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Eat up: Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week returns

An Indian fried chicken sandwich with lemon tahini sauce, red onions, cucumbers and argula is on Tonic Seafood and Steaks' lunch menu.
An Indian fried chicken sandwich with lemon tahini sauce, red onions, cucumbers and argula is on Tonic Seafood and Steaks’ lunch menu.

When Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week debuted in 2014, it gave independent restaurants a chance to showcase their cuisine.

With only a few exceptions, most of the eateries have been locally owned and managed. 

Today, that mission has an increased emphasis. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on most restaurants, said Dan Butler, owner of Piccolina Toscana in Trolley Square, who helped start the first restaurant week.

Running from Oct. 12 to Oct. 22 this year, the promotion is a way to increase business during this challenging time. 

Eighteen restaurants are offering fixed-price (prix-fixe) meals. Lunch, if available, is $15; dinner is $35.

At Piccolina Toscana, for instance, you can have an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Selections include tuna tartare, all-day braised short rib over hand-rolled gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce and tiramisu. 

Although restaurant week just started, Andrea Sikora has seen a boost in sales at the restaurants she owns with her husband, Bryan. 

The couple’s participating restaurants include Crow Bar in Trolley Square, La Fia in downtown Wilmington and Hearth Kitchen in Kennett Square.

“So far, we’ve been busier this week than we have been normally at this time,” said Sikora. “It’s absolutely bringing people out.”

Some people don’t know about the promotion when they make reservations, but they decide to order the special when they see the menu, Butler said.

 It works both ways, however.

“From my experience doing restaurant week, most diners come for the prix-fixe menu but order off our regular menu,” said Dan Tagle, executive chef of Krazy Kat’s in Montchanin. “It opens new doors to customers that we haven’t had before.”

The catch is that Delaware has limited restaurants to 60% capacity to curb the coronavirus’s spread. 

“We can’t accommodate as many people as we normally would during restaurant week,” Sikora noted.

This year, guests can also order the special meals to go. Sikora’s restaurants, for instance, have added them to their online ordering platform. 

The promotion is presented by the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, the Delaware Tourism Office, the Wilmington mayor’s office, Mispillion River Brewing and Standard Distributing.

“Connecting with friends and family over a meal remains a top activity for visitors and residents alike,” said Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, in a press release. 

Butler, for one, is thrilled that the organizers brought the Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week back despite the pandemic. 

“You can still dine out safely. My goal with the promotion is to, in some way, call people back. ‘We get it. You need to feel safe.’ If you put your toe in and the water is fine, maybe you will go out to dinner again — safely.”

Paul Bouchard, managing partner of Tonic Seafood & Steak, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the promotion. “We felt it was important to join with the other restaurants and create some feeling of normalcy,” he said.

This year, the featured restaurants include Agave Mexican Cuisine, Bardea Food & Drink, BBC Tavern & Grill, Café Mezzanotte, Chelsea Tavern, Columbus Inn, Crow Bar. Cromwell’s American Tavern & Taqueria, Eclipse Bistro, Harry’s Savoy Grill, Hearth Kitchen, Krazy Kat’s, La Fia, Mikimitos, Piccolina Toscana, The Back Burner, Tonic Seafood & Steak, and Walter’s Steakhouse.

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