The Mayor cooked the flaming dish in front of several dozen “full time” chefs at the Metropolitan State University of Denver Hospitality Learning Center to draw attention to what has become the largest restaurant week in the nation.

DRW, a 14-day dining celebration, will be held from February 23 to March 8, 2013, with a record 356 participating restaurants offering a multi-course dinner for the ‘mile high’ price of $52.80 for two ($26.40 for one), tax and tip not included.

“We believe that with 356 restaurants, Denver Restaurant Week is the largest restaurant week in the nation,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, the event’s owner and originator.

Mayor Hancock noted that tourism is the second largest industry in Denver, employing 50,000 people, and that an event like DRW helps elevate the national reputation of the city. “Denver Restaurant Week is a wonderful time to get out and sample Denver’s dining opportunities – explore some new restaurants, visit a new neighborhood or stop by and dine at some old favorites,” the Mayor said.

Last year, a record 404,400 meals were served and interest appears to be up in 2013. “On just the first day the menus were available at DenverRestaurantWeek.com we had more than one million page views,” Scharf said.

Scharf noted that in 2013, there are:

· 85 new restaurants participating in DRW for the first time

· 202 restaurants offering vegetarian options

· 26 restaurants offering gluten-free options

· 86 restaurants offering beer, wine or drinks as part of their DRW menu, with many offering high-quality, affordable wines from Gallo Wineries via their program with participating restaurants

· And 94 restaurants in just downtown Denver

While some popular restaurants are already sold out with reservations for all 14 days, Scharf noted that there are still plenty of restaurants with availability. “The fun of DRW is trying new places,” Scharf said. The 356 restaurants are listed at DenverRestaurantWeek.com by name, cuisine and neighborhood.

Scharf offered some tips on getting reservations:

· If you really want to dine at a certain restaurant that is already booked, try sitting at the bar – or just try showing up, since there are frequent cancellations

· Go to OpenTable.com and click on the Denver Restaurant Week Page. Enter the time and date you would like, and click the “Find a table” button. The page will show you which of the 212 DRW restaurants on Open Table have availability.

· On the DenverRestaurantWeek.com site, click on a restaurant menu, and then hit the “Add to Must-Dine List.” This will then show up on your Facebook page, letting all your friends know that you are interested in dining at this restaurant and seeing if anyone wants to join you.

Scharf also reminded diners to honor their reservations, call the restaurant ahead of time if you must cancel, and be generous to your servers.

This year, VISIT DENVER is pleased to announce the inclusion of Lexus, joining Denver Restaurant Week as the presenting sponsor. Throughout this year’s event, diners will be encouraged to participate in a special “Take a Test Drive, Have Dinner On Us” promotion that will award hundreds of $52.80 gift certificates to qualified drivers who take a Lexus test drive at any of their three metro Denver area locations. Details of the contest can be found on the Denver Restaurant Week website.

In addition, DRW sponsor Frontier Airlines is offering a 10 percent discount on spring travel by booking through FlyFrontier.com using the promotional code: DENVER10. The offer is exclusive for Denver Restaurant Week, and is valid for use on a domestic flight booked now through March 8, 2013, to fly between April 9 through June 6, 2013.

Denver Restaurant Week 2013 would not be possible without the generous support of sponsors including: Lexus, Alamos Winery, Edna Valley Vineyard, Mirassou Winery, Louis M. Martini Winery, William Hill Winery, US Foods, Frontier Airlines, Johnson & Wales University, The Denver Post, 5280 Magazine, 9News, Westword, Open Table, RTD, the Colorado Restaurant Association and the Downtown Denver Partnership Business Improvement District.

For more information, visit: DenverRestaurantWeek.com

Photo: Trevor Brown for VISIT DENVER