The start of March brings the start of Dine Around Seattle. Now in its tenth year, Dine Around Seattle fetes the best of the Seattle dining scene for a whole month. Featuring $15 lunches and $30 dinners, more than 40 restaurants are proudly participating in what has become a Seattle tradition. Organizer Lissa Gruman shared her advice and reflections on Dine Around Seattle and this landmark anniversary.
What was the impetus for starting Dine Around Seattle 10 years ago?
It was right after 9-11 — March 2002 — to be exact, which meant the restaurants were really hurting, but, really, it was Richard Malia of Ponti Seafood Grill that wanted to do this, his vision, based on New York Restaurant Week. He wanted to bring restaurants together for a collaborative event, but we had tons of resistance, at first. That is why we started as 25 for $25. We could only convince 25 restaurants to participate, but it took off like mad once we launched. We always felt that one week alone would not be enough time to make an impression in this market.
How has Dine Around Seattle evolved since its inception?
I think Dine Around Seattle has built a brand that consumers know, trust, and anticipate. We have held to high standards over the years to deliver a fantastic experience, and the dining public believes our commitment to the promise.
The Seattle dining scene, like that of many other cities that aren’t New York, has really come into its own. What do you see as qualities that embody your city’s food culture?
Chef-driven menus, steadfast use of local and seasonal products, and a competitive scene in which chefs still remain supportive and collaborative with each other.
Do you have any restaurants that are new to the fold — and any that have been with you for all 10 years?
What’s your overarching mission each year — for diners and for restaurants?
We work to have restaurants use Dine Around Seattle as an opportunity to win over new guests and make the very most of their visit to your restaurant. You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this is a great way to make a great impression. For diners, it’s our hope that they’re not shy about talking to their server about the menu, what makes it special, and why you should choose the Dine Around Seattle menu over the regular offerings.
Any tips for diners seeking to make the most of this month-long celebration?