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10 New York City Restaurant Week Tips

Take our advice and make the most of New York City Restaurant Week


New York City Restaurant Week is a great chance to sample some of New York City's restaurants for a fraction of the price, making it a great chance to try something new or an old favorite that might be tough on the wallet. Here are some tips for making the most of your New York City Restaurant Week experience.

RW Overview | RW 101

More: Restaurant Week Recommendations | Participating Restaurants

1. Reserve Early

Popular Restaurant Week choices will be booked up quickly, so the sooner you get on the phone (or Opentable.com) to make your reservations, the better. Reservations for lunch and dinner early in the week (Monday - Wednesday) tend to be easier to get than Thursday and Friday.

2. Be Selective

Check out our Recommended Restaurant Week Restaurants, read websites like www.chowhound.com and ask your friends and family for suggestions or to share their experiences at various restaurants during New York Restaurant Week. Some restaurants are outstanding the rest of the year, but abysmal during Restaurant Week, so keep that in mind.

3. Check Out The Restaurant's Website

Nearly all the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week have websites. Check them out to see if they offer the Restaurant Week deal year-round (particularly with lunch, this is more common than you might think) and also look to see whether the normal menu seems to offer a good value for Restaurant Week (would you ordinarily be able to have lunch for less than $25?). The restaurant may also be willing to fax you the menu for Restaurant Week if it's not posted on their website.

4. Understand the Price

The $25 lunch prix-fixe ($38 at dinner) doesn't include beverages, tip or tax. Beverages can be a pricey up sell, so if you're concerned about your budget, ask about prices before you order. Bottled water is also a common up sell -- there's nothing wrong with asking for tap water.

5. Tip Your Server Well

Just because you're getting a discount on your lunch (or dinner) doesn't mean that the waiter or waitress is getting a break on their rent this month, so tip generously if you get good service. This also goes a long way toward dispelling the myth that Restaurant Week diners are cheap and don't understand proper restaurant tipping etiquette.

6. Dress for Success

It's unfortunate, but the truth is that at some restaurants if you're dressed like a slob, you'll be treated like one, but if you're dressed like a business person, you'll be treated like one too.

7. Be Open Minded

Most restaurants offer fairly limited choices on the Restaurant Week menu, so if you're a very picky eater, it might not be the best option for you. Even the best Restaurant Week restaurants tend to offer 5 or fewer choices for each course.

8. Want to Dine Quickly or Slowly?

If you want to be able to squeeze your lunch in to a single hour, try booking near noon, if you want to linger, book a later lunch closer to 2 p.m.

9. Last Minute Cancellations Happen

If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant but the restaurant was fully booked when you tried to reserve, try calling the morning you'd like to go and see if they have any availability -- folks do cancel reservations or fail to confirm reservations if their schedule gets busy.

10. Manage Your Expectations

It is Restaurant Week, so keep in mind that you're probably going to be offered some of the less expensive options on the menu (chicken, salmon, skate, and ribs are fairly common). Frequently, the Restaurant Week menu won't include a restaurant's "signature" dishes, but you can often order them a la carte if you'd really like to give them a try. Restaurants frequently squeeze in a few more tables to make up the difference in the lower per-head cost, so seating can be more cozy than usual.

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