Things to Do

How to Get the Most Out of Denver Restaurant Week 2020

Many of Larimer Square's top restaurants are participating in the fall version of Denver Restaurant Week.
Many of Larimer Square's top restaurants are participating in the fall version of Denver Restaurant Week. Courtesy of Visit Denver
A special fall edition of Denver Restaurant Week begins today (Friday, November 13), offering $25, $35 and $45 menus for in-house or takeout at dozens of metro restaurants through Sunday, November 22. Because of current COVID restrictions (Denver eateries are operating at 25 percent capacity and must close by 10 p.m.), planning ahead is recommended. Here's how you can make the most of your dining dollars over the next ten days:
click to enlarge If you order takeout, tack on some cocktails, like these cans from Il Posto. - LINNEA COVINGTON
If you order takeout, tack on some cocktails, like these cans from Il Posto.
Linnea Covington
Make Reservations
With so few seats available, tables will book up even more quickly than in past years. If you haven't already made reservations, check availability as soon as possible, and consider hitting someplace you've never been or with cuisine you've been meaning to try, rather than your usual popular favorites. Give the upscale Chinese fare a go at Fortune Wok to Table (2817 East Third Avenue), or try Phoenician Kabob (5709 East ColfaxAvenue) for uncommon Middle Eastern fare. But don't be afraid to go for a table at some of the bigger names, too; just be flexible with the time and day. Instead of 7 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday night, aim for 5 p.m. on a Monday or Tuesday.

Pick Places Close to Home for Takeout
Many restaurants are offering their Restaurant Week menus for takeout and delivery this year to help keep you safe. Some food travels well and won't suffer during a thirty-minute trip in the passenger seat of your car (pro tip: Hang to-go bags from the coat hooks above your back seats so everything stays level), but carefully plated dishes and things that cool off quickly or lose their crunch in a takeout container require a quicker trip. Check Restaurant Week's list of participating businesses, then check Google Maps for the time in transit. We're not suggesting you speed, but almost any dish will be fine if you can get it from door to door in ten minutes. Buckle up — and don't forget to order drinks!

Call Before You Go and Be Patient When You Arrive
COVID cases are on the rise, and many restaurant employees are having to take time off on short notice to self-isolate while waiting for test results, or to quarantine if they've been exposed. As a result, many establishments are running on skeleton crews — and are probably exhausted from months of having to change things up every time new restrictions arise. Some restaurants have even had to shut down on short notice for a day or two. So a quick phone call before you leave your house is probably wise, and once you're there, be considerate of the staff, follow the rules, and vacate your table promptly if there's a time limit.
click to enlarge Coperta is ready to welcome you for indoor or outdoor dining. - COURTESY OF COPERTA
Coperta is ready to welcome you for indoor or outdoor dining.
Courtesy of Coperta
Consider Dining Outside
We wouldn't want you to turn into a frosted patio ornament if the temperature dips too low, but outdoor heaters, blankets (bring your own!), gloves and hats make things reasonably comfortable, and there are plenty of restaurants offering winterized outdoor seating. Coperta and its sibling restaurant, Beast + Bottle, both have mini greenhouses for comfortable and isolated outdoor dining, and they're both offering Restaurant Week menus. Check in with your other choices to see what they're offering, whether it's a fire pit, tent, igloo or just rounds of hot toddies.

Tip Big
Restaurant employees are considered essential workers during the pandemic, and they're taking a risk by exposing themselves to large numbers of people every day. If you're dining out, you're in a position to pay people to cook your food and serve it to you — and that's a luxury, whether it comes several times a week or once a year. You're being treated like royalty, so share the wealth like you're the king. Don't think of your tip as an incentive for servers to do a better job; they've already earned at least 20 percent just by showing up. Some restaurants have moved to a no-tip structure, so an automatic service fee is added to your bill that gets distributed to both front- and back-of-house employees. Restaurateur Frank Bonanno's eateries Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco and Russell's Smokehouse are among Restaurant Week participants going tipless — but you can always add on a little extra.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation