Special to the Tribune

There’s no need to make up an excuse to go out. For 10 days this month, more than 150 restaurants have you covered with showcased meals for Arizona Restaurant Week.

From Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 28, Arizona Restaurant Week participants will serve three-course meals for $33 or $44 per person.

The biannual celebration turns 10 this year, marking a decade of fall foodie festivities and six years since the Arizona Restaurant Association expanded the event to a week in the spring and in the fall.

Arizona has made its mark as a foodie destination, so it makes sense to have a week devoted to eating out. According to event organizers, Arizona leads the nation in job growth in the food-service sector. The eateries see about a 20 percent increase in business during Arizona Restaurant Week, too.

“Arizona Restaurant Week has remained a strong culinary driver to many local chefs and restaurant owners, as well as a treasured memory maker for diners,” says Arizona Restaurant Association president Steve Chucri.

Over 3 million people have dined during Arizona Restaurant Week’s run, with establishments like The Capital Grille, The Melting Pot and Roaring Fork participating in the past. This year, foodies can enjoy dishes at The White Chocolate Grill, MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails, The Market Restaurant + Bar, Ajo Al’s Mexican Café and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill and others.

Jennifer Russo, owner of The Market Restaurant + Bar in Phoenix, says she uses Arizona Restaurant Week to showcase its seasonal menu, reach new customers and decide on its summer selections. This year, Russo said her restaurant will serve gnocchi, yellow fin nicoise and corn bisque.

“I feel the food scene is (filled) with seasonal ingredients and local products,” Russo says. “At least the independent restaurants seem to follow this trend.”

Brian Blake is the director of food and beverage at FOUND:RE Phoenix hotel’s MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails. He explains that Chef Matt Hobbs will offer a three-course menu on its own and with wine and beverage pairings for an additional $18. He says he thinks Arizona flavors are evolving and changing constantly.

“The greater Phoenix area is starting to come into its own with many different cuisines featured across the Valley,” Blake says. “Chefs here in the Valley are not afraid to take a chance.”

For more information about other participating restaurants, visit ArizonaRestaurantWeek.com.

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