The fundraiser’s 200 participants range from coffee houses to independent restaurants to famous places on the Strip.
No matter how you approach Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2022 — as an opportunity to try new places, an excuse to visit longtime favorites, a chance to dine for a good cause — the menu, wherever served, showcases the power of the crowd.
“The entire community comes together to ensure everyone has a meal at the table,” said Brian Burton, president and CEO of Three Square food bank, the founder and beneficiary of Restaurant Week, which starts Monday and runs through June 17.
This year, about 200 food and drink establishments across the Las Vegas Valley are offering prix fixe menus or special promotions, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to Three Square. Participants range from coffee shops to mom-and-pops, from chef-driven independents to famous places on the Strip.
Restaurant Week ranks among Three Square’s most important fundraisers. In 2019, before the pandemic canceled the event for a year, the dine-around raised nearly $250,000, and a similar take is hoped for this year, food bank officials said. With a challenging economy, there are more calls than ever on that money.
According to Three Square, about 364,000 people locally are food-insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to nutritious food.
“Think about Allegiant Stadium,” said Maurice Johnson, director of operations for Three Square. “It holds 65,000 people. There’s enough people who are food-insecure in Southern Nevada to fill that stadium almost six times.”
For Restaurant Week, he said, “you go out for a meal, you break bread, you have a great conversation, and you’re giving in a totally different way. It’s a collective effort to fight hunger.”
‘Family hospitality’; lots of choices
Restaurant Week began in 2007. In 2022, Ferraro’s Ristorante is participating for a 12th time, with a menu offering a dozen choices across four courses.
“Being a family-owned and operated business now for 37 years, we like to be involved in whatever programs and organizations we can be involved with to support the community and extend our family hospitality,” said chef Mimmo Ferraro.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill also is a returning participant, for the third time. Its Red Rock Resort location is presenting a four-course dinner with 10 selections, including four entrée options: a sushi platter (seven pieces and a roll), kalbi short rib with cilantro, fried chicken spiked with wasabi honey and seared teriyaki salmon.
“We really wanted to do a lot of choices so people will really order from the (Restaurant Week) menu, not look at it, then order something from the regular menu,” general manager Chiachi Kuo said.
Kids backpacks filled with food
Like Restaurant Week, Three Square food bank was founded in 2007. That first year, the organization distributed about 1 million pounds of food. Last year, 72 million pounds was distributed, representing 60 million meals. One dollar yields three meals, with 94 cents of every dollar donated used to procure meals, Johnson said.
Three Square houses its operations in its North Las Vegas complex. The warehouse is divided into several areas. One is filled with products donated by grocers, the hospitality business, and by local and national manufacturers. Another area contains items, like those for childhood nutrition programs, that by law must be purchased, not donated.
A third area is devoted to volunteers, with one room featuring a map with pins stuck in the home countries of folks who have given their time to the food bank. (Tuvalu and Greenland sport pins.)
“A lot of programs, a lot of what we do, we couldn’t do without volunteers,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t pay for sorting, packing, onboarding.”
A table in the warehouse holds backpacks of pop-top nutritious foods, the backpacks provisioned at the warehouse, then distributed to schools. “Sometimes, the food has to be shared with the rest of the family or the family pet,” Johnson said, explaining some of the nuances of food insecurity.
Those nuances provide even more reasons to dine.
A look at 3 first-time participants
Restaurants on the Strip are well represented in Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2022.
At The Venetian, a dozen restaurants are participating, including a steak frites choice at Bouchon, Cheshire pork porchetta on the dinner menu at Chica, and whole grilled sea bream for lunch at Estiatorio Milos. Ten spots are serving for Restaurant Week at Resorts World Las Vegas, with Genting Palace sending out a dim sum combination. Twenty-vegetable fried rice takes pride of place at China Poblano in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
More than 50 food and drink spots are first-time Restaurant Week participants.
Instead of a prix fixe menu, The Coffee Class is doing a special promotion, with $3 donated to Three Square from the purchase of every shaken iced tea, grilled cheese panino, vegan grilled cheese panino, and vegan ham and fig panino.
“Food insecurity is something that is near and dear to my heart and a core area of charitable giving we want to focus on at The Coffee Class,” founder-owner Kyle Cunningham said.
Cauliflower ceviche leads off the dinner menu at La Neta Cocina y Lounge. Restaurant Week, executive chef Lanny Chin said, “lets regulars take advantage of their favorite dishes and first-timers see what we’re really well known for.”
Boom Bang Fine Foods & Cocktails debuted only late last fall. So its three-course prix fixe dinner with nine choices provides the restaurant with an opportunity “to introduce ourselves to Vegas with a real taste of what is on our menu,” chef and co-founder Elia Aboumrad said.
“I know people get excited about Restaurant Week. I like being part of people being excited to go out and try new things.”
And help fight hunger.
Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2022, www.restaurantweeklv.org
Contact Johnathan L. Wright at email@example.com or follow him @ItsJLW on Twitter.