Boston Restaurant Week 2013 – Staff Picks!

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Chef on fire - Grotto Boston

Open your schedules, your mouths, and your wallets – Restaurant Week has arrived.

With March Sadness kicking your liver into overdrive, it’s only fair that you give your stomach some attention as well. Restaurant Week Boston 2013 is upon us, and just in case seven days of dining decadence wasn’t enough, this winter’s event stretches from March 17-29 so that you’ll have plenty of time to experience the deliciousness that Boston has to offer.

Want to partake in this epicurean experience but don’t know where to start? Never fear. The “We Love Beantown” staff is offering you some savory suggestions to help you navigate the vast culinary landscape before you. Click below for some helpful advice!

The list of participating restaurants is a long one. You could try browsing around the site by name, neighborhood, meal or cuisine. Why bother, however, when the best suggestions are right here?

elephant walk

Two distinct dining experiences from Dan:

There is one given here: you are going to spend $38.13 on a three-course dinner. Whether your aim is to explore more Boston restaurants, to try a new cuisine, or to stuff your hungry face, your bank account will be missing $38.13 at the end of the meal (more, really, because of drinks, tax, and tip). So you’ll want to make it count. I’m providing you with two options for two likely situations:

You’re Starving & You Want to Try that One New Restaurant You’ve Been Meaning to Try: 

Sweet Cheeks  heaping helpings of BBQ – Kenmore

Top Chef fans will love that it’s owned by much-loved contestant Tiffani Faison. Hipsters will love its let’s-serve-things-in-mason-jars feel. Gluttons will love that this restaurant week special is actually ALL YOU CAN EAT. That’s right: $38.18 will get you a (delicious, homemade) biscuit to start, a dessert to finish it all off, and in between two mounds of sides partnered with two portions of meat – all your choice – which they will refresh at your bidding. Are you hungry? I hope so. The first helping in itself would fill the regular diner.

Try the macaroni and cheese – it’s served in a mug (how quaint!). For meat, you can’t go wrong with the pulled pork or the brisket. Slather the barbecue sauce on everything or dab on some of the spicy mustard (not for the faint of heart). Three dessert options – my friend and I went for the Nutter Butter and the Lemon Chocolate dessert; even without having tried it, I’d recommend the third option, a Butterscotch Pudding. Finally, an absolute must: order their version of a mint julep (the name escapes me, but it’s got corn whiskey in it, and it will make your life 100% greater).

You Want to Explore New Cuisines and Possibly Find a New First Date Spot:

The Elephant Walk  – a delicious fusion of French and Cambodian – Boston

Here’s a place where you could afford to go to any other week of the year (you’d have to be crafty to keep it to a reasonable price) – but your $38.18 will go a long way at The Elephant Walk, a French-Cambodian fusion restaurant with three locations in the Beantown area. Besides being more bang for your Restaurant Week buck, it’s also a delicious food concept and an opportunity to stake out a great new place to bring your next date. The atmosphere is a little more upscale than Sweet Cheeks – you might get away with wearing a sweatshirt, but be ready for the stares from the older men and women who have apparently dressed for the opera or perhaps the first voyage of the Titanic.

You can select from a very wide variety of starters, first courses, entrées and desserts, which are subdivided into French and Cambodian options. Try for a healthy balance between the two – Rouleax (read: cambodian spring rolls) and Couronne de Crevettes au Pernod (a lobster-tinged shrimp dish) would be a good choice. Don’t worry, Vegans – there are plenty of delicious options for you that go above and beyond that typical vegetable and hummus plate served at other restaurants. At the end of the night, you’ll feel pleasantly full and even a little cultured.

Fondue @ The Wine Cellar

Some tactics and molten cheese from Alex D.:

Usually I am that restaurant week-er that chef’s and owners hate. I go to open table’s $$$$ restaurants that I would usually need to drop several hundreds on during any normal day. My most recent Restaurant Week pick was Grill 23. My friend and I have the same birthday and went here during the summer restaurant week with 14 people to celebrate. The wait staff was extremely accommodating and friendly. They helped us select a wine that everyone would enjoy and effortlessly coordinated all 14 people’s meals. The food was delicious, even for a restaurant week menu, but you could tell they were capable of much more.

For Restaurant Week Winter 2013 I am going to try some new tactics…

  1. Look at the menus for the two different weeks.  Some restaurants offer different menus over the course of the two weeks. Pick the week’s menu you are more drawn to.
  2. Make a reservation via OpenTable …restaurants are extremely busy during Restaurant Week.
  3. Try a place you have been dying to try but isn’t well beyond the cost of a normal meal the restaurant offers
  4. Don’t order steak.  Steak costs what steak costs. If you go to a steak house you will get a tiny steak.

The Wine Cellar

Wow is all I can say. The Wine Cellar‘s food is fantastic and it is wicked fun to cook your food with a date or sassy-gay-best friend. I have been here a couple of times and I am never disappointed. It is, however, pretty pricey when you tack on dinner, dessert, and a bottle of wine. For Restaurant Week Winter 2013 they have several options for the appetizer, entree, and dessert that will be guaranteed to have the same quality of taste the restaurant offers every day. Here’s my ideal menu:

Appetizer:

I am going to admit something in an open forum that may result in public humiliation. I hate melted cheese. But The Wine Cellar has made me fall in love with their creamy cheese fondue appetizer. I’m going for the Melted Gruyere Cheese & Emmentale with White Wine, Garlic, & Kirsch.  Makes a cheese hater a cheese lover.

Main:

I’m going for the Beef & Chicken Fondue Served with Vegetable Broth & Dipping Sauces. I’m aware that they have other entrees, but this is why you go to The Wine Cellar – for the fantastic broth fondue. I also plan on springing for the $3 upgrade to the Latin Broth.  It is delicious… although maybe I should try something new…

Dessert:

There should be no question here. Dark Chocolate Fondue served with Seasonal Fruit, Cookies, & Marshmallows all the way. Yum.

Trattoria il Panino, North End

A North End smorgasbord from Casey:

Everyone always talks about going out to eat in the North End – usually when parents visit, big dates, Valentine’s (run to the hills), or for first-time Boston visitors – so it may seem overdone, but that’s also because there’s damn good food there too. You may think Restaurant Week can be a way to feast Italian sans large bank accounts. But beware of fancy menu add-on’s, mediocre and basic options, or a less-than-stellar showing at a place you might remember as being amazing.

But Bricco, and sister restaurants Mare and Trattoria Il Panino, have bucked this common Restaurant Week hitch in my opinion. The three are some of my consistent favorites from my days as a North End resident (full disclosure: parentally-funded). For sure, at Bricco, you’re going to get your money’s worth, and you’re going to want the zucchini flowers, carpaccio, eggplant bake, the salmon with pea puree, the ghocchetti, the short ribs…yeah, everything. Plan for a food coma, it’s decadent. Now that I’m in an Italian food frenzy, I need a return to the old neighborhood pronto. But honestly, I’ll be waiting for the Restaurant Week madness to die down. Because there’s a serious find of delicious food that’s refreshingly reasonable all the weeks of the year: get thee to Panza.

Money Wallet

Finally, a word of warning from Dave:

I loathe Restaurant Week. A few years ago when it was $15 and $25 for those three course lunches and dinners respectively, it was definitely a deal. Now? As it is basically $40 per person before wine…I don’t see the price value. That is still well clear of $100 for date night, and if I’m going to do that, I’d prefer to do it more on my terms.

I’d rather use this week as a scouting tool to remind myself what is new, then go back when we are going to get to pick from the whole menu and aren’t being rushed out for the next OpenTable res. All ranting aside, if you can find a way to do it for lunch…definitely do it for lunch.