Crisp weather and kids out of the coop can only mean one thing in Nashua: good prices for better food.
Nashua’s Fall Restaurant Week — Monday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 30 — is a more intimate experience for diners than the city’s mid-Summer Taste of Downtown. This time, dinners will have an opportunity to delve into new menus, or new restaurants, or use discounts to enjoy their favorite places.
“Downtown beautification and small businesses have a lot more to offer than corporate eateries on the other end of Main Street and by the mall,” said Sergio Metes, executive chef at Unums bistro. “Restaurant Week serves to celebrate small businesses.”
Rebecca Dixon, executive director of Great American Downtown, said the event began five years ago as a way to highlight restaurants in a different way than the Taste of Downtown event, now in its 20th year, does in June. Although the numbers are harder to track at Restaurant Week, because it doesn’t require tickets, Dixon said restaurants see the rush.
“Great American Downtown is hoping a lot of people take advantage of eating out. School has started, and we want people to take advantage of great discounts for the family or on a date night. It’s a nice incentive for an evening out,” she said.
The past four Fall Restaurant Weeks have only run five days, but some restaurants carried their deals and menus over past the work week, and Dixon liked that idea, so the organization is expanding the event for 2012.
“We’re going to seven days to include the weekend. We were finding many people might not be able put aside a weekday night, so we wanted to continue to run the specials,” she said.
Villa Banca’s Pawel Rutkowski said the fall is a kind of transitioning season. College students are heading out, and adults are coming to dine out before the restaurant’s function and dining rooms get busy for the holidays.
“We are still finalizing our existing menu for the price-fixed offerings. It will focus on and incorporate locally produced ingredients, since it’s a good season for fresh ingredients,” Rutkowski said.
Once they are finalized, menus and deals will be posted on www.dowtownnashua.org. Most offer a 10- or 20-percent discount of the entire check or a $29.95 prixe-fixe menu, where diners can choose from selections of an appetizer, entree and dessert course.
“I will absolutely be out trying other restaurants; it is a great time to experience others. All of us are trying to drive people to go downtown, restaurateurs are working together because if one prospers, so will the other,” Rutowski said.
Metes is also going seasonal, prepping hearty, New England dishes like beef stew, beet salad and apple crisp. He said Unum’s sit-down style atmosphere is good for when the “weather is a little bit crisp.”
“It benefits us to introduce the menu we’ll be running in the fall. What ends up happening is we get a lot of return customers because they see the other items on the regular menu and they come back for the specials,” he said.
“We normally take a walk and try to stop in at other places, but it’s hard to get away. I have to focus on what I’m doing because of the influx of people we get during the event,” Metes said.
Several menus can be found at www.downtownnashua.org to help plan an evening. Three-course offerings at Surf Seafood Restaurant include ginger butternut squash bisque with a crab & scallion fritter, pan-roasted salmon with roasted cauliflower-bacon risotto and shaved fennel salad and pumpkin cheese cake with ginger snap crust and cinnamon anglaise, served with featured wines.
Opting for the beer route, The Peddler’s Daughter is pairing its menu with Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. It features comfort entrees like a beer can, half-roast chicken, fall root veggies with thyme essence and creamy mashed potatos and a down-home pumpkin pie dessert, as well as roasted fall vegetable ravioli with maple cream and toasted almonds to start.
Other places include world cuisine, like Cafe India, serving modern, fresh Indian food like Dosa, Momo, and exotic lamb, chicken and seafood as part of a $29.95 dinner-for-two deal; Giant of Siam, offering 20 percent off every dine-in or take-out guest check with Thai soups, noodle dishes and specials; and Margaritas, offering popular Mexican food and drink.
For pub and tavern food, Fody’s Great American Tavern and O’Brien’s sports bar both feature live music and entertainment, as well as Old Amsterdam Bar & Lounge, which is offering 10 percent off all food checks. A 20-percent discount across the menu will be featured at the east-meets-west San Francisco Kitchen. MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar is taking the prix-fixe route.