BY SETH BORNSTEIN
“Let’s go out to eat!”
These words make us very happy. Sharing great food, drink and ambiance with friends and family puts us in a good mood.
Famous restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton once wrote that after years of dining at fancy restaurants she couldn’t wait to prepare and consume meals in the comforts of her home. So as her career was winding down, she renovated her kitchen, installing state-of-the-art appliances, cabinets and all sorts of cooking equipment. She even bought new cutlery and chinaware. Upon retirement, she made a delicious meal to share with her husband. Right afterward, she conceded that they enjoyed themselves, but they missed the excitement of eating out. In restaurants there were more choices, their conversations were richer, they liked being around people and of course someone else did the dishes!
Queens is in the center of the foodie map these days with Restaurant Week running October 8-11 and 15-18. More than 100 eateries – from Astoria to the Rockaways – are offering bargains, most commonly an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert for $25.
For Woodside resident Rita Manton, this is the time to get together with some beloved girlfriends at one of her all-time favorites, Dazies in Sunnyside. For Erika Campoverde, a college student from Richmond Hill, it’s the occasion to try some new places that she would never consider patronizing the rest of the year.
“I want to explore new neighborhoods and their food options,” she says.
Sounds like a great plan. As one would expect in the world’s most diverse county, the Restaurant Week options are endless: Thai, Greek, Chinese, kosher, French, Mexican, vegetarian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Argentinean, Cajun, Portuguese, Brazilian, Cuban, Indian, pub grub and of course, Italian.
The diners definitely win. But this promotion is also important for restaurant owners and employees, who work endless hours in an industry that always struggles during recessions, despite the fact that they provide wonderful service and products. Surveys that the Queens Economic Development Corporation conducted after last year’s Restaurant Week showed an average general increase in business of 20 percent at participating establishments.
“[Restaurant Week] gives the mainstay restaurants the opportunity to introduce perhaps a new menu, a renovation or introduce a new chef or concept,” said Laura Altimari, who works for Austin’s Steak and Ale House in Kew Gardens and Bayside’s Bourbon Street. “It is an opportunity for the restaurant to place their best culinary foot forward to impress the customer and gain steady, repeat business.”
Plus, the oft-derided borough across the river from internationally acclaimed Manhattan is finally getting the attention it deserves. The 2013 Zagat NYC Restaurant Survey, which was released last week, reviews 117 Queens restaurants, the highest number ever in this über-popular annual guidebook’s history. We’ve got Mojo!
So it looks like a win-win-win-win-win situation. Have fun, enjoy bargains, spend time with friends and family, help our beloved borough build its reputation as a “foodie paradise” and stimulate the local economy.
It’s Queens Restaurant Week 2012 and the living is easy.
Seth Bornstein is executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation