They say it’s better late than never, right? Such is the case for San Diego Restaurant Week, which returns to the bellies and hearts of locals soon, just as pandemic-era restrictions continue to ease for eateries in San Diego County.
Normally, the biannual, 8-day dining event takes place in January and September. But, two months ago – with San Diego County in the purple tier and restaurants restricted to takeout and outdoor dining only – it wasn’t a great time for the local event to shine.
Now, with San Diego County in the orange tier, things have changed a bit.
Under the state’s color-coded, tiered plan for reopening businesses and activities across counties, the orange tier means restaurants can offer both outdoor and indoor dining – and at a higher capacity, which is 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer.
“Our restaurants have long suffered through this pandemic," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a press conference Thursday. "It has been particularly hard on restaurants, on small businesses, on our tourism and our event economy. So the collective sacrifice we’ve made over the last year is allowing us to slowly and safely reopen.”
So, San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW) had opted to deliver a springtime edition of the event, which runs from April 11 to April 18.
In pre-pandemic times, the 8-day dining event would showcase 180+ San Diego-area restaurants offering prix fixe lunch and dinner deals. It’s a way for locals to try that new restaurant they’re been hearing about without spending too much – and a way for restaurants to try to bring in new customers.
This time around, this edition of SDRW features 100 participating restaurants, spanning all parts of the county and all kinds of cuisine. The prix fixe formula stands, with SDRW restaurants offering special three-course menus ranging from $20 to $60 per person and/or two-course lunch deals ranging from $10 to $25 per person.
Organizers of the event encouraged San Diegans to show support to their local food scene by participating in the weeklong event. They said this year’s event is more needed than ever after the extreme hit the restaurant industry has taken during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As restaurants, we really want to come out and show everybody what we have to offer and invite everybody back," said Andy Baumann, owner of Bali Hai Restaurant.
At the press conference, local restaurant owners reflected on how difficult 2020 has been for them, and how those challenges still linger now even though the county has slowly been able to reopen more.
“As a small business owner, I can attest to how hard it has been and how devastating closures have been for restaurants across San Diego County," said Tammy Piehl, owner of the Piehl Group and founder of Give a Meal.
“Our restaurant owners and managers have been through very difficult times and so we are calling on the community to come out and support Restaurant Week because we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," echoed Julie Coker, CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority.
“San Diego Restaurant Week arrives just in time to spark new life into these impacted businesses and bring our San Diego culinary community back to business,” SDRW organizers said in a statement.
As always, tickets aren’t required for SDRW, but reservations – a pandemic-era staple – are recommended. When you visit the restaurant of your choosing, ask for the SDRW menu and you’re ready to roll.
Like so many events in San Diego County over the past year, SDRW adapted to the times of the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020. Instead of hosting a traditional SDRW, an event called “Dine Diego” temporarily took over the fall edition of the foodie affair, focused on showcasing local restaurants offering outdoor dining and to-go options, since that’s what was allowed for restaurants at the time.
SDRW is presented by the California Restaurant Association, which is partnering with county public health officials to ensure that restaurants in San Diego County are safe, sanitary and adhering to all current COVID-19 safety modifications.
“My plea to San Diegans is – support these businesses," Mayor Gloria said. "Let’s help San Diegans get back to work. Let’s make sure that we’re supporting the businesses that are coming out.”
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