There's only a week until Charleston Restaurant Week, Sept. 7-18, when 85 (and counting) area restaurants offer special discounted menus. Here's a guide for getting your maximum satisfaction.

One-stop shopping

See all the participating restaurants at www.charlestonrestaurantassociation.com. Find links to those restaurants and many of the special menus being offered so you'll know before you go.

Know the basics

Get three menu items during restaurant week for $20, $30 or $40 depending on the type of restaurant.

Friends and food

We think food and drink tastes better in the company of good friends. Reconnect with folks you haven't seen face-to-face in a while and make the dinner an occasion.

Make reservations

Many of the restaurants offer online reservations, and you can link to them from the association's website. Or click on the restaurant's website for more information or to call for reservations.

Why wait until the weekends?

Likewise, weekdays are going to be less busy than weekends. Sundays through Tuesdays are usually restaurants' slowest days of the week, but we advise making reservations anyway if you can.

Avoid the rush

Crunch time for dinner service at many local restaurants is 7-8 p.m. with 7:30 p.m. being the peak. If you like a more leisurely pace, consider going earlier or later.

Something new, something old

Restaurant Week is a great chance to get out and try something new. Or to revisit a place you haven't been to in a long time.

Dish availability

Restaurant Week menus are subject to change based on the availability of ingredients. It's best to call first if you're wedded to a particular dish.

Higher tips

Be aware that restaurants may add a 20 percent gratuity to your bill during Restaurant Week, regardless of party size. Some tack on even more. Call ahead if that is a concern.

Share your stuff

Send photos of your favorite dishes and tell others about your best Restaurant Week experiences. Email those to food@postandcourier.com.