Troy Reinvents Restaurant Week
Restaurant Week is a sore subject for folks around here. Too many people have been burned too many times and, for the most part, just tune out the promotion whenever and wherever it is being offered. Given all the hamlets, towns and cities in the region, we seem to be inundated with restaurant weeks.
The promise of restaurant week is high: come in for a taste of how great we are, for a discounted price. We’re going to blow your mind so hard that you’re going to fall in love with us, and come back for the full menu again and again.
This exact scenario happened to me at a restaurant week in San Francisco many years ago. It changed my mind about a restaurant that I thought was overhyped, living off its reputation, and past its prime.
But the structure of restaurant week in the Capital Region, and the nature of our restaurants, has set most of these promotions up for failure. A $20 three course prixe fixe is a great deal to be sure. It will get people out of their houses. But the finer restaurants find that price to be too low and don’t participate. The more casual restaurants struggle to put enough food on the plate and seem out of place. Nicer restaurants that do participate seem like they cut corners so that they don’t hemorrhage money all week long.
It’s a mess. But Troy is changing the game.
Troy’s first ever Restaurant Week just started yesterday. This is what happens when I take the day off for Rosh Hashanah. Their obvious solution to this problem is to tier the offerings. So there are offers from casual restaurants that weigh in at $10, three course dinners from more moderate places at $20, and the most expensive restaurants can still provide value at $30.
So let’s look at what’s going on for ten bucks.
Bacchus Wood Fired Pizza is offering an 8″ personal margherita pizza with pint of beer, glass of wine or soda. A pizza and a beer? That’s amazing.
The Flying Chicken is putting up their two signature dishes, chicken & waffles and the fathead biscuit sandwich. When paired with a side and a Day’s cola you save enough to enjoy a few games of pinball while you wait for your delicious food.
LoPorto Ristorante Caffe is participating at the $30 level, but for me there is nothing inspiring about that menu. However for $10 you can get an appetizer of spinach & cheese stuffed ravioli topped with leek cream sauce, and a glass of house white wine. Even if that wine is simple and sweet, I think it would still balance the cream sauce. And if this is less than a dinner’s worth of calories, I’ll eat my hat.
The Recovery Sports Grill is appealing to the dad in me. Because during restaurant week, if you come with a kid 12 or under, you can get an entree and a free meal from the kids menu. I don’t even care what’s on that, because it would mean I could have a date with my daughter and get to try their Buffalo chicken sandwich. These are one of my shameful pleasures.
Red Front Restaurant is also offering pizza. Instead of a beer you get a topping. And instead of a personal 8-inch pie, you get a large. It’s not my favorite pizza in Troy, but if you’ve never tried it, this is your chance.
There is also a lobster roll which promises ¼ pound of fresh picked lobster meat available at B-rad’s Bistro, which is only available at lunch.
There are fewer things to get excited about for $20.
There is a three course prix fixe at Verdile’s Restaurant. Dinner there consists of a tossed salad with their own wine vinegar and oil, a choice of baked lasagna or veal and peppers over pasta, followed by spumoni & coffee. What’s special about this is that they too are putting up a couple of their signature entrees. But the truth is you are only saving a couple of bucks. Really, I think you could try these dishes out at lunch for less.
You could also save a few dollars at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que choosing from a selection of appetizers and desserts to go with the ½ chicken (there are other choices, but I’m convinced this is the best bet).
I suppose whatever The Greek House comes up with for their $20 menu could be exciting and delicious, but it’s not posted yet on the website.
At the $30 level I’m going on blind trust.
I’ve heard great things about The Illium Café, and their three-course prix fixe dinner is only available Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It includes an appetizer, entree, dessert and a glass of wine. Even without the posted menu, as far as I’m concerned this is the only restaurant that justifies the elevated price.
There are also $30 menus being touted by The Ale House, Daisy Bakers, LoPorto’s, and Red Front. I could actually get behind the caesar salad, NY strip (grilled hand cut 16oz New York strip steak with a bone marrow/gorgonzola maitre d’ hotel butter and crispy tempura onion rings), and warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream at Daisy Bakers. Except I’m a cranky old man, and I can’t help but feel nickel and dimed when asked to cough up an extra $.75 for anchovies in a salad that by definition is supposed to have them in the first place.
Troy’s first stab at restaurant week could use some work. Some places are offering great values, others less so. To see taverns reaching into the upper echelons of the pricing scheme is weird and a bit off-putting. But I think Troy has set themselves up for success in the future.
And hopefully others will follow Troy’s example. It’s a smart plan. It could just use some better management.