Foodies, rejoice!

Detroit Restaurant Week kicks off April 1

By Andrea Poteet

Everyone loves a good deal.

And for one week, Detroit's best fine-dining restaurants are offering up some of their signature menu items at bargain prices.

During Detroit Restaurant Week, which runs from April 1-10, 18 Detroit eateries will offer three-course meals for $28.

The event began in the fall of 2009, when the Detroit Downtown Partnership, inspired by similar events in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, approached Paxahau Event Promotions, which primarily promotes musical events, to develop an event that would showcase Detroit's restaurants and bring diners downtown.

Organizers weren't sure what to expect, but the first event, held in September of 2009, drew more than 25,000 diners. A spring event was added the next year.

"If we would have done 10,000 we would have been happy," Detroit Restaurant Week director Jason Huvaere said, "because that's 10,000 people that are coming down to experience Detroit dining."

Huvaere said the event has continued to drive traffic - and hungry foodies - to the Motor City ever since.

"Our work is always about exposing Detroit's assets," he said. "Whether it's a musical concert or a Restaurant Week campaign, it's always about the same goal, which is driving people into the city to expose the city's assets."

And the numbers don't lie. Since its debut, the event's 85,000 diners have shelled out nearly $1.5 million at Detroit restaurants in Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and New Center.

Janet Sossi Belcoure, a third-generation owner of Eastern Market's Roma Cafe, said her business increases by 15 percent during Restaurant Week. She said the lower prices tend to draw in customers who may not otherwise patronize the restaurant, and many of them come back when the promotion is over.

"Everybody's always looking for a bargain," she said. "It's a great opportunity to come in and try something new and get it at a better pocket price. Everyone is watching their pennies."

Belcoure said her restaurant offers some of its signature dishes, like homemade lasagna and chicken parmigiana, at tantalizing prices during the week to lure customers into the door and keep them coming back.

"We're a restaurant that's been around for 125 years, but the only way we're going to continue to stay around is if we continue to bring new business in," she said.

Though they took inspiration from other major cities, Huvaere said organizers made several changes, like excluding suburban locations and whittling down the list from upwards of 40 restaurants in other cities to just under 20 for Detroit's version. With fewer restaurants, participants also can aim to attend every one, he said.

"We have a select group of restaurants," Huvaere said. "We have 18, which means you can really wrap your arms around the entire list. In other cities, you can get lost in 50 or 60 restaurants and it sort of eliminates the ability to bond with your selection. You're just picking things off a list."

For this year's event, Angelina Italian Bistro in Downtown has joined the 17 other participating restaurants. Other participating restaurants are: 24Grille, Andiamo Detroit Riverfront, Atlas Global Bistro, Caucus Club, Coach Insignia, Cuisine, Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille, Detroit Seafood Market, Iridescence, Mosaic Restaurant, Opus One, Rattlesnake Club, Roast, Roma Cafe, Saltwater, The Whitney and Wolfgang Puck Grille.

Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit http://www.detroitrestaurantweek.com.

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