The biannual, three-week “celebration of fine dining,” the New York City Restaurant Week, has kicked off this Monday, Jan. 23, giving New Yorkers the opportunity to explore the culinary diversity of some of the best restaurants at a more affordable cost.
Over 375 restaurants in 40 different neighborhoods around the city are offering a prix-fixe three-course meal (lunch at $29 and dinner at $42). But if you’re hoping to visit your favorite Bushwick restaurant as part of the promotion, you will be disappointed as none of the local eateries are participating despite the fact that our neighborhood has its fair share of restaurants popular well past its borders, such as the famous staple Roberta’s; Faro, the recent recipient of its first Michelin star; or Bunker and Falansai, both of which made the Michelin Bib Gourmand list last year.
Notable Brooklyn participants include Carroll Gardens favorite Buttermilk Channel and its sister restaurant French Louie. There is also a first time participant, Leuca of Williamsburg. But not a single one from Bushwick …
In fact Bushwick has been missing from the restaurant week lineup for years. In 2013 there was a bit of controversy when the neighborhood was allegedly snubbed from the Brooklyn-specific version of restaurant week, Dine In Brooklyn, and responded by creating its own, one-time Bushwick Restaurant Week which took place in the summer of 2013.
Despite all the fantastic restaurant options in the neighborhood, it seems odd that all but few are left out of mainstream events and media. Bushwick definitely has its fair share of food-related events that garner city-wide attention (Plant-Based Bushwick, Food Porn Festival, Taste of Bushwick, Raw Wine Fair), but even a majority of these have a local feel, nothing like that of restaurant week, which takes place nationally.
What is the reason for this? One possibility is that a majority of the popular restaurants in Bushwick intentionally go for a local, intimate, neighborhood-specific atmosphere that doesn’t always translate to the rest of the city. Another reason may be that, as good as a lot of our eateries are, few, if any, qualify as fine dining. Faro is the exception but even that is closer to “casual fine dining” on the spectrum.
The application process at NYC Restaurant Week does not seem to be terribly exclusive. Restaurants are judged based on certain criteria such as ratings, awards, and chef bios, to ensure all participants are up to a certain caliber, and plenty of restaurants throughout Bushwick certainly rise to these standards.
The participation fee restaurants have to pay is not publicly listed, nor have the restaurant week organizers responded in time to Bushwick Daily inquiries regarding its amount. Perhaps the fee, combined with the steep discounts restaurants are required to offer, may not be worth it in the end for the small business models of our local eateries.
Rachel Allswang, an owner of Le Garage explained that “the concept does not fit with Bushwick. [It] seems very corporate,” Allswang said. “Bushwick is def [sic] not!”
The Maite team informed us they were simply “not aware that it was restaurant week,” but “perhaps in the future [they would] look into it.”
Steve Sciacca, an owner of Mominette said that they “were never approached by anyone,” but would be open to being involved in a “local restaurant week.”
The official organizers of the restaurant week, NYC & Company, simply stated they “always [strive] for five borough participation in all of [their] programs and campaigns, including the neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Therefore, [they] encourage interested restaurants to get in touch with [them] at NYC & Company for more information.”
There you have it. It certainly doesn’t seem that Bushwick was intentionally boxed out from NYC Restaurant Week, but it is not exactly a priority for many of our local establishments, or it is off their radars altogether. These places are more concerned with focusing on what is happening locally.
That being said, NYC Restaurant Week goes on for another two weeks, through February 10. It’s a great opportunity to head into the city, or another Brooklyn neighborhood, and experience some fancy grub at a discounted price. Don’t forget to tip!
Cover image: Maite by Michael Tulipan