This week marks downtown Columbia’s inaugural Restaurant Week, a seven-day event designed to showcase CoMo's downtown restaurant options and encourage residents to eat out. Restaurant Week began Monday and will last until Sunday, June 18.
Fifteen restaurants, ranging from fine-dining establishments like Eleven Eleven to more casual joints, such as Shakespeare’s Pizza and Shotgun Pete’s BBQ Shack, have put together special fixed-price lunch and dinner menus for the week, priced at either $15, $25 or $35. All participating restaurants are still offering their typical full-service menus with Restaurant Week as an added option.
Gabriela Cutrera, The District’s assistant director of outreach who coordinated Restaurant Week, says she was pleased at the mix of restaurants that are participating. She says the goal of the event is to give people a reason to try a restaurant or menu item they might not have considered before.
“The main thing is just to get people to come out to downtown Columbia to eat who don't normally make it out here,” Cutrera says. “Just encouraging people to remember that there are a lot of really good restaurants downtown."
Cutrera says she’s been working to coordinate this event for over five months and that she purposely wanted the event to take place in the summer — after most students had left — to place the focus on locals.
Summer is typically a slower time for downtown restaurants because of the lack of students, says Nickolay Slatinski, the manager at Glenn’s Cafe. He said he chose to be a part of Restaurant Week because he was hopeful the event would simply bring more people in the door.
Cutrera personally visited downtown restaurants to invite them to participate and get feedback during the planning process. When Justin Adams, the bar manager of Room 38, heard about Restaurant Week, he knew the restaurant would want to participate.
"We like to be a part of Columbia's events," Adams says. "Anything to make sure we're on the map, as far as knowing that we like the local events happening here."
Some restaurants put together menus for the week that showcase popular menu items, such as the jambalaya at Glenn’s Cafe or the pretzel bites at Room 38. Other places, like Tellers, put together entirely new offerings that aren’t on their regular menu. For Restaurant Week, Tellers menus feature salmon pesto flatbread, a brisket plate and bread pudding.
Restaurant Week in Columbia is inspired by similar successful events in cities across the country, Cutrera says. She is from Kansas City and used their Restaurant Week as a model when designing this week’s event. But, she says, in bringing it to Columbia, she tailored the program to fit local businesses’ needs.
The District is also offering an incentive program for diners to participate. At any participating location, you can pick up a Restaurant Week passport, get stamps from three restaurants and turn in your completed passport at your third restaurant to be entered into a drawing for one of many gift cards to downtown restaurants and stores.
Below are the 15 participating restaurants. Click on each one to view its Restaurant Week menu.