By now Restaurant Week might be starting to feel a bit like that song you used to love until the Current started playing it every hour on the hour. The once novel and rare weeklong orgy of cheap meals at high-end restaurants has become as ubiquitous as Subway franchises, with each announcement of the coming event inspiring confused musings: "didn't that just happen a couple months ago?" Yes, yes it did. But the reason it keeps coming back is clear: It's good for everyone involved. The restaurants win, the diners win, and the Twin Cities food scene becomes, for just one week, a little more egalitarian and accessible to all.
In 2010, the Mpls/St. Paul Magazine-sponsored event happened three times: Feb/March, August, and October. The first iteration of 2011 will mirror last year's schedule and take place February 27 to March 4. During that week, participating restaurants offer prix fixe menus for lunch, dinner, or both. Diners have the chance to try restaurants normally out of their price range, while the restaurants benefit from attracting new customers with attractively priced "gateway drugs." They also bank on the likelihood that most people will order beverages, appetizers, and/or side dishes in addition to the prix fixe menu that got them in the door.
Over 35 restaurants are participating this winter, including new addition Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen. Lunches are priced at $10 or $20, and dinners at $15 (at Joe's Garage, for instance) or $30 (Sea Change). Some plucky locales offer lunch and dinner at both price points (such as Samba Taste of Brazil in Hopkins).
Your approach to Restaurant Week is up to you. You can stick stringently to the prix fixe offerings and sample the wares at a variety of restaurants, or for the same price, take advantage of the prix fixe at a single place you've been dying to try and use it as a starting point for a more elaborate dining experience, with a bottle of wine and a few extras thrown in. Whichever way you go, don't worry if you miss out on a restaurant or two. Restaurant Week will be back again before you know it.
Visit Open Table's website for a list of participating restaurants and the menus they'll be offering. You can also use the online reservation system to ensure you'll snag a table at the restaurant(s) of your choice.
Mpls St. Paul Magazine's Winter Restaurant Week 2011 February 27 - March 4, 2011