It’s T minus 11 days until Downtown Dining Week, one of my favorite times of the year. By the numbers, DDW is 7 days of 30+ restaurants offering 3 course dinners for $20.13, November 17-23.
This week is a great opportunity to try out places you haven’t been before, eat at places that are normally more expensive, or just eat at a favorite place on the cheap. My personal strategy is to visit the places that are usually a lot pricier, for example Felicia Suzanne’s, Chez Philippe, Itta Bena, Bleu, Majestic. However, don’t discount (pun intended) the more casual places, as the chefs, owners, and staff will often go above and beyond to provide a unique dining experience this week.
I could go on for quite awhile on how I pick restaurants, but instead I will just provide some tips on the best way to maximize your dining experience.
• Check out the menus at downtowndiningweek.com. Compare them to the restaurant’s regular menu – Are the dishes new? Standard? Same “fanciness”? Decide what you want and filter from there.
• Make reservations! If a place takes reservations, odds are they will book up before the week even starts. Call or use OpenTable – just be sure to follow any specific instructions on the DDW or restaurant website. That being said, if you are not going to use a reservation, please be sure to cancel. There will always be someone on a waiting list that would love the opportunity to attend the dinner.
• Please tip appropriately. Keep in mind that a normal meal could cost anywhere from 5-10x more than the $20.13 price tag. I always try to tip on what a real meal would cost, so the restaurants and servers will continue to support this project.
• Several places will have drink specials, so check their websites if that aspect would sway you one way or the other. Also, regular menu options may vary, so if anyone in your party is not interested in DDW, check that before you go.
• If you don’t mind sharing food (which we all know I don’t), go with at least one other person, order one of each choice per course, and try everything!
• Be prepared to eat a lot, especially if you go out every night. And be prepared to spend more than the $20.13. With tip, tax, and drinks, your final bill could be $40-$50 (or more).
• This year, several places had added lunch options for $10.13. Unfortunately, I do not work downtown, but I will try to gather some feedback for next year.
• Be patient! Almost all of the places I have gone have provided the same dining experience as a normal night. But of course, there are always unforeseen things that happen, especially with higher than normal table turns and new menu items. Give them a break and take your time to just enjoy the food and company.
• Check the event schedule downtown and plan accordingly. Justin Timberlake is at the FedEx Forum Monday, November 18. The Tigers play Saturday, November 23.
• If you drive, many places are offering $1 parking for those participating in DDW. See downtowndiningweek.com for details.
Overall, ENJOY! The culinary scene in Memphis continues to grow and improve every year. Take this time to truly appreciate some of the best restaurants the city has to offer. Oh, and take pictures of course! You are going to want to brag to people that decided not to go. If you see me, come stop by, say hi, and give me your opinions on the food!
In the meantime, check out the variety of dishes we got to try last year. Stay hungry my friends!