The OpenTable Blog

August Restaurant Weeks: Where to Dine for Less

Blog August Restaurant Weeks Casa Lever copyAugust is almost upon us — bringing with it even more summer restaurant weeks. We’ve rounded up where to dine for less in the coming month!

* Baltimore Restaurant Week lets you dine out more in B’more with $15 lunches and $20 + $30 dinners through August 2. Book a table.

* Howard County Restaurant Week has local flavor at fabulous prix-fixe prices through August 3. Book a table.

* New York City Restaurant Week has $25 lunches + $38 dinners at more than 300 restaurants, including Casa Lever (which will be offering its red beet tortelli with ricotta, spring English peas, Pecorino fondue, and raspberry-pickled red pearl onion, pictured), through August 14. Book a table.

* Hudson Restaurant Week brings $13 and up lunches + $25 and up dinners through August 7. Book a table.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week is cooking up $15.15, $25.15, $35.15 lunches + dinners, July 31-August 15. Book a table.

* COOLinary New Orleans has delicious two- or three-course lunches for $20 or less, three-course dinners for $39 or less, and all-new $39 or less prix-fixe brunches, August 1-31. Book a table.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks stretch for five delicious weeks of $20 lunches, $25 brunches, and $35 + $45 dinners, from August 1-September 7. Book a table.

* Miami Spice has sweet dining deals with $23 lunches + $39 dinners, August 1-September 30. Book a table.

* Center City District Restaurant Week in Philadelphia starts soon. Don’t miss $20 lunches + $35 dinners, August 2-14. Book a table.

* Downtown St. Louis Restaurant Week is your gateway to $25 dinners, August 3-9. Book a table.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week invites you to dine on three-course prix-fixe meals + $20.15 specialties, August 10-16. Book a table.Continue Reading

Nine Boozy Milkshakes to Blow Your Mind (and Freeze Your Brain)

Staying breezy and buzzy in the summertime can be difficult. Luckily, someone had the frankly brilliant idea of combining ice cream and booze to create milkshakes and floats for the over-21 set. Whoever thought of that should be given a Nobel. Or at the very least a James Beard Award. Now you can cool down as you drink up these sweet, spirituous swigs. Without further ado, here are nine boozy milkshakes that are guaranteed to blow your mind and freeze your brain.

Ted’s Bulletin – 14th Street, Washington, D.C.
Choose from one of the classic combos – such as Irish Caramel (vanilla ice cream, freshly brewed coffee and Irish Cream) or grasshopper (vanilla ice cream, Kahlúa, and crème de menthe) – or mix and match your favorite flavors. We’re partial to a PB&J&JB (peanut butter and jelly and Jim Beam), though the Millionaire Malt made with 18-year-old Glenlivet is a worthy indulgence.

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Saltwood Charcuterie & Bar, Atlanta, Georgia
You might think you hear a banjo playing if you order this spiked sipper. A few orbs of vanilla moonshine ice cream are dropped into a mason jar mug full of frosty Coke. Consider it deliverance from the usual boring old floats.

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STK Midtown, New York, New York
We believe that doughnuts make everything better. Case in point is this milkshake forged out of cinnamon liqueur and dulce de leche ice cream, which comes with a petite pail brimming with cinnamon sugar-dusted churro bites.

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Heavy Seas Alehouse, Arlington, Virginia
Beer is awesome. So is ice cream. Therefore, a beer float is totally awesome. There are five options, but our favorite is the Peg Leg float featuring the alehouse’s own imperial stout, a couple of generous scoops of vanilla ice cream, and a splash of Coke to add a little sweetness. [Photo by Laura Hayes]

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CUT by Wolfgang Puck at The Beverly Wilshire, Los Angeles, California
Studies have shown that regularly eating dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease. But what if you consume that dark chocolate in the form of a milkshake amped up with Buffalo Trace bourbon and coronated with plenty of sweet cream? Who cares? We’re drinking it anyway.

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How to Dine Like a Restaurant Critic #hackdining

How to Dine Like a Restaurant CriticSo, let’s get this out of the way. Being a restaurant critic can be pretty hard work. You can put away the tiny violins, and let’s pause for the laughter to die down.

Yes, of course, it’s terrific fun, and you sometimes want to pinch yourself for actually getting paid to dine, but the responsibility of a restaurant critic, in fact, goes well beyond just chomping down a meal and writing something about it. The point is, a thoughtful critic is mindful of the fact that he/she is ultimately passing judgment on some else’s hard work and recognizes the impact their verdict can ultimately have. This is no small responsibility. A good review can help launch a successful restaurant; a bad one, though, can be devastating. It’s not something to take lightly.

Following are eight tips for how to dine like a restaurant critic on a review.

1. Choose wisely. Ideally, you want to pick a restaurant that takes you out of your comfort zone. Don’t go to a place you’ve already been to a million times. Try something new, so you can approach the experience with a fresh point of view. Among the options you might consider: type of cuisine, price point, location, innovative formats (e.g. Japanese-Jewish fusion? Dessert only?), as well as the presence of a celebrity chef.
Advice: Be adventurous with your restaurant reservations.

2. Do your homework. If you’re tackling a cuisine that’s new to you, a bit of research about culture, ingredients, and preparations can go a long way and make for a much richer experience. This can help you gain a better sense of what some of the must-try dishes are and provide you more confidence when ordering. Also, if there are specialties that require advance notice (e.g. Peking Duck, suckling pig), better to know before you get there.
Advice: Read up on the restaurant and the style of cooking before you go.

3. Allow the restaurant a grace period. While it’s tempting to want to evaluate a new place right away, you typically want to give the kitchen a bit of time to get its sea legs. In theory, a restaurant should be fully ready for customers from the day it opens its doors to customers. In reality, it can often take time to properly train a newly staffed kitchen, iron out wrinkles in service, and refine dishes.
Advice: Do yourself (and the restaurant) a favor, and wait three to six weeks post-opening for the dust to settle.

4. Use discretion. A critic — whether a blogger or a writer for a major publication — should function as an advocate for the “everyman.” I literally imagine myself as a stand-in for my readers. When dining for a review, you ought to receive the same treatment as anyone else in order get and to give a fair and balanced assessment of the occasion. It certainly can be nice to get VIP treatment, but that doesn’t likely mirror what the typical diner will experience.
Advice: Don’t announce that you are writing a review, and never ask for free food in exchange for a review. That pretty much disqualifies your ability to be impartial.Continue Reading

Hot Dog Day: A Dozen Delicious Must-Try Haute Dogs #nationalhotdogday

The hot dog is America’s unofficial summertime dish. Whether you’re grilling by the pool, out in the wilderness on a camping trip, or enjoying a baseball game, it’s almost certain some franks will be involved. But as we know, not all weenies are created equal. Chefs are now taking the humble hot dog to a whole new level by handcrafting every component – from the link and the bun to every type of condiment and topping imaginable. In honor of National Hot Dog Day, we present a dozen delicious must-try haute dogs from top restaurants.

The Arsenal at Bluejacket, Washington, D.C.
You might feel like you’re hanging out with your Polish relatives. Executive chef Kyle Bailey fires up kielbasa on his outdoor grill, then tops it with plenty of red peppers and onions. As your uncle Piotr is fond of saying, “To jest pyszne” (Translation: That’s delicious). [Photo by Marissa Bialecki]

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Bouchon, Beverly Hills, California
We love pretzel buns so much we’ve been known to compose haikus to them (Sample: Pretzel untwisted/Chewy, salt flecked brilliance/Tastes best with mustard). Here one of the brown rolls holds a prime chuck, apple wood-smoked hot dog crowned with cornichon relish and Dijonnaise sauce.

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Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C.
This ain’t your average hot dog. Executive chef Joe Palma handcrafts this showboat from A5 Wagyu and pork, and then finishes it off with mustard, relish, and a side of duck fat fries. Simply glorious.

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DBGB, New York, New York
This hot dog has a French accent. A housemade beef frank is shoehorned into a brioche bun then topped with sautéed onion, julienne radish, frisée, and pickled veggies. We say, “Oui, oui!”

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Del Campo, Washington, D.C.
Chef-owner Victor Albisu puts his spin on the choripán, a South American street food classic. His version features a spicy chorizo link loaded up with pulled pork, red cabbage slaw, and sweet pickle salsa criolla. It’s best enjoyed with a glass of the smoked pineapple-laced pisco punch. [Photo by Greg Powers]

Charred food

Dirt Candy, New York City
There’s no mystery meat in these broccoli dogs. Two of the verdant stalks are smoked, grilled, and quickly sautéed before they’re tucked into toasted buns. Condiments include broccoli kraut, mustard-vinegar sauce, and micro broccoli. Eat both and you’ve just consumed 800% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Seriously.

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