OpenTable is thrilled to partner with The Golden Gate Restaurant Association for the inaugural San Francisco Restaurant Week. Formerly known as Dine About Town, the all-new San Francisco Restaurant Week will take place January 21-30 and feature offerings from more than 100 restaurants in 23 neighborhoods serving 24 different cuisines — with two exciting options.
The classic restaurant week prix-fixe menu goes into overdrive with one-of-a-kind $25 two-course lunches and $40 three-course dinners — plus added treats such as an amuse-bouche, a paired beverage, an after-meal takeaway, or other yummy extras. New participants include Bartlett Hall, Chino, and Le Marais Bakery and Bistro.
Available at select restaurants, chefs’ imaginations run wild with the special $85 discovery menu highlighting inspired food and beverage pairings. Hog & Rocks is partnering with High West Whiskey to feature a whiskey-themed dinner. Canela Bistro Bar will create a culinary tour through Spain with a special wine pairing. AQ Restaurant & Bar will offer a roots-themed tasting menu highlighting winter root vegetables set to music by The Roots. Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar will be serving signature beverages alongside a tasting menu and a seasonal produce-inspired dessert to end the night.
Our new restaurant site tells you everything you need to know about working with OpenTable, starting with an overview of our key solutions for running a restaurant: Guest Center, Payments, and Copilot insights, to name a few. You’ll also find customer success stories, an ROI calculator to help you measure success, and an introduction to the team behind the products and services. Existing customers can sign in to manage their accounts, too.
Plus, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new restaurant blog, Open for Business! Here, we’re turning our attention to the business behind “the business,” featuring tips, tricks, and fresh ideas from top restaurateurs, editors, and experts on how to run a restaurant successfully. Since we’re proud to partner with the best restaurants in the industry, we want to share their knowledge and expertise and start new conversations within this community — from hiring great staff and tracking food cost to building an international restaurant empire. Here’s what you’ll find:
* Ruth Reichl on What Restaurants Should Know About Food Critics (& How to Spot One): An interview with author and former restaurant critic Ruth Reichl about what makes great service, dealing with negative reviews, and how to spot a critic.
* How to Open a Restaurant, Part 1: Building a Brand Identity: Restaurant consultant Alison Arth has led 13 restaurant openings to date and is currently working with Gavin Kaysen’s team at Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. This is her first post in a 10-part series of best practices for launching a new concept.
This week, OpenTable announced the 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Restaurants in America. Perched atop the list is SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar, a revelation that surprised Ken Norcutt, chef-owner of the restaurant, but one which he chalks up to consistency in service, creativity of cuisine – and experience. Located in the tiny-yet-tony resort town of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, SeaBlue has been open for a decade. Norcutt is a lifelong restaurant professional. He says, “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old, doing one aspect or another, from busboy to server to bartender to working back of the house to doing banquets. I’ve always had two jobs, and a restaurant was always my second job.”
He began working behind the bar at SeaBlue in 2007, and by the next year, he had purchased the restaurant, revamping its concept and energizing its wine and cocktail programs; the wine list recently earned a 2014 Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence. Initially, SeaBlue served tapas-style cuisine, with a shallow menu of just 10 items or so. Norcutt wanted to up SeaBlue’s game, and so he upped the menu, greatly expanding it with an array of USDA prime steaks and wagyu cuts. He also serves seafood, with a strong emphasis on local product. New in the past year are oysters. Norcutt estimates he shucked almost 20,000 this season. They are sourced from Virginia – pungoteagues and olde salts – and North Carolina and are complemented with seasonal mignonettes and savory sorbets. “I also do an oysters Rockefeller with applewood smoked bacon, braised spinach, a little panko, and a béarnaise aioli on top, and they’ve been very popular. I think most of my regulars say it’s the best oysters Rockefeller they’ve ever had,” says Norcutt.
Like most of this year’s other Diners Choice Award-winning restaurants, SeaBlue has embraced the artisanal cheese boom, serving a cheese course selected from a rotating inventory of 20 wheels of carefully curated cheeses from around the world that are aged in house. The artful plates, which are accompanied by jams, jellies, nuts, local honeys, and aged vinegar gastriques, have drawn recent attention from Cheese Connoisseur magazine. Norcutt’s latest cheese crush is Shropshire. Made from cow’s milk, Shropshire is semi-soft and similar to Stilton despite its orange-y hue. “It really stands out on the plate – and it’s the perfect blend of the saltiness of a blue cheese and the sharpness of a cheddar. And, we balance that all out by serving it with fig vincotto,” he notes.
North Myrtle Beach has, according to Norcutt, just 15,000 or so permanent residents, but in tourist season, that number swells considerably as 15 million visitors swarm the small beach town. He observes, “Historically, the emphasis in Myrtle Beach dining has been about buffets and chains, and that’s what has allowed SeaBlue to stand out. It is one of only about four or five restaurants that are really trying to change the scene and source from local farms as much as possible.” As the area grows in popularity as a vacation destination, its food culture is growing, too. “There’s a climate change here when it comes to the culinary scene. You’re seeing the buffets and the feeding troughs closing and these new places, like Fire & Smoke gastropub, opening.”
In a field of more than 20,000 restaurants, Norcutt was shocked and elated to find his establishment in the top spot. “When [OpenTable account manager] Page Stokes emailed me last Friday, I think I cried a little bit,” he admits. “We were just hoping to get into the top 100 again this year. And when she said we were the number one restaurant, I was speechless. I’m so glad people reviewed us and said how much they enjoy it here. We’re just a small little restaurant in a small little town; we do what we do and hope everything falls into place. It’s such an honor to be in the company on that list.”