Local chefs know it takes some hot deals and creative cuisine to lure even the most faithful patrons into their restaurants during January, typically one of the slowest months of the year for dining out.
That’s how Pittsburgh Restaurant Week was born, says founder and executive director Brian McCollum, who has been leading the semiannual promotion for six years.
“Restaurant Week is an opportunity to discover or rediscover a new favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh,” he says. “Chefs take advantage of the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week audience to release or test new dishes for the new year. That’s a great reason to brave the cold and see what they have to offer.”
Pittsburgh Restaurant Week officially is Jan. 15 to 21, but eateries have the option to extend the promotion to their customers by adding “Early Access Days” to the weeklong event from Jan. 12 to 14. They also can offer guests a fixed-price three-course meal for $15.18 to $35.18, special entrées or meals for $20.18, or both.
McCollum says participation has increased from 30 restaurants in 2012 to at least 67 taking part in this Restaurant Week.
First-time participants include: Chef’s Table at Quickhatch in Etna, Superior Motors in Braddock, BAR Frenchman in East Liberty, Bella Vista in Mt. Washington, The Vandal and Burgh’ers, both in Lawrenceville, Joe’s Crab Shack in Station Square, and Talia, City Works Eatery & Pour House and fl. 2, all downtown.
David Bulman, executive chef and owner at Quickhatch, is teaming the Restaurant Week promotion with the grand opening of Chef’s Table, an addition to the coffee shop in the front part of his establishment that has been open since last summer.
“We’re a young new restaurant and this is taking place during our opening week,” he says. Their dinner for $33.18 — featuring all locally sourced courses — includes a welcome cocktail, an amuse-bouche, sunchoke textures, braised leek heart with duck egg, bacon, potato and dried chive; sourdough bread with duck confit; glazed beef cheek with hickory syrup/nasturtium/celery root and preserved cherry; beets/apples/cider vinegar/petite lettuce; and carrot cake with whipped honey.
The special menu represents “a really good value,” says Bulman, with regular prices of $55 for five courses, or $95 for eight courses.
At Lidia’s in the Strip District, executive chef Daniel Walker says, “Our potato dumplings with a slow-cooked duck guazzetto is the perfect Italian comfort food to warm you on a cold winter’s night.”
Lidia’s Restaurant Week dinner special, for $35.18, also includes antipasti, a second course of pasta trio, lemon chicken with capers, braised lamb shank and mashed sweet potatoes, and for dessert, Limoncello tiramisu.
Station in Bloomfield chef and partner Curtis Gramble will introduce two new offerings during Restaurant Week: chocolate custard with peanut butter curd and pretzel crumble, and a winter vegetable risotto with assorted heirloom and winter vegetables, roasted squash and pumpkin seeds.
“It’s a lot easier to get here and get a table” during winter Restaurant Week than during the busy summer season, he says.
To make Restaurant Week reservations and view menus, visit pittsburghrestaurantweek.com. Can’t decide on where to go? The site offers Restaurant Roulette, in which you spin and a restaurant and its deals pop up.
The summer Restaurant Week will take place in August.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.