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Support Denver, Eat Well

January 22, 2011 | Frank Bonanno

I don’t believe in offering coupons, or nightly specials; none of our restaurants advertise. Those somehow seem like cheap tricks to me—a way to lure diners and get them in over their heads, or get rid of food that’s suspect or doesn’t sell; a way to buy recognition.

But there is an honest to God deal I believe in and support wholeheartedly. Denver Restaurant Week. Three courses, two diners, $52.80: Screaming deal. Every major culinary city in the United States has embraced restaurant weeks. Chefs like Danielle Boulud, Rick Bayless and Danny Meyer churn out $20 deals so that diners can come out, sample, partake. It’s just so great: food writing all over the internet; a city buzzing with who’s been where and what was good; people actually out supporting the independent restaurateurs in their cities, eating and spending in what is normally the worst season to do so. Great food, wine freely pouring, a downtown alive on a Tuesday night. What could be bad about that? Well. There are some small drawbacks.

Staff that doesn’t buy into it. Come on—people are attracted to restaurant business because they love being able to survive a serious crush. Crazy busy is fun. Really fun.

Venues that offer some cheap or watered down versions of their menu. For two short weeks, take a little hit on the profit margins. Make it about this City and celebrate its citizens by doing something special for them. It’s the right thing to do.

Local restaurants that don’t partake. For a brief period some of the best regular clients get turned away. It’s a shame, but see beyond the end of your nose—they will forgive you. Look at the good it does for the culinary scene. It keeps us on our game, makes our city sparkle, brings people in from other neighborhoods and gets them talking food. They will say good things about you. I’m sure of it.

Chain restaurants that do partake. This should be for the little guy—the average diner, the independent operator. You—well, you advertise. You have coupons, and specials. Your taxes support other cities. I love that you champion this event—I just don’t think the city of Denver should spend its energies to promote you.

Dietary restrictions. I will normally go to great lengths to accommodate any food aversions–but for this short period we all, diners included, have to be considerate of the circumstances. It’s very difficult to stock for special needs when we’re purchasing and preparing food for a normal night’s service in addition to a 5280 offering. It’s hard to empathize with someone who can’t find anything to eat from a double set of menus.

One grumpy diner a day who can’t get a reservation. I swear on a stack of cookbooks: when we’re booked; we’re booked. I can’t magically pull tables out of my ass.

Day fourteen. Two weeks is a bit much—especially for the cooks, making the same items for every diner night after night. Kind of loses its luster. Seven days is fair.

In spite of the extra week, I can’t tell you how excited I am for the end of the February. What an opportunity: to offer a true sampling of our menus and styles so you can check us out; to improve our service and speed, to embrace this limited opportunity to show you how much we appreciate you.

I wish I could be at six places at once, because, honestly–I look forward to seeing you here.