It’s easy to get cynical about Center City’s Restaurant Week. It was created, in part, with rookie foodies in mind — the curious but hesitant diner who’s willing to give new places a shot thanks to lower set-price menus. But this biannual rite of discount eating can alter the standard dining experience at participating restaurants, stretching dining rooms and staffs to capacity, often leading to less-than-enthusiastic service and assembly-line cooking. And a lot of restaurants feature variations on their bottom-menu choices — the inevitable dance of chicken and salmon — that put the whole value proposition into question. So it helps to approach the whole enterprise with at least some moderately adjusted expectations.
I’ve had plenty of past disappointments, like a noontime foray last year to Butcher & Singer, where I discovered the swanky steak house wasn’t even offering a steak on its RW lunch menu. (This year’s lunch offering makes the same flub.)
A successful Restaurant Week should be about building new long-term relationships with potential new customers, not making a quick buck by filling empty seats in an otherwise-lean month. And I’ve begun to sense that many restaurants are investing a bit more effort in making that happen.
Here’s a list of restaurants that intrigue me this season, either as places I’ve long meant to explore or old standbys that reliably do a good job, despite the promotion: