Charleston Restaurant Week 2016: A tasty success

Courtesy photo
B&D Gastropub Chef Greg Bess’s Restaurant Week appetizer of Captain Crunch Shrimp was so popular it will make a return visit to the restaurant’s menu.

Deno Stanley’s experience with Charleston Restaurant Week was perhaps emblematic of the successes other area restaurants reported from a week of showcase meals for $30 per diner from Jan. 25-30.

For the Monday night opening meal of the week, Stanley, owner of Adelphia’s Sports Bar and Grill, 218 Capitol St., prepared 18 servings of a special off-menu roasted lamb entrées and also Pastitsio, a Greek-style lasagna (at Restaurant Week, diners had a choice of one of two appetizers, entrées and desserts).

“I made about 18 serving of each and sold them all,” said Stanley. “The next night, I made a little more.”

And sold them all. So it went throughout the week, until Friday.

“Friday evening, I sold about 40 plates of each, which was fantastic,” he said. “We were just thrilled. I made more than I thought I would need, and we ended up selling out literally every night. So it was just an awesome thing this year.”

Last year, Restaurant Week sold a total of roughly 8,000 meals. This year’s event sold an estimated 10,000 meals, with an expanded roster of participating restaurants, said Kayla Young, a representative from Buzz Food Service, which sponsors and organizes the event.

When it tallied up all the $30 meals, plus drinks, tips, other items ordered from the menu and parking, Buzz estimates that Restaurant Week — now in its third year — infused the city’s economy to the tune of about $500,000.

“Restaurant Week was bigger and more successful than ever,” said Young.

“To me, this year it was almost like a different ambiance in that all the restaurant people are finally understanding the concept, more so than just foodie-type people. It seems like maybe in the first year it was people who really just liked food.”

This year, the general public seemed to be more involved, especially as the event also branched out to a wider variety of restaurants, including some that had opened since last year, she said.

Frank Gonzales, owner and chef at the authentic Sonoran-style Mexican restaurant Mi Cocina de Amor, was quick to respond when asked how Restaurant Week went for him.

“Restaurant Week was fabulous for us. Outstanding,” he said. “We served about 270 Restaurant Week meals, which is a lot for a little spot like us. Great feedback, huge success.”

At several peak hours during the evening, they had to turn people away, he said. “We were just reserved up. We got to the point where we were at capacity. People just trying to come in at the last moment during certain points were turned away.”

Restaurant Week was a proving ground for not a few dishes, including a Captain Crunch Fried Shrimp appetizer at B&D Gastropub, 200 35th St. The restaurant recently installed Greg Bess as head chef after he left Bricks & Barrels restaurant, and he has taken to serving up his own menu choices on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“The Captain Crunch Shrimp — he had a lot of requests for that, so I believe he’s doing that again this week,” said assistant daytime manager Kellie Harding, who said other Restaurant Week items will likely make reappearances.

“He’ll be doing some of those from that week again here in the future.”

Beyond being a testing ground for new dishes, one restaurant — Quarrier Diner, 1022 Quarrier St. — tested the concept of serving evening meals. The experiment was a success, said co-owner Anna Pollitt.

“It was great,” Pollitt said. “We had 163 people come through, and because of that we’re going to expand our menu to the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

Their location lends itself to weekend evening meals, she said. “We’re close enough to the Clay Center that we would like to get some of that trickle business.”

The week went so well that on Friday they were forced to turn some people away, she added. “We didn’t want to jeopardize our service by overbooking. I think 163 was good for us.”

Diners seemed to enjoy their choice of Restaurant Week entrées — stuffed pork or pan-seared scallops — but the restaurant also had some folks come hunting for their desserts.

“Several people came in asking for our bread pudding,” said Pollitt. “One lady said ‘I don’t care if you serve me any food at all. I just want your bread pudding.’”

Bread pudding with bourbon sauce was one of two Restaurant Week dessert choices for Quarrier Diner.

Like several other restaurateurs, Pollitt said she’d like to see Restaurant Week happen more than just once a year.

“I wish we could do it more often, maybe once a month or maybe even a quarter. I think the people are asking for it — to know what they’re getting and know where they’re going. It pulls people out that maybe wouldn’t come otherwise.”

The manager of the Kanawha City Thai restaurant Su Thei echoed those sentiments after a very good Restaurant Week.

“Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had long lines,” said Andri Purwanto. “A lot of people tried to make reservations and we were already booked up. It was really a success. I hope Restaurant Week could be every month.”

Young, of Buzz Foods, said they’re working on some new concepts to take advantage of the burgeoning Charleston restaurant scene.

“I’m not sure exactly at this time what that’s going to look like,” she said. “But we definitely want to be at the forefront of the Charleston food scene because with all the new restaurants, it’s in its prime. And things only seem to be getting better.”

Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@wvgazettemail.com.

304-348-3017, or follow @douglaseye on Twitter.

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