Ten days, more than 100 restaurants, three courses (or more) for $30.
Charlotte Restaurant Week begins Jan. 20. The idea's a great one: Restaurants can get a lot of traffic during what’s typically a slow time of year for them (there’s another Week in July, too), while diners get a chance to try places they might not otherwise. But note a few things:
- That $30 doesn’t include tax, tip or beverage for the most part (though some places do include a glass of wine, draft beer or margarita in the deal). So expect to spend more than $30 per person.
- Diners intent on getting a deal should shop the website, www.charlotterestaurantweek.com, comparing choices to restaurants' regular menus. At many places, you can choose a trio that would barely top $30 at regular prices. But if you’ve done your homework, you can get more bang for your buck. (Personally, I like to choose what sounds good together, but some folks really want to feel that discount.) And check details like steak weights. Some places may offer smaller steaks or one lobster tail rather than two. (Understandable, since restaurants can take a bath on the Week, but you want to be aware.)
- Places can be busier than they usually are and, if they’re not well-managed, you can feel part of a herd. Ask how reservations are going and lean toward weeknights, rather than weekend nights, if this worries you. Prepare for a bit of natural confusion, relax, and you'll have a better time.
Here are some highlights:
For those who crave the new:
Osso, Fern and La Paz are relatively new – and before you tell me how long La Paz has been around, this is the new location at the Metropolitan. And check its CRW menu: A pretty complete divergence, from newly hired chef Tobin McAfee. I’m told diner response may mean additions to that tried-and-true menu.
For the folks who want choice:
The Tuscan grills own this one: Aria and Primo both essentially have their whole menus in on this deal. Sante in Matthews, while much smaller, also proffers a notably large percentage of its lineup.
For those who look at the dessert menu before entrees:
Blue: Seven choices, covering all three dessert food groups – Chocolate, Fruit, Liqueur.
The Speedway Club is usually a private club, but opens up for this event. Always wondered about it? Check it out.
Global offers a good sense of what it’s about, from salmon rillettes on housemade baguette to the cod dish called Stockfish a la Nicoise.
Luce has an appetizer, fish, pasta and risotto of the day in its lineup.
Del Frisco’s offers choice among entrees -- each of which tops or nears the $30 mark alone -- but every diner will have the exact same salad, side and dessert? Go if you've never been (it's luxe), but you won't get much insight into what the kitchen can do. Morton's is similarly one-dimensional.
For the deal-hungry:
Maharani Indian Cuisine: You get a glass of wine, an appetizer, a full dinner-size entrée AND a full-size tandoori entrée, plus dessert.
Chima: Sheer volume – all you can eat of both the salad bar and the dozen proteins served from skewers. Regular price is $49.50; a few of the usual meats (lamb chops, for example) won’t be served, but it’s still a significant discount.