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It's Restaurant Week, But No Free Lunch

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Restaurant Week is upon us and there are deals to be found in restaurants across the metro area.

In the kitchen at Zola - an upscale restaurant in Chinatown - sous chef Greg Lloyd works on a Beurre Blanc Sauce. Zola is one of over two hundred restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. It's a biennial event where restaurants show off their best while slashing their prices: $20 for lunch, $35 for dinner.

Dan Mesches owns Zola. He helped start Restaurant Week. "For people that either you're on a tight budget or you wanna go to a place and weren't quite sure and you didn't want to spend the money before, it gives them that opportunity."

Mesches says Restaurant Week has its roots in, of all things, 9/11 when D.C.'s restaurant industry was brought to it's knees. He says it was like an economic Ground Zero.
The initial 2001 promotion was successful - D.C.'s Tourism Office says business more than doubled for a lot of places. Restaurant Week went from around 75 restaurants in 2001 to over 200 today.

Across town, at Bistro Francais in Georgetown, owner Gerard Cabrol looks over an aromatic bowl of fresh ceviche. Ceviche is one of the things he's cooked up for Restaurant Week - also duck breast and leg of lamb. Cabrol is proud of his menu, but isn't really sure that Restaurant week is worth the cost anymore because so many restaurants participate.

"[Years ago] it used to be busy, very full! But at that time there weren't hundreds of restaurants participating." These days, he says it's a gamble. "You don't know if you win or lose, but you do it anyway. I'll let you know if it was worth it. . . so far.. no. "

Todd Kliman is food editor of Washingtonian Magazine. He says Restaurant Week should be something special, and not necessarily about the bottom line. "This is where Restaurants are put on the spot and are asked to put on a show." So, he says, look for the best deal for the best menu and make it a Gastronomical experience.

Sabri Ben-Achour reports...

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