Annapolis Restaurant Week to Make a Delicious Return in February
Gourmet Goodness at These Prices Only Happens Once a Year: 3-Course Lunch, $15.95; 3-Course Dinner, $29.95
Annapolis Restaurant Week returns this Feb. 21 — 27, and organizers have opted to keep the same stellar prices as last year.
Several of the best restaurants in Annapolis will serve a three-course lunch for $15.95 and a three-course dinner for $29.95—an economical way to enjoy a top-notch culinary experience. This is the time of year to experiment with the hot spots that you’ve been curious about, or visit that destination restaurant that you’d normally reserve for special occasions.
This year, more than 30 Annapolis restaurants will participate, with something for every palate: small plates, Thai, Irish, Italian, Latin American, sushi, American, plenty of seafood and more. The three courses vary but often consist of a starter, an entrée, and a dessert.
According to Annapolis Restaurant Week Committee Chair Erin Brunst, this is the third year the Annapolis Business Association (ABA) has hosted the event here.
"The ABA wanted to offer a way for the downtown Annapolis restaurants to work together on a unified message – Restaurant Week seemed like the right choice. The first year we had 30 participants and currently in 2011 we’re up to 35," Brunst said via email.
Brunst said the event is a good reason to get out of the house despite the frigid temperatures.
"February can often times be a cold and dreary time of year here. Why not make it a week to look forward to and get out of the house – celebrating food & drink with friends and family in the beautiful city of Annapolis," Brunst added in the email.
Brunst said the event now focuses more narrowly on restaurants located in "Annapolis city proper," and that outlying establishments, such as Yellowfin, Severn Inn, Lures Bar and Grille, The Melting Pot, and Cantler’s Riverside Inn "were grandfathered in" to this year's roster because they had participated in 2009, when the geographic focus was broader. Many of the restaurants are owned and operated by locals.
According to Brunst, this year for the first time, Restaurant Week has a Facebook page, where foodies can check out the latest news and get updates on what to expect.
Brunst advises readers to make reservations early, adding that menus will be available online soon. The Annapolis restaurant week website, and a full list of participating restaurants, can be viewed here.
Here's a sneak peek from chefs and owners of some of the participating restaurants at what you can expect.
Level: A Small Plates Lounge
As the event nears, John Hogan, co-owner of Level: A Small Plates Lounge, keeps the view behind Restaurant Week at the forefront of his mind: “Restaurant Week began the January after 9/11 to invigorate the hospitality industry, which took a big hit, going from 100% to 20% of business in cities like DC and New York,” he said. Restaurant Week eventually spread to smaller cities, and has been in Annapolis since 2009.
“Restaurant Week is great in these economic times, but they don’t compare to 2001 when many restaurants nearly failed,” Hogan said.
Hogan thinks it makes good economic sense because “a lot of businesses up and down West Street are struggling." He added that the event brings more business to the city.
Level doesn’t create special fare for Restaurant Week, but Hogan said it does offer its “three plates from the usual dinner menu, a hand-crafted cocktail or a glass of wine, and a dessert for $29.95, a great deal.”
Restaurant Week coincides with “the first menu change of the year,” Level's Executive Chef Alfredo Malinis said. “Popular items, such as the scallops, don’t disappear, but we replace the usual vegetable with kale, collards or other winter greens that are in season,” he added.
Other offerings will include stews and a five-spice chicken and noodle, with fresh noodles made on the premises from Davon Crest Farm eggs. Level obtains its fresh ingredients from 16 local sources.
“It’s a lot of fun here, and not gimmicky,” Malinis said of the open kitchen that lets patrons glimpse at the behind-the-scene prep work. Those seated at the bar get the best view as they sip their drinks made with special spirits, such as the organic vodka bloody Mary with bacon dusted rim.
Hell Point Seafood
“Restaurant Week for us is about exposure to local people who live in Annapolis who may not come [to the dock] in the busy tourist season,” Hell Point Seafood Executive Chef James Huff said.
Hell Point's Restaurant Week menu runs for three weeks, February 16 –March 6, instead of one. “One week may not be enough," Huff said
Huff explained that Hell Point's menu offers diners a wide variety.
“What’s unique about our menu is that it’s bigger than a lot of other places’. We want people to be able to sample just about everything. My philosophy is not to have a different menu during restaurant week but to have one that reflects what we do normally so that we can establish ourselves in the community,” Huff said.
O’Learys Seafood Restaurant
“We’ve been participating in Restaurant Week since it started in 2009,” said Paul Meyer, owner of O’Learys Seafood Restaurant. “The response from customers was very positive in the past, if by very positive you mean very busy. Restaurant Week has been a wonderful breath of fresh air because traditionally in February, things are very slow in Annapolis. It’s wonderful to see so many people out and about."
“We were insane last year,” recalled O'Learys Chef Russell Brown, and he doesn’t anticipate a slow-down this year. “Restaurant Week brings people back to Annapolis. Some people come to visit old favorites, others to try new places.”
Meyer said reservations have been coming in to O’Learys already, so readers should call soon if they’d like to visit. “Even if you’re coming on Monday, you better call first.”
John Barry Restaurant
“We were very busy during both lunch and dinner. We design the menu so that it is an extremely good value, and in the past we included a complimentary glass of wine or a draft beer, and that was very popular.”
Pattison thinks Restaurant Week is an excellent antidote to winter’s cabin fever. “It’s a great idea. People are looking for a reason to get out this time of year.”