Ever had Weiner Schnitzel? The breaded and deep-fried veal dish is rarely found on menus in the Capital Region, but it’s a regular item at Centre Street Pub.
“It’s unique. A big favorite in Germany, obviously,” said Maria Talarico, general manager of the Schenectady pub, which opened last year at the corner of Union Street and Broadway. “It’s one of our most popular dishes, though, so we decided to feature it during Restaurant Week.”
Next week will be Centre Street Pub’s first time participating in Schenectady Restaurant Week, which kicks off Monday and ends Sunday, March 2.
The annual weeklong event has local restaurants offer three-course dinners at a fixed price and is especially good at introducing people to new foods, recipes and restaurants they may have never thought to patronize.
Last year, 7,000 meals were sold to people taking part in Restaurant Week. Half the customers who ate out said they wouldn’t have gone out for dinner if it weren’t for the promotion, said Gail Hopper, director of government relations and business services at the Chamber of Schenectady County. Thirty-seven percent of customers who ate out said they dined at a restaurant they had never been to before.
“Last year was a pretty good year,” Hopper said. “The year before that was horrible. We had two snowstorms during the week. So much of this is weather-dependent, you know? People are not going to go out in a blizzard. As long as we have good weather, the event will be a success.”
Schenectady Restaurant Week is in its ninth year, but the novelty hasn’t really worn off. Hopper thinks it’s because the event is held just once a year, unlike the biannual restaurant weeks held in Saratoga County and downtown Albany each year.
“People look forward to it,” she said. “We get phone calls from people at the start of the year asking, ‘When is it going to be this year?’ ”
The answer varies each year.
Typically, the chamber and the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. try to schedule the event for late January or early February. But if Proctors has a big show in town — like this week’s run of the Broadway musical “Sister Act” — they push it back to a week when restaurants aren’t already going to see increased business from theater patrons.
In the first year, about a dozen Schenectady restaurants agreed to participate. Over the years, that number has grown as the event sees more patrons and more restaurants come to town.
This year, 26 restaurants are planning to participate, including newcomers Centre Street Pub, Thai Thai Bistro and Zen Asian Fusion Lounge. Restaurants just outside the city are also participating, such as Water’s Edge Lighthouse Restaurant in Glenville, Top’s American Grill Bakery & Bar in Rotterdam, Angelo’s Tavolo and Turf Tavern in Scotia.
The event is not always an immediate hit. If weather is inclement, business can be slow. And business can also vary depending on the type of restaurant.
Pubs typically see a smaller uptick in business during the promotion, while high-end restaurants like Angelo’s Tavolo book right up.
“A lot of it depends on the normal price point at these restaurants,” said Hopper. “You go to Angelo’s Tavolo and get three courses for $20.14? That’s a buy! It would normally be very difficult to go in and get a three-course meal for that much. But at Clinton’s Ditch, you can easily go in and get a three-course meal for that much, so it doesn’t fill up as fast.”
Still, Hopper believes Restaurant Week is a unique opportunity, regardless of whether or not the price is a huge bargain.
“A lot of these places are crafting special menus that you’ve never seen before and will never see again,” she said.
Last year, Restaurant Week had a nearly $250,000 economic impact on the region.
Three-course meals are fixed at $20.14 this year, not including tax and tip. Reservations are recommended .
A full list of participating restaurants and their menus is available at schenectadychamber.org/pages/RestaurantWeek2014.