Restaurant week on Havana hopes to attract new shoppers to busy street

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If you want ethnic food, Havana Street in Aurora is tough to beat.

But that exotic cuisine can be a little intimidating for less-adventurous eaters. Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District, said that’s where the BID’s annual Havana restaurant week comes in.

For a week in early October every year — this year it’s Oct. 12-20 — 21 restaurants along the bustling thoroughfare team up and offer meal specials aimed at attracting some diners who might otherwise be reluctant to try Korean or Ethiopian or Middle Eastern cuisine.

“This is their chance, they can get a good price and try something a little different,” she said.

The street is so packed with ethnic cuisine and other restaurants that Jetchick said even long-time residents sometimes don’t know what’s there.

The restaurant week started five years ago as International Restaurant week, a way to showcase those ethnic restaurants, Jetchick said.

“We wanted to show off the fact that we have a lot of restaurants on Havana and a lot of good ethnic food,” she said. The week proved to be a popular promotion for the district. Jetchick said it was so popular that other restaurants with more-traditional menus took notice and wanted to participate.

“It started as International Restaurant Week and everyone wanted to get involved,” she said with a laugh. “You can’t discriminate against the non-ethnic restaurants.”

The event is similar to the popular Denver Restaurant Week, which attracts thousands of diners to more than 300 Denver restaurants every February. That event has been so successful since its 2005 launch that this year it is scheduled for two stretches, one in February and another in August.

While the Denver week offers meals and drinks for a fixed price of $52.80 per couple last year, $60 per couple this year — Havana’s is a bit different. Each participating restaurant is offering specials, but the prices vary from place to place.

Havana’s deals include two pork sandwiches for $10 at Gibby’s Bar and Grill, and dinner for two for $45 at Sushi Katsu.

At Thai Basil, 2710 S. Havana St., Cinly Cen, a manager there, said this is the third year the Thai eatery has participated in Havana’s restaurant week. This year the restaurant is offering Thai fusion dinner for two for $28.

The event is a good way to promote the 5-year-old restaurant, Cen said, because it attracts some people who might not otherwise stop in.

“It helps us a lot, they recognize our restaurant and we get some new customers,” she said.

Jetchick said the BID is always looking for promotions where the various business on Havana can team up.

Those efforts stretch well beyond restaurants and include the annual Cruizin’ Havana car show and the marketing efforts of the Havana Motor Mile, which sees the various car dealerships work together to promote the area.

“What we do with our events is we try to look at different sectors that try to get everybody involved,” Jetchick said. The idea is that by bringing people to Havana for an event like restaurant week or Cruizin’ Havana that they’ll stick around, she said.

“It brings people into the area and they will shop elsewhere,” she said.

For more, visit www.onhavanastreet.com/restaurant-week