It's almost here. Emerging from the depths of a Midwestern winter, something tasty is coming our way. Chicago Restaurant Week 2013, February 1-10, is already taking OpenTable by storm. If you're going to be in the area, it's time to put your game face on.
Every year, myself and a few friends wait patiently for the Restaurant Week list to be published. One in particular jumps right in and starts cross-checking the participants with a larger list she continually updates on a legal pad in her office - her master "to-dine" list.
This is the work of a professional. We've gathered a few tips from this particular pro (and a few others like her) so you'll be ready for the big event when it arrives.
"Book reservations early and be flexible with times. You'll also want to ensure that your picks have Restaurant Week dishes you're actually interested in."
Robyn, Twentysomething Test Dummies
"Book at restaurants with pricier regular menu items to get the best value during the promotion. Or restaurants that offer more variety in choices. For example, the Saigon Sisters menu has more dish options and courses than most."
A few notes of my own:
Chicago Restaurant Week is more than just a way to get a good deal on a great meal - it's an excuse the get out of your comfort zone. Sites like Yelp can be a great help when it comes to narrowing the field. Choose your spots based on available reservations but also on things to do in that area, just in case there's a wait or you feel like a stroll afterward.
To that point, manage your expectations. It's a very busy (and exciting) time for restaurants with more traffic than usual headed in to take advantage of the deals at hand. Even if you have a reservation, be prepared to wait for a minute or two and understand that most restaurants won't be able to accommodate a lot of substitutions on the deal offered.
If you don't make it to all of the spots you've highlighted, there's an easy solution. Just add them to the list and start planning your next trip back to Chicago.
Chicago Restaurant Week is annual celebration of the city's dining scene. From February 1-10, more than 250 area restaurants will offer special, limited time prixe fix menus. For more information on Chicago Restaurant Week 2013, visit eatitupchicago.com. For more cool stories (like this one), subscribe to our blog, Chicago Like a Local.