This is the week diners in the know look forward to every year.
It’s the one time of year you can enjoy a three-course meal at some of Memphis’ top restaurants for as little as $20.18.
From Nov. 5 to 11, more than 50 Downtown restaurants are offering special menus for both dinner and lunch. Many of the offerings are at a discount, designed to show new diners the best of what they have to offer.
Downtown resident Melissa Petersen eagerly anticipates Downtown Dining Week.
“The restaurants all put out such great plates for Downtown Dining Week," she said. "I love when they are showcasing something new or when my favorite dishes are part of the special menu.”
Downtown Dining Week: Our top 5 picks for dinner and lunch
Downtown Dining Week is a unique opportunity to enjoy a 3-course meal at restaurants like McEwen's for only $20.18. (Photo: Downtown Dining Week)
The event is designed for neighborhood residents to try new places just down the street as well to bring Memphians from other parts of town Downtown to try something new.
“I am a fan," said Nevada Presley, another Downtown resident who takes advantage of the tasty offerings her neighborhood restaurants serve during the week. "It always seems to inspire me to try places I don’t usually go. Plus the special menus give restaurants an opportunity to really highlight their best dishes.”
The price is based on the year. This year, the three course-dinners and special menus being offered are $20.18 — up 1 cent from $20.17 in 2017.
Two-for-one lunches and special lunch menus are being offered for $10.18.
“It’s the best opportunity to eat at several restaurants at a great price, especially the ones that you may not normally eat at because of the cost,” said Michael Patrick, chef and owner of Rizzo’s. “I am actually jealous because I would love to be dining out every night this week, too.”
Patrick said he starts getting reservations for Downtown Dining Week as early as September.
Lobster Pronto Pups are one of the items on the Downtown Dining Week menu at Rizzo's Diner. Big lobster pieces are battered in a flour mix (similar to what is used in tempura recipe) and skewered on sticks. These pups from Rizzo's Diner sit atop a bed of greens and are garnished with Dijon mustard aioli. They definitely live up to the hype! (Photo: Justin Fox Burks)
Some customers take full advantage of the deals and plan their whole week in advance, eating out at a different restaurant every night.
Downtown Dining Week is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first year, the event had 18 participating restaurants. This year, 52 are taking part.
Downtown Dining Week is the perfect time to try out new restaurants like Grecian Gourmet. Gyros are on of the items on their featured menu. (Photo: Grecian Gourmet)
“We started Downtown Dining Week to bring awareness to the fact that were so many great restaurants Downtown,” said Bert Smythe, co-owner of McEwen’s.
Smythe was part of a small band of Downtown restaurateurs who had the vision of what such an event could do for their neighborhood dining scene.
Felicia Willett of Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant is who originally thought of the idea for this week-long dining event.
“Felicia came up to us at the Memphis Farmers Market one day and told us about a friend that had started a Downtown Dining Week in another city. Both Patrick and I thought it was a great idea,” recalled Deni Reilly, who owns The Majestic Grille with her husband.
The Reillys jumped on board, as did Smythe and John Littlefield, co-owners of McEwen’s, and Ben Brock, who owned Sole in the Westin Hotel at the time. The “committee” decided to enlist the help of the Downtown Memphis Commission, which is still a partner today.
“The reason the Downtown Memphis Commission originally chose to support this idea was to share the news about what great restaurants we have in Downtown Memphis,” said Penelope Huston, Downtown Memphis Commission vice president of marketing, communication and events. “As the years go on, that reason hasn’t changed.”
The Vault is offering their Steak Frites on their $20.18 Downtown Dining Week menu. A NY Strip steak is cooked sous vide then grilled, topped with compound butter, and served with shoestring fries. (Photo: The Vault Memphis)
As Downtown Dining Week has grown, so has the number of restaurants in Downtown Memphis.
“Downtown Dining Week brought great traffic and I loved that people would always say, ‘We love Downtown and should come more often,’’’ said Brock, who now owns both Char and Amerigo in East Memphis. “I’d like to think that Downtown Dining Week certainly helped make Downtown the hot spot it is now.”
The week is not only fun for diners, but also makes a big impact on the participating restaurants.
“It’s Rizzo’s biggest week of the year,” Patrick said. “This week gives us exposure to new customers who come back again as regulars.”
If you go
Downtown Dining Week
When: Nov. 5-11
Location: More than 50 restaurants across Downtown Memphis
Price: $20.18 for dinner menus and $10.18 for lunch menus
Reservations: Reservations recommended; call each restaurant directly.
Parking: $1 parking passes available online
More information, including a list of restaurants:downtowndiningweek.com
by Jennifer Chandler
Here's your chance to dine at more than 50 Downtown Memphis restaurants for $20.18