The first table seated at h2hotel Healdsburg's Spoonbar restaurant for dinner Monday had come for a deal: Three courses for $29 and select half-price wines.
And Justin Dominiak was glad they did.
The deal is part of Sonoma County's third annual Restaurant Week, and Dominiak, manager of Spoonbar on Healdsburg Avenue, welcomes the extra business.
"It's fabulous," he said. "It attracts people."
With Monday's kickoff of the seven-day Restaurant Week, organized by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, 97 restaurants across the county, from Cloverdale to Valley Ford, are offering menus with fixed prices of $19, $29 or $39.
"It's meant to be a shot in the arm, a stimulus during the off season," said Ben Stone, director of the county Economic Development Board.
Last year's event brought in about $1.12 million, including restaurant revenue, taxes and the value of local ingredients bought for the week, according to a board report.
From Feb. 21 to 27, 2011, diners spent $906,013 on 25,000 meals, restaurants bought $130,000 in local food products and the week generated $86,071 in sales tax.
The concept of a restaurant week began in 1992 in New York City to promote eateries during the Democratic National Convention, said restaurant Zagat Survey's co-founder and CEO Tim Zagat. The idea has been adopted by cities across the globe.
Sonoma County launched the event with about 90 restaurants in 2010 to battle the recession's toll on local restaurants.
It's held in winter when fewer tourists are visiting the area and eating out, Stone said. Locals also tend to eat at home between New Year's Eve and Easter.
"It's really meant to help stimulate business, stimulate jobs for the off season," Stone said.
The event drew Angela and David Rhoderick from their hotel in Rohnert Park to Stark's Steak and Seafood at Adams and West Seventh streets in Santa Rosa.
The couple from Martha's Vineyard, Mass., had been wine tasting in Sonoma and saw Restaurant Week posters. They first went to Zazu Restaurant and Farm on Guerneville Road, which was closed, and the staff there recommended Stark's.
"That's why we're here," David Rhoderick said.
Along with tourists, last year's event brought in locals who hadn't tried Stark's before, said restaurant manager Chris McCall-Parks.
"It gives people the opportunity to try a new restaurant and explore a little," McCall-Parks said. "People love getting the deal, but they also do love supporting local business."
Outside Ume Japanese Bistro on Old Redwood Highway in Windsor, Tracie Wishart of Guerneville turned to her fianc? Radhi Barnes.
"This place was amazing," said Wishart, who works for Sonoma County's Psychiatric Emergency Services.
Wishart ordered three courses: The miso with clams, seared ahi tuna and the Actress Roll, a concoction with apple, crab, ginger and tuna.
The couple didn't go out because of Restaurant Week but were glad that an Internet search had led them to a great new restaurant.
"Three courses for $29 is a deal," Wishart said.
Restaurant Week ends Sunday. For more information visit sonomacountyrestaurantweek.org.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or email@example.com.