Fall not only brings dishes made with pumpkin, squash and spices to menus at local restaurants; the season is also becoming synonymous with discounted dining in Manchester.
From Sunday, Oct. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 23, many Queen City eateries will offer prix-fixe meals for $29.95 as part of the second annual Greater Manchester Restaurant Week. The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce modeled its week-long discounted dining event after that successfully held annually in Portsmouth.
“We really felt that the restaurant scene in Manchester was growing and growing and wanted to find a way to promote restaurant members of the Chamber,” Gemma French, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce vice president of marketing and public relations, said of the creation of the event. When French last spoke with staffers at the Portsmouth Chamber, they said their most recent event attracted around 12,000 diners. French said the Greater Manchester Chamber has since made that its goal, a goal that the participation of restaurants in all nine communities the Chamber serves would help reach.
“If we could expand and get more communities on board that would be phenomenal,” French said.
French said more than 4,000 diners took advantage of Restaurant Week deals last year, a figure that was calculated through a tracking system used by only some of the participating restaurants, meaning that many diners were unaccounted for.
“We hope to grow it this year,” French said.
In its first year, the event drew participation from 25 area restaurants, far exceeding the Chamber’s initial goal of 18, which French said is a testament to how rich the restaurant community is in Manchester. Twenty local restaurants have signed on for this year’s Restaurant Week including a few new participants: Eden Restaurant & Lounge, Hooked, Divots on the River and KC’s Rib Shack.
Restaurants unable to meet the $29.95-per-person price point were encouraged by the Chamber to include a specialty cocktail or beer or wine pairing in the price, or offer two meals for the price of one.
“It’s easy for us to promote [Restaurant Week] at $29.95 … people know they will get a great deal and a great meal across the board versus every restaurant offering its own discount,” French said.
Kevin Cornish, owner of the Rib Shack, said Restaurant Week is a good opportunity to bring in new business from other areas. He also claims his Restaurant Week menu seems to be a bit more aggressive than the offerings of other participating eateries.
“I went further than anybody else out there that I saw, but if it brings in somebody new to the restaurant or someone that hasn’t been here in a while, then that’s a good thing,” Cornish said.
The KC’s Rib Shack Restaurant Week menu features dinner for two for $29.95 — a beverage for each diner (options include beer, wine or a cocktail), a shared appetizer of fried pickles, Beer-Battered PBR Onion Rings, Smoked Sausage KChunks with Spicy Mustard Dip, Jamaican Jerk, Buffalo or Garlic Chicken Wings or Portobello Fries, a shared QQ Pladda (a choice of four meats — smoked spare ribs, barbecue chicken, Texas beef brisket, smoked sausage or North Carolina pulled pork — two side dishes and two chunks of cornbread) as an entrée, and a shared dessert of Crispy Chocolate Deep Fried Bread Pudding, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Deep Fried Cheesecake, Bacon Ice Cream or a S’mores Campfire.
“We bring out the Hibachi with the flame and let people cook their own s’mores at the table,” Cornish said. “It’s always a big hit.”
In lieu of dessert, City Sports Grille, which is serving a three-course meal, plus a glass of wine or beer, for two for $29.95, is offering diners a free string of bowling, including shoe rentals.
“In this economy that’s a really fun night out for date night,” French said.
While it is not a goal of the Chamber to promote downtown Manchester dining in particular, French said retailers in the heart of the Queen City have seen a positive economic impact during Restaurant Week. The Chamber, she added, would like to eventually involve retailers in the event by asking them to offer discounts to customers showing a receipt from a Restaurant Week meal.
“We hope that people come to Manchester … see that we have some great little shops, great theater, the ballpark and the Verizon and come to do a lot more than just eat,” French said.