For those interested in relieving themselves of cabin fever, the Heritage Corridor Convention Visitors Bureau’s Joliet Area Restaurant Week is back.
In its second year, organizers hope the initiative can provide a boost to restaurants at a time when a lull in sales is often noted.
“We are trying to spark interest during the winter months,” said Bob Navarro, president and CEO of the Heritage Corridor Convention Visitors Bureau. “Many communities have a Restaurant Week, so we are doing it. No one else was doing it, so we owned it. We’re advertising it out as part of promoting it.”
This year, more than 40 restaurants are participating in the initiative by offering special weeklong deals.
“We had a great turnout last year,” Navarro said. “Twenty restaurants participated. We had a good split. More than 20 are in Joliet this time around. Everyone in it last year came back but one. Of those that signed up, they thought it was a good experience last year.”
From Jitter’s Coffee House and The Blue Taco to Chicken ‘N’ Spice and The Forge, there are a number of different restaurants involved this time around.
“I met up with the Heritage Corridor Convention Visitors Bureau, and we were talking,” The Great American Bagel owner Tom Grotovsky said. “For the price, it was a good deal. I’m trying to get my name out there.”
The Great American Bagel has been based in Joliet for four years, to date. Joliet Area Restaurant Week 2018 serves as a first for the establishment.
Grotovsky hopes to draw in new customers to help curb the effect that cabin fever commonly has on consumer behavior.
“This came in at a good time in February,” Grotovsky said. “It’s the slowest time.”
Grotovsky said the keys to surviving the winter months in the past involved putting in the effort to keep going, open up the establishment and advertise.
“You get through it,” he said. “You cut costs where you can.”
Grotovsky wanted to make sure that people understand that The Great American Bagel offers more than the establishment’s name may suggest.
“We’ve got sandwiches and soups,” he said. “You get breakfast and lunch seven days a week.”
Organizers began planning for Joliet Area Restaurant Week late summer/fall 2017.
“We have a lot of restaurants, and they’re not all sit-down type establishments,” Navarro said.
There are a number of establishments that experience a lull in the winter months that are not participating in Joliet Area Restaurant Week. Not every restaurant owner is aware of the initiative.
Consider Joshua Betts, the owner of Bernie’s Jerk Kitchen, a new restaurant on Joliet’s east side.
“I never knew about [Joliet Area Restaurant Week,]” he said.
Betts’ restaurant opened in January at 312 Manhattan Rd.
“It’s something I would do,” he said. “I’m open to any opportunity.”
Since setting up shop, Bernie’s Jerk Kitchen has been received well by the community, Betts said. The restaurant’s success so far is predicated, in part, because of the fact that there’s nothing else like it in the area.
Betts said what separates his establishment from similar type operations is simple: the taste.
“There’s more soul food to the sides,” he said.
Al’s Steakhouse owner George Daskalakis was motivated to participate in Joliet Area Restaurant Week this year.
“I think it is important to participate in community events and to support the Heritage Corridor Visitors Bureau,” he said.
Al’s Steakhouse has been doing business since 1959.
When asked how he and his staff typically get past the times when a lull in sales is noted, Daskalakis said the answer is multi-faceted.
“We are fortunate to have private rooms for weddings, birthdays, business events, funeral luncheons, etcetera therefore that can help fill the void,” he said.
Daskalaskis hopes people will utilize Joliet Area Restaurant Week to their benefit and went on to encourage new and past customers to drop in.
“You can have a great lunch at Al's along the price range of fast food places,” he said.
At restaurants such as Crest Hill’s Firewater BBQ and Joliet’s Elder Brewing Company, patrons can expect a percentage of their purchase.
Elsewhere, at places like Joliet’s Wild Horse and Lockport’s Embers Tap House, people will find something free with purchase.
As for Joliet’s The Reserve, Final Cut Steakhouse, Thrive and Juliet’s Tavern, patrons can anticipate pre-fixed menu to peruse.
Navarro said there are some really interesting restaurants for people to choose from.
“I’m excited and I’m ashamed to say I’ve not been to all the restaurants,” he said. “I’m looking forward to restaurant week. I’m hoping we’ll have more restaurants next year.”
If you go
What: Joliet Area Restaurant Week
When: Feb. 18-25
Where: Joliet to Lockport and Morris to Bolingbrook
For more information: visit www.jolietrestaurantweek.com or search Facebook for ‘@JolietRestaurantWeek’.