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D.C. Restaurant Week breakdown -- dining deal or money suck?

Thursday - 1/16/2014, 10:46am  ET

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Most restaurants offer specific Restaurant Week menus posted outside their doors and online. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

Why to look over the menu before you go

WTOP's Megan Cloherty reports

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WASHINGTON - It's an event many diners look forward to, but one columnist says D.C.'s Restaurant Week is overrated and overpriced.

"We really wanted to do a quantitative mathematical analysis," says City Paper Assistant Managing Editor Jenny Rogers.

After comparing dinner prices during Restaurant Week versus what diners would pay on any other night, Rogers says at most locations the promotion is not worth it.

The prix fixe menu is set at $20.14 for lunch for each participating restaurant and $35.14 for dinner, according to the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's website. After wine and tip, diners often pay what they would on any other day, begging the question, what's the point of dining out this week?

"I hate to say do math before you go to dinner, but I kind of think that's what you have to do," Rogers says.

That's because the value visitors get depends on where they go.

Rogers looked at the Restaurant Week menus of 23 restaurants out of the 243 participating currently. A few restaurants she names in her column did not offer much value at all.

To improve the experience, she suggests going to lunch instead, which in many cases is a better bang for your buck.

"Twenty bucks is extravagant for lunch, but ... you're having gourmet nibbles and you feel fancy," she says.

Despite Rogers findings, diners come out in droves for Restaurant Week.

The promotion brought in more than 73,000 diners through Open Table reservations last summer that banked $2 million.

That was a 22 percent increase in reservations from summer 2012 says Kyle Rees, with the Restaurant Association. A number he only expects to improve with the current promotion.

One of the restaurants Rogers names as a good value during this promotion is CoCo Sala. A part-owner and manager of the restaurant, Rashid Hadouche, says CoCo. Sala is offering its best dishes in hopes diners this week will return.

"Of course we put the most popular items on the regular menu, we put on the Restaurant Week menu. We don't take shortcuts," Hadouche says.

There has been criticism from online reviewers on Yelp! that some establishments serve smaller portions and use lesser quality ingredients during Restaurant Week given the increase in customers, Rogers says. Hadouche says that's not the case at his restaurant.

"The same portions we serve on regular days is the portions we serve at Restaurant Week. We know for our American style tapas with a hint of chocolate and coffee in all our dishes, that's what we stick to and that's the menu we serve everyday," Hadouche says.

Bottomline, Rogers says, do your homework before dining out during a promotion.

"It's like shopping a sale rack. You want to make sure you're buying something you really want and it's a really good value," she says.

D.C. Restaurant Week runs from Jan. 13 through Jan. 19.

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