NYC Restaurant Week, the nearly 30-year-old institution, is back after a pandemic hiatus—and this time around it’s going to be five weeks long!
Starting on Monday, July 19th, and through August 22nd, diners can find $21 or $39 lunch and dinner deals at nearly 530 restaurants in 75 neighborhoods across the city. Prices include one entrée and at least one side and are “aligned to the individual restaurant price points.”
“It’s extraordinary, the greatest restaurants in the world—an opportunity for you and me to go out there and experience them… even if you don’t have a lot of money, great, great, deals,” Mayor Bill de Blasio hyped on Monday. “We know the restaurant community went through so much during the pandemic, but people fought back. The restaurant owners, the employees, they fought back, they kept their businesses going, and now Restaurant Week is going to give them more customers, and a whole lot more energy.”
The mayor also pointed out that many of the restaurants—which span 50+ cuisines—are also offering the $21 or $39 deals for take-out and delivery, not just dining in. There are also $125 “signature” experiences at select high-end restaurants, including The Fulton in the South Street Seaport. Fulton chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten joined de Blasio at the press briefing virtually, and the world-renown restaurateur, standing amongst the produce at the Union Square Greenmarket, mentioned how the “first place” he went, when he first arrived in NYC back in 1986, was Fulton Fish Market (R.I.P.), so it’s a been a dream for him to have a seafood restaurant in that area now.
NYC Restaurant Week began in 1992 as a way for the city to promote restaurants during the 1992 Democratic National Convention. According to the NY Times, “The program was conceived as a favor to the delegates and media representatives who came to town for” the DNC.
Charged with finding ways of entertaining the visitors, Tim Zagat and Joseph Baum persuaded restaurateurs to draw up bargain lunch menus that they expected would be money-losers. The original price of $19.92 for a three-course meal at such celebrated places as Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World drew an overwhelming response. Accounts from that year — long before Open Table or text messages existed — describe phones ringing off hooks from morning until night. “Nobody had ever had this choice of restaurants,” Mr. Zagat recalled in an interview last week.
Eateries thought they’d lose money on the deals—which were lunch-only at the time—but it turned out to be great for business (though some critics grumble that customers are “amateur” diners who tip poorly), and the Times reported in 2017 that “restaurants now plead to be included.”
The city, under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, expanded Restaurant Week to winter as well. During one press conference about Winter Restaurant Week, Giuliani received a 50-pound chocolate bust of himself.