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Denver’s culinary scene is like a hidden gem nationally, said Justin Bresler, vice president of marketing for Visit Denver, but it’s something locals have always known about.

Denver Restaurant Week offers an opportunity to celebrate the local dining scene, and this year’s 18th annual event takes place March 11-20.

“Denver Restaurant Week is always a time for chefs to show off their creativity,” Bresler said. “It’s a good time to visit an old favorite or try something new.”

Nearly 200 restaurants are participating this year and they represent about 30 different cuisines.

How it works is participating restaurants create a multi-course dinner based on three price points — $25, $35 or $45 per person. Menus were announced mid-February, and diners are able to search restaurants by location, price point, cuisine and amenities, such as minority-owned or vegan options available.

Reservations are encouraged, and restaurants are expected to be busy. Though they will do what they can to accommodate desired reservation times, Bresler suggests avoiding peak dining hours and trying restaurants at different times and days of the week.

Bresler recommends dining in but some of the participating restaurants are offering takeout. Those who would prefer takeout should inquire with the restaurants beforehand to determine if this is an option.

Bonanno Concepts, a local chef-driven restaurant group, has five restaurants participating in this year’s Denver Restaurant Week. They are: Denver Milk Market in the Dairy Block downtown, Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, Luca in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Lou’s Food Bar also in Capitol Hill and French 75 downtown.

“You’re really hoping to showcase your restaurant,” said chef Frank Bonanno, who alongside his wife, Jacqueline, runs 10 food and drink concepts.

Denver has “a really great dining community,” Bonanno said, adding that Denver diners embrace the local and independent restaurants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented struggles for restaurants, and Denver Restaurant Week is the time to celebrate all that Denver’s dining scene has to offer.

“Believe me,” Bonanno said, “after the past two years, everyone wants your business.”

Bresler agrees and said diners can go to as many of the restaurants as they’d like during the 10-day Denver Restaurant Week event.

“Restaurants make great community small businesses,” Bresler said. “They make up the fabric of why we love living here.”