Urban Margarita's cranberry sangria.

By Annika Tomlin

The COVID-19 pandemic nearly decimated the food and beverage industry. The biannual event held to celebrate local eateries, Arizona Restaurant Week, was replaced in the spring by Arizona Take Out Week.

Following CDC guidelines, Arizona Restaurant Week has been rescheduled for Friday, June 19, to Sunday, June 28, and officials are hoping it’ll bolster the suffering industry.

“We are so grateful for the support of our local dining community in the weeks that followed restaurant closures in March,” says Arizona Restaurant Association president and CEO Steve Chucri. “As Arizona Restaurant Week returns in a modified format to include dine in, take out and liquor-to-go options, we are hopeful that our wonderful community of food enthusiasts will continue to show their support in any way they feel comfortable.”

The Arizona Restaurant Association is anticipating more than 200 of the Valley’s most beloved restaurants—from five-star dining establishments to locally owned and operated “mom-and-pop” hidden gems—to get involved.

Restaurants will offer innovative and adventurous three-course, prix-fixe menus for $33 or $44 per person or per couple. Wine pairings will be offered at an additional cost.

Some of the new restaurants joining this June include The Dressing Room, The House Brasserie, Josephine, Meritage Urban Tavern, Sel, Stonegrill and Tuck Shop Kitchen and Bar.

One of the returning restaurants is The Market by Jennifer’s Restaurant and Bar helmed by owner and chef Jennifer Russo. Her restaurant takes a “very fun, upbeat” approach on classic meals that gives them a modernized twist.

“We have been a part of the Arizona Restaurant Week since we started, so for six years,” Russo says.

Russo founded her catering business decades before she finally “broke down a little bit” and opened up a fully operational restaurant as well.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Russo says. “Now it’s done really well.”

In 2018 the ARA gave Russo the best catering in Arizona award.

Russo is excited to once again be a part of the event that shows off restaurants going into the new season and gives the public an opportunity to try out new menu items.

“Because we switch our menus twice a year, it really gives us that fun ability to test things out for some people and then we’re excited about their feedback,” Russo says. “Then we tweak it in the way that is needed; that’s my favorite part about the restaurant week.”

Russo will feature menu items like corn purée soup, house-smoked salmon, beef tenderloin and a vegetarian dish.

“I always like to do something a little bit different with a protein—we always have filet,” Russo says. “I’ll do a different type of beef not just because of the price point but because it opens people’s eyes up to be a little bit more adventurous.”

Additional returning restaurants include Buck & Rider, El Chorro, Pasta Brioni, Arrowhead Grill and Urban Margarita.

Diners can see a complete list of the participating restaurants and the menus at arizonarestaurantweek.com.

Fall Arizona Restaurant Week is set for Friday, September 18, to Sunday, September 27.

Arizona Restaurant Week, various locations, Friday, June 19, to Sunday, June 28, arizonarestaurantweek.com.

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