Every winter has its expected features. Short days, cold snaps, icy commutes. And then there's Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington's Winter Restaurant Week, which is at least one good reason to get out from under the blankets and leave the house. Whether you're interested in getting more bang for your buck or just exploring someplace new to you, the twice-a-year event can help.
More than 200 restaurants are participating in the promotion running Jan. 22-28, which typically features a three-course brunch or lunch for $22 and a three-course dinner for $35. That's a lot of options to sort through, so here's a cheat sheet to some of the best-looking menus. (Pro tip: Make reservations in advance to secure a seat.)
Arroz: Mike Isabella's stunner of a dining room in the Marriott Marquis near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center generously doles out four courses at dinner. This is your chance to try some of the greatest hits at the relative newcomer, including the burned eggplant, lamb ribs and patatas bravas, which eat like a cross between french fries, tater tots and potato gratin. 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Alta Strada: Ever been to an Italian restaurant and get struck by indecision as to whether to get pizza or pasta? During Restaurant Week dinner, Alta Strada won't force you to make this impossible choice, because both are included in the promotion (at the City Vista location, there is a more limited set menu, whereas the Mosaic District location will let you build your own meal from the entire menu). So go ahead and order your margarita pizza followed by fettuccine. We're not judging. 465 K St. NW; 2911 District Ave., No. 150, Fairfax.
Cheesetique: The always reliable family of cheesy restaurants puts a great twist on restaurant week by offering a $35 dinner for two. It includes a three-item meat or cheese board, which alone is usually $16, plus two entrees (salads, mac-and-cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches) and a fluffy chocolate mousse to share. (Only the Ballston and Shirlington locations are participating; Del Ray's will instead be participating in Alexandria Restaurant Week starting Jan. 26.) 800 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington; 4056 Campbell Ave., Arlington.
Jaleo: There is a temptation to treat Restaurant Week as a game of numbers. Where's the best deal, how much am I getting? At Jaleo, you're sure to get quantity and quality, thanks to food that is still earning 3 stars from Post Food critic Tom Sietsema 25 years after the restaurant first opened in Penn Quarter. (The Arlington and Bethesda locations are running restaurant week specials, too.) Lunch gets you four courses, but at dinner, you can sample five dishes, whether it's fried bacon-wrapped dates, piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese or crispy chicken fritters. (Sister restaurants Oyamel and Zaytinya are also doing five dishes at dinner.) 480 Seventh St. NW.
Joselito: At this charming Spanish spot near Eastern Market, choose two tapas and a dessert at lunch, or three tapas plus dessert at dinner. Dishes include deep-fried anchovies, snapper poached in olive oil, and flank steak with chimichurri sauce. The clincher? Dessert (how good does the warm white chocolate soup sound?) comes with a complimentary 1 ½ ounces of owner Javier Candon's homemade marcona-almond-infused brandy. 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.
Sfoglina: In theory a more relaxed, casual pasta house, this Van Ness outpost from Fabio and Maria Trabocchi screams "special occasion" with its swanky setting and pricey, albeit delicious, menu. During Restaurant Week brunch or lunch, you can get three courses for $22, less than the price of a single pasta or entree on a normal day ($23 to $28). Still, we'll take such dishes as short ribs cacciatore and tiramisu panna cotta in a heartbeat. 4445 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Sushi Ko: So you're not going to get to the $160 tasting menu at Kobo anytime soon. That's all right, because you can still taste the fine handiwork of executive chefs and brothers Handry and Piter Tjan for a more budget-friendly price at Sushi Ko. A four-course menu here is typically $55, but during Restaurant Week, you'll save $20 on a very similar meal. Think miso soup, sashimi and roasted salmon. 5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase.
Unconventional Diner: Sietsema says that "Washingtonians know to expect small wonders" from chef David Deshaies, a partner in Central Michel Richard whose creativity is now on display at his new solo spot in the convention center. He's executing diner-inspired classics with flair, and some of the early favorites are included on the dinner Restaurant Week menu. Be sure to indulge in the chicken pot pie poppers and meatloaf, which Sietsema says is "nothing like anyone's mom's." 1201 Ninth St. NW.