Baltimore County is rolling out the white tablecloth for this year's summer restaurant week.
County officials and business leaders marked the start of the week-plus affair with an opening event at Towson.
The event at featured samples from that restaurant and five other participating eateries: in Hunt Valley, in Timonium, in Essex, The Milton Inn in Sparks and .
Catonsville only has one restaurant participating: . Many Catonsville restaurants instead particpate in the sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
This year's summer restaurant week runs from this Friday, Aug. 10 to Aug. 19 and includes specials ranging from $10.12 to $35.12 at 38 Baltimore County eateries. The restaurant weeks began in 2010 as the brainchild of Milton Inn chef Brian Boston and are modeled off successful programs in Baltimore city and elsewhere.
"Really, it's a great opportunity to visit restaurants that you don't normally get to go to," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "It's a really wide range of restaurants all around the county."
According to county officials, Baltimore County boasts the state's second most productive food service industry, with $1.2 billion in restaurant sales in the 2011 fiscal year (Montgomery County's restaurants booked $1.4 billion). Kamenetz said county restaurants supported 25,000 jobs at 1,240 establishments.
Keith Scott, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants "build the fabric of the community. They really provide that tie that binds our community together."
For restaurants, it provides a unique opportunity to get noticed.
"It hits a lot of new people as well as our pre-existing customers," said Danielle Rabnick, marketing and sales manager for Basta Pasta, as she passed out plates of a tomato and mozarella crostini, crab balls and a vegetable penne.
George Batlas, executive chef at Cafe Troia, opted to use the restaurant week to create dishes using locally-sourced products like peaches, arugula and beef.
"There's a great opportunity to try new restaurants," he said, as well as "an opportunity to improve local economics for the community, so that's our drive."