Restaurant Week, one of the most popular culinary events in New England, returns to New Haven this Sunday, Oct. 30, and runs through Friday, Nov. 4.
Twenty-eight New Haven restaurants will participate in the event, which is organized by Market New Haven, a nonprofit that aims to promote commerce and the arts, in partnership with Citizens Bank. Residents can eat three-course lunches for $20.16 and dinners for $34, and restaurants can showcase their menus and broadcast their images to both new and returning customers.
Most menus feature variations of their signature dishes, but Restaurant Week is also a chance for chefs to be playful and inventive and experiment with seasonal ingredients, said Ryan Howard, managing partner of Elm City Social.
“With the special prices and menus, we can expand beyond our core demographic of graduate students and young professionals,” Howard says. “We can attract different crowds — the elderly, undergraduates and people from outside New Haven.”
His eatery, American with a new-age twist, will feature such delicacies as roasted pumpkin salad, pan-seared grouper cheek, a strawberry rhubarb tart, and a foie gras push pop.
With a reduced parking rate, only $4 from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. in Temple and Crown street garages, and unparalleled dining discounts, Market New Haven anticipates that food aficionados everywhere will flock to Elm City next week.
“It’s a great opportunity for the restaurant community to showcase New Haven as a whole,” Howard said. “And, it’s great to give back to the customers — to give them a piece of what we do at a discounted price.”
He added that Restaurant Week is a gift to eateries and eaters alike.
The giving does not stop there. Last fall, Restaurant Week raised $14,742 for the Connecticut Food Bank, an organization that sources and delivers food to those in need nearby. The charitable effort will continue this year.
“Every dollar donated gives enough to prepare two meals for those in need,” said Paul Shipman, communications and marketing director at the Connecticut Food Bank. “It is a wonderful opportunity for the community to get together and support us — to turn dollars quickly into food. We love the enthusiasm and visibility that it generates. We all benefit, the local economy, too.”
When guests receive their checks, they are invited to make a $1 donation to support the Connecticut Food Bank and contribute to #buckforatruck, an initiative to stock a refrigerated food truck delivering food to pantries and soup kitchens in six Connecticut counties. Unlike other distributors, the food bank aims for 35 percent of its offerings to be fresh and local fruit, vegetables and meats.
Marina Gonzalez, who owns the Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant Olea, said she is proud that her restaurant is a part of the event even though she must serve food at a significantly lower price. A three-course dinner without drinks would typically cost about $60.
“It is important to get the community involved in supporting charities like the Connecticut Food Bank,” Gonzalez said. “A dollar goes a long way, especially during the holidays.”
This year, Restaurant Week’s prices have increased, which incentivizes more expensive restaurants to participate but excludes those with lower price points. For this reason, Prime 16, one of New Haven’s top-rated beer and burger destinations, will not be joining.
Though manager Larry Townsend said he respects Restaurant Week’s goals and charitable work, he explained that Prime 16’s involvement would not be fair to his customers.
“The simple fact is that we would have to raise the prices on our menu to meet Restaurant Week’s criteria,” he said. “We have our own events to draw in customers, like Happy Hour Monday through Friday.”
But Megan Bresnahan, general manager at the participating Caseus, a fromagerie and bistro, thinks the increase in prices is fair, adding that even though the price has increased, restaurants offer an enormous discount to students.
The normal prices at these New Haven eateries make Restaurant Week a deal for diners. Without beverages, an appetizer, entrée and dessert at Elm City Social or Caseus would cost about $44. At Harvest, a snack, starter and entree goes for about $55.
The 28 restaurants are all taking reservations.