Last year, I made a pithy attempt at helping people survive Chicago Restaurant Week (Feb 17-26th) with a top ten rules to live by. When I worked in restaurants I was never a fan because every dining rookie in the Greater Chicagoland area came to the restaurant on their own personal coupon pilgrimage. I’ve revisited the rules and think they stand the test of time – at least a year’s time, anyway.
The cost of the menu’s at many restaurants are reasonable and attempt a kinda-sorta typical experience. But let’s be honest, when you drive a Ferrari, your idea of driving that lean, speed machine isn’t to go around the block hitting every stop sign and never getting over 30mph. I feel the same about restaurant week or what I like to consider my personal week of self-reflection and cleansing!
Ok enough rambling…here are my 10 Dining Rules for Restaurant Week!
10. Make sure you have a reservation before going anywhere, most places are packed. You won't fool anyone that you spoke to Bob, that afternoon, and he said it was ok for your 6 top to come by at 7pm. The hostess and manager know there is no “Bob” and that you’re lying to them but will still be forced to be nice.
9. NO SUBSTITUTIONS - unless you have a legit allergy or restriction. Not liking green food isn't good enough.
8. Be adventurous on new places and new dishes. Step out of your box and use this as an attempt to get something different not another well-done filet only cheaper and smaller!
7. TIP appropriately - just because dinner is cheaper doesn't mean you should be cheap to. Imagine working as hard or harder at work and getting a pay cut because of the mega coupon mentality. This isn’t a reality show.
6. Be polite, courteous and on time for your reservation. You're not the only one taking advantage of discount days.
5. DO NOT bring your groupon. I repeat DO NOT BRING YOUR GROUPON or other discounted offer!
4. Easy way to fit more places in...try eating at the bar. You may not need a reservation and you'll get in and out possibly a little quicker.
3. If you loved or hated a place - give it a second chance. This week is a bit of an aberration and your next visit may change your mind or confirm your feelings of disgust.
2. Tip appropriately - see rule 7. Your tip goes to servers and bussers and the bar!
1. DON'T LINGER - enjoy your meal, have fun but don't monopolize the table. You aren't going to solve the world's problems tonight, and if you care to try, take it to the bar.
For a list of all the restaurants participating, check out the website for more details on who’s participating, what their menu is and possibly reserving a table. Have a great weekend and feel free to share some stories on your experiences over the next 10 days.
Also, check out uber taxi’s free rides during the week. It’s an awesome service even if it isn’t Restaurant Week.
Joe is a Chicago based food blogger and his blog is called the Chicago Food Snob. He can also be found on twitter at @chifoodsnob. He, also, contributes to Eater.com Chicago.