was one of nearly 100 participating restaurants.

Inlander Restaurant Week quickly gained momentum in its first three years, and will be back and bigger than ever for 2016. For the third annual event, in 2015, the number of participating restaurants more than doubled — to a total of 97 — from year one, making diners' options even broader, while also making the decision-making a little harder.

Modeled after similar events in other cities, Inlander Restaurant Week is intended to showcase the region's superb and growing culinary scene, giving residents and visitors alike a reason to get out and try a place they've never been before, or otherwise may not have considered. The pre-determined, fixed-price menu means everyone knows what their options are ahead of time. And of course, the week before the event kicks off, the Inlander publishes a comprehensive guide to the 10-day event, highlighting participating eateries, their menus and chefs. Here's some tried-and-tested tips to keep in mind for IRW 2016:

1. MAKE RESERVATIONS

Because of the growing popularity of Restaurant Week and the great deals on dining out to be found, there will be waits for tables if you didn't plan ahead. It'll make everything go smoother if you pick your spots earlier, once menus are released online — usually several weeks before — and call ahead to set a reservation. Then you can rest easy, knowing your spot is saved and you'll get to eat at the places you're most excited about.

2. TIP WELL

Restaurant Week is set up so you know what you're going to be spending before you even arrive at your destination. Participating eateries offer prix fixe (fixed price) menus for either $18 or $28, and for that price you get three courses of your choice. The courses (most places offer three items for each) vary depending on where you go — some restaurants offer an appetizer, entrée and dessert, while others may offer a drink in place of one of those food courses. In general, you're getting a bargain on your meal during IRW, which means you need to tip well for the service you've received, starting around 15 percent.

3. TRY NEW THINGS

One of the best things about Restaurant Week is the ability to try places that are new to you or new to the region, and with a fairly low risk. Never been to Wild Sage? Go. Many eateries highlight popular, staple menu items during IRW, and often at a discounted price, so you're able to dine well on a budget at many locales. On the other end, chefs can use the event as an opportunity to showcase new or unusual items that might not be served regularly. Be brave — try something new!

4. MAKE IT A NIGHT

Because of its affordability and "special occasion" feel, Restaurant Week is a great excuse for girls night, family night or date night. Pick an event — there are always many to choose from, including live music, theater and comedy shows — and a nearby spot, and extend the night's festivities into something more memorable. Buying tickets ahead of time and making reservations are necessary measures when making bigger plans like this.