Get your dialing fingers primed, it’s Hudson Valley Restaurant Week again, during which diners can steal three-course lunches for $20 and three-course dinners for $28. Join the scrum now if you’d like tables at X2O, Harvest-on Hudson, The Cookery, Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar, Equus at the Castle on Hudson, Iron Horse Grill, etc., etc., etc.—and multiple reservations aren’t penalized, so you can simply skip work and spend the entire week eating. Look for a full list of participating restaurants on the event’s website; now, if there were only more meals in a day.
But first, can we discuss a couple of sensitive issues?
While restaurant owners love Restaurant Week for the marketing bonanza it provides (it gets first-time butts in seats during the slowest weeks in their year, and to quote an executive chef friend of mine, “If I get one bar mitzvah out of this, I make money”), Restaurant Week is the bane of every waiter I know. Why? Consider that these fine folks are doing exactly what they always do— running, describing, serving, pouring, ringing up—for the same 12.5 to 20 percent of Restaurant Week’s tiny, little dinner tabs. In a $28 tab, that’s between $3.50 and $5.60.
Worse (and there’s no way to say this nicely), Restaurant Week brings out the cheapskates. These are the folks who’ve budgeted $28 for dinner and, say, $4.20 for a tip, and will not part with a single cent more. We’re talking tap-water-swigging, teetotaling, raw-bar-avoiding folks who run their waiters to death and don’t make up the difference in the bill. Here’s what I suggest. Drink a glass or two of wine with your $28 dinner, and tip on what the bill should have been before Restaurant Week. The difference is only a few bucks to diners, and might make Restaurant Week easier on restaurants and their crews.
Which brings to mind a restaurant-owning friend of ours who (because of his oddball location) cannot lawfully serve wine or booze. He finds that his BYOB status draws a certain dining type: the split-a-green-salad-three-ways-threesomes who share two entrées and try to bring their own bottle openers and glasses to avoid my friend’s reasonable $4 corkage fee. People…be reasonable! While Restaurant Week and BYOBs offer great deals to the dining public, try not to treat it like Vikings at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Do your share to keep the deals going…you’re still saving money while having a great night out.
Finally, to keep foodies interested, we need Restaurant Week diners to demand more challenging dishes. Participating venues in Restaurant Week are hosting a whole slew of new diners, perhaps not the usual folk they see every Saturday night. Ergo, many Restaurant Week menus are “democratized” for newbie diners, offering fewer challenges to what are assumed to be common-denominator, conservative palates. (You see a lot of chicken and well-done salmon, to be honest). Here’s what I propose—always go for the edgier dish on offer. If Harvest-on-Hudson is serving rabbit (and I happen to know that they are), order that. If you see a choice of salmon or goat’s head (don’t know of one, though it’s a suggestion) get the damned goat’s head. Let’s show these kitchens that we can take the best that they can send out. Even during Restaurant Week.
Phew…glad to get that off of my chest. Now I’m back to the phones to book all my Hudson Valley Restaurant Week tables.