The Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce’s annual weeklong celebration of county restaurants starts Friday and includes six stops in Towson this time around.
This season’s 16-day promotion runs from Jan. 19 to Feb. 3 and features prix-fixe menus at 60 participating restaurants throughout the county, according to Marjorie Hampson, director of the Baltimore County Office of Tourism and Promotion.
The promotion offers diners a chance to sample multi-course brunch, lunch and dinner menus for about $15 to $35. At most restaurants, customers who come in during the promotional period can also order off the regular menu at regular prices.
Restaurant week, which got its start in New York City, has spread nationwide as a way to bring diners in during the traditionally slow periods of late winter and late summer, Hampson said.
The concept started in Baltimore County in 2010 with 14 restaurants and has grown every year, since Hampson said.
Hampson said restaurateurs use the promotion as a way to fill seats during the lull. Maryland chamber of commerce members pay $175 to participate in the promotion, while non-chamber members pay $295.
Though recent years have seen a steady number of about 60 participants, this is the most new restaurants the promotion has seen in recent years, she said, adding that there are six new restaurants on the list this winter.
“It’s been very rewarding because it’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Hampson said of the growth in participants since 2010. “It has proven to be quite profitable for everyone.”
In Towson, diners will have two new restaurant week options — The Point in Towson and Nacho Mama’s.
“We always participate in the city [restaurant week] so we thought it would be a good way to showcase our food for the Towson location and get people in who many not know we’re open,” The Point in Towson owner Erica Russo said.
The bar and restaurant that got its start in Fells Point opened a Towson location at 523 York Road in December.
Dinnertime guests can choose one starter, one main and one dessert for $35.18 from a special restaurant menu of items not typically offered on the regular menu.
The entree choices by head chef Brendan McKinney include a house-made, lemon-ricotta gnudi— a dumpling made with ricotta and semolina flour— served with pan-seared salmon, a churrasco steak, a crispy chicken breast and a dry-aged pork chop with Jameson apple butter.
For vegetarians, the restaurant is offering a vegetable lasagna made with a mushroom ragu, caramelized onions, mozzarella and spinach lasagna noodles.
“We’re hoping it will bring out more area neighbors so we can know more of them,” Russo said. “So far most of our clientele has been neighbors that live within three to five miles.”
Also new to Baltimore County Restaurant Week is Nacho Mama’s, which opened in late 2016 at 2 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
The Towson location of the popular Baltimore Tex-Mex restaurant is known for serving margaritas in hubcaps. Though not new to Towson, regional manager Brad Mitchell said the restaurant decided to participate for the first time this year to expand its reach.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Mitchell said. “Last year we were so new that it didn’t make sense for us to participate because we were still trying to get our feet underneath us.”
Mitchell said the promotion offers a chance to get new customers in the door.
“We’re really busy on the weekends and during the week, but if it makes it busier that will be great,” Mitchell said. “The end of January typically tends to be one of the slowest times of the year so we’re hoping for a nice bump in a normally slow period.”
The special menu at Nacho Mama’s includes a choice of a starter, main and dessert for $30.18, alongside the regular menu and daily drink specials like $2 Natty Bohs.
Local options also include Towson staples like family-owned Cafe Troia, which is offering a three-course lunch or dinner for $15.18 and $35.18, respectively and Cunningham’s, which sources its pork, lamb and produce from its own farm, Cunningham Farm in Cockeysville and Monkton.
Razorbacks will offer a two-course lunch for $15.18 or three-course dinner for $35.18, while the Towson Tavern returns this winter with a $35 three-course dinner option.
“They get to experience a restaurant that they’ve never tried before at a good price or perhaps they go back to a favorite restaurant,” Hampson said of the promotion. “It’s a good chance to experience something new or go back to an old favorite for a good deal.”
For more information on Baltimore County Restaurant Week, go to http://www.baltimorecountyrestaurantweek.com.