1) A Slew of participants. None of which are the hottest/trendiest places at the moment. Mostly establishments that can use more bodies during Monday-Friday.
2) Menus designed for restaurant week. A $25 lunch menu that normally includes a minuscule or none inspiring appetizer like the ever so trendy kale soup. A main entree that is either off the regular menu, a smaller version of the regular menu item, or a new cheap invention. You certainly did not miss the signature dishes, or the dishes that truly define the participant establishments
3) Dessert. Seriously, who orders dessert during lunch anymore in NYC other than the business lunchers or “Ladies Who Lunch”. At the end of the day, once you calculate all you had versus what the regular menu offers, you wind up with a free dessert
4) Cold Service. Yes this will vary from place to place and certainly debatable I suppose. But when you are suddenly staring at a full house filled with diners taking advantage of this opportunity what you get is servers treating you like you are part of this RW herd. At one establishment a server asked me in a thick French accent “How was you lunch”, and proceeded to turn around before I completed my response. Clearly saying “I was trained to ask you people questions but I dont really care about what you have to say”. At another place I was given the first course 20 seconds after I got the bread basket (with dip), and I was given the second course 15 mins into the meal. Herd mentality goes both ways. The kittens are shown in, and then out as quickly as possible.
6) Absolutely Nothing!
You missed nothing. Consider this quote from the great David Chang who prior to creating his empire worked in many places that participated in RW. “You just have to cook like a maniac. Cooks are creatures of habit all of a sudden your room’s full, and you have bunch of people that want stuff well done. It’s not what you want to be doing.”Most chefs will tell you that it’s great. I guarantee you there’s not one cook that is excited about restaurant week.” Here’s the Source. I believe him.
Restaurants are in the business of making money. Since Restaurants Week is now twice a year, and more than one week sometimes, the various establishments cant afford to lose much on these deals. Instead of trying to impress the average RW goer and convince folks to come back, I gather the average participant views the goer as someone who most likely not come back any time soon. So lets make a quick buck.
Of course with so many participants there are bound to be exceptions. The Dutch RW menu allows you to order anything from the full menu. Maialino’s RW menu is a combination of items from the regular menu. But in order to digest all the RW menus for the purpose of figuring out what is worth it and whats not, you need to hire an assistant.
Think of it as a 10% off sweater sale at Bloomingdales where sweaters are normally marked up significantly higher than the clothing store you frequent. Or better yet, a free dessert. To truly experience those establishments I suggest doing so during regular none RW times, and order from the menu that made them who they are.
Totally agree regarding RW. I try to avoid eating out those days as the special menu is totally unappealing, like buying something discounted you never wanted, except that it was on sale. And Ziggy, “Ladies who Lunch” DO NOT eat dessert either