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February 22, 2010 at 9:31 AM

Seattle Restaurant Week: chefs bite into big promo

New York City has it. So does Washington D.C., Chicago and San Francisco. Now a group of local restaurateurs plan to offer something that’s been generating excitement for diners in other urban centers: Restaurant Week. OK, so it’s two weeks, twice yearly, in April and October. The idea is to promote the heck out of the local dining scene at a price meant to drag you out of your nest and make you say, “Let’s go out to eat!”

When Seattle Restaurant Week kicks off April 18-29, more than 100 participating King County restaurants will offer three-course dinners for $25 Sundays through Thursdays. Some will also add a $15 three-course lunch. On tap are places large (Blueacre Seafood, assuming it opens as scheduled) and small (Brad’s Swingside Cafe), new (Emmer & Rye) and old (Madison Park Cafe), lesser-known (Huiyona) and nationally acclaimed (Canlis). Yes, you read that right: Canlis.

Canlis offers a million-dollar view of Lake Union. Never been? Opportunity knocks!

[Seattle Times Photo/Tom Reese]

Chances are you’ve heard it all before with past promotions like Dine Around Seattle’s 30 for $30, now preparing for its eighth annual go ’round in March. And maybe you’ve hit up a restaurant or two during the now-defunct Urban Eats, another biannual promo that offered three courses for $30.

While other promotions benefited diners, says chef Maria Hines, the roster of restaurants able to get in on the act was limited. With Restaurant Week, “anyone can play,” says Hines, who initiated the effort along with fellow chefs Ethan Stowell and Jason Wilson. “It’s not like you can only play if you’re fine-dining, or if you’re a chef with status.” Chains? Sure, come on in (enter Anthony’s HomePort and Ivar’s Salmon House).

All comers are welcome (contact them via the Seattle Restaurant Week Web-site) “as long as you can provide a value at $25 for three courses — that’s the only caveat,” Hines says. That and a $750 fee that offsets the cost of promoting the event via a media blitz. “The whole point of the thing is to expose people to your restaurant,” adds Stowell. “I did Urban Eats last time, and a month was long. It’s a grind.”

The advent of Seattle Restaurant Week begs the question: Will the latest restaurant come-on mean the end of Dine Around Seattle and other similar events held throughout the year? “It would be wonderful if we moved to one all-inclusive restaurant promotion,” says Hines.

Mo Shaw, co-founder of Dine Around Seattle and general manager of Ray’s Boathouse confirmed that Dine Around will be held in March. Whether it’s still up and running in November remains to be seen. Of the restaurants now on board for the March event, a majority will also participate in Seattle Restaurant Week come April.

In the spirit of full disclosure, The Seattle Times Company is an organizing sponsor of Seattle Restaurant Week.

So tell me, Eaters: What do you think? Have you taken advantage of the many restaurant promotions Greater Seattle has to offer? Did you think you were getting a good deal? Kudos? Complaints?

Update (2/22/10 4:10 p.m.): Ruth’s Chris was originally slated to join, but will not be participating in Seattle Restaurant Week. I’ve excised their name from my original text in this post.

Comments | More in | Topics: Restaurant Promotions

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