Sonoma County Restaurant Week is here! Now in its 9th year, the event features more than 120 restaurants from every corner of the county serving up multi-course lunches for $10 or $15 and dinners for $19, $29 and $39 per person.
We just like to call it an opportunity to stuff your face at great local restaurants for a bargain. And this year, you have more than a week to enjoy the bounty; from Friday, March 2 all the way through Sunday, March 11. Other than a few stretches, pulling out your most forgiving pants and sharpening those fork tines, the most important thing you need to do is a little planning.
We’ve pulled together a few tips to make your experience a little easier to navigate, as well as some Restaurant Week menus that got us salivating (in the gallery above).
1. $15 lunches are the best way to see if you want to go back for a $29 or $39 dinner at the restaurant. Most have completely different lunch and dinner menus, but you’ll get a good sense of the restaurant’s style. Others offer similar lunch and dinner menus— adding a salad, soup or dessert to the dinner menu for evening diners. In that case, we’ll take the $15 version and skip the dessert.
2. Look at restaurants by price range on the website. We like to compare what folks are doing in the same price range. We’d probably skip over spots that aren’t offering anything different from their regular menu, or that haven’t put much effort into their menus. Seek out the restaurateurs that are putting extra oomph into their offerings.
3. Expect something impressive for $39. Don’t expect that same level of wow for $19. We tend to make a rule that we expect higher-end restaurants to really impress us with their $39 menus. We’re very impressed with menus from John Ash ad Co., Dry Creek Kitchen, and Seared at the higher price point. Also, look out for restaurants that aren’t staying in their usual lanes. For a value-priced fast-casual spot, a $39 dinner might be a bit overambitious.
4. If you hate to wait, go early or go late. But really, go early. Restaurant Week is very popular, so restaurants can get crowded. Also, make a reservation if possible. Weekdays tend to be quieter than weekends, natch.
5. Tip your servers well. Let me repeat that, tip well. Whether its a $10 lunch or a $39 dinner for two, restaurant staff are put to the test during this busy week. All restaurant participants want to impress their guests, but service can be a bit harried during crush hours. You may be getting a great deal, but everyone from dishwashers and bussers to servers still depend on that extra percentage of your bill to stretch their paychecks.