Chow Town

A lot goes into creating menus for Restaurant Week

Updated: 2014-01-22T14:57:04Z

By DAVE ECKERT

So, Kansas City is heavy into Restaurant Week at this point, and by all accounts, restaurants and diners are loving it.

I was out of town for the first three days, but I managed to hit a Restaurant Week lunch yesterday at Lidia’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There were three choices for the starter, four for the main course and a delicious “looking-sounding” dessert — a Banana Torta with Dulce de Leche and Vanilla Ice Cream.

I say delicious “looking-sounding” because I had to get into work, so I “gifted” my dessert to my lovely wife and daughter. Yeah, I know, it’s just the kind of guy I am.

Anyway, as I pondered the menu choices, I started thinking about how those choices came about? In other words, how they decide on the menu options for events like Restaurant Week, where they will be selling hundreds and hundreds of meals?

For answers, I went right to the source, to the executive chefs at some of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week.

From BRGR and Taco Republic, two of the fine establishments from Bread and Butter Concepts, George Atsangbe, who created the Restaurant Week menus for both eateries, said the menu items are picked for uniqueness from the restaurant’s current menu and selected to meet the price point requirement of the prix fixe menu. In other words, flavor and value.

Sounds like a common-sense approach to me.

“We want the customer to come away with a crave-able and memorable experience,” Atsangbe said. “The target is both the new and returning guest.”

At Lidia’s, I posed the same questions to General Manager Matt Green.

“We are fortunate to have a wealth of ideas from Lidia Bastianich. We tend to refer to her recipes first, and then put them in the context of the restaurant, tweaking as necessary,” Green told me. “Restaurant Week is also a great opportunity for Lidia’s chefs to try out some of their own ideas. Meeting the price point is just a matter of being creative.”

Obviously, Lidia’s wants customers, new or returning, to have a great meal and at a value price, but the charity aspect of Restaurant Week is important too.

“We want our customers to feel that they’ve participated in something larger in giving back to the community,” Green said.

Finally, from the recently rebranded Urban Table, another one of Bread and Butter’s restaurants, there was this from Executive Chef Brad Rieschick.

“Culinarily, we try to take familiar foods and update or modernize them so they really stand out. From a price standpoint, we try to balance operational costs with the best value for our customers,” Rieschick said.

“Eating out should be an experience. We try to make every visit memorable, from the food to the service. We want to stay loyal to our regulars, which is why we kept our most popular menu items for brunch and dinner. But creatively, we want to keep pushing ourselves to be the best restaurant in Kansas City,” Rieschick said.

He also appreciates the charitable aspect, saying he loves working in an industry, specifically at a restaurant, that believes in giving back to the community.

Last year, Restaurant Week raised some $175,000. With $15 lunches and $33 dinners, that’s a lot of people giving back and a lot of folks leaving with full stomachs.

I can’t wait to do more of both.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.

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