stimulus08_490x170Finally, a bailout we can all get behind!  OpenTable has turned the Restaurant Week concept into a nationwide event with its “Appetite Stimulus Plan” promotion.  From Monday, November 17th until Friday, November 22nd, you can enjoy three course lunches and dinners at participating restaurants for $24 and $35, respectively.

As if you needed more incentive to take advantage, OpenTable has further sweetened the deal by offering double points  on any reservations made through this promotion.  You’ll get your usual 100 points when you make and keep a reservation, and then they’ll credit you an additional 100 points as “Appetite Stimulus Plan Bonus Points” 72 hours after your reservation.  Just remember to make your reservation through the Stimulus Plan landing page at OpenTable to be sure you get the proper credit.

Because this event is being organized by OpenTable instead of a single local tourism organization, it is occurring simultaneously in thirteen cities across the country.  If you happen to be heading to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Seattle, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the deals!  Or you could just tell your friends in other cities and score some points for being in the know.

With almost 150 restaurants to choose from (including some in places as far-flung as Leesburg, Sterling, National Harbor and the Plains – yeah, the site of Gold Cup), you’re going to want to approach this as though it were Restaurant Week – pick and choose a few key places, keeping in mind that some of the participating restaurants regularly offer deals that are as good as this or better.

A few suggestions, some new and notable participants and our signature map of all participating restaurants after the jump.

Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates every restaurant participating in OpenTable's Appetite Stimulus Plan.

Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates every restaurant participating in OpenTable's Appetite Stimulus Plan

 As with Restaurant Week, we’re looking at this event as a chance to take a first look at some places we haven’t previously visited.  Unfortunately, the fact that we’re limited to Monday thru Friday dining options is likely to preclude many people from visiting the lunch-only participants (Corduroy, I’m looking at you).

Looking over the list, there are plenty of the usual suspects to check out if you haven’t already.  Chef Geoff Tracey is participating in all three of his restaurants – the two Chef Geoff’s and LIA’s – and his support for the Restaurant Week model is easy to see in the dishes he offers.  The Kimpton property restaurants – Poste, Urbana, Firefly, Jackson 20, Domaso, Bistro Bis – always put in a good showing with these kinds of events, offering menus that reflect the spirit of their cuisine well.  The Passion Food restaurants – TenPenh, Ceiba, DC Coast, Acadiana – tend to make large portions of their regular menus available with limited upcharges.  And Jose Andres’ ThinkFood restaurants – Cafe Atlantico, the Jaleos, Oyamel, Zaytinya – are always a safe bet. 

With little time to check out participating restaurants’ special menus, you may just want to shoot for something completely new to you for a weeknight splurge.  There are a few general rules you can keep in mind to help narrow the field, though.  Check out general reviews and look at the regular menu on the restaurant’s website before making your reservation.  If the reviews are mixed or the prices are such that a $35 dinner isn’t going to be a great deal, you’re better off seeking someplace where it will.  If the restaurant you’re looking at has a primary focus on tapas, fondue, sushi, or wine, it can be hard (but doable) to feel like you really got your money’s worth with this kind of promotion.  And – perhaps most importantly – remember that many of these restaurants have participated in previous Restaurant Weeks; you can almost certainly find at least one or two diners’ impressions of their Restaurant Week experiences in the various chats at ChowHound, Don Rockwell, and Yelp! as well as the comments section of the biannual Restaurant Week posts over at DC Foodies.

A few new and notable participants to think about:

  • Art and SoulArt Smith, former personal chef to Oprah, guest judge on last season of Top Chef and potential new White House chef, opened this new restaurant in the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill.  It’s been on our “to try” list for a while now, so this seems like a great chance to check it out.  Southern-inspired regional cooking and an array of “put ups” – canned, pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables – are the go-to dishes.
  • CorduroyEven if they’re only participating at lunch time, it’s a step up from their decision not to participate at all in Summer Restaurant Week.  Here’s hoping this is a first step toward full participation in future RWs.  The food at Corduroy has always been a draw – depending on what’s on the menu, this could be a great long-lunch for anyone who works near the Convention Center.  Just remember that they are “jacket preferred” and they request no shorts or hats.
  • Darlington HouseThis multi-level, multi-concept restaurant on the site of the old Childe Harold in Dupont Circle has been open for a few months now, enough time to work out some of the kinks that were reported in early reviews.  They’re participating for dinner only…couple this with coffee or a drink at Kramerbooks and you’ve got the makings of an oh-so-DC date.
  • PassionFishIf you live or work in Reston, this is a great opportunity to check out Passion Food’s newest restaurant.  According to its website, “PassionFish is the next generation, twenty-first century rendition of the group’s first restaurant, DC Coast, taking its tri-coastal seafood theme to a global level.”  They just opened at the end of October, so it’s impressive to see them participating in this so soon.
  • Rail Stop RestaurantThis one is most notable for the fact that it’s all the way out in The Plains.  Their website presents an air of rural calm and down-home wholesomeness, with a promise that everything from the bread to the desserts is made on site.  The Rail Stop was part-owned by Robert Duvall at one point and he’s still a neighbor, so you may even score a celebrity sighting!  If you live in the Middleburg area or just feel like a long drive with outbound traffic, you should definitely think about checking this one out.  The same goes for anyone heading toward Leesburg, as there are two or three participating places out that way, as well.

In the end, these types of promotions are only as good as the participating restaurants’ approaches.  If they use it as a chance to shine and to introduce themselves to potential long-term customers, you’re in for a treat no matter where you are.  If they phone it in and give diners food that reflects the promotion’s impact on their (admittedly razor-thin) profit margins, they’re probably not going to make many new fans.

Let us know where you end up going – we’re always eager to hear about people’s Restaurant Week experiences so we know where to head next time!