Twenty years ago, the Big Apple kicked off NYC Restaurant Week as a one-time event that coincided with the Democratic National Convention. The event was such a hit that it has continued, spurring many cities to create their own versions.

Brian McCollum, an avid foodie, has been to many cities’ Restaurant Week celebrations. Two years ago, he decided it was high time Pittsburgh had one. “I started Pittsburgh Restaurant Week because I’ve experienced them in other cities and felt that our community would embrace it like they do elsewhere across the nation,” he says.

Many cities celebrate Restaurant Weeks to promote a region’s offerings and encourage residents and tourists to try out new places. These celebrations have made significant contributions to local economies from $1 million in small cities like Jackson, Mich., to over $20 million in Chicago.

The official week of specials in Pittsburgh starts on August 11 and participating restaurants will offer three course prix-fixe menus or $20.14 specials.  Participants include Meat & Potatoes, Salt, Harvard & Highland, Tamari and Root174, to name just a few.

“Pittsburgh has grown into a foodies dream over the past several years,” says Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH. “We’ve gained prominence in the national food scene. From renowned chefs using locally sourced ingredients to high quality ethnic foods, Restaurant Week puts the best of the best in the spotlight. And all of the great deals on delicious dishes are a nice surprise for visitors.”

This marks the third year for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week (PRW). It has grown significantly since its beginnings in 2012. According to Brian, “Pittsburgh Restaurant Week started as a labor of love in January 2012 with 30 restaurants and has grown with our local restaurant scene into a cherished city festival with about 70 restaurants each celebration.”

Jeff Catalina’s two restaurants, Verde and Tender Bar + Kitchen, have participated from the beginning.

“It’s been thrilling to see the event grow over the years,” he says. “Pittsburgh diners have always been hugely supportive of independent restaurants and PRW is a great way to showcase those restaurants and all the talent behind them. PRW is a great excuse to try a new place…or for some of us who’ve been around for a while, it’s an opportunity to revisit an old favorite and see what’s fresh.”

On August 7, Pittsburgh Restaurant Week started with a kick-off party at The National Aviary featuring samplings from some of the participating restaurants.