Niles restaurant week to showcase 18 restaurants

NILES – The creators of the inaugural Niles Restaurant Week are looking forward to 18 Niles restaurants showcasing menus and culinary offerings beginning next Monday.

“We have spent the last handful of years building Niles into a food destination,” said Justin Flagel, member of the Niles Downtown Development Authority/Main Street and the restaurant week board. “Regardless of the pandemic, we have all of these great eateries here, and some newer ones. We have a great foodie vibe here, and we want to celebrate that.”

From Monday, March 1 through Sunday, March 7, 18 area restaurants will be participating in the first Niles Restaurant Week. Many have opted to provide traditional ways to sample an establishment’s offerings, including an appetizer, main course and dessert menu package. Others are offering signature dishes for the occasion.

Lisa Croteau, director of the Niles DDA/Main Street, credited Nate Barnett, general manager of Create Bar and Grill, and Laura Tuthill, owner of Iron Shoe Distillery, for starting the conversation to put the upcoming event into motion.

“[Nate and I] were brainstorming ways that we could help out local restaurants,” Tuthill said. “The industry has been hit so hard with all of the COVID-19 restrictions here in Michigan, and through talking, the idea of ‘restaurant week’ was born as a way to encourage the local community to really rally behind and support locally owned restaurants.”

The conversation grew from there and took hold within the Niles DDA/Main Street members.

“I said it was a wonderful idea,” Croteau said. “We pulled in the [Greater Niles] Chamber of Commerce and sent out communications to every restaurant, all 41 of them in the 49120 area, to see who would be interested in participating. I am thrilled for this first one that we have 18 participating.”

Nearly a dozen, non-food sponsors stepped in to support the event.

“Everyone I’ve been talking to is very excited,” Croteau said.

Tuthill said when discussions formally began for the event, indoor dining was still not allowed in Michigan under its epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“When we started this, we didn’t know what the state restrictions would look like. We decided to forge ahead, regardless, even if it was only for take-out,” Tuthill said. “I’m glad we are still moving forward with this, even though we are still at 25-percent capacity. I know all the restaurants are offering carry-out as well.”

Flagel said that businesses and restaurants have become accustomed to changing regulations over the past year.
“We knew things could change,” Flagel said. “We said we were going to do this no matter what. We will create this in a way that can work.”

Members of the Niles Restaurant Week board are optimistic about this week’s coming warmer weather — at least by southwest Michigan standards.

“It looks like the weather will break, so there’s always The NODE,” Croteau said, of places to eat outdoors. “We hope people will wander through town, see what else they can find. I hope it will be a festive week of trying new things and exploring new businesses.”

The week will also include a photo contest, where diners can post a photo of their experience on Facebook and Instagram, with the hashtag #EatDrinkNiles, to be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card to one of the participating restaurants. More information and menu offerings can be found at EatDrinkNiles.com, and on the Instagram and Facebook pages @EatDrinkNiles.

Two more restaurants have been added to the original participant list.

Currently the restaurants involved are:

  • Apothica Teas
  • Brew Ha Ha Café
  • Create Bar and Grill
  • El Amigo Pepe
  • Front Street Pizza
  • Gabrizio Italian Café and Bakery
  • Iron Shoe Distillery
  • Jay’s Lounge Sports Bar and Grill
  • Jim’s Smokin’ Café
  • Joey Armadillo’s
  • Lakeside Bar and Grill
  • Niles Brewing Company
  • The Nuggett Downtown Grill
  • Pizza Transit
  • Plaza, The Family Restaurant
  • Prime Table Restaurant
  • Veni’s Sweet Shop
  • Wing’s Etc.

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