A couple of weeks ago, Marquette’s third annual Eastside Originals Restaurant Week – known simply as “Restaurant Week” in these parts – went off without a hitch. In what’s quickly becoming an annual tradition for Marquette County residents, not to mention a rite of passage for local restaurant owners, 15 eateries posted mouthwatering specials for the week of March 9-15. Grills sizzled, drinks flowed, and turnout was brisk. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s Restaurant Week – and, while we’re at it, look ahead to next year’s event.
We’d love to claim it as our own, but Restaurant Week isn’t a Marquette original. The trend has been sweeping the county for several years, in fact, and many cities – from college towns like Ann Arbor to metropolises like Chicago – now sponsor city-wide or neighborhood-specific Restaurant Week celebrations. Although these events are great for tourism, they’re even better at enticing busy locals to get out of their houses and avail themselves of the talented cooks and quality ingredients in their own backyards.
Marquette might not have the culinary bounty of, say, Chicago, but it’s clearly the Central U.P.’s top destination for foodies. As Eastside Originals notes, one of the best things about Restaurant Week is its sheer variety: Hungry explorers can sample everything from fine dining (Elizabeth’s Chop House and Das Steinhaus, to name but two local treasures) to “pub grub” (Stucko’s Pub and Grill) and no-frills sandwiches (Togo’s, a true “Eastside Original).
According to Michelle Cook, the Landmark Inn’s Director of Sales/Marketing (and the point person for Restaurant Week), the Eastside’s independently owned and operated restaurants – of which there are currently about two dozen, including the 15 that participated in this year’s event – “all work together to provide a wide variety of culinary opportunities for foodies to enjoy.” That’s an understatement. With Facebook promotions, sidewalk boards and window posters galore, the establishments that threw their hats into the ring this year couldn’t have been prouder of their participation. Ultimately, says Cook, the goal is to “encourage diners to forge a self-guided foodie tour and savor our local flavors.”
How does one go about doing this, either during next year’s Restaurant Week or on their own time?
Eastside Originals members generally occupy space in downtown Marquette or along the Third Street corridor, which is affectionately known as “the Village.” Over the course of several delicious days, diners can start at Marquette Baking Company on Baraga Street and make their way to Washington Street, where local favorites like Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery, Doncker’s Restaurant and the Wild Rover share space on the same block. Just up the Front Street hill, Das Steinhaus and the two Landmark restaurants – Northland Pub and Capers – beckon diners who love elevated pub fare, fine wine and craft beer. At the top of the hill, Third Street stretches for several blocks, eventually terminating at the Superior Dome; follow it from lunch favorites like Third Street Bagel and Sweet Basil to ethnic eateries like Vango’s and Thai House.
All of these places – and all the others that didn’t get a mention above – are worth a visit, even when they’re not offering steep discounts on special menu items. But it wouldn’t be Restaurant Week, of course, without those discounts. For the seven-day period, most of the participating restaurants offered two special menus: a selection of $10 lunch entrees and a $25 dinner deal/multi-course meal. These varied wildly; Togo’s dinner was a 4-for-$25 sandwich special, which basically amounted to an all-you-can-eat deal, while Elizabeth’s offered a $25 three-course meal that featured asparagus tempura, orange-chipotle pork chops, cedar-planked whitefish and a six-ounce tenderloin, among other mouthwatering options. Over at Caper’s, diners could choose from steamed mussels, herb-encrusted whitefish (a Marquette favorite) or delicate lollipop lamb chops.
Hungry yet? If you missed this year’s Eastside Originals Restaurant Week, don’t fret. You’ll have another chance to grab deep discounts at some of Marquette’s finest restaurants next March. Stay tuned for exact dates and a list of participating eateries!