Denver Restaurant Week kicks off its twelfth annual extravaganza of citywide menu deals tonight, with $30 dinners at more than 200 metro dining destinations over the next ten days. But if you're just now calling around to see where you can still grab a table, you may be surprised at how many restaurants aren't participating this year. (Rather than taking a shot in the dark, you can look at the complete listing — with menus — on the Visit Denver website.)
Denver's population is climbing, and so are the number of restaurants in the city. In 2014, we recorded some 300 bar and restaurant openings, with another 250 in 2015. But the number of restaurants signing up for Restaurant Week peaked several years ago. In 2013, nearly 340 eateries were registered. That year, diners were still paying $52.80 for two and the event was actually two weeks long (it hasn't been an actual week since the late 2000s).
Since then, a number of different configurations have been attempted. In 2014, the price was bumped to thirty bucks a head (a move that was probably long overdue) and the two-week span was divided between a week in late winter and a week in August. Still, registration was just north of 300 restaurants.
In 2015, the split schedule was ditched in favor of a single ten-day event spanning February and March. The numbers fell to just over 250 eateries. And on game day this year, the number stands at 235. What's responsible for the decline — and is it a bad thing? At a chefs' round table coordinated by Visit Denver (Restaurant Week's organizer) yesterday, organization spokesman Justin Bresler noted that the price increase was part of the reason for the decline in enrollment; restaurants with lower price points that were stretching to put together a menu for $26.40 per person couldn't make the jump to $30. And restaurateur Frank Bonanno noted that for many new restaurants, first-time owners may have enough to handle without the added stress of Restaurant Week.
Other chefs participating in the roundtable were Kevin Taylor, Adam Branz of Bistro Vendome, Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto, Corey Ferguson of Root Down and Tom Coohill of Coohills (where the event was held). All of the chefs were in agreement that while Restaurant Week reservations can be tough to score during prime dinner hours on Fridays and Saturdays, there are still plenty of open slots early, late and during the week. So make yours now!
But if for some reason you can't make it out of the house for the next ten days, a handful of Denver restaurants are working with GrubHub to deliver their Restaurant Week dinners right to your door. Starting tonight and running through March 6, Little India Restaurant & Bar, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant and Sushi Hai will all be available for delivery. And from February 28 to March 3, you can also order from 1515 Restaurant and the District.
But Denver Restaurant Week isn't the only game in town. Other culinary events this weekend:
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SHOW ME HOW
Saturday, February 27
Stir Cooking School (3215 Zuni Street) thinks that pie-making is a skill that everyone should master; the school is hosting a Pies & Tarts Workshop at 11 a.m. today, where students can learn to make sweet and savory creations, including a basic flaky pie crust recipe; pumpkin pie with spiced butter sauce and cinnamon whipped cream; coconut cream pie; classic apple pie; chocolate bourbon pecan pie; and wild mushroom tarts. Enrollment is $75 per person. See Stir's website for details and to reserve a spot.
The Oriental Theater is so excited that '90s sitcom Full House is now available on Netflix, the theater is throwing a brunch party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to celebrate. Dress up as your favorite character and hone your trivia skills, because the Oriental is awarding cash prizes for trivia winners and for best outfit and impression. Admission is free if you just want to hang out and watch episodes, or $10 to participate in the trivia and contest (although twins can enter for free). Tickets are available on Eventbrite. There will be free bagels, food from DJ's Berkeley Cafe and $4 mimosas.
Oskar Blues Brewery has teamed up with Stoney's Bar and Grill for a new event called the Southern Hemisphere Hop Festival, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. (VIP tickets get you early entrance at 6 p.m.) Inspired by OB's newest beer, IPA, which features an all-Australian hop lineup, the fest will focus exclusively on beers and food from "the other side of the world," including Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. At least twenty breweries will be on hand to showcase two beers each, all made with Southern Hemisphere hops. Attendees can vote for their favorite, and the winning beer will be placed on tap at Stoney's for a full month. Since these hop varieties are hard to find, OB helped source many of them for the breweries. GA tickets are $35; for more information, go to the Facebook page.
Sunday, February 28
Tonight is Oscars night and RiNo Yacht Club (inside the Source) is throwing a viewing party starting at 5 p.m. Dress in your red-carpet finest and head over for champagne toasts, drink specials and food pairings with Comida and Mondo Market. See the Yacht Club's Facebook event page for more details.