San Diego Restaurant Week

Salmon for Lunch in San Diego

 Chris Goldberg/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

San Diego Restaurant Week is a semi-annual San Diego dining event. For two weeks every year, many of the city's excellent restaurants offer fixed-price menus that allow diners a chance to check out new places or have a meal at a lower-than-normal price.

For answers to many of the questions below, go to the San Diego Restaurant Week website, including:

  • When is San Diego Restaurant Week? It happens twice a year in mid-September and mid-January, but they will have the exact dates.
  • Which restaurants participate? You can get a list, narrow choices by meal (lunch or dinner), type of cuisine, location and price.
  • How do I make a reservation? you can do that directly from the restaurant week site.

If you're a little overwhelmed by so many places to eat, keep reading to find tips for choosing a restaurant to get some ideas for ways to create your personal short list.

San Diego Restaurant Week Prices

The foundation of the week is the fixed-price (prix fixe) menu. Lunch costs less than dinner. For each meal, restaurants are divided into three groups by price. Keep in mind that those prices are just for the meal and don't include beverages, tax or gratuities.

Reasons to Try San Diego Restaurant Week

At its best, San Diego Restaurant Week gives you a chance to try a place you might not usually go, sample a new cuisine or chef with less risk of feeling like you've wasted your money.

Prices can be lower during Restaurant Week.

Why San Diego Restaurant Week May Not be for You

Not every restaurant holds up well during restaurant week, even though they may be great the rest of the year. These are some of the factors that contribute to that:

  • If you're a fussy eater, have food allergies or dietary restrictions, fixed restaurant week menus may not include items that meet your needs. If you're in doubt about a particular restaurant, click through to its menus, or call and ask questions. Fortunately, most places still serve their regular menu along with the special prix fixe meals, but of course at regular prices.
  • Lower prices during restaurant week force restaurants to make decisions about how to deal with that and still make a profit, and some choose to offer just a few simple dishes. That may mean the signature entree you've been dreaming about won't be included.
  • Many famous restaurants are full during restaurant week, which can compromise the staff's ability to deliver their standard level of service.
  • Smaller restaurants can also have trouble keeping up the quality of their regular offerings along with the restaurant week specials.
  • The hottest dining spots in town may not be participating. In fact, they probably aren't.
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How to Choose Where to Go During San Diego Restaurant Week

An easy way to approach San Diego Restaurant Week is just to pick a place and go. It's appealing in its simplicity, but such a casual approach may not satisfy those who take their food seriously.

With a few exceptions, most of the participating restaurants get high ratings from their diners, so it comes down to 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.

Take a look at the tips below for restaurant week for some ideas about how to be sure you have fun. If you want to max out your chances of getting an excellent meal, try these resources:

  • Michelin won't help: So far, they haven't considered the San Diego restaurant scene worthy of their attention.
  • Zagat: Zagat has depended on crowdsourcing for restaurant ratings since long before social media was invented. Their app presents some amusing outtake-style comments while it's searching, or check reviews and ratings at Zagat.
  • Other ratings: You can find restaurant ratings in lots of other places online, including Yelp. Use those with caution because of the potential for ratings to be manipulated (either positively or negatively), and because unrelated issues and misunderstandings can generate reviews that overwhelm the insightful ones.

A simple 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 San Diego restaurant week" may also turn up some current lists.

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Tips for San Diego Restaurant Week

If you want to make the most of San Diego restaurant week, these tips may help:

  • Procrastination is Your Enemy: The most popular, hottest spots will fill up fast. Sign up for their newsletter to know when you can start making reservations.
  • Flexibility is Your Friend: It's easier to get reservations on weekdays than weekends. Lunch will be less expensive than dinner - and it's easier to get a table then, too.
  • 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. The list option on their home page shows which meals each restaurant is serving and what the price is.
  • 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 San Diego to enjoy restaurant week, you might want to do something else besides eat. Try these January and September events or 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 on your trip.
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San Diego Restaurant Week Questions and Answers

What is San Diego Restaurant Week?

Restaurant Week is a twice-annual San Diego restaurant event. Each time it happens, restaurants offer special, fixed-price menus at lunch and dinner, often at prices lower than what you'd find on their regular menus.

Is San Diego 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, but that's not what San Diego Restaurant Week is about. Instead, it gives you a chance to sample the whole restaurant experience: decor, service, and ambiance as well as cuisine.

Is San Diego Restaurant Week a Good Deal?

Check the restaurant's usual prices to find out for sure, but we have seen savings from a few dollars to discounts so deep that we had to wonder if portions are much smaller than usual.

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 routine prices that are as good as during Restaurant Week.

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