BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Parking lots were full, cars lined Springfield Avenue and restaurant seats were booked to a sell out crowd -- the success of Berkeley Heights Restaurant Week was a buzz by both diners and restaurant owners, alike.
How can we keep the hype alive in Berkeley Heights?
Was it the delicious deals for reduced-price, prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus? Was it the fun of gathering stamps from all participating establishments to win prizes? Or the sense of community coming together at the table?
24 restaurants and retail establishments participated, and a higher-than-average traffic was experienced during this one-week late summer culinary tour around Berkeley Heights.
"I've definitely seen a lot of new faces this week," said Delicious Heights general manager Ryan Harris. "So, overall it's been a huge success. Thank you to the organizers for all they do."
This is the second year the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee has organized the 8-day event in cooperation with local establishment owners and the Suburban Chamber of Commerce.
"We started Restaurant Week because we have so many great restaurants in downtown Berkeley Heights. But a lot of people in the area didn't seem to know about them," said BHDBC Chairperson Julie Lloyd. "People patronize a few favorite food establishments and travel out of town to get food that isn't nearly as good as what our restaurants here offer. Restaurant Week gets the word out about the quality and variety of food here in Berkeley Heights and provides residents of Berkeley Heights and surrounding towns with a fun event--one that builds deeper connections among friends and family who make a point of meeting around the table during this week."
While it’s not necessarily a money-maker for the restaurants, it does get their name out there and lets them show off for the public at a discounted price. With prix fixe menus, diners had a chance to try spots outside their normal choices and justify going out to eat multiple times in one week. Chefs also had the opportunity to create and introduce a menu that differs from their usual offerings.
"From what we hear, the event was a great success," said Lloyd. "Most of the owners we've talked to so far say that business was up. Residents loved the specials, seized the chance to try new places, and commented on the fun vibe downtown."
"We had a great week at Dimaio's, both from customers and staff's perspectives," said Dimaio's owner and chef Sal Passalacqua. "It has been the busiest of all this promotion yet. And the level of support, and marketing from the Committee was outstanding."
Diners were treated to special prix fixe menus and special menu selections. "We had a mixed menu that was designed to accommodate a variety of palates and also introduce possible new customers to dishes that perhaps they were not aware we served," said Passalacqua. His steaks and seafood entrees were a popular choice. "Pastas are always popular but our Fettuccine Neptune was by far the best seller."
"We received a lot of great feedback from customers," said Harris of Delicious Heights' special menu. "Everyone loves our two course lunch special and the three course dinner special. Our vegan option which is a Hearts of Palm Cake has been a hit as well. It is with a chick pea blend, ancient grain salad, roasted vegetables, cauliflower, edamame beans, zucchini, sliced avocado, grilled pita and tzatziki sauce."
If it were up to Passalacqua, he would consider the recommendation of adding a late winter program as well.
The Restaurant Week committee is still receiving Passport contest entries and looks forward to announcing the winners in TAPInto shortly, said Lloyd.
Visit the ExperienceBH website for a full list of participants.