Sunday, August 20, 2006

Restaurant Week

I participated in Restaurant Week on Friday night. Restaurant Week is held twice each year in Washington, D.C. For two weeks each year, restaurants in the area offer a three-course lunch for $20.06 and a three-course dinner for $30.06. The meal can be quite a bargain given the regular prices of the menu items at many participating restaurants.

I made my reservation at Kinkaed's Restaurant weeks ago, knowing that the tables at this expensive restaurant would be reserved quite quickly once the dates for Restaurant Week were announced. I was excited. I had perused the restaurant's menu several different times, wondering what selections I would make for my appetizer, entree and dessert. I double checked the availability of other restaurants in an effort to make sure that Kinkaed's was the place I wanted to go. I grew more excited as the day for my dinner at Kinkaed's approached.

Finally, Friday night arrived. Craig and I entered the doors of the restaurant at 8:00, the appointed time for our reservation. We were greeted by a hostess and taken upstairs where we were seated at a corner table. The restaurant was not full but rather empty. I asked the waiter why since the reservation system said it was full. The waiter quickly explained how most dinners at Kinkaed's last two and a half hours. "Not so during restaurant week, however. People want to come in and spend their $30.06 and leave." He then laughed and walked off after filling my glass with water.

I looked around and realized that most of the people in the restaurant were probably a lot like us. They were not the typical Kinkaed's crowd -- the kind of people who are willing to drop several $100 bills on dinner. For most in the room, the experience of dining in Kinkaed's was a rare opportunity. I love people watching, and I continued to observe the people around me.

Soon, a table of four was filled with a husband and wife, and two young adult children. The man opened his menu within a few moments of being seated only to realize that the menu was not several pages long but instead rather brief. He asked his server about the change, and she said, "It's restaurant week." The man said, "What?" and she continued to explain how restaurant week gives people the opportunity to come in and enjoy a meal for $30.06. The man then asked, "Does this mean I am surrounded by trash tonight? Does all the trash come in during this week?" Sadly, the server laughed at his joke and looked as if she was almost nodding her head in agreement.

It's been a while since I have been referred to as "trash." Craig and I were splurging when we spent $60.06 on one dinner. We can eat for an entire two weeks on $60. Needless to say, I was appalled. I wish I would have gone over and introduced myself to the man, letting him know how much he offended me. I resisted, however. Still, I cannot stop thinking about his comment.

Without a doubt dozens of people splurged last week when they shelled out $20.06 for lunch and $30.06 for dinner. Many people treated themselves to meals they do not normally consume.

I treated myself to a dose of reality.

There are always some people who believe that they are worth more than others. There are always individuals who believe that wealth can buy them whatever they want -- including more respect than individuals with less money. The man who came to Kinkaed's with the expectation of spending several hundred dollars lost my respect in a heartbeat. The woman serving him lost my respect as well. And I even disappointed myself.

My experience with Restaurant Week was like a little girl dressing up in her mother's clothes. I wanted to "try on" the good life -- the life of being served a salmon appetizer and a grilled swordfish entree -- in a fancy restaurant that was really too much for me.

Next time I'll stick with Chipotle.

In the meantime, I am praying for all of the "trash" like me, and for those with eyes who cannot see how much good they could do if they spent the money they are trashing on extravagant meals on ensuring that every stomach in this city has a little food in it. They need not share the salmon and the swordfish. A little bread, some peanut butter and a banana would be a good place to start.

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