Restaurant Week should be considered more of a sport than a dining occasion. As The Food Monkey has already pointed out, different restaurants handle Restaurant Week in different ways. With some work (and, ok, a little dumb luck), Restaurant Week can be fun and exciting and even cheap... in context.
The full list of participants is available on the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau website about a month before Restaurant Week. Some restaurants list their menus on that site, while still more menus can be found at BostonChefs.com Unofficial Guide to Boston Restaurant Week. Take some time to peruse those menus, as well as the regular menus at any restaurants you are interested in trying. If nothing else, it will get you salivating. And of course, try Googling the restaurant's name, along with "RW" or "Restaurant Week" to see if you can find some reviews of past Restaurant Week experiences. You can get a good idea if a restaurant is putting any effort into the event or if they're just serving whatever they can as fast as possible.
Now, there are plenty of websites out there that bemoan Restaurant Week, saying that you can't judge a restaurant - especially a high end restaurant - by a $33 menu served to the hordes. This Bostonist, however, feels that this shouldn't be the case. There are plenty of restaurants that do a great job with the event, despite serving smaller portions or using cheaper ingredients.
Davio's is a prime example of a place doing Restaurant Week right. Although their offerings are not on their regular menu, the dishes are cooked and served with the same care that would go into a dinner on any other night of the year. The clams Casino, pictured above, are filled with savory clams, crabmeat, and chorizo. The gnocchi with tomato and mozzarella as a main dish is fantastic; the gnocchi are light and melt-in-your-mouth delicate, quite different from the leaden little balls that some restaurants try to pass off. If this is what they can do with potatoes, tomatoes, and cheese, what can they do with "better" ingredients?
Bostonist realizes that $33 may not seem like cheap eats, especially when this column has been focusing on $10-and-under places. This, again, is where some careful research comes into play. At some restaurants, the price of a Restaurant Week meal ordered a la carte may come out to roughly $33. Avoid the places where a regular meal would be less than $33. In the case of Davio's, a three-course meal would run about $50-$75 dollars, making the $33 Restaurant Week menu - and it's accompanying dose of attentive service - a steal.
We are currently in the middle of Spring Restauant Week. Reservations are still available at some restaurants, or you can put your name on a waitlist in case others cancel their reservations.
Originally posted at Bostonist.