Austin Restaurant Week offers tasty food while supporting local charities

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Robert Ocasio, chef at Cipollina, serves the restaurant’s signature cheese plate. Cipollina is a bistro in west Austin that is taking part in Austin Restaurant Week for the fourth year in a row.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

During Austin Restaurant Week, budget-bound locals can eat some of the best food in Austin while contributing to the community.

Spanning a two-week feast, locals can enjoy a cheaper menu from 45 of the top restaurants in Austin. There will be two-course lunches from $12 to $17, and three-course dinners from $27 to $37. 

Every Austin Restaurant Week meal donates $2 directly to Meals on Wheels and More, helping to create a meal for a recipient of the program. In past years, thousands of dollars have been raised during Austin Restaurant Week. Well known Austin eateries, including Bartlett’s, Roaring Fork Downtown, The Driskill Grill, The Melting Pot and Uchi will be participating.  

Justin Rouhier, assistant general manager at Cipollina, said the participating restaurants have created new, separate menus for Austin Restaurant Week. Each restaurant will present new dishes that are exclusive to their special Austin Restaurant Week menu. 

Cipollina, a west Austin bistro, joins Austin Restaurant Week for the fourth year. 

Mediterranean-inspired and locally sourced, Cipollina will serve antelope short ribs on a bed of celery root puree, sauteed beets and carrots, topped with a fresh herb salad for the first dish. The second entree choice will be a gnudi carbonara with wild boar pancetta, a poached duck egg and scallions. 

Matthew Grimes, executive chef at Cipollina, said he appreciates Austin Restaurant Week as a chef but he also enjoys visiting competitors’ restaurants and getting a decently priced meal.

“It’s a very concise menu at a certain price,” Grimes said. “Most people might go for a pizza or a steak if they see that on the menu, but when people see these new dishes, they often try it. It opens the door for people to experience something different.”

Zach Zellmer, general manager of Cipollina, said Austin Restaurant Week brings in business because people come to their restaurant who normally wouldn’t.

“It gets people out and donating in a way that they wouldn’t have really thought of,” Zellmer said. “It’s easier because they just get to go out to eat, instead of thinking of charity as somewhat of a hassle.” 

Zellmer said Austin Restaurant Week gave him the chance in the past to try new food as well. 

“Before I really got into the restaurant industry I couldn’t afford good meals, so I think it’s really exciting that people get to try places they maybe never would have because of the price,” Zellmer said.

In addition to locals getting the chance to try fine dining and experience new places at a lower price, Zellmer said it’s charity that’s at the heart of Austin Restaurant Week. 

“It makes you be able to donate without thinking twice,” Zellmer said. “It really brings people together.”