Ready, set, whet your appetites! Restaurant Week is returning to Annapolis, albeit a little later than usual. The event has been running for 15 years, typically in February, but was pushed back to March 20-27 for 2022. Participating restaurants offer two-course lunch menus for $19.95 or three-course dinner menus for $39.95. Some offer breakfast menus as well, and in a pandemic twist, meals can be purchased as carry out as well.
The program is as popular with restaurants as it is with diners. “We have always participated in Annapolis Restaurant Week,” says Erin Dryden, owner of Luna Blu Ristorante Italiano on West Street. “It’s a great time to start getting people out and about, with spring right around the corner. I love the excitement in locals and tourists as they visit old favorites and try new places.”
The menu selection is key, as restaurateurs show off favorites as well as surprises. “Restaurant Week is a great opportunity for us to showcase to our neighbors who we are,” says Danny Choung, executive chef at Blackwall Hitch. “We select menu items for Restaurant Week by picking items that represent us. Items must be tasty and affordable.”
Braised Short Ribs are on this year's menu from Blackwall Hitch. Image courtesy of Blackwall Hitch.
This year, that means dishes like French onion soup; braised short ribs with veggies, mashed potatoes and crispy onion straws, and popular Brick Chicken, served with Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes and corn hash, all available on the dinner menu.
At Luna Blu, Erin serves up customer favorites but also specials. “I always feature our Eggplant Rollatini, which is not on the daily menu. It is pan-fried eggplant rolled with ricotta, pesto and spinach, topped with fresh mozzarella, baked and served over angel hair with marinara.” She also works to make her menu inclusive. “Honestly, I really focus on options, I am very accommodating to all diets, and I want to make sure we have options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, etc... I want everyone to enjoy Restaurant Week and not feel limited.”
Luna Blu Ristorante Italiano offers vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options for restaurant week. Image courtesy of Luna Blu.
For Jeffrey Jacobs, owner of Carrol’s Creek Cafe, menu planning is all about standing out and being different. “This is the one opportunity of the year where people go to a website and look through the menus. And they are going to compare.” Their strategy is to offer higher price ingredients—there is always some version of surf and turf—even if that throws off their profit ratio for the week.
“When else do people look at your menu and someone else’s in the same breath? I have always wanted mine to stand out, whatever the cost. If they don’t come, it’s an empty seat.” You will always find some version of surf and turf, along with more creative items to appeal to foodies. “My theory is… I can get something high value at Carrol’s Creek, or I can go someplace else and get a piece of chicken.”
Red Brick Chicken from Carroll's Creek Cafe. Image courtesy of Carroll's Creek Cafe.
To plan your week of meals, visit the Annapolis Restaurant Week website.