Well more than 100 restaurants — 140, at last count — will participate in Las Vegas Restaurant Week from Friday through Aug. 28, with special menus, discounted prices and a major boost to the budget of Three Square food bank.
Restaurant Week not only serves as a way for local restaurants, residents and visitors to help feed the hungry through the services of Three Square, it enables food lovers to try restaurants they might not ordinarily.
“The value is obvious,” said Jean-Pierre Francois, general manager of Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace. “You’re getting a memorable meal for a truly great cause.”
Francois is somewhat of an authority on the biannual fundraiser, since Mesa Grill has been the top donor five times in a row. He said that’s partly because the restaurant has been donating at the top level, but Three Square said Mesa Grill also has sold the most Restaurant Week meals.
Asked about grumblings that the event isn’t a good value for customers because the menus aren’t up to a restaurant’s usual standards, Francois said that’s not the case, at least at his restaurant, which is among those helmed by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
“I think that’s part of our success, is we don’t go down that avenue,” he said. “The dishes that Bobby’s known for are on our menu. We absolutely have people who come in every year for the menu. I think we get a big local following. The phone calls start coming in, our guests start asking our servers. They know.”
Francois estimated that the restaurant’s average dinner check per person normally is $65 or $70.
“We’re trying to give them the same great products and ingredients at $50” during Restaurant Week, he said.
Actually, that’s $50.14 for dinner, $30.14 for lunch (menus are available at some restaurants for as low as $20.14). At Mesa Grill, lunch starts with a choice of roasted corn soup, Sophie’s Chopped Salad or a blue corn pancake with barbecued duck, followed by a choice of smoked shrimp tacos, New Mexican spiced pork tenderloin sandwich or spicy chicken and sweet potato hash, with dessert the chef’s choice. At dinner, it’s a choice of Sophie’s Chopped Salad, tiger shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale or Yucatan chicken skewers, followed by a choice of ancho chile-honey-glazed salmon, New Mexican spice-rubbed pork tenderloin or Black Angus New York strip steak and a chef’s choice dessert.
A directory of participating restaurants, along with their menus and donation levels, is available at www.HelpOutDineOutLV.org. They include neighborhood spots, upscale Strip restaurants and representatives of some of the country’s better chains.
And for the first time, a Pahrump restaurant is participating. Stockman’s Steakhouse at the Pahrump Nugget is offering dinner menus at three levels — $30.14, $40.14 or $50.14. They all start with a choice of house salad or French onion soup and end with a choice or raspberry or chocolate tart (both with ice cream), but the entrees are chicken breast with wild rice and vegetables on the low end, filet mignon with potato and vegetable on the high end and cedar plank teriyaki salmon with wild rice and vegetable in between.
Restaurant Week kicks off with an event from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Grill. Tickets are $75, with all proceeds going to Three Square. For tickets, call 702-731-7778.
Since its birth in 2007, Las Vegas Restaurant Week has raised more than $850,000 for Three Square, helping to provide more than 2.5 million meals to more than 340,000 people in Southern Nevada.
“Part of what we’re so proud of is we’ve been with Three Square since 2009,” Francois said. “I think that charity and philanthropy have always been our civic duties. We’ve always thought that giving back is really important.
“It’s just fun for us. It’s exciting. It’s a great program. The staff buys into it and the guests appreciate that we put out a great menu — not something that’s not going to be interesting, but something that really typifies the uniqueness of Bobby’s cuisine and our brand.”
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0474.