New Mexico Restaurant Week kicks off its sixth year later this month in Santa Fe and continues into March in Taos before the three-week event wraps up in Albuquerque on March 13. For 21 days, participating restaurants are offering three-course, prix-fixe dinners and/or lunches for a price that is well below normal.
The concept of Restaurant Week, founded in 1992, is now celebrated in cities and states nationwide, and New Mexico’s participation puts us right up there with Seattle, Chicago and New York. After seeing how successful Restaurant Week was in her native San Diego, Wings Media founder Michele Ostrove decided to give it a try here in Santa Fe. Since its inception in 2010, New Mexico Restaurant Week has continued to grow and is now celebrated in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos and Las Cruces.
Below, we offer a few tips for the uninitiated so you can make the most of this fleeting culinary delight. Ladies and gentlemen, grab your forks, start your engines and get ready for Restaurant Week 2016!
Plan for Crowds
Restaurant Week can mean larger crowds at your favorite restaurants, even mid-week when it might ordinarily be slow. One recommendation is to use Open Table to make reservations. Some of the most popular restaurants may be booked well in advance, so plan ahead by making reservations, and don’t create unnecessary stress by trying to squeeze in a quick bite. Leave yourself ample time to relax and enjoy the experience.
Test Drive a New Spot
Maybe you’ve been curious about a new sushi spot or hankering to try African cuisine, but you haven’t had the chance just yet. This is the time to get out there and do it! Restaurants are showcasing their best dishes and looking to attract new and returning customers, so they’re aiming to impress you. “We really urge restaurants to put their best foot forward, as the idea is to attract new diners…who will fall in love and hopefully return again and again,” Michele says. So take advantage. These specials are just that—special. This is the week to try something wild, something you’re not sure you like or something you’ve always been curious about, because you might not have another chance.
Additionally, many diners use Restaurant Week as an opportunity to test-drive pricier establishments. While you may be reluctant to drop a bunch of cash at an untried restaurant, Restaurant Week lets you sample the food at an affordable price and discover whether or not it lives up to its price tag.
Hit Your Go-To Faves
Amidst the excitement of new experiences, Restaurant Week can also be a great excuse to splurge on dining out more often that you might ordinarily. It’s like buying high-end retail items on sale: you’ve just got to take advantage of the lower prices. And even at a restaurant you visit regularly, you’re likely to be wowed by the Restaurant Week offerings. The event seems to encourage chefs to stretch their creativity, and it’s a fun way to support our local economy.
Don’t Skimp on the Tip
Your meals might be discounted, but the service isn’t. Wait staff are working just as hard as they would during any other week of the year (and often harder), so they should be compensated accordingly. If you are pleased with the service, show your appreciation with a generous tip, above and beyond the usual 15-20 percent for a job well done. Waiting tables isn’t easy, and these folks are working hard. Show them some love.
Work in Some Lunches
Got too many places to try? Can’t fit it all in in one week? Consider adding some lunches to your Restaurant Week plan, and you can hit even more places without stretching the limits of your stomach. Lunch is a meal that many office workers eat at restaurants anyway, so why not hit two birds with one stone by dining at a Restaurant Week participant? You can sate your midday hunger and cross a “must try” restaurant off your list in one fell swoop. (Bonus multi-tasking points if you can schedule a lunch meeting out!)
Push Your (City) Limits
Whether you live in Santa Fe, Albuquerque or Taos, New Mexico Restaurant Week offers a plethora of opportunities to get out there and explore local eateries. But there’s no need to limit yourself to your home turf; take a road trip to your neighboring cities and expand your gastronomic horizons even farther.
For complete details on participating restaurants, menus and events listings, go to nmrestaurantweek.com.