I have now been writing about Restaurant Week for over 5 years. It is one of the most frequented sections on the blog, so I wanted to make it a bit easier and summarize the best, the good, and the bad. I will continue to add to this list as we try new places for Restaurant Week. (Last update is from Winter 2015)
A brief synopsis on Restaurant Week: Participating restaurants serve a prix fix, 3-course menu for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38). (Prices updated for Winter 2013). They participate on all weekdays for lunch, dinner, or both, and some also participate on Sundays. More information for each season, participating restaurants, and menus can be found here. You can also book most reservations on OpenTable, though the best reservations usually go as soon as the newest Restaurant Week is announced. There are two each year, one in the winter and one in the summer, and while it is called “Restaurant Week,” it is usually about 3 weeks long and some restaurants extend even beyond that.
So who had the best Restaurant Week menu? Who didn’t skimp on portions? Who obviously thinks Restaurant Week is a total waste of time? Read on! (Click on the restaurant name to link out to the original review I posted)
Top RW Noms (Book now! Even if RW is another 6 months away):
- ilili: I have been to ilili twice for Restaurant Week and I think they are the best of the best. Great selection, plentiful portions, and gosh darn GREAT food. Everyone left raving about it.
- all’onda: An amazing meal when not Restaurant Week, an amazing meal at a better value when it is Restaurant Week. The up-charges are worth it for their (famous?) uni bucatini and the short rib for two. I do not know how you cold possibly leave disappointed from all’onda.
- Riverpark: Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark does Restaurant Week right by featuring their usual menu so diners can try out the Restaurant exactly as intended. Each bite was fantastic and totally worth the supplemental charge, and we imagine would be totally worth it even if you don’t pay for any supplements.
- Bar Primi: Restaurant Week offers a great way to try this great restaurant. They RW menu offered a great sampling of what the restaurant has to offer and felt like a great value for the quality of food. If you need an excuse to try this Caramellini favorite, let Restaurant Week be it!
- The National: Chef Geoffrey Zakarian opened a restaurant that lives up to his impressively amazing looking television cooking. The Restaurant Week menu here is one of the best with great dishes throughout. I would just be sure to add the delicious brussels sprouts to your order!
- Cafe Boulud: This was just barely edged out by the top restaurants. The braised veal cheeks and the chocolate dessert still both echo in my mind as some of the best bites I have EVER had. Their menu was limited, but there were enough items to keep me happy. I have been dying to go back.
- The Modern – Bar Room: Delicious. Small portions but well worth it (and it’s not like you leave hungry). Service was a terror, but the food made up for it. (I went back for Summer 2011 and it was just as good and with great service this time around).
- Olives: Small selection but all very tasty. It’s a nice intro to a Todd English restaurant, especially since it’s usually a bit pricey
- General Assembly: A great choice for non-Restaurant Week that I keep recommending as a crowd favorite, an even better selection for Restaurant Week since you can sample the menu without spending too much money. Just be sure to add the side of corn creme brulee to your order!
- Barbounia: Fantastic food and good portions. Impressed by the food and the nice service. They understand that Restaurant Week is all about giving people a reason to return.
- Ai Fiori: They only participate in lunch, but it’s a very nice menu with some hits (the skate) and some misses (the terrine). The skate alone was good enough to recommend despite the so-so terrine app.
- Butter (the original):We stuck exclusively to the Restaurant Week menu and enjoyed every bite. I wanted to lick every plate clean. Amazing flavors, fair portions, and a real taste for why Chef Alex Guarnaschelli won Next Iron Chef. We tried Butter Midtown but didn’t manage to reserve on the right day for Restaurant Week. Our first meal was fair but latter ones were better!
Average RW Noms (I’d probably go back and try them again, but they weren’t special enough to hit the list above):
- Kutsher’s TriBeCa: This was a tough choice about making into the top category. The only reason it’s here is because the meals above were just that good. Restaurant Week is a very good way to try this restaurant, but I’d probably go for their regular menu just as easily.
- City Hall: The food was quite tasty and it’s nice to be able to enjoy a meal at a classic New York establishment at Restaurant Week Prices without feeling like you’re getting Restaurant Week quality service and food, which is typically lackluster. I thought they put some creative dishes on the Restaurant Week menu (besides the usual chicken, fish, or meat selection that most have) and that we really got a taste for what’s on their regular menu.
- Aquavit: The entrées here were a bit on the average side, however, the uniqueness of the food, the fun of doing a flight of Aquavit, and the INCREDIBLE desserts just barely pushed this one to the top list
- Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza: This meal was good but there were a number of executional problems with the dishes and service. The menu is VERY limiting in comparison to the huge menu (that has many different stations), so you can’t truly enjoy what makes this a “Food Hall.” I would probably not bother with Restaurant Week here and just go and get whatever you want off their regular menu.
- Craft Bar: I can’t put this in the top list since we actually accidentally booked a reservation that was NOT Restaurant Week (be sure to review the list carefully so you know who serves on weekends). I do think it may belong there, however, as the food was great and the servers were AMAZING about taking care of us since we made the mistake (they gave us 2 apps on the house)
- Bread & Tulips: Everything was just fairly average. The desserts were especially sub-par. Passably good but just not good enough.
- Pera: Very average. I didn’t feel like the food was anything outstanding but this place is always hopping and is convenient to Grand Central. Probably no need to wait for Restaurant Week if this falls into a convenient meeting location to get a solid meal.
- L’Ecole: This was very hit or miss. Amazing appetizers followed by a total let-down for the entrees and so-so desserts. They also billed their lobster as the “Rolls-Royce” of lobsters and it was one of the worst I’ve had. And from our experience, don’t bother with the wine pairing.
- Millesime: The food here was fair, with a stand-out dessert that elevated the meal. I was disappointed by my pasta dish due to its blandness, but those that ate off the regular menu seemed to enjoy their dishes.
- Black Duck: A solid Restaurant Week experience. The initial choice of fish, chicken, or pasta wasn’t an awesome selection, but each dish tasted great. I would like to try this place again and order off the regular menu.
- Tribeca Grill: My short ribs were pretty good, but I’ve seen better Restaurant Week menus and tried better food. I’m not sure if this was the fault of RW or if the restaurant itself just isn’t top of the heap.
- Delmonico’s: Good but not great. I’ve had better steaks in Manhattan by far, but there is something fun about going to this place just for the history of it.
- Ruth’s Chris: Been meaning to try this place but haven’t gotten around to it? Restaurant Week is a good time to get a taste. Their regular specials menu is also quite good, so if you don’t make it for RW, it’s okay.
- Asellina: Total average in every way. Standard food that was good but not great. A solid choice but not a top one.
- Blue Smoke: A great meal, as always, but it’s reasonable enough to go anytime rather than making a special Restaurant Week reservation to check it out.
- Angelo and Maxies: I was actually impressed with this place, but I think their non- Restaurant Week offering is probably just as good. (NOW CLOSED)
- 10 Downing: We had an enjoyable experience here, however, something just wasn’t totally right for most of the meal. Service was spotty, there were too many inedible things on my plate (shallot skin? garlic skin? seriously untrimmed meat?) Everything was plated beautifully with a lot of attention to detail, color, and the season (summer). Not to mention, one of the best panna cottas I’ve ever tasted. (NOW CLOSED)
Disappointing RW Noms (Not sure why they bother with Restaurant Week):
- Park Avenue (Summer): While we had some great nibbles, it really felt as if this is one of those restaurants that doesn’t like Restaurant Week and it comes out in their food. I might try them again for their regular menu, but I wouldn’t suggest it for Restaurant Week at all.
- Perry Street: Come on Jean Georges! I expect more from you. Nothing was bad, but nothing was great. A Restaurant Week faux pas perhaps.
Bad RW Noms (Just plain wrong):
- Villard Michel Richard: After a fantastic dessert tasting in Chef Richard’s new bakery shop (Pomme Palais), we were curious to try the restaurants in the same hotel, but scathing reviews had us tentative to try at full price. Restaurant Week proved the perfect excuse to check it out, and it proved all those reviews absolutely right.
- Mercer Kitchen: Awful in every way. This place is what gives Restaurant Week a bad name. Awful menu. Small portions. Food that seemed like it could have been cooked at McDonald’s. I haven’t been able to eat cooked salmon since this night. It was THAT bad.
- Russian Tea Room: Bad service. Food that hardly could pass for wedding food. This place could have such great potential as a NYC icon but instead, it’s just tacky and bad.
What are your favorite Restaurant Week places?
Where are you trying out this year?