Today was the first day of "Dine Out Vancouver" - an annual culinary event happening in 192 restaurants across Greater Vancouver. It initially started as a way to get customers into restaurants during what's normally a slow period, but now it's probably the biggest restaurant event in the city, if not the most anticipated event by locals.
Restaurants that choose to participate in Dine Out Vancouver will have a separate Dine Out Vancouver menu in which they offer a three course meal for a set price. In the past the prices have been $15, $25, or $35, although this year they've increased the prices by $3. Although Vancouverites dine out in restaurants more frequently than other Canadians (according to some news report I overheard months ago), the prices make many of the participating restaurants much more affordable. Many will use Dine Out Vancouver as their opportunity to eat at the more pricier establishments they'd never otherwise visit. I mean, when else can you experience a three course meal at the self-proclaimed "jewel in Vancouver's culinary crown" West for only $38?
Making reservations as soon as possible is highly recommended, especially for the more sought-after foodie establishments. There are already some restaurants, such as Cru, which are already sold out. Participating restaurants and their Dine Out Vancouver menus can be seen by visiting Tourism Vancouver's Dine Out Vancouver 2009 page, here.
I didn't participate in Dine Out Vancouver last year, but this year I think I will. I haven't made any reservations yet, but I'm having too much fun looking at the menus! The only potential downside to Dine Out Vancouver is that it might not necessarily showcase the true experience of dining at that particular restaurant outside of the event.
Oh, and I almost forgot. If you want to research these restaurants a little bit further, www.dinehere.ca is a fantastic resource. It's essentially a local website devoted to restaurant reviews as written by the paying customers. Practically every restaurant in Greater Vancouver (and Victoria and Whistler) are listed. The restaurants are also organized by category, so you can see what the highest rated restaurants are (again, based on by the paying customers), or you can see what restaurants are the most popular based on frequency of reviews, etc. While some use it as a Speaker's Corner of sorts, if you skim through the reviews, you can usually piece together enough ideas to get a sense of whether the restaurant in question is worth your time. The Dine Out Vancouver reviews, I can see, are already starting to pour in.