Los Angeles Restaurant Week: An Introduction
In Los Angeles, Restaurant Week is a semi-annual dining event. For two weeks every January and July, hundreds of Los Angeles-area restaurants offer fixed-price menus that allow diners to explore new choices or dine at otherwise-unaffordable places for a lower-than-normal, fixed price.
When is LA Restaurant Week?
The event happens twice a year:
- Summer: Mid-July
- Winter: Mid-January
Restaurant week includes Saturdays and Sundays, a real temptation to eat yourself silly all weekend long.
Which Restaurants Participate? How Do I Make a Reservation?
You'll find a list at the LA Restaurant Week website, where you can narrow choices by meal (lunch or dinner), type of cuisine, location and price. If you click through, you can view their Restaurant Week menus and make reservations - something you really should do as soon as you can.
For popular places, reserve as far ahead as possible.
You'll also find the same restaurants listed at Open Table, which has the advantage of access to reviews and also lets you make reservations.
If you're a little overwhelmed by hundreds of choices, check the guide to choosing a restaurant on the next page for some ways to narrow the options.
LA Restaurant Week Prices
The foundation of the week is the fixed-price (prix fixe) menu. Restaurants are grouped into tiers by price and the price for each location is given on the website. Those prices are just for the meal and don't include beverages, tax or gratuities.
Reasons to Try LA Restaurant Week
- At its best, LA Restaurant Week offers a chance to visit that special restaurant you might not otherwise be able to afford, to try out a new place without less financial risk or to try something you're just not sure you'll like.
- Everyone likes to save money, and prices can be lower during Restaurant Week.
Why LA Restaurant Week May Not be for You
Some restaurants are outstanding the rest of the year, but abysmal during Restaurant Week. A few factors that contribute to the problem include:
- Limited menus may mean trouble for picky eaters and folks with food allergies or dietary restrictions. If you're in doubt, check the menu on the restaurant week website or call and ask questions. Most places offer their usual menu alongside the restaurant week specials, which may help if only one person in your group has a problem.
- Restaurant week's fixed pricing puts restaurants in an awkward position, and some choose to offer only simple dishes, which may mean that black truffle-laced Kobe steak you've been reading about won't make it onto the menu.
- Restaurants can be crowded during these events, stressing the staff's ability to deliver top-notch service.
- Smaller restaurants sometimes have trouble managing their regular offerings along with a Restaurant Week menu.
- That hot new place you've been dreaming about may not be participating. In fact, many don't.
How to Choose Where to Go
A simple approach to LA Restaurant Week is just to pick something interesting and go, and we realize that works well for many people. For obsessed, foodie-junkies like us, more work is required. A look at some of the tips for restaurant week may help, but if you want to maximize the value of your restaurant week experience, these resources may also help you make a great new find:
- Open Table's LA Restaurant Week list: It includes user reviews and useful sorting options, including by user rating.
- Why Michelin won't help: The famous restaurant raters have declined to publish an LA restaurant list since 2013, saying that Angelenos "prefer to select the restaurant not based on the number of Michelin stars, but based on the number of stars who go to the restaurant."
- Zagat: They've been an excellent source of diner reviews since before social media was invented. If you have their app, you may enjoy the amusing out take-style comments that pop up while it's searching or check Zagat online.
There are dozens of other potential sources of restaurant information, including Yelp. However, random and sometimes unrelated complaints and misunderstandings tend to overwhelm thoughtful reviews there, so we suggest caution when using it.
An easy way to check on a single restaurant is to search for its name and the word "reviews' in your favorite search engine.
Searching for "best restaurants LA restaurant week" may also turn up some current lists.
If you're serious about your dining and want to make the most of LA restaurant week, these tips may help:
- Procrastination is Your Enemy: The most popular, hottest spots will fill up fast. Sign up for DineLA's newsletter on their web page by clicking the Newsletter tab in the left column, or follow them on Twitter @dineLA
- Flexibility is Your Friend: It will be easier to get reservations on weekdays than weekends. If your target spots offer a lunch option, it will be less expensive than dinner and easier to get a table.
- Check, Check, Check: We're not talking about asking for your bill, but instead about making sure you have the right information. Not all restaurants offer both lunch and dinner options and hours may vary. Click on the restaurant's name from the Restaurant Week website to find out. And if you're still not sure, use an old-fashioned method: telephone them.
- Beware the Add-Ons: Restaurant Week prices are for food only. If you order wine - or even a bottle of water - it can add up fast. There's no shame in asking for a glass of "your finest tap water," if that's what you want.
- A Tip About Tipping: Tip for excellent service as you normally would, but keep this in mind: Most restaurant servers depend on tips for a significant percentage of their total income. Just because you got a lower price for your meal, it doesn't mean they get a break on this month's rent. Some restaurants may add a service charge to your Restaurant Week bill to make up for this, so check before you decide what to do.
- Do Something Else Besides Eat: If you're making a trip to LA to enjoy restaurant week, you might want to do something else besides eat. Try these July and January events or try one of these weekend getaway ideas.
- More Ways to Save: If you're thinking about restaurant week as a way to save money during your visit, these tips may save you even more.
Questions and Answers
What is LA Restaurant Week?
Restaurant Week is a twice-annual event in Los Angeles. During each two-week period, restaurants offer special, fixed-price menus at lunch and dinner, often at prices lower than you'd find on their regular menus.
Is LA Restaurant Week a Food Sampling Event?
At some food events, you can sample a small portion of a dish or two from a lot of different places. Los Angeles Restaurant Week is not that kind of event. It's focused instead on sampling the whole restaurant experience, where you can enjoy its decor, service, and ambiance as well as its food.
Is LA Restaurant Week a Good Deal?
Check the restaurant's usual prices to find out for sure.
While you're browsing around, also look for regular, fixed-price offerings or early bird meals at places you'd like to try. Some offer everyday prices that are as good as during Restaurant Week.
Which Restaurants Participate?
Each year, more than 300 restaurants participate in LA Restaurant Week, located all over Los Angeles and in both the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. The Restaurant Week website and Open Table have full lists.
Which Restaurants Are Best?
With a few exceptions, most of the participating restaurants get high ratings from their diners, so it comes down to a matter of taste and location. With some work, you could figure out which ones offer the absolute best deals, but if it takes you 5 hours to save $20, you're not paying yourself very much for the time.