February may be the shortest month, but it can feel like the longest, as winter stretches on, hopeful groundhogs not withstanding.
To help fight cabin fever and coax people out of the house and into restaurants, both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are hosting Restaurant Weeks and accompanying events this month.
“When we embarked on Restaurant Week last year for the first time, we had heard from local restaurants that February is typically a time they see less sales,” said Ellen Bardsley, interim communications manager for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. “This really fills in and gives them a nice boost.”
The Economic Alliance took over Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week last year; it had previously been run by GO Cedar Rapids. Twenty restaurants are participating this year, with each offering special dishes from Feb. 21 to 29. All 20 eateries also will participate in the Fork & Knife Feast, offering samples of those specials at a food and drink tasting events Feb. 20. The event will be at Smulekoff’s Warehouse, 411 Sixth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, on the second floor.
Bardsley said this will be one of the first public events to be held in the newly renovated space, which is distinct from the former Smulekoff’s store, which is now the Eastbank Venue.
“It’s an event space that not a lot of people have been to. We’re transforming it for a night with food and drink samples and a full bar,” she said.
Tickets are $50 and are available online at cedarrapids.org/events/cedar-rapids-restaurant-week, at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance office, 501 First St. SE, and at some participating restaurants, including 30 Hop Cedar Rapids, Bari Italian, Caucho, Fong’s Pizza, Groundswell Cafe, Jimmy Z’s, Lion Bridge Brewing Company, Lucky’s on Sixteenth, NaRa Thai Cuisine, Need Pizza, Parlor City Pub & Eatery, The Class Act, Longbranch Hotel & Convention Center, Quarter Barrel, White Star Ale House.
• WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Check out the menus for Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week
Another goal of Restaurant Week and the tasting event is encouraging people to try new places and explore different restaurants. Several are participating in Restaurant Week for the first time, including newcomers to the local dining scene such as Bari Italian and Midtown Station.
“It’s always great when you can bring in a restaurant that has just opened its doors and give them some exposure,” Bardsley said.
Iowa City is also getting in on the Restaurant Week action this year. Think Iowa City is organizing the event, with more than 20 restaurants serving up specials from Feb. 15 to Feb. 24. Think Iowa City is also hosting a new Foodie Festival, 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 300 E. Ninth St., Coralville, with food and drink samples from more than a dozen establishments. Tickets are $55 and available at foodiefebruary.com. Proceeds will be split between CommUnity Food Bank, Coralville Community Food Pantry and the North Liberty Community Food Pantry. The event features restaurants from throughout Johnson County; a second, sold-out food tasting event, Top Chef, is hosted by the Iowa City Downtown District on Feb. 24.
• SEE THE MENUS: What’s being served during Iowa City’s Restaurant Week
Foodie Festival attendees who dines at three or more participating restaurants during Iowa City Restaurant Week will be entered to win a pack of gift cards donated by each of the participating Restaurant Week restaurants.
For an additional event, both Think Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Tourism partnered with Cedar Ridge, which will host a Corridor’s Bartender Brawl from 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 25. Bartenders from each end of the Corridor will compete for awards, with onstage demonstrations of their work. Tickets are $40 at crdistillery.com, and include a welcome cocktail, appetizers, samples of bartender’s creations and a commemorative glass.
With the various events and with Restaurant Weeks on both ends of the Corridor, Think Iowa City vice president of special events Monica Nieves said they have dubbed the whole month Foodie February. They’re hoping food enthusiasts are ready to dig in.
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