COLUMBIA, SC — Eleven days of dining known as Restaurant Week begins Thursday in South Carolina with hundreds of businesses across the state slated to participate.
Since 2009, the state hospitality industry has highlighted the annual event as a means of promoting tourism, the state’s top industry, by concentrating on the Palmetto State’s diverse food selection.
This year, the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association has completed the circle by including hotels in the mix, and thus promoting the state as a destination to enjoy good food and then spend the night.
Restaurant Week is a promotion designed to encourage people to come out and dine in their local communities, according to Pollen Williamson, South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association spokeswoman.
When that happens, patrons get a treat, usually at a discounted price, she said, and restaurants are sustained.
“They tend to love it,” Williamson said, referring to restaurant owners across the state.
Participation in this year’s event is expected to be on par with previous years, she said.
Spotlighting the state’s hospitality industry during January’s typically slow, post-holiday period provides an extra revenue resource for the restaurants, and now, hopefully for the hotels, too, Williamson said.
Restaurants located outside of Columbia pay a participation fee, which goes toward marketing purchases to provide publicity for the event.
Restaurant owners said business generally picks up during the celebration.
“It’s designed for people to just get out and enjoy and try other restaurants that maybe they hadn’t gone to yet,” said owning manager D’Ann Valsecchi, of Ristorante Divino in Columbia.
The restaurant, which specializes in authentic Northern Italian cuisine such as rack of lamb, filet, and duck, plus lots of fresh pasta with fresh seafood, such as Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, with a Pinot Grigio broth, is among dozens that already have posted special Restaurant Week menus to restaurantweeksouthcarolina.com for the public to plan their meals.
Located at 803 Gervais St., Ristorante Divino features several selections of an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert during Restaurant Week for $33 per person.
Another Columbia restaurant participating in this year’s event, Gervais & Vine Restaurant, offers a three course meal for two people for $29 per couple.
Located at 620-A Gervais St., the restaurant features a Mediterranean cuisine. Their Restaurant Week menu includes a cup of their soup of the day, fruit and cheese plate or other appetizer offerings, a second course that could include prosciutto roasted tomato and mozzarella stuffed mushrooms or other selections, followed by a main course selection of South Carolina shrimp & grits or duck confit. That can be topped off with a bottle of red or white house wine and a shared dessert for $19 more.
Diners this year also will have some new high-profile options on the menu, as newly opened Cola’s and Oak Table participate.
Cola’s opened in June at 1215 Assembly St. by the owners of Garibaldi’s, a longtime dining establishment in Five Points. It serves American cuisine with a full bar. And Oak Table opened in September at 1221 Main St. It was Charleston’s Indigo Road Restaurant Group’s first venture outside the Lowcountry and serves a mix of fresh seafood and steakhouse classics.
Newer restaurants often are particularly enthusiastic about Restaurant Week, Williamson said, because as customers are drawn in to experience their fare at discounted prices during the event, they also see the restaurant’s regular menu and can get an idea of their daily fare.
“It helps give their restaurants some presence,” Williamson said, “which I know is important both to them and their bottom line.”