Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in DC's Winter Restaurant Week 2009.

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in DC's Winter Restaurant Week 2009.

As you may have seen or read recently, we here at Capital Spice have gotten into the habit of putting together Google maps whenever we hear about something that involves large numbers of restaurants throughout DC.  Our first?  Last summer’s version of Restaurant Week.  I guess that makes this some kind of anniversary for us…

If you’ve been nursing an inaugural celebration-induced hangover for the past two days and haven’t had a chance to check in with, well, any of our fellow DC food bloggers or the Going Out Gurus: THE LIST FOR WINTER RESTAURANT WEEK 2009 IS NOW UP!

As they have twice a year for almost a decade now, the good folks at the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and Destination DC have teamed up to present a week in which almost 180 local restaurants offer $20.09 lunch deals and $35.09 dinner deals.  It will run from Monday, February 16th to Sunday, February 22nd.

This time, we’re off to a slightly later start due to the inaugural festivities…and it was definitely smooth of the powers that be to post the list the day after the inauguration, giving the truly dedicated among us a head start on those who only passively await this twice-yearly food fest.

A refresher course in Capital Spice’s recommendations for the ways to maximize your chances of having a great Restaurant Week experience after the jump.

restaurant-weekIf you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to immediately head over to OpenTable.  They’ve gotten really good about making it as easy as possible for you to book your Restaurant Week reservations.  In fact, they’ve got a page that lists all of the RW participants that accept reservations through OpenTable, and you can use it to either search a specific restaurant’s availability or you can enter a date, time and party size and have them show you every participating restaurant that still has availability then.

Of course, not every participating restaurant uses OpenTable – so be sure to check out the official Restaurant Week listing to make sure.  You may be able to score a great reservation over the phone that has been overlooked by those who book primarily through the internets.

As for which restaurants to try?  There are a few schools of thought here:

1. The higher-end the establishment, the better the deal.  Restaurant Week provides a great opportunity to try places that are normally beyond your budget, and most restaurants at this end of the spectrum take enough pride in their products to ensure that you’ll get a good meal, no matter how limited your menu options.  Needless to say, these are the marquee reservations so they FILL UP FAST.  Highlights include: 1789 (which generally only participates in Restaurant Week during the winter), Adour (new to Restaurant Week), VOLT, or any of the numerous steakhouses on the list.

2. Restaurant Week is a way to check out some of the new places that have recently opened.  This can be a dicey proposition, as the experience is only as good as the restaurant’s approach to RW.  The best treat it as an opportunity to recruit new regulars by showing off what they’re capable of.  The worst treat it as a favor they’re doing for guests who will never come back anyway, so why bother?  Newcomers can go either way, though most tend toward showing off.  Highlights include: Adour again, Art and Soul (though they also participated in last summer’s event), PassionFish, and Jackson’s Roasting & Carving Company.

3. Restaurant Week is an opportunity to check in with old friends without breaking the bank.  For some people, Restaurant Week can be a great time to revisit favorite restaurants.  Let’s be honest – with so many new places opening around DC lately, it can be tough to make time for repeat visits to more than a few places.  RW gives us the chance to return to places we’ve loved in the past but have overlooked recently.  Highlights include: Dino, PS7’s, Poste Brasserie, and Belga Cafe.

4. Restaurant Week is a chance to try something new.  With so many choices, Restaurant Week allows you to seek out a cuisine you’ve never experienced before or to visit a part of town you’re completely unfamiliar with.  The fixed price means you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sit down, so you can focus on the dishes that are offered without worrying about the price.  Highlights include: Chima Brazilian Steakhouse (meat on swords like at Fogo de Chao), Co Co. Sala (entire tasting menus themed around chocolate), Farrah Olivia (chef Morou’s truly unique blend of African and Mediterranean influences), Marrakesh Palace (Moroccan cuisine).

Or just pick the place that most appeals to you, regardless of why.

There are a few additional things to keep in mind as you make your choices, though:

  • Does this place normally offer some kind of fixed-price special?  If so, how does the Restaurant Week deal compare to it?
  • Is this a place that traditionally extends their Restaurant Week offering beyond the week itself?  If so, it might be wise to time your visit to take advantage of the extension.
  • Have they published their Restaurant Week offering yet (probably not, at this point)?  If so, do the choices show up on the regular menu?  How many options do you have?  Are there any upcharges for higher-end dishes?

The best way to check into these things is to look at previous posts from sources like DC Foodies, where they are always very thorough in their efforts to identify (and post) the menu offerings from as many participating restaurants as possible.

If you’re looking for suggestions, please feel free to shoot us an email, or just comment below.  We’ve been through a few of these by now, and we’ve got some definite winners AND losers under our belts.

Bon appetit!