Restaurant Week: Deal or No Deal?
We know what you’re thinking, Is it worth it? You slave over the menus posted on CenterCity.org, ask foodie friends for recommendations, refresh Open Table every five minutes hoping for a rez before 10 p.m. And, chances are, you’ll still wind up with yet another tale of a lackluster Restaurant Week experience.
Well, this time we’ve done the work for you. Here are our picks for the five can’t-miss deals, and the five places worth passing up. (UPDATE: Restaurant Week is now Restaurant Weeks — many participating restaurants are offering their special menus through February 6th. See the full list here.)
Mercato: Restaurant Week participants should take a cue from Mercato, which serves its complete regular menu but at the $35 price point. Plus, at a BYO you won’t rack up your check with expensive cocktails.
Tinto: Two firsts, two seconds (all straight off Tinto’s regular tapas menu) and your choice between two of the restaurant’s signature desserts.
Le Bec-Fin/Le Bar Lyonnais: True, the Restaurant Week menu offered at both
Le Bec-Fin and Le Bar Lyonnais downstairs bears little resemblance to the
restaurants’ usual offerings, but you’ll still dine on a three-course
sampling from one of the city’s finest — and most expensive — kitchens at a
drastically reduced price.
Zahav: The daily selection of eight salads, two mezze plates, one of the signature kebabs grilled over hot coals, dessert, and the only time you’ll eat a full meal at Zahav for under $35.
Fork: $35 for the opportunity to feast on one of chef Thien Ngo last meals before Terence Feury takes over as executive chef, priceless.
El Vez: Order one of the can’t-miss guacamoles (not featured on El Vez’s Restaurant Week menu) and signature margaritas and you’ve already tacked on an additional $20 to your check.
Smith & Wollensky: While tempting in their larger-than-life prices, steakhouses are notoriously stingy with their Restaurant Week options. Like the city’s other participating steak joints (e.g., Ruth’s Chris), Smith & Wollenksy offers diners just one steak option — in this case, as in the others, the cheaper cuts of filet — plus a chicken and seafood alternative. Who goes to a steakhouse for anything but steak? (Insider tip: If you’ve just got to have some — affordable — meat, Smith & Wollensky offers a $39 prix fixe weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.)
Tangerine: Couple limited menu options (none of which appear on Tangerine’s regular menu) with one Philly mag staffer’s past experience of being relegated to a separate room after telling the hostess her party would be dining off the Restaurant Week menu, for a so-not-worth-$35 meal.
The Melting Pot: Sure, the menu doesn’t skimp on options for the cheese and dessert portions of the meal, but the fine print limits parties of five or less to a communal choice of one cheese fondue, one cooking style and one dessert. That leaves you with your choice of protein.
Azul Cantina: Yes, Azul goes the extra mile with a fourth course — it’s a
palate-cleansing cucumber sorbet — but even if you order the priciest
selections ($8 tomato salad, $12 shrimp tacos, $8 cheesecake) off the
Restaurant Week menu, your check barely reaches that $35 price-point. That’s
some expensive sorbet.