Howard County restaurant-goers will be able to enjoy three-course dinners at Jordan's Steakhouse, Clyde's of Columbia, Crab Shanty and about 20 other restaurants for $30.08 during the county's first restaurant weeks event.
Restaurant Week, a growing trend in cities nationwide, is coming to Howard County for an extended two-week period starting tomorrow. If all goes well, the event will be offered twice a year - once in the winter and once in the summer, said Rachelina Bonacci, executive director of Howard County Tourism.
The idea is simple - to highlight local restaurants, participating eating establishments will offer a three-course meal for $30.08 during the time period. Many Howard County restaurants are also offering a two-course lunch for $20.08. Patrons can also order off the regular menu. The prices do not include taxes and tips.
"My personal philosophy is that we really want to support local businesses, especially small local businesses," said Joseph Barbera, the owner of AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar, who worked with Jordan Naftal, the owner of Jordan's Steakhouse, to make the concept a reality in Howard County. "Doing something like this is an excellent opportunity to showcase the talent that is here."
Barbera, past president and current member of the Howard County chapter of the Maryland Restaurant Association, said he brought up the idea at a meeting over the winter and got an enthusiastic response.
"Everybody seemed to be excited about it," he said.
Summer was chosen for the first event because it allows restaurants to showcase fresh produce, and because people are traveling less this year, he said. Since Barbera and Naftal serve on the Howard County Tourism Board, the two groups worked closely together on details like choosing the dates and urging restaurants to participate.
Bonacci and Barbera noted that the promotion is a boon to residents who are "staycationing" in Howard because of high gas prices. They can be culinary tourists in their own back yards, while out-of-towners can experience local restaurants at bargain prices, Bonacci said.
"What's more local than a local dining experience when you travel?" she said.
Bonacci said county restaurant-owners chose the dates because they like overlapping a bit with Baltimore's Restaurant Week, scheduled to start Saturday and run through Aug. 3. More than 90 restaurants are participating in the city event, which also offers $20.08 lunches and $30.08 dinners.
Bonacci noted that Howard is sometimes perceived as a haven for chain restaurants, but it has a wealth of locally owned restaurants to explore. Other restaurants participating include Trapeze, Kings Contrivance, Cafe de Paris and Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant.
Patrons are encouraged to make advance reservations with the restaurants. They can see the list of restaurants, with links to their homepages, at the Howard County Tourism Web site.
Bonacci is also encouraging restaurant patrons to take pictures of themselves partaking in restaurant week, with the restaurant identified in the photo. Diners shown at the most participating restaurants will be entered to win a $100 gas card, she said.
For more information, go to the Howard County Tourism Web site, www.visithowardcounty.com., or call, 410 313-1900.