Midmorning diners sipped hot beverages and munched on breakfast selections at 1866 Cafe & Bakery on Brazos Street Tuesday morning, taking in the tasty selections of Austin Restaurant Week.
The cafe is one of many downtown Austin restaurants participating in the event, a marketing opportunity for restaurants with a philanthropic purpose, which began on March 25 and runs through April 4.
Adrienne Oujezdsky, director of operations for Austin Restaurant Week, said her first experience with the event occurred in another city just after she graduated from UT.
“I moved to New York City and found myself unable to dine anywhere because it was so expensive,” she said. “But because of Restaurant Week there, my friends and I started going out and were able to go to the places we’d never have been able to go for price-fixed meals.”
Oujezdsky became involved with Austin’s version of the event once she relocated back to Texas. She said this is the fifth year Restaurant Week has taken place in Austin.
“It’s a great way for all of the city to be involved,” she said. “Austin’s a big city on supporting small, local businesses. When we put this on, we are helping out small restaurants that participate to help bring in all of Austin.”
The event is put on twice a year, once in fall and once in spring, she said, and a wide variety of restaurants choose to participate, including the Cipollina, Roaring Fork Austin and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Eager diners are served customized menus at all of the restaurants, with special selections and signature dishes from each one, she said. Brunch menus range from $16 to $21, two-course lunch meals range from $11 to $16 and three-course prix-fixe dinner menus go for $26 to $36, she said.
Participants in the event are encouraged to make reservations in order to ensure proceeds benefit Meals on Wheels and More, a local organization that delivers meals to elderly and disabled citizens, Oujezdsky said.
OpenTable, a partner of the event, donates some of the proceeds spent on fine dining during the week to Meals on Wheels and More if the participant has made a reservation, she said, but $1 from every single meal goes toward the organization regardless of whether or not a reservation was made.
Thad Rosenfeld, director of communications for Meals on Wheels and More, said the thousands of dollars raised add up quickly and make a tremendous difference in providing healthy, convenient meals to those in need.
“We can purchase, prepare and package a hot nutritious meal for our clients for about $2.40,q` so it buys a whole lot of meals,” he said. “It really makes sense because this is an event that celebrates fine dining in Austin, and we just hope people will sit and reflect on those who have food challenges.”
Meals on Wheels and More prepares approximately 3,500 meals each day and relies on volunteers to deliver most of the meals, he said. Austin Restaurant Week has been very beneficial in raising awareness about the organization, Rosenfeld said.
“The great thing about Austin Restaurant Week is the wonderful people who put it on,” he said. “They deliver meals for us, so they’re on the front lines as well, and they do a great job of promoting what we do for our clients. Without a doubt, it does raise awareness for our agency and the wonderful people we serve.”
Shannen Tune, chef du cuisine and general manager at 1866 Cafe and Bakery, said his restaurant has participated in the event for several years and said Restaurant Week brings in both new taste testers and loyal regulars.
“It’s good for business and also helping out a good cause,” he said. “Some people come here for the first time, and you do see a lot of people you don’t normally see. We do see a definite increase in business during Austin Restaurant Week.”