Two local chefs this year have an alternative to the annual Chicago Restaurant Week.
Phillip Foss and Shin Thompson are hosting a joint feast Feb. 21 and calling it the Anti-Restaurant Week Dinner, but they say they aren’t necessarily against the annual 10-day event designed to entice new diners with discounted menus.
“Restaurant Week was always a great means to build revenue during a generally slow time of the year,” said Foss, who serves elaborate multicourse meals at his restaurant El in Lawndale. “I definitely understand why restaurants participate in it.”
Foss previously took part in Chicago Restaurant Week while working for Loop restaurant Lockwood, but he didn’t always feel the event offered diners a true representation of a restaurant. “It was a cheap way for people to get a taste of the restaurant, but it didn’t feel ever indicative of who we were big-picture,” he said.
Foss connected with Thompson (pictured above), chef and owner of high-end BYOB restaurant Bonsoiree in Logan Square, through Twitter and decided to collaborate on the dinner event. The two chefs hammered out a plan for a 15-course, $150-per-person dinner, with seatings from 5-9:30 p.m. at Bonsoiree. The menu will include items such as a motoyaki scallop, lobster and togarashi-seasoned dish and a course involving crab, sunchokes, grapefruit and fennel. For a theme, Thompson suggested Anti-Restaurant Week.
With each of their restaurants offering elaborate tasting menus that start at $75-$100 per person, Thompson says it isn’t reasonable for him or Foss to offer the $33 prix-fixe deal that participation in Chicago Restaurant Week requires.
“We can fill the plates at that price—but don’t want customers to judge us on that [one] Restaurant Week meal,” Thompson said.
To encourage higher-end restaurants to participate, organizers added a $44 prix fixe option last year, according to the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau’s public relations director Meghan Risch. She says she doesn’t believe the joint El-Bonsoiree event adds any value to Chicago Restaurant Week.
“In this day and age, to do anything ‘anti’ is just nonsense,” Risch says.
More than 200 restaurants are participating in Chicago Restaurant Week. Foss and Thompson have sold out their alternative dinner and have 50 people on the waiting list.
Erin Brereton is a RedEye special contributor.