Restaurant Week options at Ray's Cafe, still doing a brisk business while the Boathouse is closed for a remodel. Photo via Ray's Facebook page.

Seattle Restaurant Week has returned; this week it runs through Thursday, October 18, returning next week from the 21st through 25th. More than 150 local establishments are offering three-course menus for $28. Depending on who you ask, this creates either a fantastic opportunity to try new places, or an elbow-to-elbow assemblance of diners who arive with unrealistically high expectations and leave crushingly low tips. Hopefully more of the former, less of the latter.

Here, five signs you are about to partake in a Restaurant Week menu.

1. Your entire meal costs less than an entree.
A night out at Sushi Kappo Tamura, Crush, or RN74 quickly escalates into triple digits. Restaurant Week lets diners check out these establishments for a sliver of the cost. Just remember—tax, tips, and booze can quickly turn a $28 dinner into a $100 dinner, so plan/budget/drink accordingly. It’s still way cheaper than on a regular night. The $15 lunch menus are a good option for keeping things way cheap.

2. Tables are hard to come by.
These reservations go fast, especially for those fancier and more expensive places. The chances of walking in are dicey, even on a Tuesday night. Make a reservation. But if you change your plans, just don’t be that guy.

3. Your server is being a total hardass.
What? You can’t substitute the filet for the honey-walnut shrimp? And you have to choose between the mushroom soup, spring rolls, or the salad? These menus are precisely conceived so restaurants have a prayer of breaking even during this week. Don’t expect lobster and don’t ask for substitutions. Scope out the menus on the Restaurant Week website to assess. If you have a gluten intolerance or a garlic allergy but are absolutely dying to dine out on the cheap, call ahead to gauge the possibilities.

4. Your server is also incredibly busy.
These nights usually come with a little pandemonium in the dining room. Have realistic expectations and realize that this is not the usual atmosphere for most places. Most servers I have experienced during Restaurant Week cope graciously; good tips are a nice way to keep that karma going.

5. It’s not the weekend.
Restaurant Week takes a hiatus on Friday and Saturday night. Plan accordingly.
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