If a pathetic peanut butter sandwich is your standard lunch, and dinner means pasta with sauce from a jar, consider trading up for a seafood salad or a lobster roll -- and topping it off with a slice of raspberry, pecan or key lime pie.
Sounds too good to be true? Not if you're having lunch at Shaw's Crab House in Schaumburg during Chicago Restaurant Week 2014.
Shaw's is one of 280 restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs taking part in Chicago Restaurant Week by offering prix fixe (fixed price) lunch and dinner menus, like the lunch menu above, with prices ranging from $22 for lunch to $33 or $44 for dinner.
The event runs Friday, Jan. 24, through Thursday, Feb. 6.
"Chicago Restaurant Week is a celebration of Chicago's amazing and diverse culinary community," said Meghan Risch of Choose Chicago, the city's sales and marketing organization that oversees the dining event. "Guests have the opportunity to experience a restaurant that perhaps they wouldn't otherwise, due to a higher price point."
An estimated 513,000 diners were served during last year's Restaurant Week, netting $26.9 million in direct dining spending, Risch said.
"With such a variety of participating restaurants and the incredibly affordable lunch and dinner prices, consider venturing out more than once -- girls' night, family night," Risch said. "During Chicago Restaurant Week, any reason is a great reason to explore Chicago's dynamic food offerings."
A list of restaurants is available at eatitupchicago.com. Reservations, which are recommended, can be made through that site or by calling restaurants directly.
Steven E. LaHaie, senior vice president for Shaw's Crab House, said his restaurants in Chicago and Schaumburg are offering both lunch and dinner this year, after a successful lunch-only run in last year's Restaurant Week.
"Restaurant Week is really a good value for our guests. We feature menu items that are very popular with diners -- our crab legs are our number-one selling item," LaHaie said.
Shaw's three-course dinner menu offers patrons clam chowder or a mixed greens salad, steamed Alaskan red king crab legs or steamed whole Maine lobster and a choice of dessert.
"Last year was so successful for us," LaHaie said. "We like to participate in the event for the community as a whole. We can offer our premiere items at such a good value."
Chef Cameron Grant will be whipping up everything from pan-roasted duck breast to a molten chocolate cake for the Chicago Restaurant Week dinner menu at Fresco 21 in Rosemont.
"Everything is cooked fresh, made in-house, and we are proud of the food we serve," Grant said.
Grant added that nearly every item on the Fresco 21 Restaurant Week menu can be made gluten-free for patrons with special diets. Only the gnocchi cannot be altered, but a gluten-free pasta can be substituted.
Basil's Greek Dining in Aurora is participating for the second year.
General manager Angelo Chresanthakes sees Restaurant Week as a way to take customers on "a journey of our menu."
""We believe in the concept," he said. "(We're) able to offer customers a value for our product."
The $22 three-course lunch, for example, gives diners the chance to try gyros, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and more. The two dinner options offer four courses for either $33 or $44. Depending on which menu you pick, entree choices range from traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita and pastichio to roast lamb shank and petite filet mignon. Desserts, meanwhile, include a walnut cake, chocolate-dipped baklava and "Crazy Greek Loukoumades" -- fried Greek dough, vanilla ice cream and a caramel walnut sauce blended with Bailey's Irish Cream.
"It's another way to introduce people to the restaurant," Chresanthakes said. "Food is fun."
Chicago Restaurant Week 2014 Suburban Participants
Note: Visit eatitupchicago.com for updates
Atwater's - Lunch/Dinner
15 S. River Lane, Geneva
(630) 208-7433, herringtoninn.com
Barbakoa - Dinner
1341 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove
(630) 852-2333 or barbakoa.com
Basils Greek Dining - Lunch/Dinner
4000 Fox Valley Center Drive, Aurora
(630) 692-1300, basilsgreekdining.com
Bistro Bordeaux - Dinner
618 Church St., Evanston
(847) 424-1483, lebistrobordeaux.com
The Capital Grille Lombard - Dinner
87 Yorktown Center, Lombard
(630) 627-9800, thecapitalgrille.com
The Capital Grille Rosemont - Lunch/Dinner
5340 N. River Road, Rosemont
(847) 671-8125, thecapitalgrille.com
Carlucci Restaurant - Dinner
1801 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove
(630) 512-0990, carluccirosemont.com
Catch 35 - Dinner
35 S. Washington St., Naperville
(630) 717-3500, catch35.com
Farmhouse Tavern - Lunch/Dinner
703 Church St., Evanston
(847) 492-9700 or farmhouseevanston.com
Fogo de Chao Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse - Dinner
5460 Park Place, Rosemont
(847) 678-7200, fogodechao.com
Fresco 21 - Dinner
5300 N. River Road, Rosemont
(847) 447-4275, fresco21.com
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks - Lunch/Dinner
• 3001 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook
(630) 571-3700, mccormickandschmicks.com
• 5320 N. River Road, Rosemont
(847) 233-3776, mccormickandschmicks.com
• 4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie
(847) 763-9811, mccormickandschmicks.com
Mon Ami Gabi - Lunch/Dinner
260 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook
(630) 472-1900, monamigabi.com
Morton's The Steakhouse - Dinner
• 699 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook
(847) 205-5111, mortons.com
• 9525 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont
(847) 678-5155, mortons.com
• 1470 McConnor Parkway, Schaumburg
(847) 413-8771, mortons.com
Oceanique Restaurant - Dinner
505 Main St., Evanston
(847) 864-3435 or oceanique.com
Quince Restaurant - Dinner
1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston
(847) 570-8400 or quincerestaurant.net
Ruth's Chris Steak House - Dinner
• 933 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook
(847) 498-6889, ruthschris.com
• 100 W. Higgins Road, South Barrington
(847) 551-3730, ruthschris.com
Sam and Harry's Steakhouse - Lunch/Dinner
1551 N. Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg
(847) 303-4050, samandharrys.com
Shaw's Crab House - Lunch/Dinner
1900 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg
(847) 517-2722, shawscrabhouse.com
Tokio Pub - Dinner
1900 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg
(847) 278-5181, tokiopub.com
Vie Restaurant - Dinner
4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs
(708) 246-2082, vierestaurant.com
Whitney's Cafe - Lunch/Dinner
9333 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn
(708) 229-8888, whitneyscafe.com
Wildfire - Lunch/Dinner
• 1300 Patriot Blvd., Glenview
(847) 657-6363, wildfirerestaurant.com
• 235 Parkway Drive, Lincolnshire
(847) 279-7900, wildfirerestaurant.com
• 232 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook
(630) 586-9000, wildfirerestaurant.com
• 1250 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg
(847) 995-0100, wildfirerestaurant.com