The culinary experience in the area is remarkable all year long, but during Traverse City Restaurant Week (TCRW), the eateries go into hyperdrive. Chefs experiment with different combinations. Items appear on the menu where they’ve never been before and may never show up again. Flavor combinations get ready to dance on your taste buds. There is energy and excitement at nearly 50 participating locations. 

“We want to create experiences for people, not just serve food,” said Austin Burt, from Honest Hospitality which manages several area restaurants including Mama Lu’s and The Burrow. “We want to create something special and not just recycle what we normally have.”

Creativity is the hallmark of Restaurant Week. A creation of the Downtown Traverse City Association, all participating restaurants develop menu items based on a flat price of $25, $35, or $45. What they do in that price range is up to them.

Restaurant week at Oakwood

Oakwood Proper Burgers is using the week to serve more than burgers, they’re cooking steak frites served over hand-cut fries with an adobe chimichurri. “Our roots are in Texas so we’re bringing southwest flavors into our restaurant,” said owner Leslie Bilbey. “We don’t have the space to accommodate steak frites every day. This is a one-time opportunity.” She adds Restaurant Week allows them to showcase their local suppliers and highlight the value of freshness they contribute.

The Burrow is also putting the spotlight on a local supplier. They’ve teamed up with Rove Estate Winery for food and wine pairings. “This is not something we would normally offer at the restaurant,” said Burt from Honest Hospitality. The menu includes a Szechuan Shrimp Bowl, that would not normally be available. The wine is an additional charge but is designed to maximize the flavors and the experience. “We’re feeling pretty good about featuring local wines for the tasting. It's unique for us.”

Restaurant week at the Burrow

Restaurant week at Mama Lu's

Mama Lu’s is using TC Restaurant Week to think “In” the box. The taco shop is serving a Taco Kit in a to-go box that can serve four or five people. It’s loaded with your choice of two meats, 20 tortillas, chips, sauces, and rice and beans or queso. “We just wanted Mama Lu’s to be involved in Restaurant Week and the to-go kits are a little different.”

Both Burt and Bilbey view Restaurant Week to introduce themselves to new customers who, in the future, can become regular customers. It energizes restaurants at a time when business can be a little slower. And it creates an opportunity for friends and family to gather over great food.

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