So Restaurant Week is almost upon us. From the 11th to the 17th (and even beyond), the streets of Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle and other posh restaurant spots will be crawling with foodies who know better – and the rest of us, looking for a new culinary experience. Of course, some have questioned whether the whole event is worth it – a question made even more pertinent by the $5 raise in dinner prices. Yes, it will cost you $70.16 minimum for a classy date – and lets be honest, you’ll probably want a glass of wine (and let’s not forget the upcharges!), so that minimum is pretty hard to stick to.
Certainly, you’re going to save some money eating at these places during RW rather than other times. But maybe that savings isn’t particularly significant, and by coming in other times, you’re definitely avoiding a lot of hassle: fighting for a table, eating at weird times (I myself have both 5:00 and 9:30 tables; not my favorite times to eat) and dealing with harried and unhappy staff come first to mind.
So is RW worth it? What kind of savings are necessary to make RW a good deal, exactly? $20? $30? $40 or more? (Hah! Good luck with that!) Well, to help you figure that out, we’re going to take a look at the menus of some RW hotspots, with a comparison to the regular dining prices. Of course, if RW is your only chance to eat at restaurants at this level of buzz/quality, then eat away. Your editor is doing a couple of lunches and a couple of dinners and not always making the most thrifty decisions. But as the oft-parodied NBC after-school special tagline goes, the more you know…
First up: Cafe Atlantico, made famous by DC celebrity chef and Anthony Bourdain buddy Jose Andres – though the restaurant now operates under chef Katsuya Fukushima.
RW Dinner Menu: Regular Price:
Soup of the Day $10.00
Mixed Green Salad $9.00
fresh herbs, crispy wild rice,
Cabrales blue cheese, walnut vinaigrette
Tuna Ceviche $13.00
coconut milk, avocado
Striped Bass Veracruz $27.00
tomatoes, olives, onions, capers, avocado, fresh lime
Portobello Mushroom $20.00
huitlacoche, Chihauhua cheese, roasted beets, beet oil
Flank Steak $27.00
“asada”, malanga purée, malanga chips
Duck Confit $26.00
brussel sprouts, apples, raisins, pine nuts, Pedro Ximenez
Feijao Tropeiro $25.00
deconstructed version of the Brazilian classic
black beans with pork, white rice, farofa, oranges,
sautéed collard greens with garlic
with choice of grilled chicken or grilled pork chop
Warm Chocolate Cake $8.00
Venezuelan chocolate flan, banana espuma and fresh banana lime salad
Sorbet of the Day $6.50
So, on a non-RW night, you could conceivably “enjoy” a meal for a mere $35.50. I use scare quotes because – and this comes from a Portobello lover – a meal of mixed green salad, Portobello and sorbet sounds kind of boring. On the other hand, the expensive end of the spectrum (think tuna ceviche, flank steak or striped bass Veracruz, chocolate flan) runs you $48.00.
Savings range from a mere $0.42 to a still unrobust $13.00. And, you’re giving up the chance to eat beef cheeks with sweetbreads, jerk chicken and fried plantains and Washingtonian faves conch fritters, tres leches cake and a molecular gastronomical take on the pina colada – any of which can be had for the same non-RW price as the RW menu itself. The bottom line: I’m not seeing it. Of course, I’m going to Cafe Atlantico for lunch during RW, so what do I know. Like your parents probably said, do as I say, not as I do. Right now, I’m telling you not to make my mistakes…