Dining deals are on the menu at 34 Naperville restaurants participating in the city's first Restaurant Week, which is set to begin Sunday, Feb. 16.
The program is designed to encourage area residents to eat at places they've never tried and to give them special menus and discounts to do so.
In the city's go big or don't go at all fashion, Dine Naperville's inaugural Naperville Restaurant Week will last longer than a week. It's longer than two weeks, in fact, running 16 days until March 3.
"We figured maybe one week just wasn't enough," said Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership, which promotes economic development in Naperville and is the parent organization of Dine Naperville.
"I think in Naperville, two weeks will probably be what we need to get people out to try a number of different establishments. Hopefully they'll find a new favorite or add to the list of restaurants they've tried citywide."
At restaurants, pubs, sandwich shops and a variety of Naperville eateries, either prefixed menus with several options for appetizers, entrees and desserts will be offered at a set price, or a discount of the restaurant's choosing will be available, Jeffries said.
Locations including Bricks Wood Fired Pizza & Cafe, Morton's Steakhouse, Neo Authentic Pizzeria, Bangkok Village, Quigley's Irish Pub and Jersey Mike's Subs show the variety of restaurants participating in another effort to market Naperville and its 260 restaurants.
"This was really the next step in our restaurant promotion activities," Jeffries said. "Everything from the high-end fine dining to the family-friendly restaurants and the carryout, they're all excited about promoting restaurant week in Naperville."
Ray Kinney, a Naperville businessman who leads the Dine Naperville committee, said he first pitched the idea to managers of Hugo's Frog Bar, Sullivan's Steakhouse and Catch 35, which all have locations in Chicago and participate in Chicago Restaurant Week.
With those establishments on board, Kinney invited all restaurateurs to a meeting and honed the idea of enticing diners with either a prefixed menu for a certain price or any deal the restaurant wants to offer.
"I eat a lot. I'm a big fan of Chicago Restaurant Week and I've been wanting to do this in Naperville," Kinney said. "The whole purpose is to get people to try a restaurant they have not tried before."
Participating restaurants and menus are listed at dinenaperville.com. No tickets are necessary to participate in Naperville Restaurant Week -- just ask for the restaurant week menu at establishments offering preset options, or show a printed or electronic copy of the coupon at restaurants offering deals, Jeffries said.
The timing of the first Restaurant Week promotion could give cooped-up suburbanites a reason to get out of the house and into a steakhouse, cantina, pizza place or Chinese restaurant, she said.
"Typically, February after Valentine's Day can be a slow period for restaurants, but it's that time of year when people are really ready to get out," Jeffries said. "It's been a long, cold winter, so we think Feb. 16 to March 3 is a perfect time to hold our restaurant week."
Restaurant Week will be a success if it brings new diners into Naperville's restaurants and builds excitement for more to participate next year in what's imagined as an annual event, Kinney said.
"It's anything we can do to encourage people to shop, eat, dine and drink local," he said.