Editor's note: For 2016's best and worst SF Restaurant Week deals, head here.
The artist formerly known as Dine About Town has been adopted by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and rebranded as SF Restaurant Week, meaning there are some changes in store for the week of prix-fixe menus intended to prop up local restaurants' business at a slow time of year. (It kicks off tomorrow, and runs through next Friday, January 30.) The good news is that a lot more restaurants are participating, with some offering new $85 "discovery menus" that include drink pairings; the bad news is that prices for the two-course lunches and three-course dinners have gone up a fair bit (from $19 to $25 and $37 to $40, respectively). Where should you spend your money this Restaurant Week? We crunched the numbers once again to find the six best and six worst deals going.
25 Lusk: Dinner at this mega-luxe spot in the heart of the SOMA tech corridor is typically a pricey affair, but they've managed to make their Restaurant Week menu a very affordable proposition. A blini with local caviar, duck with lingonberries, and a dessert would normally run a cool $68, so snagging that trio for $40 is a pretty significant $28 savings. (Even if you order the less costly pairing of mushroom ravioli and grilled gulf prawns, you'll still save $15.) And the space has a sexy, modern-lounge vibe that's definitely date-worthy.
Alta CA: Another tech hangout that tends to boast stratospheric prices for its casual fare, Alta will do three courses for you at lunchtime for just $25, which is a hell of a deal if you're ordering the $11 charred-onion soup and $16-17 chicken schnitzel and burger, with a $6.50 soft-serve sundae thrown in. Total bill: $34.50, a savings of nearly $10—that's enough to throw in one of their expensive-but-excellent cocktails.
Chino: The standard lunch and dinner deals are pretty mediocre: you'll save $3.50 ordering the most advantageous lunch combo, and $4.50 ordering the best one for dinner. But if you're willing to go full-bore, the $85 dinner deal is pretty solid: the menu items on it run $84.50 all by themselves, and there's a wine pairing thrown in to boot.
Hog & Rocks: If you're willing to go off the reservation a little bit in terms of trying menu items that are more creative than Robin Song's usual lineup of bar bites, Hog & Rocks' menu actually seems like it might be worth the $85. It comes paired with five High West Whiskey cocktails (you can get it without for $60 if you're not a drinker, but the value is clearly in the booze), and also boasts five courses using luxury ingredients like pork belly and caviar. We can't do a one-to-one comparison, as it doesn't draw from their regular menu, but this passes the sniff test.
Ragazza: Fans of Sharon Ardiana's Divisadero pie spot might be disappointed to see that the SFRW menu includes no pizza, but they'll probably get over it when they see that the entree option is a steak instead. Ragazza's menu would run you $39 in the straight world, but with a $10 glass of Lambrusco thrown in, it's a $9 savings. The only downside is that there are no menu options, so if you don't eat red meat, you're better off coming another time and just having a pizza.
Zero Zero: This downtown favorite for pizza and pasta has seen its prices jump in recent years, particularly at lunchtime, so it's as good a time as any to hit it up for a more reasonable $25 afternoon repast. The combo of a salad, a pasta, and vanilla soft serve with olive oil and sea salt usually runs $39 here (a $14 savings), and even if you go for a cheaper combo of soup and pizza, you'll still save $10. With that said, there is still a 4% Healthy SF charge involved. Grrrr.
Gaspar Brasserie: Gaspar's $25 lunch offering is, at best, a $4 savings if you order the baby beet salad ($12) and the duck confit ($17), and if you go for the soupe al pistou ($10) and the tuna tartine ($15), it's a break-even proposition. Technically, they are also throwing an oatmeal cookie in there, but that is a sad enticement, no matter how "fresh-baked." Their $85 discovery menu is harder to track, as it runs off-course from their regular menu, but with a rough average menu price of $53 for four courses, it doesn't seem worth it even with the completely unmentioned wine pairings, particularly since they send you packing with your
to-go-only dessert. Oh, and they'll hit you with a 4% Healthy SF surcharge, to boot. Update, 2/23, 8:26 am: Gaspar is no longer making their dessert to-go; you can enjoy it on-site.
Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar: It pains us to say this, as we love this restaurant, but Ichi's $85 Restaurant Week menu is a huge ripoff. The total food costs for ordering everything on it a la carte work out to $63.50 in the most generous estimation,
and there's no way the free drink that's thrown in (a cocktail, Sapporo, or glass of sake) is going to run an extra $22.50 to make up for it. Go to Ichi, just don't go for Restaurant Week. Update, 3:21 pm: Ichi's online menu for SFRW is a bit confusing; it turns out that the prix-fixe includes all three drinks (the Sapporo, cocktail, and sake), instead of just a choice of one. At $28 for the drinks, that brings Ichi's menu out to an a la carte cost of $91.50, a savings of $6.50. It's not a screaming deal, but not worthy of the "worst" category, either.
Red Dog: Lauren Kiino's newcomer serves the kind of hearty, crowd-pleasing fare that Restaurant Week diners love, which makes it rather unfortunate that they're completely ripping them off. A standard lunch combo of soup or salad, a half sandwich, and a cookie usually runs $14-15 here, which means you'll pay an extra $10-11 for the other half of that sandwich and some fries. Even priced out ($14 burger and fries, $7 soup, $3 cookie), that's $1 less than the $25 bill. At dinner, ordering the most expensive combo ($12 salad, $22 chicken, $8 dessert) is still a break-even proposition at $40, though you do get a Dungeness amuse-bouche thrown in. Not worth it.
Spruce: Spruce really just needs to stop doing SFRW. As with last year, their sad, two-course, no-options $25 lunch menu continues to read as an exercise in depression, with this year's bizarre combo consisting of a wedge salad and spaghetti alle vongole. Even with the SFRW's lunchtime price hike, they couldn't find a way to offer more than one option. Update, 2:52 pm: Spruce is mending their ways. "Spruce heard you loud and clear," says a rep. "We understand the perception of value, so we have decided to expand their offerings." Here's the new menu, which features options for each course, as well as an added dessert.
Serpentine: Also a depressing lunch menu with no options: root vegetable salad, Dungeness crab pasta. That combo normally runs $27.50, so you'll technically save $2.50, but it doesn't really seem worth the effort.
Urban Putt: The SFRW menu at this new mini-golfery's restaurant is decidedly not a hole-in-one, especially considering that ordering wrong will make you actively lose money. The $40 menu seems like a good buy because it includes a glass of wine, but at least one of the two wines on offer runs $13 retail, which would put it at $7.50 per glass with a 3x markup over a $10 wholesale price. Add on a $6 soup, $18 artichokes, and $4 ice cream, and you're paying $40 for a meal that would normally cost $35.50. You can break even by switching out the artichokes for the $23 boneless beef rib and getting an $8 salad instead of the soup, but that'll still only save you around $2.50. The price is wrong, bitch.
Have you had a Restaurant Week meal this year that felt like a good deal, or one that made you want to end the program for all eternity? Let us know in the comments or over the tipline, and we'll update accordingly.