Did you know that Boscov’s Restaurant, down in the basement of the Wilkes-Barre department store, can whip up an omelet filled with spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese?
Or that the IBOP Coffee Company around the corner uses organic milk and cocoa?
And the S&W Restaurant on North Main Street cuts potatoes for its famous hash-browns by hand?
Those are just a few of the culinary delights you might discover for yourself if you visit local eateries during the first-ever Downtown Wilkes-Barre Restaurant Week, which begins Friday and lasts through Sept. 27.
“Eighteen restaurants signed up,” organizer John Maday from the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association said.
“And they’re all doing something different.”
Discounts and specials are the order of the Friday-to-Friday week, from Froyo Mania’s offer to sell you all the yogurt, complete with toppings, you can fit into an 8-ounce container for $3 to Mimmo’s Pizza’s promise that a large pie with one topping will be $10 between 2 and 6 p.m.
If upscale dining is more to your liking, several fine-cuisine restaurants in downtown Wilkes-Barre have put together prix-fixe dinner menus, which allow the diner to chose several courses for one price, typically $30.
“We tried to include a little bit of everything — beef, fish, veal and chicken,” Cafe Toscana manager Marcello Ahmeti said, pointing to a prix-fixe dinner menu that offers appetizers, soup or salad, entrees and dessert.
Ahmeti agreed to have a chef prepare several dishes from the menu for newspaper photographs — and they were beautiful.
Flat iron steak, crusted with roasted garlic and peppercorns, was sliced and fanned out over a plate with creamy risotto and mushrooms.
Gamberi Scampi showcased seven plump shrimp likewise artfully arranged around linguine. “We cook the pasta in water until it’s al dente,” Ahmeti said. “Then we finish cooking it in the sauce, for extra flavor.”
A Mista Verdi salad of fresh baby greens represented the second course, and Cafe Toscana’s signature olive-oil sauce was there for bread dipping. “I think the sun-dried tomatoes are the most important ingredient,” Ahmeti said with a twinkle in his eye, vowing to reveal no more.
For sample appetizers, he showed us Cozze Posilipo (Prince Edward Island mussels served in a light marinara) and Mozzarella Caprese (fresh mozzarella cheese served with fresh tomato and deep-red, velvety-smooth slices of roasted red pepper that seemed to melt in your mouth.)
OK, it’s time to admit we couldn’t resist the food when Ahmeti invited us to sample. It was wonderful, and we vow to return.
Maday hopes many diners will come away feeling equally enthusiastic about Restaurant Week, citing it as a chance for new clientele as well as loyal customers to mix and match the many styles of food that are available.
Are you hungry for a half rack of St. Louis-style ribs or a pulled-pork sandwich? They’re among the specials at Maers BBQ on South Main.
Do beer-battered haddock, blackened salmon, filet mignon and shepherd’s pie sound appealing? You can find that variety down the street, at Bart and Urby’s.
Ahi tuna “fresh from Hawaii,” wasabi-encrusted filet mignon and a house salad boasting pineapple and coconut are just a few of the offerings at Oyster, inside the Genetti Best Western complex on West Market Street, where the dessert section of the prix-fixe menu includes coconut pie, spumoni or a chocolate pagoda.
There will be prix-fixe hibachi specials and sushi specials at Katana in the Midtown Village on South Main Street, and if you take a friend to Rodano’s on Public Square, you’ll find special deals involving two entrees at lunch time and dinner.
By the way, if you thought the Anthracite Newsstand was just a place to buy a newspaper or a lottery ticket, please note they will be serving breakfast sandwiches all day, along with soups and burgers, homemade brownies and even french-fried green beans. And, you’ll find more than gyros at King of Kings Gyros, where you also might choose some falafel (a spicy bean patty fried, Middle Eastern style) or even all-American grilled cheese.
A few restaurants are offering a prix-fixe lunch menu during Restaurant Week. Among them, Bottlenecks on South Main Street is offering several choices of paninis, from ham-and-cheese to Cuban. Senunas’ Bar & Grill on North Main is offering soup with salad or sandwich, and if you’d like to try Maryland Crab Fries, topped with bacon, green onions, crab meat and cheddar cheese, you’ll find them here.
Three Guys Pizza, on North Main, meanwhile, will discount hoagies, regular and Sicilian pizza during Restaurant Week, and Pete’s Place on East South Street, will offer several of its Middle Eastern specialties, including the eggplant-based dip baba ghanouji as well as kibbi (a patty of meat and bulgur wheat), hummus (a chickpea dish) and tabouli (a salad of parsley and cracked bulgur wheat.)
“You can eat your way around the world during restaurant week,” Maday said, lamenting the fact that, while the owners of El Rincon Latino and Southside Bistro wanted to be part of Restaurant Week, neither one will be open in their new locations in time.
El Rincon Latino will soon bring its Mexican food to Public Square, and the Southside Bistro will offer French-style food at South Main and East Ross streets.
Still, Maday is pleased to have 18 restaurants participating in the inaugural event, and he reminds restaurant-goers that the opening night coincides with the Third Friday Artwalk in downtown Wilkes-Barre, so you should be able to walk around and visit some downtown art galleries before or after dinner.