Ahhhh it’s that time of year again. Charlotte Restaurant Week. Twice a year here in Charlotte, over 120 restaurants offer prix fixe dinner menus to the masses. Queen’s Feast, as we call it, actually runs TEN DAYS, and it can be an awesome but overwhelming experience. Don’t ye fret! I’ve got some tips for planning your best Queen’s Feast yet!
This post (and my Best Charlotte Restaurants Post) were written in collaboration with the #DesignCharlotte campaign, a cool program (details below) encouraging Charlotteans to share their favorite things in the Queen City. Of course my favorite thing is FOOD. Set let’s get to those Charlotte Restaurant Week tips!
TIP #1: SET A GOAL
First things first, we need to set some goals. What is it you’re hoping to get out of restaurant week? An incredible deal? An incredible meal? Those two don’t always go hand in hand. So, dig down deep inside and ask yourself the tough questions. Are we pinching pennies or living large this time around?
TIP #2: SELECT “THE ONE”
Once you set your goal, it’s time to assess the options, and there are LOTS. How do you pick one or two (OK, fine, THREE) restaurants out of the 120+ that participate?
- RESEARCH is key. Ask your friends and family, check reviews on Yelp, crowd source for information on Twitter. Some restaurants bring their A-games during restaurant week, and some… just don’t.
- MENU COHESIVENESS. Scroll through the menus. Which menu has dishes that “wow” you in each course category? The appetizer and entrée sound awesome, but the only dessert option is crème bru-freaking-lee? NEXT.
- PRICE CHECK. If price is your main motivator, compare the restaurant week menu against the regular menu and see how much of a “deal” you’re actually getting. Note that some restaurants serve “petite” versions of the regular dish during restaurant week. Do you really want three full-sized courses anyway? Of course you do.
- TRY SOMETHING NEW. What’s the restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, but never made it to? What’s the place that’s just too darn expensive outside of restaurant week? Now’s your chance!
- PRO TIP: Corri, social media guru and Owner of Black Wednesday Social Co., suggests checking out the #queensfeast hashtag to see what people are eating (and where you should go). Also check social media for the restaurants you’re thinking about because some post previews of their menus!
TIP #3: MAKE A RESERVATION
If you can only follow one tip on this list, make this THE ONE. It’s restaurant week, and everyone’s SUPER FREAKIN excited, but a 90-minute wait is a total buzzkill. Don’t be the hangry couple lingering by the entryway. Either plan to dine outside of “peak” hours or MAKE A RESERVATION ASAP.
TIP #4: CANCEL THE RESERVATION
Don’t be a jerk.
If you can’t make it, cancel, because it’s likely someone else has been calling that restaurant six times a day, hoping to snatch up a reservation. Plus, restaurants and servers need to keep those tables filled to make money, especially during restaurant week.
TIP #5: UPCHARGES GALORE
To upcharge, or not to upcharge… that is the question.
Many restaurants offer premium options… for an additional charge. Wine pairings, lobster tail, steak upgrade, you name it. Consider this in your price analysis.
TIP #6: SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Yes, it’s Queen’s Feast, and you expect to be treated like a Queen (or King, as the case may be)… Just like the thousands of other restaurant week participants. Keep your expectations in line. Restaurants are dealing with serious volume, and they’re all trying their best to satisfy patrons and turn tables as efficiently and pleasantly as possible.
TIP #7: TAX, TIP, AND BOOZE AIN’T INCLUDED
$30/$35 3-course prix fixe? Awesome deal right?? Remember that little talk we had about budget? BOOZE IS EXPENSIVE. Consider your anticipated consumption and factor that cost plus tax and tip into the budget.
PRO TIP: LeAndra, blogger at Love and Flour, says tip your server on the full (regular menu) price of the meal, not the $30/$35 price.
BONUS: MY TOP PICKS
PRO TIP: Chrissie, blogger at Off the Eaten Path, says Mimosa Grill was one of her all-time favorite Queen’s Feast meals to date.
FOR THE FRANCOPHILE: Lumiere ($35). Fresh-Baked Gougeres; Provencal Fish Soup; Modern Duck l’ Orange; Classic Parisian Napoleon. Tres bien!
FOR THE GLUTEN FREE FRIEND: Bistro La Bon ($30). GF options listed right on the menu. Awesome.
FOR FARM TO FORK: Heirloom ($35). Everything is sourced locally. Even the wine. Even the honey (via beehives on the restaurant’s rooftop). Also, check out Passion8 ($35). Their NC Day Boat Catch with spring onion risotto, glazed market vegetables, soy chai tea beurre blanc sounds INCREDIBLE.
FOR THE DESSERT HATER: Baku ($35). 3 savory courses, optional dessert course for $5 supplement. I like this format! I hope more restaurants catch on.
#DesignCharlotte is a sweet campaign through the Marriott Charlotte City hotel, encouraging people to show off their favorite things in Charlotte. The Marriott Charlotte City hotel is currently undergoing a major transformation, which will include a mosaic wall featuring photos and videos tagged with #DesignCharlotte on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. How cool is that? Plus, using the hashtag enters you into a contest to win a Grand Prize Getaway. I’m down for that!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of #DesignCharlotte. The opinions and text are all mine.