When the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association four years ago launched Charleston Restaurant Week, diners had one choice (in addition to the perennial decision between crème brulee and chocolate cake for dessert): $20 or $30.
The association later relaxed its rules, creating a $40 category for higher-end restaurants that couldn't pull off three courses at a cheaper price. This year, though, the group has gone even further, eliminating the tiered system entirely.
"Restaurants will have the opportunity to create their own specially-priced menus," a press release announcing the Sept. 3-Sept. 14 event explains.
The vast majority of menus posted thus far adhere to the established prix-fixe format, but a few restaurants are apparently venturing beyond the typical three courses for $20, $30 or $40, plus drinks, tax and gratuity.
At Indaco, for example, a meal of corn sformato, roasted chicken and almond budino costs $35; Perhaps you'd prefer the grouper to start, or carbonara as a main course. The criminally-underrated Heart Woodfire Kitchen is exercising even more creativity, charging $30 for four courses, including a booze course featuring a selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
The Islander is taking a similar tack, allowing guests to substitute a glass of Cabernet or Pinot Grigio for the appetizer or dessert course on the $30 menu. Considering the significance of drink to the city's restaurant scene, it would be fun to see even more beverages flaunted during Restaurant Week: I'd gladly pay $20 for three interesting mini-cocktails.
More than 110 restaurants are participating in Charleston Restaurant Week, including a number of restaurants that weren't around for the last installment in January. In addition to The Islander, newcomers include Aya Cookhouse (three courses for $30); The Drawing Room (three courses for $40); and Union Provisions, which hadn't released its menu at press time.
Reservations at high-profile restaurants go quickly, so if you're planning to dine out, don't dally. For more information, visit charlestonrestaurantassociation.com, or download the Charleston Restaurant Association app.
And for a closer look at a few of the dishes listed on Restaurant Week menus (and my recommendations), check out The Post and Courier food section on Wednesday, Sept. 3.