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VOL. 132 | NO. 212 | Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Serving Up Smiles

Downtown Dining Week celebrates neighborhood’s culinary scene

By Andy Meek

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Having moved Downtown a few years ago, Jeff Zepatos and his wife have familiarized themselves with the neighborhood’s restaurant scene by taking advantage of a crash course of sorts that comes around once a year.

Downtown Dining Week, produced by the Downtown Memphis Commission together with each year’s crop of participating eateries, is a week-long celebration of Downtown dining that’s meant to hook potential patrons on the neighborhood’s abundant culinary choices.

For restaurants taking part – there are nearly 50 for this year’s event, the ninth Downtown Dining Week which runs Nov. 13-19 – it’s a special occasion that can boost their profile and help bring in new customers.

Rebecca Moore, a waitress at The Arcade, serves breakfast at the restaurant. Nearly 50 eateries, including The Arcade, will be participating in Downtown Dining Week next month. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

“I think Downtown Dining Week is a great opportunity for people who normally don’t come Downtown to eat or go to some of these restaurants to just try out some of the food, check out the atmosphere and see what’s going on,” said Zepatos, the son of Arcade owner Harry Zapatos Jr.

Diners will be greeted with special menus that play off the year 2017 – so it’s a $20.17 dinner menu at The Arcade, for example, and $10.17 for lunch.

And while it’s the week that may get them in the door, proprietors and managers like the younger Zepatos – he’s the Arcade’s general manager – hope they’ll be convinced to come back by what greets them once they arrive.

At the Arcade, for one, things have changed in recent years: it’s received a liquor license so it can now cater to more of a brunch and late night crowd, and it is now open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights till 10 p.m.

“We also do trivia on Thursday nights, and we’ve got our eye on becoming a 24-7 restaurant again, maybe in the next few years,” Zepatos said.

The Peabody has been participating in Downtown Dining Week every year with both the hotel’s Capriccio Grill and Chez Philippe restaurants.

“It’s been a great way to gain exposure and introduce our restaurants to new customers,” said Kelly Earnest, the Peabody’s director of marketing and communications. “And our chefs enjoy creating culinary experiences that surprise and delight these new customers and make them want to come back.”

The Arcade restaurant in Downtown Memphis is preparing for Downtown Dining Week (Nov. 13-17), one of the busiest weeks out of the year for the restaurant. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

The same with Oshi Asian Kitchen, a new Downtown Dining Week participant, where general manager Michael Gentry said they’ve designed the menu to showcase the restaurant’s aspirations of being the city’s best purveyor of Asian Fusion cuisine.

The DMC’s site for the week, https://www.downtowndiningweek.com/, lists all the participating restaurants and details of their special menus.

The event was launched in 2009 when a group of 15-20 restaurants, spearheaded by Felicia Willett of Felicia Suzanne’s, Deni and Patrick Reilly of The Majestic Grille and John Littlefield and Bert Smythe of McEwen’s on Monroe.

“We still see that same spirit and closeness in our Downtown restaurant community,” DMC vice president of marketing and communications Penelope Huston said, adding that many of the restaurants encourage others to participate and help out with menu ideas.

Organizers are hoping patrons share their experiences this year on social media using the hashtag #DDW17, to highlight their stories and photos. And for diners visiting Downtown, a $1 parking coupon is available at the Downtown Dining Week website.

“We know that people love Downtown Dining Week because they get to experience more of the Downtown culinary scene, which is unrivaled anywhere else in the city,” Huston said. “But we also love it, because we get to share everything else that makes Downtown so special.”

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