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Restaurant owners, operators and patrons talk about the 8th annual restaurant week in downtown York City. (Video: Lindsay C. VanAsdalan) The York Dispatch

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As York City's culinary scene continues to grow, Restaurant Week York returns for its eighth year with 35 participating establishments.

Bradley Thompson, kitchen manager for Mudhook Brewing Co., said the event evolves each year. What he loves about restaurant week is that it tends to bring out more honest opinions.

"People are looking to see the flair," he said. "(There's) a lot of food passions that come out, and the community's doing it together."

The downtown food spotlight kicked off Saturday, Feb. 24, and continues through Saturday, March 3, with breakfast and lunch options priced at $5-$15 and dinner options for $20-$40.

More: Forks up: Restaurant Week York is near

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Among the businesses ready to show off their flair for hungry citygoers are Mudhook, the city's oldest brewery, returning favorite Esaan Thai Restaurant — which tied with Mi Caldero Restaurant for best ethnic option at last year's restaurant week — recent addition Isaac's on the Fly and popular coffee shop I-ron-ic.

Esaan Thai Restaurant: Joy Delp's parents, Sam and Jai, own Esaan Thai Restaurant at 30 N. Beaver St., and she serves as front house staff for the establishment.

The family recently took a trip to Thailand and brought back some inspiration for their menu.

The "crown jewel of our lunch menu," Joy Delp said, is a special offering for restaurant week also featured at Taste of York: the Khao Soi, a coconut curry soup with chicken and egg noodles, topped with a crunchy noodle. 

The dish is a specialty from northern Thailand, and Delp said it was hard to find — they had to track down a restaurant in Thailand that offered it — and it takes a lot of care to make.

Delp said they might have bitten off more than they can chew, with five additional dishes for restaurant week on top of their full menu, but they are excited to be a part of it.

More: Meet the ‘Butter Chicken Lady’

Megan and Mark Newman, of York Township, are regulars at Esaan. 

"We used to come here, if not every week, two or three times a month," Mark Newman said. 

When asked what she loved about the restaurant, Megan Newman said, "Everything. When we come here, we feel like family."

The price is also reasonable, she said. "It's a taste of the exotic without the exotic price."

Megan Newman also appreciates that Esaan has a gluten-free menu and is able to customize any order to be gluten free. "No matter what I order, it's safe," she said. "Not all places are like that."

Isaac's on the Fly: Lancaster-based Isaac's on the Fly is new to York City but a seasoned veteran of the region's food scene, having opened its 19th location last March at 79-98 W. Market St. 

Sue Stough, of York City, prepared the featured restaurant week sandwich, the White Finch — fresh-cut turkey on pumpernickel with mayo, Muenster cheese, bacon and cole slaw. 

The cole slaw is what sets it apart from the Finch, Stough said.

Stough, an employee of the company for more than eight years, said they brought back the White Finch for restaurant week — it was a popular sandwich that used to be on the menu, but she said they can make it for customers any time, if they have the ingredients handy.

"People probably don't know that we make all of our soups from scratch ... we slice all of our meats and cheeses here," said manager Leo Renze, of Stewartstown.

"It's a little different than a Subway," he continued. "We're not just a sandwich shop."

In addition to the White Finch, Isaac's is featuring a breakfast quesadilla and vegan pizza.

Mudhook Brewing Co.: Thompson, of York City, specializes in taking classic items and giving them his own pub-style twist.

His breakfast steak and eggs is a "hungover, sloppy breakfast," with sweet and savory elements. He doesn't overthink it, he said.

Being a brewpub, Thompson said, Mudhook, at 34 N. Cherry Lane, has the freedom to create a menu that fits its rustic interior and be a little more off-center than an upscale dining establishment.

More: Crystal Ball Brewing Co. adds to South Beaver Street's local flair

A signature choice of the brewpub is to incorporate beer into the menu, as with the spent grain parfait, made with granola from spent grain that comes from the brewing process.

Many of the lunch items pair with the Saison and Blue Mbuna Blonde Ale, Thompson said.

And restaurant week selection Beer Mussels and Brussels, featuring fresh Brussels sprouts, mussels and clams steamed in a pesto garlic butter sauce and Cherry Lane Strong Ale over pasta, is perfect with Mudhook's Belgian New Year's release, he added.

Chuck Czajka, of Forest Hill, Maryland, always comes up to Mudhook when he rides his bike on the nearby York County Heritage Rail Trail.

"This is my watering hole," he said.

His friend Mike McCullar, who lives near Codorus State Park, said of Czajka, "He's here more than I am."

I-ron-Ic: Part coffee shop, part vintage store, I-ron-ic, at 256 W. Philadelphia St., came up with several new specialty lattes and breakfast items for restaurant week.

The shop, which features vintage clothing and items from more than 200 artists, is offering four new lattes to be enjoyed exclusively in-house.

The S'more Latte is a double shot of espresso, chocolate syrup and toasted marshmallow topped with vanilla whipped cream, and the Spicy Chai and Mexican Chocolate lattes are rimmed with habanero sugar— spicy hot!

"I think it's cool," employee Alex Yarrish, of Manchester Township, said of restaurant week. "It's something to bring people downtown."

Manchester Township neighbors Pat Jones and Amy Musone said they come to I-ron-ic because of the owners — Steve Billet and David Smith — who Musone said were involved in a lot of charity work. 

"The owners are really great," Musone said. "It's nice to know that people in the community are giving back to the community."

"It's just a comfortable place to come sit and talk," Jones said. The people are friendly, the food's good, the coffee's good and it has really fun artwork, she said.

More: Cold-brew coffee: It’s not just for sipping

York culinary scene: Patrons say the food scene downtown has definitely improved in recent years. 

"We've been here a few years," said Mark Newman. "It reminds me a lot more of Baltimore." He likes the scene for its cultural variety, saying it has more than just the all-American steak and burger options.

The Newmans said they'd like to see more food trucks incorporated into restaurant week so they could try a wider variety of food.

Yarrish said the culinary scene goes hand-in-hand with the arts scene in York City and other downtown events such as First Friday. The collaboration of events in the city allows the community to have more outlets.

"I love what the downtown is doing," Jones said. Both she and Musone agree that the food scene has a lot to offer. Now it's just a matter of getting more parking, Jones said.

McCullar, who moved from North Carolina, said of the food scene since he moved, "I think it's a lot better." He enjoys restaurants that are independent — not chains.

More: York City's newest restaurant: Hamir's Indian Fusion

This week: Restaurant week fans can look forward to several special events, such as An Evening at Mezzogiorno on Saturday, March 3, which features a special three-course dinner with the option to bring your own wine.

Taste Test Audition Space, 101 S. Duke St.,  is featuring Paco's Tacos from noon to 10 p.m. through Friday, March 2, and Uptown Downtown 5-9 p.m. Saturday, March 3 — a preview of the March Taste Test, a collaboration between partners, in which "she brings the 'uptown', he brings the 'downtown'," according to restaurant week menus.

Those not looking to eat during restaurant week can enjoy a "liquid dinner" at Revival Social Club, with a choice of three cocktails for $30.

For a complete list of restaurant week menus, visit rwyork.com.

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