CC Food Week

Know your budget, check the menus, and make reservations to enjoy some of these great spots this summer. | Image: Center City District

Center City Restaurant Week is a steal for boulevardiers who already spend gobs of their salaries on Philly’s star-studded food scene. For the rest, it’s still a paycheck vacuum.

Organized by the Center City District, the biannual, weeklong restaurant blitz (Jan. 14 - 26) features more than 100 downtown restaurants offering three-course meals at a fixed price. Lunch is $20 per head. Dinner, $35. That’s not including beverages, coffee, taxes or tip. Restaurant week dinner means being prepared to throw down $45 per person — bare minimum. But for the crowd looking to ball out on a modest budget, here are a few tips:

Scope the menus you definitely couldn’t afford otherwise.

As food critic after food critic has pointed out, restaurant week deals may be the same price, but they’re not all created equally. For the $35 three-course dinner, you could find an appetizer, entree and dessert for at or around the same price. Plenty of these joints offer $15-$20 entrees as well as reasonably priced appetizers and desserts.

So take a few minutes and scope the pricier spots you’ve always heard about but knew you couldn’t afford to dine at and leave with a full stomach. It doesn’t even have to be some exclusive boutique venue. Have you always wanted Fogo De Chao’s endless Brazilian meat feast, which normally costs upwards of $55 a head? Restaurant week is the time to do it up. Just remember to book a reservation in advance, especially if you’re looking at one of the trendier restaurants on the list.

Here are all of the BYOB joints participating in restaurant week. You’re welcome.

  • Audrey Claire | 276 S. 20th St. Dinner.
  • Entree | 1608 South St. Dinner.
  • Mercato | 1216 Spruce St. Dinner.
  • Melograno | 2012 Sansom St. Dinner.
  • Pumpkin | 1713 South St. Dinner.
  • Porcini | 2048 Sansom St. Dinner.
  • Russet | 1521 Spruce St. Dinner.

Use the parking discount. Alternatively, scrap your car for parts and take public transit.

Obviously, the Center City District is hoping to draw the car-driving commuter foodies to restaurant week with a parking deal. If for “some reason” you’re terrified of taking the bus or train, you can park for $9 (or less) at select Philadelphia Parking Association and Philadelphia Parking Authority garages. Just be sure to pick up a parking voucher from your dining destination. Alternatively, you could sell your car and take a bus, trolley or subway for less than $5 round trip. The majority of restaurants on the list are within a stone’s throw of public transit.

Factor in tip and don’t be a stooge.

If you’re going the BYOB route, or plan on drinking water to keep your part to the fixed price, you’re still looking to spend about $45 per person for lunch or $26 for lunch. All the sudden not so cheap. But if you’re eyeing higher-end restaurants (see point numero uno above), it’s a relative steal. Just don’t skimp on tip to save a few bucks. Staff members are going to be slammed, and back-of-house workers aren’t seeing any bonuses during the gruelling restaurant week business.

Feelin’ like a #wok-star. #SchulsonCollective @michaelschulson

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Looking to squeeze in two meals? Do one lunch and one dinner.

Sure, it’s simple math. But doing lunch is also a good way to try out a few different places, or revisit an old favorite. Some of the restaurants on the list have well-regarded lunch menus anyway — Estia, El Vez, et al. But remember that restaurant week menus don’t necessarily offer the “traditional” eating experience. Read up and then make your reservation.

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