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Frustrated by Restaurant Week

It’s the middle of New York City’s Winter 2008 Restaurant Week, which began on January 21st and ends on February 1st. Though I’m a cheapskate foodie, I’m not at all excited. In fact, one might say I’m annoyed, frustrated even.

During the 10 days of Restaurant Week, over 200 “upscale” restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe meals at $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. Great deal, right? Wrong! There are absolutely no vegetarian restaurants participating. Even more annoying is that a survey of the online RW prix-fixe menus at Asian, Greek, and Mexican restaurants (which tend to be veg-friendly) yielded no restaurant which had vegan-options in all three courses.

Yes, NYC is a vegan foodie wonderland. We have hundreds of veg-friendly options available to us everyday and it’s possible to eat a three-course vegan meal at many of them for under $24.07. Heck, both Brooklyn and Harlem even had their first Vegan Restaurant Week last October. Still I can’t help but long for the hype, the buzz, the adventure that comes with Restaurant Week. Like the frustrated vegetarian friend of New York Times writer Frank Bruni, I want to hit the town and dine with my co-workers and friends–omnivorous and vegan alike–without feeling hungry and ripped-off. Part of me wants to punch myself for desiring the proverbial seat at the (omnivorous) Master’s table, yet another part of me, the part that loves to show omni friends that animal-free dining is exciting and doesn’t restrain one to the vegan ghetto, is saddened by the historically meaty, milky bleakness of Restaurant Week.

There is no fee for participating in Restaurant Week and nothing makes people try new spots like an occasion and a bargain, so why aren’t upscale vegetarian restaurants like Candle 79, Blossom, Hangwai, and Pure Food and Wine on the roster? One manager at a participating non-veg restaurant chalked it up to places simply not wanting to make their food cheaper. Tiffany Townsend, a representative of NYC & Company, the tourism organization that administers the event, reports that restaurants must be members of the organization in order to opt-in to Restaurant Week. Considering that many of the participating restaurants are normally far more expensive than any veg restaurant in the city–for example, an entree of Roasted 28 Day Dry-Aged Porterhouse at Craft costs $125–I can only imagine that membership comes with a prohibitive price tag. I haven’t yet received a comment on the issue from any vegan restaurants.

8 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Patrick Kwan

    on #

    Not true that there’s no fee to participate in restaurant week. The restaurants have to be members of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism promo organization, and the membership fee is quite hefty.

  2. Comment by

    Olivia Lane

    on #

    I just got off the phone with someone at NYC & Company. There isn’t a fee to participate, but you’re right, you do have to be a member. i updated the story. Thanks for sending me an email.

  3. Comment by

    the_food_prude

    on #

    i was so frusturated with this–what does it take to be a member? even if the cost is high, what other benefits come with it? i would wonder if places like pure food & wine and candle 79 could afford it. that would be ideal to have some veg/vegan places in the list.

    if not, def good to reach out to the non-veg places and ask about more vegan options.

  4. Comment by

    DreamingTwilight

    on #

    Wasn’t there a “vegetarian restaurant week” last year where some of the veg restaurants teemed up and all had deals on another week last year.

  5. Comment by

    Olivia Lane

    on #

    Hi DT, please see the second sentence of paragraph three.

  6. Comment by

    mdhaile

    on #

    Perhaps we’ll see about expanding Vegetarian Restaurant Week to include all of NYC this year. I’ll need a couple of big name sponsors for that. Keep your fingers crossed.

  7. Comment by

    pinkerton1971

    on #

    Sadly, I heard the Veg City Diner on 14th(?) closed. The food could make even the most avid ‘meatist’ turn vegan and it was always packed. Doesn’t make sense that it closed. Hoping its just a rumor. Not sure if you’re interested in Long Island Veg restaurants but Organically Yours (small organic grocery/cafe) in Northport is excellent. Also Tiger Lily in Port Jefferson is great too. Sorry I do not have the phone numbers off hand. I will get the infoand post to your site for any Long Island vegans who may be interested.

  8. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    Pinkerton, you need to come down from the Island a little more often. Veg City Diner has been closed for several years now. But leave a remembrance for it in our Restaurant Graveyard!

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