After a wild, emotional, and unprecedented past year-and-a-half, we’re all craving something: public gatherings, festivals, seeing friends and family, travel, and, perhaps most of all, dining out. Inlander Restaurant Week is making its debut back with its first-ever summer event, August 19 - 28. Read on for your guide on all things Inlander Restaurant Week 2021.
Satisfy Your Cravings
While we could have completely canceled Inlander Restaurant Week this year, one thing was ultimately clear: Our local restaurants still desperately need our help. Yes, life in Washington state opened back up on June 30, but independent restaurants are still trying to catch up and make up for huge losses after being drastically restricted or completely closed for the better part of the last 17 months.
Adding yet another challenge to restaurants’ recovery is the nationwide worker shortage as thousands of former food service employees in all positions — cooks, servers, bartenders, dishwashers, hosts, and more — left the industry to pursue new careers and opportunities. These staffing issues actually caused many would-be Inlander Restaurant Week 2021 participants to bow out as these establishments simply aren’t prepared for a huge rush of diners over the 10-day event. And in Coeur d’Alene where summer is peak tourism season, many eateries opted out because they’re already slammed.
What that means for the 50-plus local eateries that are offering incredible three-course menus during Restaurant Week is that at times, diners might encounter longer waits for tables (make reservations in advance!) or even for orders to come out from the kitchen.
So please, be patient and understanding. Foodservice workers have unjustly taken the brunt of so much public outrage over everything from supply chain shortages to state-mandated health rules totally out of their control.
These myriad hurdles faced by hospitality workers during the pandemic are why this year’s Inlander Restaurant Week nonprofit beneficiary is Big Table. The locally-based organization that aids hospitality workers in crisis served as a vital lifeline this past year when demand for direct financial support skyrocketed. Diners can donate directly to Big Table while out for Restaurant Week by scanning a QR code printed on this year’s menus.
While 2021’s Inlander Restaurant Week is obviously going to look and feel different on many fronts, the date change also has plenty of benefits. For one, it’s summer and that means patio dining! Second, it’s the peak of our region’s growing season, which gives our area’s talented chefs an opportunity to showcase so many fresh, local ingredients on their menus, from fruit grown at Green Bluff to fresh-caught seafood and so much more.
Get out there and satisfy your cravings!
You’ll see this phrase, or its English translation — fixed price — repeatedly during Inlander Restaurant Week. Essentially, this means that there’s a flat fee for your meal — either $22 or $33 depending on the restaurant — and you get to pick from three different options for each of three courses. But don’t worry; if you want a tried-and-true favorite from the standard menu, restaurants will have their regular menus available.
How it Works
There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up at that restaurant you’ve been eager to try, only to be told the wait is 60 minutes. Instead, call ahead. All of the menus in this guide indicate whether the restaurant takes reservations. If the restaurant is booked when you call, see if they take online reservations. Sometimes restaurants that use reservation tools like Open Table have tables set aside specifically for those bookings. Consider an early (4:30 or 5 pm) or late seating (after 8 pm) or book a midweek dinner for high-demand restaurants.
Restaurant workers were hit hard by the pandemic. If you want to serve up some hope to the people serving you during Inlander Restaurant Week, here are three easy ways to help.
- Make a donation to Big Table. When you go out to eat during Inlander Restaurant Week, your custom three-course menu will have a QR code on it. Scan it, and make a donation to Big Table. Big Table cares for restaurant and hospitality workers in crisis through timely interventions, intentional relationships, and transformational care.
- Carry loaded unexpected 20s. This is probably the most fun you will ever have with a $20 bill. Request an envelope from Big Tables website, or download a do-it-yourself template to create your own. Load it with a $20 bill, then watch for an opportunity to give it to someone at a restaurant not as a tip, but as a gift. Give it to your server, or the busser or ask someone on staff who is having a hard week, and ask to have this gift delivered to them.
- Write receipt notes. With your tip, write a personalized “thank you” on the restaurant copy of the receipt using your server’s name. Not only will they see it, but their manager will see it too when the receipts are reconciled.
Key to the Menus
GF / GFA / V / V+
This year, more restaurants than ever before are offering options for gluten-free, vegetarians, or vegans. We even spotted some keto-friendly designations on menus! So how do you make sense of it all? GF means the dish is gluten-free. GFA means the dish can be prepared, by request, gluten-free. V stands for vegetarian, while V+ means the dish is vegan or can be prepared vegan by request.
Local just tastes better. While Inlander Restaurant Week aims to support our awesome local chefs and restaurants, we also want to spotlight the amazing distilleries, wineries, cideries and breweries that make our community taste so good. Each restaurant is highlighting one local beverage in the listings found in this guide, and then you’ll find two more options on the menus inside each restaurant.
While we intended Inlander Restaurant Week to be primarily a dinner event, more restaurants than ever before are now offering their three-course meal all day. So how do you know when the three-course meal is being served? The hours the Restaurant Week menu is offered are listed right on the menu. These aren’t the hours the restaurant is open, but strictly when they are making their Inlander Restaurant Week meal available.
If you don’t see Reservations Recommended noted in red on a menu, then that restaurant doesn’t take them. But if they do, make the call now. Some high-demand restaurants may book up even before Restaurant Week begins.