The largest Restaurant Week in Annapolis history is set to begin tomorrow, and local businesses are gearing up for a temporary but significant increase in business.
The event, organized by the Annapolis Business Association, will be consistent with Restaurant Weeks of other neighboring cities, like those of Washington and Baltimore, said ABA members. Erin Brunst McNaboe, Rams Head Tavern owner and ABA board member who is chairing the event, said tomorrow through Friday, 35 participating restaurants will offer three-course lunch and dinner specials at the cost of $15.95 and $29.95, respectively.
"It's a great way to band together and remind people of all the options they have in a small town," she said.
The restaurants include Eastport and downtown eateries such as Ruth's Chris Steak House, Wild Orchid Cafe, Tsunami, Lemongrass, Luna Blu and Carpaccio. McNaboe added that local retail shops will also be helping to accommodate restaurant patrons, offering discounts and staying open later.
Jessica Jordan, president of the ABA and owner of clothing store Paradigm, said her store will be open until 8 p.m. rather than its usual 6 p.m. closing time. There will also be a 15 percent discount off any single item between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. for anyone who mentions Restaurant Week.
For the past four years, What's Up? magazine in Annapolis had organized restaurant weeks with 16-20 local restaurants. Wild Orchid Cafe chef and owner Jim Wilder, who participated in these events, said business increased "100 percent" during past restaurant weeks and several new customers visited the cafe.
"During the course of the year, I'll have people come up and say, 'The first time I came here was Restaurant Week, and we've come ever since,' " he said. "When they come, a lot of them come back."
Jody Daneck, co-owner of Tsunami and Lemongrass, said this event comes at a time when restaurants can really benefit from a boost in business.
"It's good for the small businesses that may be struggling during these hard economic times," he said. "Not to say that Restaurant Week isn't a good deal, but it's also a time to celebrate your local economy."
McNaboe said the economy was not a factor when planning the event.
"This has actually been on the books for a while," she said. "It was just a matter of finding the time. It ended up just being good timing."
What's Up? publisher Veronica Tovey said the magazine will not organize a Restaurant Week of its own this year. Because today's economy is causing fewer people to indulge in the luxuries of dining out, restaurants are offering better deals every day, defeating the purpose of a Restaurant Week, she said.
"We decided it was much better for our readers not to be led astray by some Restaurant Week prices that are higher than what they can get on any day," she said. "We want to help the restaurants, and if they're hurting that much, we just wanted to find out their regular deals and tell our readers about them."
McNaboe said she respects past efforts of What's Up? magazine, but thinks the restaurants' willingness to participate indicates a need for Restaurant Week.
"Based on the response from the restaurants and the amount of restaurants that signed on, they must feel a need or some desire," she said.
David Sadeghi, chief operating officer of Big Steaks Management, the operator of Ruth's Chris Steak House, said a group of restaurants participating in a discount event is much more effective than individual deals.
"I believe the offer of multiple restaurants put together can never be matched by a single restaurant," he said.
He added that the Restaurant Week menu offers a better deal than Ruth's Chris Steak House's $35.95 "economy proof" menu, which has been running for the past year.
Jordan said the goal of Restaurant Week is to give residents a variety of local dining options, rather than provide cheap eats.
"It's not necessarily meant to be a sale at restaurants, it's meant to be a sampling of the menu," she said. "It's to encourage people to try out the restaurants. We want to make sure that people have accurate expectations."
Azure at the Westin Annapolis
Breeze at Loews Annapolis
Buddy's Crabs & Ribs
Cantler's Riverside Inn,
Carrol's Creek Cafe
Fado Irish Pub
Federal House Bar and Grille
The Greystone Grill
John Barry Restaurant at The O'Callaghan Hotel
Lure's Bar and Grill
The Main Ingredient Caf?
The Melting Pot
O'Leary's Seafood Restaurant
The Purple Tooth
Pusser's Caribbean Grille
Rams Head Tavern
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Sam's on the Waterfront
The Severn Inn
Stan & Joe's Saloon
Wild Orchid Caf?
Contact information for each of the restaurants can be found at www.AnnapolisRestaurantWeek.com.