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Salmon carpaccio at Zentan

Monday marks the start of “Restaurant Week” in the District, with more than 200 area restaurants participating in the price-fixed meal promotion. This time around, lunch is set at $20.11 and dinner is $35.11. (Read the full list of participating eateries here.)

For diners, the upside is simple: the deal offers you the chance to try a restaurant you might not otherwise be able to afford, or at least think you might not otherwise be able to afford. The downside: large crowds and limited menus. Even worse: the quality of the food may suffer, as kitchens crank out bigger quantities of fewer items and with arguably less motivation to make it good. After all, what chef is going to bust his ass to impress some fly-by-night guest who likely isn’t coming back until the next discount orgy in January? WaPo columnist Ezra Klein once put it this way: “you’re spending almost as much as you would otherwise, but getting worse food, fewer options, and a crummier experience.”

Meanwhile, more savvy diners may see it as an opportunity to patronize places that don’t participate in the promotion, as reservations may be easier to obtain because the crowds are flocking elsewhere.

Young & Hungry wants to know: What do you think of Restaurant Week? Do you participate? Or, do you avoid it like E. Coli? Do you think the quality of food is better or worse during the promotion? Do you end up saving money or not? Do you believe the promotion is good for restaurants regardless of the impact on your palate or wallet? Discuss.

Photo by Chris Shott