Giving back to our community is deliciously simple this summer, thanks to the folks at Central Texas Food Bank. The second annual Austin Restaurant Weeks, a city-wide fundraiser for the food bank, returns August 15 through September 2 this year. Many top restaurants and bars in Austin will offer special prix fixe lunches, dinners and drinks, with a portion of the cost from each dish and drink going directly to the food bank to help fight hunger.
Last year’s inaugural event was a huge success for the food bank, as they raised funds that provided over 550,000 meals for their clients. Every dollar donated to Central Texas Food Bank turns into four meals for someone in need, so the purchase of a single dinner during Austin Restaurant Weeks can support up to 32 meals.
“It definitely exceeded our wildest expectations for our first year,” says Mark Jackson, chief development officer for Central Texas Food Bank. “I personally ate at eleven or twelve of the restaurants over the course of two weeks. It was really cool to see how the restaurants got creative with the stuff that they already had on the menu or added new items specifically for the event.”
Local chef Bryce Gilmore, who’s participating this year with his restaurants Barley Swine, Odd Duck and Sour Duck Market, champions the fundraiser. Because Austin Restaurant Weeks occurs during what is normally a slow period for restaurants, he says eateries actually benefit by participating. “It's a win-win for everyone,” Gilmore says. “We're donating to the food bank, and the restaurant makes money … It's pretty neat to be able to help your business and then also help feed people.”
Austin residents can make the most of the fundraiser by using it as a reason to get out and try new restaurants. The prix fixe menu offerings make it more approachable for many, with lunches priced at $20 and dinners priced at either $35 or $50. “We had a lot of first-time customers over those two weeks,” Gilmore says. “When you see the positive effects that the food bank has, providing as many meals as they can to people who need them, it's just a no-brainer to support that.”
Looking forward to this year’s event, Jackson says he’s excited to see how participation from both chefs and attendees will amplify the fundraiser. “It was a huge learning curve to build it from the ground up in the first year, but we think we've got a really good format that can grow.”
To find out where to dine during Austin Restaurant Weeks, visit austinrestaurantweeks.org for a list of participating bars and restaurants.
By Darby Kendall • Photography by Hideaway Kitchen & Bar and Erin Holsonback