After a successful debut in 2015, Washington County Restaurant Week is ready to serve up its second year, with lunch and dinner specials at participating restaurants, including special prix-fixe menus.
A creation of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, the promotion, which runs March 7 to 13, will be preceded Thursday by a sneak preview of what’s cooking locally with a ticketed “Chef’s Best Dish” kickoff event at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.
The event will provide an opportunity to sample food and spirits from 26 participating restaurants and to cast a vote for the evening’s “Chef’s Best Dish” award.
This year’s event will feature celebrity chef Kristin Butterworth, chef de cuisine at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Lautrec Restaurant, a Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant known for its European influences.
Also attending will be Thom Horsey, national wine educator for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
WCTPA President Jeff Kotula said this year’s event, with its expanded roster of participating restaurants, demonstrates the vibrancy of the area’s restaurant scene.
“The increase from 18 participants last year to 26 this year shows that it’s catching on as an annual event,” Kotula said.
Restaurant week chairman David Lamatrice, whose Pittsburgh-based Pipa Group owns the Bistecca Steakhouse and Wine Bar at The Meadows, said last year’s preview event drew about 400 people and he expects 500 will attend this year.
That’s a lot of people sampling a lot of food, but Lamatrice said the event seeks to showcase the range of dining options available in the county.
“We want to make more people aware of the quality of restaurants we have in Washington County,” Lamatrice said. He added part of the weeklong promotion is to offer specially priced menus to enable people to try restaurants they might not normally visit.
There’s no question dining out continues to capture more and more of Americans’ food dollars.
In March 2015, the U.S. Commerce Department reported for the first time since it began collecting data on food spending, Americans spent more money dining out than on buying groceries.
Lamatrice noted studies have shown Millenials, who are poised to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest generational cohort, dine out an average of three to four times a week.
For Lamatrice, Washington County Restaurant Week is a way to keep more of those food dollars at local establishments, whether it’s for casual or fine dining.
“We want to bring more people here instead of them driving 20 minutes outside of the county” for a dining experience, he said.
For more information on Washington County Restaurant Week and participating restaurants, and to purchase tickets for the Chef’s Best Dish kickoff event, vist www.WashingtonCountyRestaurantWeek.com.