Sit down and savor — first Lawrence Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday

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Pachamamas’ chevre cheesecake with almond streusel, blueberry gel, amaretto compressed apricots is one of the special menu items exclusive to the first Lawrence Restaurant Week, which kicks off Sunday.

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Buckwheat crepes with herbed sweetcorn and boursin, smoked trout aioli and crispy serrano will be on Pachamamas’ Restaurant Week menu.

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The Santorini-style shrimp pasta at Mad Greek.

Participating restaurants

Nineteen downtown Lawrence restaurants plan to participate in the inaugural Lawrence Restaurant Week, organized by Downtown Lawrence Inc. For more information and to see each restaurant’s special offerings, go online to lawrencerestaurantweek.com. Here are the participating restaurants:

• 715

• Free State Brewery

• Genovese

• Global Cafe

• Ingredient

• Ladybird Diner

• La Parrilla

• Limestone Pizza + Kitchen + Bar

• Mad Greek

• Merchants Pub and Plate

• Milton’s

• Minsky’s Pizza

• Pachamamas

• Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe

• Ten and the Jayhawker (at the Eldridge)

• Terrebonne

• Ramen Bowls

• The Roost

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A coffee drink at the Roost, one of 19 downtown Lawrence restaurants participating in the first Lawrence Restaurant Week.

Does a sit-down dinner complete with aperitif, appetizer, salad and dessert, all in addition to your entree — seem decadent for an average night out?

During the first Lawrence Restaurant Week, that kind of dining experience will suddenly become more accessible.

Nineteen downtown restaurants are participating in the event, which starts Sunday and runs through next Saturday. Their offerings vary, but in keeping with big-city restaurant weeks, most will offer a European-style prix fixe menu, for which you pay a set price for a multi-course meal.

Portions are appropriately sized, and the price is less than what you’d pay to order each course a la carte on a normal night. Some restaurants are offering permanent menu items in a packaged deal, while many have created special dishes just for the week.

“They immediately become more approachable,” Merchants Pub and Plate chef TK Peterson said. “People can get excited about being able to sample a lot of that food more affordably.”

Merchants has one current house favorite, the kale Caesar salad, on its $35 prix fixe menu for the week, and a favorite from last winter’s menu, the Merguez lamb sausage pasta, is making a temporary comeback. The rest of the first course, main and dessert items are special creations.

At Pachamamas, one of the upscale restaurants on the list, you can get a four-course meal — including tamarind grilled beef coulotte steak and chevre cheesecake with blueberry gel — for $35.

“It’s a sweet package deal,” chef/owner Ken Baker said. “There’s definitely not any sticker shock.”

But there are restaurants of all levels of fanciness participating, making it a good reflection of the entire downtown dining scene, said Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., which is organizing the event.

“We have all ranges, we have all price points,” she said. “We also wanted people to feel like you could come more than once.”

That could mean eating out multiple days — or multiple meals a day.

Participating breakfast joints include Global Cafe and the Roost. Several restaurants are offering separate lunch and dinner prix fixe menus.

One is the Mad Greek, which new owners Theo and Deb Tagtalianidis took over in March. Its three-course lunch menu is $12.99, and their four-course dinner menu is $22.99 per person.

Ingredient also has an array of special menu items for the tasting. Its prix fixe lunch menu is $13.95, or $24.95 for a sharable portion. Dinner is $26.95.

For restaurants, the week is a chance to get people in their doors who haven’t been in before, or maybe not in a while.

It’s also a chance for chefs to get creative, inspired by seasonal ingredients and a desire to showcase different flavors, textures and techniques in a single meal.

“I think we can raise the awareness of a lot of the culinary talents here in Lawrence,” Ingredient owner Nick Wysong said, “and just celebrate food.”

The Lawrence event is modeled after the wildly popular Kansas City Restaurant Week. Kansas City has been doing restaurant week the last couple of years and had close to 150 restaurants participate in January.

Because Downtown Lawrence Inc. is organizing the event, it's sticking with downtown restaurants this year, Zogry said. But she hopes the event will be popular enough to grow in the future.

Participating restaurants will still offer their usual menus throughout the week, but chefs agree that if you’re there for Restaurant Week, the best way to fully appreciate it is to sit down and have your entire party order the prix fixe menu together.

You’ll enjoy the dining experience — and nobody will be left out of any courses.

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