All hail: restaurant week is upon us

Courtesy Ilili
Ilili Restaurant, New York City

Food critic Ruth Reichl once said "restaurants free us from mundane reality; that is part of their charm. When you walk through the door, you are entering neutral territory where you are free to be whoever you choose for the duration of the meal." And this is the perfect week to celebrate that sentiment.

Yes, it's official: Restaurant week is upon us. A week (well, actually weeks) dedicated to food, indulgence and a dash of gluttony, and it's sending foodies and food lovers scurrying to book the best reservations. This week, restaurants in New York, L.A., and Toronto offer set menus designed to get you out of hibernation and sampling some of the best dishes in these cities. The best part? A three-course meal comes with a price tag that won't leave you penniless.

Participating restaurants in all three cities offer pre-fixe, three-course lunch and dinner specials at bargain basement prices—dinner at New York restaurant Ilili, for example, goes for just $35 whereas ordinarily dinner can cost upwards of $60 (note: prix-fixe prices exclude alcohol, tax, and gratuity). Reservations are almost always a must, so call to book in advance or visit (especially in New York). Consider booking reservations during off-times (e.g., 6pm or after 9pm) to ensure you get a chance to dine at your restaurant of choice.

Here are my personal recommendations for restaurants in each city. If only I could visit them all…


New York's Ilili is the perfect escape from the dwindling temperatures. It blends traditional Lebanese food with modern Mediterranean influences, and offers an extensive wine list that includes wines from around the world. Sample Arak, an anise-based liquor with peppermint undertones, and dig into a feast of veal sweetbreads, date braised beef, and more.

Ilili, 236 5th Ave, New York NY, 212/683-2929,

Slip into Toronto's Southern Accent, located in the heart of Mirvish Village, for home-cooked Cajun food that will leave you wishing you had booked that flight to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Not only does the Winterlicious menu feature restaurant favorite Canal Street Creole Jumbalaya, it also offers Cajun Turducken (you know, that venerable nestled roast of your favorite birds).

Southern Accent, 595 Markham Street, Toronto ON, 416/536-3211,

One of L.A.'s most romantic restaurants, The Little Door in West Hollywood offers rustic European fare with a focus on seasonal and healthy ingredients. The concept of the restaurant is simple: to provide a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of LA. Perfect for scoring a three-course meal with a loved one; after all it is the most romantic place around.

The Little Door, 8164 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA, 323/951-1210,

The finer details:

- New York's Restaurant Week takes place January 24-February 6 and offers 3-course, pre-fixe lunch specials for $24.07, and dinners for $35.

- Toronto's "Winterlicious" takes place January 28-Feb. 10 takes place Jan. 28-Feb. 10 and offers 3-course prix fixe menus for lunches ($15, $20, $25), and dinners ($25, $35, or $45).

- DineLA's Restaurant Week takes place Jan. 23-28, and Jan 30-Feb.4, and offers 3-course menus for lunches ($16, $22, or $28), and dinners ($26, $34, $44).

—Madeline Grimes


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