5 things to know about Chicago Restaurant Week

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After four very successful Restaurant Weeks — the inaugural event kicked off Feb. 22, 2008 — the fifth installment is gearing up. Here's how to be a savvy participant:

It's not a week. Restaurant Week runs 10 days, Friday through Feb. 26 (though some restaurants are closed Sundays and/or Mondays; check). And many restaurants routinely extend their Restaurant Week menus by a few days, or more.

These are very good deals. Three-course lunches are $22; dinners are $33 and/or $44. Granted, some restaurants don't make quite as much effort as others. But $44 for dinner at Perennial Virant, $22 for lunch at Sepia and $33 for dinner at Il Mulino are conspicuous bargains.

Places sell out. Already, nearly all the tables at Table Fifty-Two, a first-time participant, are spoken for. But don't despair. Some restaurants hold a few tables back, and cancellations do happen. If you can't find a table online, call the restaurant directly.

It couldn't be easier. Go to eatitupchicago.com to find a list of participating restaurants and the menus they will be featuring. Included in each restaurant listing is a one-click link to opentable.com for online reservations.

The event just keeps getting bigger. The first Chicago Restaurant Week, five years ago, had 35 participating restaurants. This year it's more than 200. That, my friends, is a success story.
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