Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Restaurant rendezvous

Baltimore county Restaurant WeekJust when you thought you’d prevailed through the diet-sabotaging holiday season (Pumpkin pie! Christmas cookies! Champagne!) and actually made progress on that health-related New Year’s resolution, there’s another temptress in town.

That’s right, it’s Restaurant Week — the irresistible combination of great food and great deals. But Restaurant “Week” is really a misnomer because diners don’t have just a mere seven days to partake. With prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants, it’s the ultimate opportunity to sample new options on the dining scene or finally make a reservation somewhere pricier than your budget usually allows.

First up in the 2013 Winter Restaurant Week season is Baltimore County, where the promotion begins Friday and runs through Jan. 27 with about 45 restaurants offering one, two or three courses for between $10.13 and $35.13. Among this year’s participants are McFaul’s Ironhorse Tavern, The Peppermill Restaurant & Lounge, Mari Luna Latin Grille, Friendly Farm Restaurant and Artful Gourmet Bistro.

If none of Baltimore County’s offerings pique your interest, head on down to Howard County, where about 20 restaurants are participating in their own promotion from Jan. 14 through Jan. 28.

Howard County Tourism & Promotion chose a global theme for the event, asking restaurateurs to incorporate international flavors into their special menus, which may include one to four courses, priced from $10.13 to $40.13.

Choices range from German-style bratwurst and beer-braised pork belly at The Elkridge Furnace Inn to Parmesan encrusted swordfish at Ranazul Tapas.Wine.Bistro.

Other participating Howard County restaurants include Portalli’s in Ellicott City, Baldwin’s Station in Sykesville, Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and the newly opened The Ale House Columbia — where the price also includes a 10 oz. Oliver Ale pairing.

Calendar completely booked for the next two weeks? Never fear, foodies. Baltimore City Winter Restaurant Week begins Jan. 25 and lasts through Feb. 3. To sweeten the deal, discounted parking is available at city-owned garages during that period.

With about 65 participating restaurants — in every neighborhood of the city, specializing in every imaginable cuisine — you might as well let temptation win this round. Three-course dinner menus will be priced from $20.13 – $30.13. Some restaurants will also offer a two-course lunch menu for $15.13.

Options abound: Try the mojito mussels (?!) at Alchemy in Hampden, dig in to decadent pappardelle d’anatra (ribbon pasta with braised duck) at La Tavola Ristorante Italiano in Little Italy, or savor butter rum shrimp and grits at Salt Tavern in Fells Point.

(Reading these menus is like entering a black hole. I need to stop.)

Several other Maryland jurisdictions have upcoming versions, including Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Jan. 24 – Feb. 3); Annapolis (Feb. 25 – March 3) and Frederick (March 4 – 10). Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, from Feb. 4 – 10, also counts many Maryland eateries among its 200 or so participants.

If the culinary delights aren’t enough to tempt you to participate, maybe the economic benefits will. By stopping in to local eateries, you play an important role in boosting the regional economy during a typically slow time for the restaurant industry.

Restaurant owners have said the promotion helps broaden their customer base because it encourages first-time visitors to step through the door. That’s critical, they have said, because snagging new customers is often more difficult than retaining existing ones — particularly at pricier, fine dining establishments.

Bring on the first course.