It’s back!

Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week starts Friday and runs through Jan. 21. This is the 10th year for Winter Restaurant Week (Summer Restaurant Week has been running longer), and I think we’ve got the hang of it by now.

Restaurant Week is a promotion designed to help restaurants fill up their rooms during a traditionally slow time of year — that long stretch between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

The selling point for diners is the specially designed, fixed-price menus that give them a good glimpse into a restaurant’s cuisine without breaking their dining budget. This year, two-course lunch options are available for $12-$20 and three-course dinners range from $20-$35.

I look for Restaurant Week menus that show some thoughtfulness. I like to see at least four options for appetizers and entrees, otherwise menus start to look like wedding response cards — a salmon, a chicken, a beef.

baltimorerestaurantweek.com

baltimorerestaurantweek.com (Screenshot)

I am curious about new places, places with a new chef, and places I haven’t been to in a long time.

Here are 10 Restaurant Week menus that caught my eye.  

The Brewer’s Art
1106 N. Charles St., 410-547-6925, thebrewersart.com

This might be the heartiest restaurant week menu I saw. I want to get my hands on the duck leg confit with brown butter parsnip puree and coffee-roasted Brussels sprouts, and I love the sound of black-eyed pea stew with pastrami-spiced celery root, smoked mushrooms and eggplant-sauerkraut puree. I’m also mighty tempted by the Saturday lunch menu, with options like grilled Binkert’s sausage or skillet mac-n-cheese.

The Elephant
924 N. Charles St., 443-447-7878, theelephantbaltimore

The Elephant has a newish chef, and Restaurant Week would be a great way to get to know Orlando Amaro. Plus, this is just the kind of dressy place that seems designed for Restaurant Week visits. The Restaurant Week menu offers a good mix of meats and seafood — I’m interested in the Barcelona seafood stew — and it’s always good to see a vegetarian option.

Germano’s Piattini
300 S. High St., 410-752-4515, germanospiattini.com

Only a few Little Italy restaurants seem to be participating in Restaurant Week these days, unfortunately. Germano’s’ special dinner menu offers seven appetizer and entree options, including several selections from the regular menu. So Restaurant Week seems like the right time to give the restaurant a try, if you’ve never been. Everyone should have a go-to Little Italy restaurant in their dining portfolio.

Gertrude’s
10 Art Museum Drive, 410-889-3399, gertrudesbaltimore.com

Year in and year out, Gertrude’s offers what I think is the most thoughtfully designed Restaurant Week menu, with legitimate options for vegan and gluten-free diners. (Most restaurants offer none of these options at all, or unpersuasive ones.) But I could easily go for the One Straw Farm Bloody Mary Veggie Jambalaya with vegan sausage or the curried root vegetable bisque — both are vegan options, the latter is also gluten-free. And then I want a poached pear trifle for dessert.

Points South Latin Kitchen
1640 Thames St., 443-563-2018, pointssouthbaltimore.com

I keep promising myself I’m going to get to Points South Latin Kitchen. I’m a big fan of Rey Eugenio’s cooking, and his Restaurant Week menu is filled with South American touches and flavors. I’m interested in the spicy shrimp with Peruvian pepper sauce and the beef short ribs braised in bittersweet chocolate sauce. I want some yucca croquettes, too.

In Bloom
1444 Light St., 443-449-7129, inbloomrestaurant.com

This is the new incarnation of Live2Eat. I can’t say that anything in particular about the Restaurant Week menu grabbed me by the collar, but it was interesting enough and well-designed enough — entrees include a meat, a seafood, a poultry and a vegetarian dish — to make me want to consider giving it a try. That’s what Restaurant Week is all about!

Rachel New American Cuisine
554 E. Fort Ave., 443-339-4999, rachelfedhill.com

I have heard good things about Rachel but can’t quite picture in my mind what kind of place it is. That makes it a perfect candidate for Restaurant Week, and their special menu is a straightforward mix of winterizing options like cider-brined chicken and pan-seared salmon — you know, things people like.

Salt Tavern
2127 E. Pratt St., 410-276-5480, salttavern.com

Salt’s Restaurant Week menu has always been very similar to its regular menu, but the regular menu changes every few months, so a Restaurant Week visit is still going to feel special. The entree options this go-round include a winter squash ragout, pan-roasted monkfish, balsamic braised beef ribs and a “dueling pork” plate with crispy confit pork belly and wild boar strip loin. Really, you can’t go wrong.

SoBo Cafe
6 W. Cross St., 410-752-1518, sobocafe.net

This Federal Hill gem is another logical Restaurant Week option, especially if you go with four people, or more, and dive into the eclectic options on the special menu — seared scallops, seared Peruvian salmon, Korean chicken-fried steak, chicken pot pie, acorn squash carbonara. For dessert, there’s a poached pear with sweetened goat cheese and pistachios.

Wine Market
921 E. Fort Ave., 410-244-6166, winemarketbistro.com

Restaurant Week is a great excuse to check out new restaurants, but it’s also a good time to revisit some old favorites. This Locust Point standby gets props for offering six solid special-menu options — a chicken schnitzel, braised short rib, pan-seared rainbow trout, rare seared ahi tuna, Mediterranean lamb burger and vegetable risotto, in addition to five legit appetizer and three tempting dessert options.

For more Restaurant Week menu options, go to baltimorerestaurantweek.com.

Tune in to facebook.com/jmoreliving Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. for This Week in Baltimore Eating with Richard Gorelick and join the food-filled discussion.

Watch Richard and Amanda discuss their Restaurant Week picks and traditions here: