News & Features

Chicago Restaurant Week Announces Participating Restaurants, But Is It Always a Deal?

January 17 2012 - 11:49 AM

Restaurant Week 2K12! Are you ready? Have you been training for months to prepare yourself for a whole week of discounted lunches and dinners? The city normally gets fairly excited about the event, which takes place this year between February 17 and 26 (a little more than a week). 200 participating restaurants offer prix-fixe lunch ($22) and dinner menus ($33 or $44), which draw in business from budget-conscious eaters or just regular folks who need the extra push to make a reservation. But are the packed dining rooms and limited menus really worth enduring for the discount? It's worth taking a closer look on a case-by-case basis.

Take Blackbird, for example. The critically-acclaimed fine dining restaurant is participating in Restaurant Week with a $22 prix-fixe lunch (no dinner special will be available). But wait—Blackbird always offers a three-course, $22 lunch prix-fixe. No deal there, really. Or The Bristol, Chris Pandel's always creative farm-to-table restaurant, which is offering a $44 dinner menu of a salad, pasta, osso bucco, and dessert. A salad, a pasta, a main course and a dessert would regularly run you about $49 (based on the latest menu on the website), so there's not much of a steal there either.

While this isn't meant to discourage people from dining out during Restaurant Week, it's worth sitting down and doing a little math to see whether the deals are truly worth slogging into a crowded dining room in the middle of a snowy February. For many restaurants, the answer may be yes, in which case you'll want to get those reservations in ASAP.

–Kate Bernot