Last week I found out on Instagram that it was @mspmag Restaurant Week, a week long event with participating restaurants and menus specific for the occasion. I guess it pays to follow those who know something about eating! The whole idea of Restaurant Week was kinda new to me and I didn’t know what to expect, but I previewed some of the menus and thought this event might be something.
Restaurant Week was a neat idea, there were lunch and dinner prix fixe menus with set prices for the event. For example, most of our dinners were set at $35 (one of them was $30). This made ranking the restaurants easier since it basically took the price out of the review equation.
We ate at 5 different restaurants, yes I went a little overboard and made 5 dinner reservations, only limited to the fact that Jason had to work so we couldn’t eat at 5 more restaurants for lunch 😀
Here are the list of restaurants we went to and their dinner prices:
- Monday: Corner Table, Minneapolis – $35
- Tuesday: Fogo de Chao, Minneapolis – $35
- Wednesday: Holman’s Table, St. Paul – $35
- Thursday: Cafe Lurcat, Minneapolis – $35
- Friday: 4 Bells, Minneapolis – $30
What started off as an exciting adventure ended with some head scratching, mixed feelings, and questioning the intent of Restaurant Week. From my point of view, the view of a hungry, let’s-try-out-some-cool-new-restaurants customer, I expected to taste a sampling of their best fare that fit into the $30-$35 dinner prix fixe menu. After all, in my mind, this event was a chance for the restaurants to show off and entice me to go back and pay full price.
In my opinion, two out of the five restaurants did meet my expectations, Corner Table and Cafe Lurcat. Jason and I have been to Corner Table a few times already so we knew what they were capable of. Although, it wasn’t one of their best meals we’ve had, it still showcased their skill and fulfilled my expectations of Restaurant Week. I would eat at Corner Table again to see what other tasty morsels they would offer.
Cafe Lurcat was another winner and, to me, the best representation of Restaurant Week out of all the restaurants we were at. Their food was amazing and I felt they tried to showcase their skill at creating delicious plates. The whole experience (the ambience, the decor, the service, the food) made me a happy camper and I look forward to eating at Cafe Lurcat again.
Let me briefly explain how the other restaurants didn’t quite meet my expectations. Fogo de Chao was touted by a lot of people to be a great restaurant, great experience. I asked the server how their Restaurant Week menu was different than their normal menu and he said it was the same experience except some of their prime meat selections were excluded. It turned out to basically be an upscale all you can eat buffet. Even if they had offered their best meats, this place would not tempt me to eat here again.
Holman’s Table was different than the others because I felt they tried, but still fell short. It felt like an upscale Supper Club, but some of their creations didn’t palatably make sense. Although, it wasn’t a bad experience, it wasn’t enough to warrant another visit.
Lastly, 4 Bells, was a lie. That’s how I felt. One of the main reasons I wanted to try the place was because it was the sister restaurant of Butcher and The Boar, which Jason and I love, seriously, one of our favorite restaurants. Well, we were seated upstairs which is more casual and the entrees were Fried Chicken and a Walleye Sandwich. The meal was not worth $30 and how am I to judge a place when they have two separate dining areas (casual and formal) and we were in the pleb section. Were fried chicken and a fish sandwich really the best they had to offer? Remember, all the restaurants were basically on even footing because of the pricing. Well, their meal didn’t convince me to come back again and I have no reason to recommend it to anyone.
The restaurants that let me down had me wondering what Restaurant Week was really about. If it wasn’t for the restaurants to put forth their best effort, if it wasn’t to showcase their chefs’ skills, if it wasn’t to encourage repeat customers, what was the goal?
When you break it down, it’s always about money. Advertisement for the restaurants, which brings in money for the magazine and brings in more traffic to the restaurants, who in turn would make more money off of hungry customers. I get it. It might be cynical, but I get it.
The one good thing about Restaurant Week was that I tried out 4 new restaurants that I might not have normally. In that sense, I would consider it semi-successful. If only I could find an event where all the restaurants’ chefs would put forth their best creations, even if it meant a smaller portion to fit in the prix fixe price. Now, THAT would truly make me a happy camper.
Are my expectations too high? What does everyone else think about Restaurant Week? Should restaurants showcase their best, even if that means a smaller portion or just put forth whatever is about $30-$35 from their regular menu?