Just as the August doldrums start to get us down, Summer Restaurant Week arrives. Filled with the promise of great deals — $22 for three-course lunch, $35 for three-course dinner — and tasty tidbits highlighting the freshest summer ingredients, this is the time to check out someplace new. Sponsored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), Summer Restaurant Week runs from Aug. 17-23 with about 250 restaurants participating across the Washington region.
This year, diners can also participate in the Diner Rewards Program for a chance to win some pretty cool prizes: book your table online at rwdmv.com and you’ll find yourself in the running for items such as a weekend getaway to New York City that includes train tickets, hotel and three meals, or a Restaurant Week Diner Reward Card, which provides a full year of meals at a participating restaurant at Restaurant Week prices.
Here’s just a random sampling of a few of the meals you can treat yourself to during Summer Restaurant Week:
Agora: Conveniently located on 17th Street just steps from Dupont Circle (1527 17th Street, N.W.), Agora is offering a five-course dinner where diners can start their meal with a sampler of such Mediterranean delicacies as htipiti, cacık, and hummus, then move onto İmam Bayıldı, perfectly tender baby eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, pine nuts and garlic; Bruksel Lahana, crispy Brussels sprouts served with a white truffle crème fraiche and Urfa pepper; and grilled salmon with pistachio pesto.
D.C. Coast: Restaurant Week is a good time to check out places that you might usually put on the “special occasion” list like D.C. Coast (1401 K St., N.W.), the award-winning downtown restaurant that helped revitalize the K Street Corridor. Check out the summery watermelon gazpacho garnished with pickled watermelon rind and mint oil, the local blue catfish or fresh goat cheese agnolotti, and, definitely, the peach crème brûlée.
Equinox: Located a block from the White House, Equinox (818 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) caters to a wide variety of diners, from vegan to carnivore, with beautifully crafted dishes from crispy heirloom cauliflower with maple-sherry glaze and toasted coconut to bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with roasted red pearl onions. Upgrade the $35.15 prix fixe to $57.15 to have perfect wine pairings with each course.
Lavagna: This unassuming bistro (539 8th St., S.E.) sometimes plays second fiddle to its flashier neighbors on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row, but offers flavorful made-from-scratch Italian dishes like Ravioli Fritto, a fried ravioli stuffed with ricotta and an egg yolk; bacon risotto with a corn purée; and impressive charcuterie boards with house made preserves and goat cheese. Select three courses from anything off the menu during Restaurant Week, and don’t skimp on their excellent selection of regional Italian wines.
Mintwood Place: Awarded Best Upscale Casual Restaurant at the 2015 RAMMYS by RAMW, Chef Cedric Maupillier’s French-influenced Restaurant Week menu at this Adams Morgan hot spot (1813 Columbia Rd., N.W.) features an updated steak tartare with jicama; crispy wild blue catfish with baba ganoush and fennel; and beef paleron — a beefy shoulder cut — with potatoes mousseline and mushrooms, a dish that hints at fall flavors to come. The cocktails are sublime, like the rooibos-infused local Catoctin Creek gin, Aperol and tiki bitters that grace the Foggy London Town.
nopa Kitchen + Bar: Nestled in the heart of Gallery Place, nopa (800 F St., N.W.) is offering several items on its Restaurant Week dinner menu sure to please seafood afficionados, including tomato-infused spaghetti with Maine lobster and garlic scapes; Carolina Frogmore Stew with softshell crab, mussels and sweet corn; and pan-roasted scallops in a nasturtium emulsion (who wouldn’t want to try a nasturtium emulsion?). nopa is also extending its Restaurant Week offerings through Aug. 30, just in case you can’t get there during the week of the 17th.
Water & Wall: Venture outside the city limits to this popular eatery in Arlington (3811 Fairfax Dr., Arlington) that focuses on local ingredients; the Restaurant Week lunch menu includes chilled corn soup with a tomato concasse and a softshell crab sandwich with pickled jalapenos and Old Bay aioli; chef Tim Ma will also offer a two-course brunch for $22 per person and, if you can’t wait until the week of Aug. 17th, he’ll have a sneak peek of the Restaurant Week menus from Aug. 10-16.
Kristen Hartke is a D.C.-based food writer and editor. Follow her kitchen adventures on Twitter: @khartke.