Over 30 fine-dining restaurants participated in the biannual New Haven Restaurant Week this past week.
The event, which ran from Nov. 3 to Nov. 8, gave guests the chance to enjoy many of New Haven’s finest restaurants at a fixed lunch price menu of $17 and a fixed dinner price menu of $34. Participating restaurants included those that have been a part of many New Haven Restaurant Weeks, such as Union League Cafe and new establishments like Sherkaan. For restaurants, New Haven residents and Yale students alike, the week provided an opportunity to dip into the depth and breadth of New Haven’s culinary traditions.
“This is the second time we’ve participated in New Haven Restaurant Week,” Eileen Bryant, general manager at Sherkaan, told the News in an interview. “We participated in the one in spring, which was shortly after we opened. We definitely had a much better experience this time. I think we were just so new then that a lot of people just didn’t know about us.”
Restaurant Week began in 2008 and has become a steady tradition in New Haven. Participants include longtime staples such as Union League Cafe, which has been participating in New Haven’s Restaurant Week since its inception, according to co-owner and General Manager Romain Turpault.
But as New Haven’s food scene has changed, so have Restaurant Week’s participants. Sherkaan, which opened in March of this year, serves Indian street food that takes inspiration both from traditional dishes and Indo-Chinese influences.
Bryant told the News that Restaurant Week has been a great way for Sherkaan’s customers to try something that they might not usually choose or try a new item that is not on their regular menu.
For many area restaurants, Restaurant Week results in an increase of foot traffic. Turpault has consistently seen an influx of customers at Union League Cafe during Restaurant Week, he said.
“More guests tend to come in [than in normal weeks],” Turpault told the News. “On Mondays we usually do around 70 guests. This past Monday we had 150.”
With numbers more than doubling, Turpault expressed that it has been difficult to keep up while maintaining the same standard of quality.
Nevertheless, he still considers Restaurant Week to be a great opportunity to show New Haven what his restaurant has to offer. Turpault added that Union League Cafe’s history and experience has allowed them to better adapt to the hectic schedule brought on by Restaurant Week.
Turpault also said that New Haven residents do not need to wait for Restaurant Week to try out Union League Cafe at a more affordable price. He explained that during the year, his restaurant offers a two-course lunch for about $20, a price point very similar to Restaurant Week’s $17.
Bryant said she also enjoys Restaurant Week as a customer. She pointed to the ability to sample other restaurants as part of the week as “a great way to be out in the community.”
Restaurant Week also has a philanthropic purpose. Participating in New Haven Restaurant Week not only supports local restaurants but also helps to reduce food insecurity in Connecticut, as Bryant explained that “when diners eat at any of the participating Restaurant Week restaurants, they are given the chance to donate to the Connecticut Food Bank.”
But some found that, despite the lower prices, Restaurant Week may still be inaccessible. Ameena Kapadia ’22 told the News that, as a student, she appreciates the idea of Restaurant Week but feels that the price point is slightly too high for most students to participate. Additionally, Kapadia has found that the fixed menu prices during Restaurant Week sometimes come at an even greater cost than ordering from the regular menu.
“I went to House of Naan during Restaurant Week, but their lunch special regularly is $11-ish, so I just went for that instead of the $17 prix fixe,” she told the News. “For some of the restaurants, a $34 dinner is a great deal, but for some of them I’m not saving any money.”
Kapadia added that the fixed price for lunch is more reasonable, but it is most likely difficult for the majority of students to eat out during lunch when also juggling classes.
New Haven Restaurant Week is presented by Info New Haven.
Ashley Qin | firstname.lastname@example.org