Market Basket: One week remains in Downtown South Bend's Restaurant Week
Italian or American. Fine dining or casual. Appetizers and entrees. Soups, salads, pastas and desserts. Chicken, fish, prime rib and pork chops. So many choices, so little time.
Eleven locally owned downtown South Bend restaurants are participating through Saturday in Summer Restaurant Week. It's actually a 13-day special event held each June-July and January-February, sponsored by the Downtown Dining Alliance.
How can you make the most of this eat-local promotion? Here are some tips, compiled from interviews with local restaurant owners.
Step outside your usual routine. Restaurant Week is the perfect chance to try a restaurant you haven't tried before. They are offering special prices, special menus or both, not only to thank regular customers, but also to entice new diners who might not frequent downtown. Some restaurants are offering lunch, others dinner. "We encourage diners to try all the restaurants who are participating," says Kurt Janowsky, owner of Café Navarre. "There is a tremendous amount of variety available and great deals."
Plan ahead and make a reservation. "It takes a little more planning for some to come downtown. Maybe neither spouse or only one works downtown, so the habit is to go to a chain," says Peg Dalton, owner of LePeep. Popular Restaurant Week choices may fill quickly, so owners recommend calling ahead and making a reservation. But Sherri Huffer, general manager at Tippecanoe Place, points out that walk-ins are also welcome. Many downtown restaurants are planning to be closed Wednesday for the Fourth of July, so call before you dine.
Decide on a cuisine. Maybe it's Italian at Sunny Italy. Or Irish cuisine at Fiddler's Hearth. Restaurant owners suggest you choose a cuisine and check out their menu online before you visit. Many restaurants have put together special menus and dishes. "You're selecting from items not typically found on a chain-dominated Grape Road menu," says Carol Meehan, co-owner of Fiddler's Hearth.
Understand the pricing. Some restaurants, like Café Navarre, are offering a multi-course meal for $25 per person. Others are offering two meals for $25. The special prices do not include tax or tip and cannot be combined with other promotions.
Look for live music and other downtown events. Consider coming downtown for the evening. "Check our websites for our entertainment calendars and turn your downtown dining experience into a real night to remember," says Meehan of Fiddler's Hearth. Dream Coach Carriages, for instance, is offering a special $10 carriage ride for four with a dining receipt.
Add an "extra helping." Servers will ask if you want to donate an "extra helping" of $5 to the Food for Kids program, sponsored by Jordan Automotive Group and the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. The program provides food backpacks for kindergarten through sixth-grade students during weekends and holiday breaks.
Consider filling out comment cards. Some restaurants will present them at the end of your meal. "This will help us better serve the diners' requests at subsequent restaurant weeks," says Janowsky at Café Navarre.
What if your favorite downtown restaurant isn't participating in Summer Restaurant Week? Make sure to ask them why and maybe they will join the winter restaurant week in January.
Have you heard?
The Goshen Buffalo Wild Wings, located at 1829 Rieth Blvd., is closing today at 8 p.m. for an extensive renovation. The restaurant is tentatively scheduled to reopen July 28, plus or minus a few days, says owner Dan Stauffer. Read more about the upcoming changes to this location in an upcoming column. ... Mystic Creations Bakery recently opened its doors at Woodlawn Nature Center's Harvest Market, 604 Woodlawn Ave., Elkhart. The bakery offers made-from-scratch baked goods that are available for delivery. ... The live chat will take off this week. The online discussion will return at 12:30 p.m. July 10. Hope you can join us.
Heidi Prescott's column runs in the South Bend Tribune on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. When she's not shopping, contact her at email@example.com or 574-235-6070. You can also talk retail at Facebook.com/thebasket and at Twitter.com/marketbasket.