To the Organizers of Restaurant Week:
Not that many years ago, I was a 22-year-old new college graduate, roaming the streets of New York City with little on me but a sure sense that I'd arrived in the food capitol of the world. The only problem was, during my first three months there I was making no money at my unpaid internship, and shortly after moved into a minimum wage gig selling cheese at a specialty foods counter. I settled into eating peanut butter sandwiches and gawking at the people and places of the food world I so idolized from a distance. That's all until Restaurant Week rolled around, of course.
An oversized Restaurant Week advertisement beckoned to me on my walk to work each morning--for the next two weeks (it really should have been called Restaurant Fortnight), I could eat a three course meal at 100+ world class restaurants for a nominal fee. The $30 ticket for lunch was surely still at the top of my starving artist budget, but for a millennial who moved to NYC for its food culture, it felt like I was being handed unlimited free passes to the premiere of the next big Hollywood movie. Suddenly, I had the means to dine at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Harlem, Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Junoon, and several of Top Chef host Tom Colicchio's hotspots, all thanks to Restaurant Week.
Similarly, when I moved to Minneapolis nearly four years ago, this time a little more cash in my pocket, I immediately became engrossed in the local food scene and found myself scouring the list of restaurants in the back of each issue of Mpls St. Paul Magazine to pinpoint my favorites. But when restaurant week rolled around every time for the last four years, I've found myself letting out little more than a sigh of disappointment.
Your website states that the Mpls St. Paul Restaurant Week was created "in an effort to connect Twin Cities food enthusiasts with the best in Twin Cities dining." I'm only left to wonder how exactly you define a "food enthusiast," as it's clearly not "a millennial." Tacos in Wayzata? A $35 fondue at The Melting Pot? A cookie as the third course at an otherwise-alluring place like Mercy? As a food enthusiast who dives in each day and believes strongly in the vibrancy and diversity of our food scene--with options like these--I'll take a hard pass on Restaurant Week and spend my $15 at countless places that will offer a more genuine experience.
As a millennial food enthusiast, I want Restaurant Week to provide me access to dining experiences I couldn't normally afford. Where is Spoon and Stable, Heyday, or 4 Bells? I want access to a new experiences at popular or award-winning restaurants. Why aren't Bachelor Farmer, Revival, or Cafe Alma on the list? I want exposure to long-standing establishments. Where's Mancini's, The Lexington or Gluek's? I'll even go out on a limb to say I want to eat a really great $15 lunch at under-exposed, affordable restaurants that are turning out authentic food every day. Where is Dilla's Ethiopian, Homi Mexican, or Trieu Chau Vietnamese? Surely I don't understand the finer points of actually piecing a Restaurant Week together, but if other cities can create a truly alluring experience, why can't we? A force as influential as Mpls St. Paul Magazine should take advantage of its pull to cater Restaurant Week toward an interested crowd like us millennials, create an experience that is both memorable and impactful, and one that is ultimately more profitable to all parties involved.
Let's keep the conversation going and do our part to make the food scene in Minneapolis/St. Paul more vibrant than ever.
With open ears,