Restaurant week boasts steep discounts

It is not every day that students can eat at Union League for $16.

From Nov. 9–14, New Haven will host its first-ever Restaurant Week, a city promotion to provide “award-winning” cuisine at reduced prices. Prix fixe lunch and dinner menus will be featured at 18 of the city’s most notable award-winning restaurants, from Zinc, which features modern American cuisine, to Bentara, which showcases spicy Malaysian. Although restaurant owners said they look forward to new customers, some students said they are unsure whether the promotion will inspire them to forsake the dining halls.

Bespoke on College Street is one of 18 Elm City restaurants that plan to offer discounts during Restaurant Week.
Kathleen Koch
Bespoke on College Street is one of 18 Elm City restaurants that plan to offer discounts during Restaurant Week.

Lunch will cost $16.38, for the year New Haven was founded, and dinner will cost $29 at participating restaurants such as Miso, Barcelona and the Union League Café. Bentara general manager Jackie Feldman explained that though the special dinner price represents a 15–20 percent savings, new customers could evolve into lifetime ones.

“Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity in the restaurants we have,” she said. “It’s another reason for people to come to New Haven. For people to come together and try different cuisines, it’s the best way to promote anything. There’s nothing more cultural or enticing than to sit around a table and eat.”

As Bruno Baggetta, marketing manager of Market New Haven, explained, most of the restaurants are centered in the downtown State Street and Wooster Street area. Market New Haven, a company that focuses on the city as a tourist destination, sent out invitations about three months ago to restaurants that met the criteria of “award-winning international fine dining.”

Of 30 invitations, 18 restaurants agreed to participate. Baggetta said he believes that the restaurants that declined participation did so because they felt the fixed price was set too low.

David Foster, owner and executive chef at Foster’s Restaurant on Orange Street, explained, “I had no reservations about participating. Anything that can improve what’s going on in the city is always a good thing.”

Katrina Torres, of Lou Hammond & Associates, the public relations firm representing Market New Haven, noted the city has undergone several “revitalizations,” most notably a culinary one driven by the city’s focus on organic produce, sustainable agriculture and nuevo latino cuisine.

“Restaurant Week is definitely reaching out to tourists,” Torres said. “Right now, New Haven has an academic reputation because of Yale, but New Haven is entering the public eye as a cultural center as well.”

Since this is a first-time event, some restaurant owners said they are unsure what clientele Restaurant Week will attract. Foster said he expects that neither tourists nor students will lead a huge turnout.

“I think the crowd will be more from this area,” he said, referring to locals. “It’s a good chance to go out and try something for the first time without worrying about the price. In this economy, people aren’t willing to go out and pay a lot for a restaurant that they don’t know will be good.”

For many students, however, Restaurant Week still represents a significant strain on their budgets.

Jackie Outka ’12, a New Haven native, stated that of the 18 restaurants, she only recognized the names of five, and had been to only one, Ibiza, during an eighth-grade Spanish field trip. She said that while she intends to participate in Restaurant Week, she plans to go for lunch because the special dinner price is still too expensive. Many of the restaurants are also far away from Yale’s campus, she added.

Eliot Shimer ’12 said he refuses to participate.

“Twenty-nine dollars?” Shimer remarked. “That’s a month’s supply of Ramen from Durfee’s!”

Feldman said she believes the success of the program depends on both “consistency and persistency.”

“I believe it will be a success,” she said. “Even if 10 or 20 new customers come, it will still be a success because the event can grow and build over time, and once it becomes a known entity people will look forward to it.”

Baggetta said the city is considering making Restaurant Week a semiannual event.

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