Pan-seared scallops with a sweet garlic emulsion from Bastille, a classic French restaurant in Alexandria, VA

Once only a luxury for big-city dwellers, restaurant weeks are starting to spread to less metropolitan areas. The concept is simple: chefs set prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner that give their patrons a taste of some of the kitchen’s signature offerings.  These more local restaurant weeks are popping up everywhere – from Rockville, Maryland to Waterbury, Vermont – and benefit both the restaurant’s reputation and the diners, who get to eat great food for discounted prices.

Lunch prices range from $12.00 – $24.00, depending on the location, and dinner menus are almost all between $20.00 – $40.00. While this may not seem like a jaw-dropping bargain, it’s important to consider a few things before hitting the drive-thru for lunch or ordering a pizza for dinner.

In almost all cases, the restaurants that participate in restaurant weeks are among the finer dining establishments in their respective towns or cities and would likely cost far more to visit on a typical lunch or dinner date. This means you can eat like a king or queen without having to dish out an entire pay check. Secondly, it’s important to realize that chefs use restaurant week as a way to advertise what they do best. You can be sure that whatever is on their menu will be delicious, fresh, and something the kitchen staff takes pride in serving to a full room of diners.

It’s typical for restaurants to offer a few choices for each course, so there should be something for even the pickiest eaters.  Most places also offer a desert course for both their lunch and dinner menus, so the sweet-tooth can get his or her fix as well.

For a comprehensive list of participating restaurants across the U.S. visit: http://www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?pid=156

Don’t see your hometown on that list? A quick Google search should let you know about any local restaurant week deals in your area.

Photo by John McDonnell