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Birmingham Restaurant Week comes back for another taste

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 23, 2012

BIRMINGHAM — The seventh annual Birmingham Restaurant Week kicks off Monday, Jan. 30. The two-week, sans weekends, event will once again give local food-lovers a chance to taste the best of what Birmingham’s culinary community has to offer.

“There’s a lot of restaurants downtown, and it’s great for the city to bring in more foot traffic,” said Tracy Wilson, general manager of Chen Chow Brasserie and Barrio Tacos & Tequila. “It’s going to showcase what Birmingham has to offer. There are so many great restaurants; we need to continue to bring people into the city.”

Both of the restaurants Wilson manages will participate in the event, along with 18 others in the city. Like in years past, each establishment will offer three-course dining options at fixed prices of $15 for lunch and $30 for dinner. Many chefs even create special menus for the event, according to John Heiney, executive director of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.

“For those who frequent these restaurants already, it gives them a chance to try different menus, and at a value price. For others, it gives them a chance to try the place out,” said Heiney.

Big Rock Chop House, on South Eton, participates in the event every year. General manager Vera Day Rizer said it’s all about seeing new faces in the dining room.

“It’s a nice promotion for this time of year. It brings in people that maybe haven’t been here before, and I think people after the holidays are always looking for a way to try new things but not spend a lot of money,” she said.

When asked how they’re able to prepare the featured meals at the fixed price, Rizer gives credit to Big Rock chef Brian Henson and his team.

“They can put their thinking cap on and create something that will be a showcase for the restaurant, meet the customer’s expectations, and stay within that price point.”

On the menu at Big Rock during Restaurant Week will be a butternut squash soup, red miso-glazed salmon with marinated seaweed salad, crisp spring rolls and ginger sauce, and a Red Velvet Passion Fruit Whoopie Pie.

Barrio Tacos & Tequila, which opened last summer, will be participating for the first time this year. For lunch, they’ll feature options like Ensalada de Naranja, chicken tortas, and a choice of flan or sopapillas for dessert. Wilson said that while Barrio is glad to be included in the promotion, it’s an even better deal for restaurants like Chen Chow, which have a higher priced menu.

“It brings people in from the suburbs that may not have had the chance to try our restaurant. Or, if our menu is out of their price point, it’s more of a deal for people who want to try our restaurant at a reduced rate,” said Wilson.

This year, Forgotten Harvest will be featured as the official charity partner for Restaurant Week. The campaign is called 5 Feeds 25, as a $5 donation will provide 25 meals for those in need. Since Christmas, participating eateries have had canisters set out to collect donations from patrons.

“We’re excited to partner with Forgotten Harvest. We got together with some of the participants of Restaurant Week, and they felt that it’s been such a success over the years and they wanted to give back,” said Heiney.

It’s been so much of a success, in fact, that in its first year, restaurants reported an average 25-30 percent increase in business. Birmingham Restaurant Week is the oldest event of its kind in metro Detroit, and has since inspired neighboring cities, including Detroit and Royal Oak, to hold similar promotions.

For a full list of places participating in Birmingham Restaurant Week and event menus, visit