Taste of success

Published 6:58 pm Monday, March 29, 2010

The statistics have yet to be compiled, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that Restaurant Week in Suffolk was a big success.

“Restaurant Week went great for us. We had a great turnout,” Grits and Gravy owner and chef Maurice Wilson said Monday. “I would have actually liked to have seen it extended.”

She hadn’t heard others request an extension of the annual event, but Suffolk Tourism Development Manager Lynette White said Monday that Wilson’s assessment of the event seemed to be shared by other participating restaurateurs throughout the city.

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Feeback, she said, “has been very positive.”

Some restaurants that are not normally full had lines stretching out their front door as patrons waited for tables.

Others, such as the River Stone Chophouse in North Suffolk and Primo 116 Bistro Italiano downtown, were solidly booked for the final two days of the weeklong event.

“It was fantabulous,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of people call for reservations. I’m a new business. For me, it was good for my exposure.”

Even established Suffolk restaurants got good exposure from the event, which featured fixed-price, three course menus that were designed to give diners an affordable way to sample the fare at any of 16 participating eateries.

“We saw a bunch of new faces,” said Steve Gellas, who owns both Primo and nearby Pisces Seafood downtown.

Primo, which seats only 55 diners at a time, was booked both Friday and Saturday, he said. Pisces is about twice the size, he said, but that restaurant also stayed busy.

Restaurant Week, he said, is especially “good for people who’ve never eaten at a restaurant to get a sampling for a good deal.”

Conversely, the event benefited both restaurateurs and other downtown businesses, because it brought folks into the city.

“You do get people to come downtown and try all of the restaurants downtown,” Gellas said. “I was surprised to see that many people coming out.”

Wilson agreed with the assessment about the extra business for downtown eateries, and he noted that many of his customers were coming from outside of Suffolk.

As a former chef at two popular Norfolk restaurants — Omar’s Carriage House and 4-5-6 Fish — Wilson had participated in Restaurant Week there for four years before coming to Suffolk.

His experience with the concept here, he said, has left him hungry for more.

“I definitely look forward to doing it again,” he said.

“We definitely plan to do our fourth-anniversary Restaurant Week in March 2011,” said White, from the tourism department.

Meanwhile, she encouraged folks who are looking for another course to visit www.suffolk-fun.com/restaurantweek/giveaway.phb, where they can sign up for the city’s “Indulge Yourself Giveaway,” a $400 package for two that includes one night at the riverfront Hilton Garden Inn, a $100 gift certificate for a performance or class at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts and a $100 gift certificate for dinner at River Stone Chophouse, all redeemable through May 31.

The contest ends March 31.