A2P Foodist: Ann Arbor Restaurant Week Descends—55 Restaurants Participate, 6 Make the A2P Tasting Menu
In 2010, A2Politico posted this in a piece about Ann Arbor Restaurant Week titled, “The Politics of Food: Ann Arbor Restaurant Week Hype? Caveat Emptor, Epicurians”:
In case you haven’t noticed, January 17-22 is Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, an event put on by the Main Street Area Association. It’s the second Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, and 26 joints are participating, according to Lisa Allmendinger’s piece in the A2Journal. The participating venues will offer “a $12.00 lunch and some restaurants are offering two-for-one pricing.” A three-course dinner during the week at participating restaurants will set you back $25.00. This year, the event organizers talked several sponsors out of money (Lord only knows why Frog Holler Produce needs to sponsor such an event) so that the Main Street Association could “create a web site, which lists all of the participating restaurants and other information,” according to Allmendinger’s piece.
So, am I just a cheapskate, or is $25 bucks for dinner per person way too rich for your blood, as well? If we take the tots (crazy, I know) that’s $100 for dinner for four during Restaurant Week. I wrote in an earlier post about eating at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California last summer and how Alice Waters’ restaurant made me painfully aware of exactly how over-priced and badly cooked meals in our local restaurants can actually be. Chez Panisse completely destroyed my ability to rationalize paying $17-$30 for an entreé at any local restaurant in our town.
In 2011, A2Politico posted this in a piece about Ann Arbor Restaurant Week titled, “The Politics of Food: Ann Arbor Restaurant Week — The Sequel”:
Ann Arbor Restaurant Week is baaaaaaaack and runs from January 16-21. I last wrote about the first annual Restaurant Week in Ann Arbor on January 15, 2010. The title of that entry, “The Politics of Food: Ann Arbor Restaurant Week Hype? Caveat Emptor, Epicurians,” could be the title of this entry, as well. The hype is the same: “One Price Dining, One Week, Several Options.” Ok. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s when we get into the small type that the used car salesman hard sell kicks in:
“Extraordinary three course dinner menus and prix fare lunch menus from Ann Arbor’s best restaurants. Experience cuisine that delights your palate and defines the art of dining in Ann Arbor. Now is your chance to discover new restaurants and enjoy favorites at a discounted price.”
It’s the “discounted price” part that sticks to the roof of one’s mouth, much like a big bite of a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder Bread. The Main Street Area Association members, and marketing gurus are already stretching it big time by calling a burrito or tacos at Sabor Latino “extraordinary” food. Pasta at Argerios?Definitely not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination, unless one considers canned tomato sauce worth the $12.50 entreé price charged by the restaurant for a serving of manicotti. The pizza is better, chewy crust, topped with real mozzarella cheese, but the gnocchi are shameless impersonations of what Romans do with their leftover Wednesday potatoes. (Thursday is gnocchi day in Rome.)
It’s 2013, and Ann Arbor Restaurant Week is upon us once again. It runs from January 20-25. The Main Street Area Association describes the event thusly this year: “Extraordinary three course dinner menus and prix fare lunch menus from Ann Arbor’s best restaurants. Experience cuisine that delights your palate and defines the art of dining in Ann Arbor. Now is your chance to discover new restaurants and enjoy favorites at a discounted price.” The cost of Ann Arbor Restaurant Week lunch will set you back $15.00 and a three course dinner is now $28.00. In short, the prices have been jacked up since 2010. The cost of a Restaurant Week lunch is 25 percent more than it was in 2010, and the cost of dinner is up 12 percent.
Remember this: Except, perhaps, in the world of high-class courtesans, paying more does not guarantee high quality, just as the number of hours worked does not guarantee a job well done. In the world that is Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, a fool and her/his money are soon parted.
Before the recession, the average American ate 52 percent of his meals out of the house, or from take out, in 2006. In 2011, the number dropped to 45 percent, according to Zagat. AnnArbor.com has a page where diners can grade their Restaurant Week experiences. There is also a survey which asks respondents to spill the beans about how often they go to downtown Ann Arbor to eat out. The results demonstrate quite clearly why the Main Street Area Association launched Restaurant Week. The majority of those who cast votes (46 percent) said they go downtown to eat out less than once per month. In the comment section, one diner writes:
Went to R.U.B. last night. Did the math on the regular menu prices and found that the restaurant week “menu” had no savings over just picking off the regular menu.
As A2Politico has counseled would-be epicurians in past, $25.00 for a single three-course dinner in Ann Arbor is not a deal, and neither is a $12 lunch. Thus, this year’s $28 dollar dinner and a $15 lunch are even less of a deal. Beware, because at several of the participating Restaurant Week establishments, the “discount” is somewhere between $.50 cents and $1.00 off of non-Restaurant Week menu prices. Offering a $.50 cent discount on a $15.00 lunch and calling it a special deal is just plain sleazy. Several restaurants, in addition, have raised prices for Restaurant Week. Amadeus, for instance, is offering a two-for-one $15 lunch. That’s nice. Of course, the restaurant routinely offers $6.95 lunch specials. On the other hand, the restaurants offering two-for-one pricing (at lunch), and those that have decent ratings (3.5 stars or higher) from reviewers on Yelp.com should get your business during Restaurant Week, if you are inclined to go out for a meal. Here’s a list of Restaurant Week joints offering two-for-one pricing at lunch that is actually a discount over regular menu prices. Remember to do the math; check out restaurant menus online, and stick with the two-for-one lunches. A2Politico recommends you call ahead, then visit the following spots with a luncheon companion:
The Blue Nile (spotty, slow service, but the food is worth the wait)
Conor O’Neill’s (always friendly service and good pub grub)
Frita Batidos (irksome hipster service, but two for $15 lunch is a great deal for good Cuban sandwiches)
Grizzley Peak (generally good service and reliably good food; spring for a beer)
Old Town Tavern (surly service and one of the best burgers downtown)
Seva (slow service, but reliably good vegetarian and vegan food; spring for a drink from the Juice Bar, and for heaven’s sake be adventurous)
Remember to tip generously (when the service merits it), check back and leave a comment. Let us know where you ate, how you enjoyed your meal, the service, etc…
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