Well, it is that time of year again folks. Old man winter is being his normal douchebag self and the rich folk are hibernating or vacationing. We can all put on our Grumpy Cat sweat shirts, hunker down in our houses, and hate them as hard as Yankee fans will soon hate A-Roid or we can embrace one of the few perks that accompanies this frigid season.
Since this is a food blog it should be quite obvious that I am referring to the bi-annual event known as Restaurant Week. From February 16, 2015 until March 6, 2015 we, the commoners, can dine like royalty for a fraction of the normal damage that these heavy-weight gastronomic contenders would normally do to our wallets.
Instead of bills that are larger than the New York Mets budget for 2015, if you visit one of the 340 restaurants that are participating in Restaurant Week this year (The most ever by the way), you will only pay $25.00 for Lunch and $38.00 for Dinner. To make things even better, those prices include an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert.
As with everything else in life, you should always be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, and there are a few things one should know before you venture out to the great city of Gotham, in search of foodie gold.
1: Friends Don’t Let Friends Binge Drink and Dine
This ain’t college anymore Jockey Mc. FratPants. At this fine establishments the hooch is expensive and the fare is skillfully seasoned. If you still answer to a nickname such as Drunk Tom, The Slutbuster, or Senor Tequila, this event may not be for you.
Furthermore, if you are from New Jersey you are probably used to BYOB establishments that help alleviate the cost of dining out at most local restaurants. In New York, however, liquor licenses are easier to get than the internet clap from a torrent file. The liquor bill at these eateries can quickly and inadvertently surpass the price of the food, thus negating the savings you expected. I suggest meeting your party at a local bar in the neighborhood for a little pregame, drinking a moderately priced wine with your meal, and then finding an inexpensive night cap location before heading out of the city.
2: Do Your Homework
With 340 restaurants to choose from, follow the phrase, “know before you go.” A restaurant that is participating in Restaurant Week but does not display a menu on their website is not an automatic no, but it does raise a red flag. Think of your Tinder account here guys, would you meet that random horny cougar without at least seeing her slightly blurry, ten year old photo that was taken from an angle that only the Hubble telescope could actually capture. In other words, do your research and you will not be disappointed.
A lot of these establishments have a dress code and these rules are strictly enforced. You are not going to White Castle after a Tigerman show at the Clash Bar. Always check the website of the eatery of your choosing to find out what the required level of dress is for both males and females. I love jeans and a t-shirt, but nothing is worse than arriving at one of these restaurants with your lovely significant other in tow and being turned away at the door because you are rocking the wrong gear.
4: Arrive On Time
Most of the participating restaurants add extra tables and bring on additional servers for this epic event because they are booked solid for the entire duration of Restaurant Week. This means if you are late for your reservation they will give your table away without a second thought. The excuses that normally work at most eateries, simply won’t fly. Telling a New Yorker you got stuck in traffic will get you as much sympathy as telling your girlfriend that you cheated on her because you were drunk, and you thought you were playing the bongos on her ass. Do yourself a favor and get a late reservation so your on-time arrival is guaranteed and you can get your pregame on properly.
5: Eat Outside Your Comfort Zone
Restaurant Week is all about expanding your culinary aptitude and foodie street cred. This is not the time to order a safe meal that you can acquire at any old eatery. In other words go big or don’t go at all. I assure you, everything you eat at these restaurants is going to taste good, so why not try the grilled octopus instead of the Caesar salad or perhaps order the Foie Gras as opposed to the French Onion Soup. Your Instagram followers and your belly will thank you.
Since the number of restaurants that are involved in Restaurant Week can be slightly intimidating, I have decided to do you a solid. I have scoured through this year’s participants and have chosen what I consider to be the best of the best. The following are The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top Picks for each most of the culinary styles that appear on this massive list. This is by no means an all inclusive list and if you are a seasoned NYCRW veteran, I urge you to explore the directory on your own. However, if you are new to this game these are a few of the restaurants that will impress even the most persnickety epicurean.
360 Park Ave. South (Park Av So/26 St)
Manhattan, NY 10010
This trendy eatery changes its name, design, and menu along with the seasons. Even if you were to eat at this spot four times a year, you would never get bored.
Appetizer: Steak Tartare Rossini Foie Gras & Black Truffle ($5 supplement)
Entrée: Everything-Crusted Branzino with Smoked Cream Cheese and Pickled Onions
Dessert: Salted Pistachio Sundae with Orange Marmalade and Dark Chocolate Caramel
21 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
Once a Pimp Ass speakeasy, this now upscale restaurant is not only celebrated but it is a celebrity favorite as well. If you are a TMZ fan, this one is for you. Some of the A-listers that have dined at this spot include; Harrison Ford, Bill Fucking Murray, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bo Jackson, Ernest Hemingway, and Frank Sinatra. Hell, the last time I ate at the 21 we were sitting two tables away from Geraldo Rivera and his super stashe.
*DRESS CODE: No jeans or sneakers. Jackets are necessary for gentlemen.
Appetizer: Head-On Maya Prawn – Tomato Eggplant Chutney, Picholine Olives, Lemon Preserve, Chili Oil
Entrée: Lamb Bolognese – Garganelli Pasta, Roasted Tomatoes, Basil, Chili Flakes, Manchego
Dessert: Caramel Banana Sundae – Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, Whiskey Caramel, Banana Slices
403 W. 13th St. (13 St/9 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10014
This Meatpacking District gem focuses on Asian inspired street food the Chef fell in love with while traveling throughout South East Asia.
Appetizer: Soy Cured Salmon with Cilantro Crème Fraiche
Entrée: Roast Pork Steamed Buns with Yuzu Pickles and Chili
Dessert: Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Pomegranate and Condensed Milk
40 W. 53rd St. (53 St/6 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10019
Fogo de Chão is a Churrascaria. In English, that roughly translates to MEAT! Holy Hot Damn, MEAT Everywhere! With unlimited trips to the salad bar, bread and side dishes served at the table, and endless cuts of Sirloin, Leg of Lamb, Pork Sausage, Pork Ribs, Pork Loin, and Chicken Breast wrapped in Bacon you better wear your buffet pants.
EVERYTHING YOU GLUTTONOUS BEAUTIFUL BASTARD!!!!
311 W. 43rd St. (43 St/8 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10036
It is one of only a few Restaurant Week Participants that is rocking a coveted Michelin star.
Appetizer: Hakka Fried Dim Sum Platter – Sesame Prawn Toast with Foie Gras, Crispy Fried Prawn Dumpling with Plum Sauce
Entrée: Tofu, Aubergine and Shiitake Mushroom Clay Pot with Chili Black Bean Sauce
Dessert: Mango Parfait – Pink grapefruit & Szechuan Sorbet with Coconut Dacquoise
182 W. 58th St. (58 St/7 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10019
If you are looking to impress, this is the spot to take that someone special. Quiet, extravagant, and romantic are adjectives that have been used to describe this French influenced foodie haven. I am usually against a large supplement cost but Petrossian is so well known for their Caviar, I suggest you shell out the extra $12 bucks and eat some serious Fish Eggs.
Appetizer: Transmontanus USA farmed caviar 12 g presentation ($ 12.00 supplement)
Entrée: Pan Roasted West Coast Sturgeon with Cauliflower Ribs, Zucchini Pearls, and Stewed Eggplant
Dessert: Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake
60 W. 55th St. (55 St/6 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10019
Since most of us can’t jump on our G6 and float over to Paris any damn time we want, we rarely get to experience an authentic French Bistro. That is until Benoit opened its doors in 2005. The highly touted Chef Alain Ducasse is in charge of the Kitchen and each dish prepared in this classy joint illustrates his immense skill and training.
Entrée: Roasted Pork Loin with Creamy Polenta and Prune Sauce
Dessert: Soufflé glace a l’orange
505 Columbus Ave. (Columbus/85)
Manhattan, NY 10024
With two huge culinary names involved in this venture, Chef Michael Psilakis and Donatella Arpaia, you know Kefi is going to deliver some serious eats. This is one of the few restaurants I will recommend without seeing the Restaurant Week Menu because that star power holds weight!
Game time decision.
27 W. 24th St. (24 St/5 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10010
Junoon means passion and after one visit to this sophisticated Indian restaurant you will understand why they named it that. Junoon is not only gorgeous but it very well may serve the best Indian Cuisine in NYC. Not to mention the fact that it is also a Michelin Star recipient.
Appetizer: Murgh Bhut Jolokia – Chicken Tikka with Spaghetti Squash, Pistachio, and Ghost Chili
Entrée: Kashmiri Rogan Josh – Lamb Shank with Cashew Yogurt Gravy
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Ras Malai Terrine
36 E. 20th St. (20 St/Park Av So)
Manhattan, NY 10003
Leaving New Jersey for an Italian joint is like exiting New York City to score a slice of Pizza. If you are however in the mood for Italian, I highly recommend this trendy Trattoria with an industrial twist. This may not look like Uncle Sal’s corner eatery; but this hip, edgy spot knocks out the classics, just like Nonna used to make.
Hipsters don’t post Menus!
105 Hudson St. (Hudson/Franklin)
Manhattan, NY 10013
Much like its sister restaurant Nobu, the fare served at Next Door is world renowned and delightfully prepared. The design and environment of Next Door adds a dash of culture to the overall meal experience that is well worth the wait. You can try to call ahead but they rarely take reservations.
Appetizer: Black Cod Miso on Limestone Lettuce
Entrée: Assorted Sushi
Dessert: Chef’s selection dessert
350 W. 50th Street
New York, NY 10019 (between 8th & 9th Ave)
Phone: (212) 582-4446
You will notice that there are two Korean restaurants that landed on this list. I honestly could not decide which one of these jaw dropping spots to suggest so after a great deal of hemming and hawing, I decided to declare the battle a draw.
Bann, the first of the two, is a unique and interactive restaurant that calls upon your skills as a Chef by allowing you to cook your own meals on their smokeless tabletop grills. Of course, if you are reluctant to participate in this endeavor the actual Chef will prepare your meals for you, because you are lame. The cook your own option at Bann adds an element of fun to your evening and may even cause the members of your group to actually put their cell phones down at the table.
Appetizer: Bossam Bun – Roast Pork Belly, Spicy Daikon, And Sweet Soy on Steamed Buns
Entrée: Korean Barbecue
Dessert: Carrot Cake – Asian Spiced Carrot & Yuja Pineapple Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
1250 Broadway, 39th fl. (Broadway/32 St)
Manhattan, NY 10001
Gaonnuri is located in a 39th floor penthouse in Koreatown and offers awe-inspiring views of the greatest city in the world. To be honest, Gaonnuri could serve McDonald’s in a dining room like this and still make a killing. However, they choose to serve some of the best Korean Food in the city, only adding to the appeal of this spot.
Appetizer: Bossam – Braised Pork Belly with Kimchi made with Octopus, and Perilla Leaves
Entrée: Duck Breast BBQ
Dessert: Chef’s Choice
773 Tenth Ave. (10 Av/53 St)
Manhattan, NY 10019
Taboon combines the vibrant spices of the Middle East with the alluring flavors of the Mediterranean to create innovative dishes that will awake your taste buds. This may not be the most expensive restaurant on the list, but the food they are cooking in their wood fire oven is equal if not better to the big dogs.
Appetizer: Black Tuscan Kale with Feta Cheese, Shaved Fennel, Cucumber, Apple, Sunflower Seeds, Lemon juice, Olive oil and Sumac dressing
Entrée: Pressed Lamb Belly Moussaka with Tomato and Eggplant Puree, Fingerling Potatoes, and Kashkaval Cheese
Dessert: Silan – Vanilla Ice Cream layered with Puffed Rice and Date Syrup, sprinkled with Caramelized Pistachios & topped with shredded Halva
230 W. 4th St. (W 4 St/10 St)
Manhattan, NY 10014
Empellón Taqueria opened their doors in 2011 with the intention of treating tacos with a high level of respect and serving them in a fun environment. They have accomplished that mission and then some. If you are a Taco lover, like my wife Kat, this is the spot for you. For all the haters that are reading this thinking, “Tacos can’t be classy,” stuff a burrito in your pie whole and check out the sick menu they are offering for Restaurant Week.
Appetizer: Ceviche – Octopus, Parsnip Pumpkin Seeds, and Salsa Papanteca
Entrée: Shortrib Pastrami Tacos with Pickled Cabbage and Mustard Seed Salsa.
Dessert: Milk Chocolate Flan
23 Ave. A (Av A/2 St)
Manhattan, NY 10009
I had a rough time choosing a Pan-Latin representative for my list because I have not visited very many of them in the city. Then I read the menu that Yerba Buena is offering for Restaurant Week and my belly had a foodgasm. I dare you to read the menu and not hit this Latin inspired eatery up… Go ahead, I will wait… Told you so!
Appetizer: Empanadas de Pato – Duck Confit Tinga, Salsa Mexicana, Crema, and Queso Fresco
Entrée: Lechon – Suckling Pig Carnitas, Habanero-Orange Salsa, Cactus Salad, and Chicharron
Dessert: Tres Leches – Crema de Cajeta, Tres Leches Sauce, and Vanilla Ice Cream
19 W. 49th St. (49 St/5 Av)
Manhattan, NY 10020
212-332-7610 | fax: 212-332-7677
The Sea Grill is another prime example of how Restaurants are a lot like Real Estate. Location, location, location! If you are looking for some relationship points, bring your beau Ice Skating at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink before walking hand in hand to this absolutely stunning seafood eatery. Watch as they Instagram the night away and each LIKE those filtered photos garner you will earn you one more cool point! You’re welcome!
Appetizer: Montauk Baby Calamari a la Plancha with Patatas Bravas and Chimichurri sauce
Entrée: Maine Monkfish ‘Osso Buco’ with Creamy Polenta and Wild Mushrooms
Dessert: Vanilla Caramel Panna Cotta with Valrhona Chocolate Sorbet
261 Water St. (Water St/Peck Slip)
Manhattan, NY 10038
Restaurant Week is usually not the best time to visit a Steakhouse in NYC. The truth is, if you want a slamming steak in the Big Apple you normally have to bite the bullet and pay out the nose. However, MarkJoseph Steakhouse is the exception that proves this rule. They are offering a 20 oz. sirloin or an 8 oz. Filet Mignon on their dinner menu. Get your meat on!
Appetizer: Sizzling Canadian Bacon
Entrée: Sirloin Steak 20 oz.
149 E. 57th St. (57 St/3 Av)
New York, NY 10022
Le Colonial was once a bustling haven for OG foodies in the NYC area and then for some reason lost its place in the culinary pantheon of Gotham. Instead of closing up shop and admitting defeat, however, this restaurant found a new Chef that seems to have set Le Colonial back on the path of Gastronomic greatness.
Appetizer: Suon Nuong – Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Lemongrass and Sweet Soy
Entrée: Bun Trio – Grilled Prawns with Beef Brochettes & Cha Gio Herbed Vermicelli Salad
Dessert: Banana Tapioca Pudding
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