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First "restaurant week" underway in Grand Rapids

restaurant week in GR
It's restaurant week in GR

A number of Grand Rapids restaurants are booked this weekend thanks to the new event celebrating great dining at a reasonable price.

San Chez sous chef Daryl Rector prepares for the night shift. "We've got verduras y tortas for the vegan crowd. It's a spicy black beans & quinoa cakes with roasted vegetables and this avo-cumber sauce," Rector explains. "That's a fake yogurt that we make with avocado - basically puree that, add acidity and sweetness and you can't really tell the difference between that and yogurt."

Spanish influenced San Chez is right in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids. They don't take reservations, but General Manager Cindy Schneider says there's a lot of buzz on their social networking cites. "Sometimes people think that San Chez is really really expensive and we don't tend to feel that way but if people are enticed to come out for $20.10 because that's exactly how much they know they're going to spend - we're very excited to have people that haven't been here in while," Schneider said.

Restaurant week is the brainchild of Doug Small. He's president of Experience Grand Rapids, the visitors and convention bureau. Before coming to Grand Rapids, Small headed up a similar organization in Denver, Colorado. He says restaurant week there was wildly successful. "One of the components that meeting planners tell us that's important to destination appeal is a vibrant dining scene. So we figure if we can celebrate it and people start talking about it - it become viral and we meet that objective," Small said.

More than 50 locations are offering three-course meals for $20.10. Small says this event is differnet from Denver's because a dollar for each meal goes to a scholarship fund for culinary students at Grand Rapids Community College. "What's important for us as an organization is to keep the momentum of food alive," Small said, "If we can keep those students as they come out of school here then we're doing our job."

"Any chance to get new people in, to get people more exposed to the culinary industry that we have in west Michigan is great because I think there's a lot of really cool things happening," Rector says, "The more the people that we have aware of what's good food the better it's going to be for all of us."

Find a list of participating location and their $20.10 menus at restaurantweekgr.com.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.