Restaurant week is back for the third year as local eateries craft special menus in an effort to encourage customers to try a new dining experience they might otherwise pass up.

The event began three years ago after Darien Chamber of Commerce President Carol Wilder-Tamme wanted to transform Darien into a dining destination.

"February can be a little slow at times for restaurants and this gives people a reason to go out and enjoy the variety of dining that is available," Wilder-Tamme said.

When the special event first started only three restaurants participated, but since then that number has increased to 12 with a wide variety of food offerings.

"Two to three years ago there weren't really enough restaurants, but now we have much more variety," she said. "There's something for everyone out there no matter what your tastes are."

Tim Fischer of Chuck's Steakhouse said restaurant week has historically been a huge success. Fischer said the money customers save on meals is a huge draw and a much needed boost during a time of year when business is usually slower.

"Typically, week nights in the winter aren't as busy as the spring or summer because of the cold and the inclement weather," Fischer said. "We want to offer an incentive for people to come out."

The Goose General Manager Mark Planeta said restaurant week offers a huge boost to the amount of business the restaurant does for the entire week.

"This is a great way to reach out to guests and potential customers and let them know what you have to offer. We're going into our second year since we opened," Planeta said. "This event will draw about 20 to 30 percent more customers."

Phil's Grill owner Phil Santomassi said he hasn't seen a huge impact on his business so far but attributed that to fact that it was only day two of the week-long event.

"We made up special menus for the week and I was talking to some of the customers and one of them said she really liked my menu," Santomassi said. "This is my first year being open but I'm really glad to be able to participate and give back to the community."

Besides offering savings on meals, Planeta said restaurant week encourages people to try a restaurant they might not try otherwise.

David Johnson, owner of Backstreet Restaurant, said he has already had customers coming in who are looking for the deals. Johnson participated in restaurant week the first year it was offered but business wasn't very good when it was scheduled to take place in November.

"I think the Chamber of Commerce has done a great job at getting the word out about the event. I think this is a good promotion for the restaurant and the weather has been good which is definitely helping us," Johnson said. "February is typically a slow month except for Valentine's Day."

In addition to restaurant week, local retailers are also participating in the indoor sidewalk sales event that takes place from Feb. 5 to Feb. 11. Wilder-Tamme said she hopes the overlap of the two events will encourage people to go out to eat and do a little shopping.

"I'm hoping everybody will do a little shopping and dining or dining and shopping," she said. "This is a really fun event."

Restaurant week runs from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 and prices for meals range from $10.12 to $30.12. Participating restaurants include Matsuri, Ole Mole, Phil's Grill, Robeks Juice, Rory's Restaurant, Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant, Cesco's Trattoria, Backstreet Restaurant, Cafe D'Azur, The Melting Pot and Darien Social.

bholbrook@bcnnew.com