The Five Most Promising Menus from Clayton Restaurant Week 2013

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As we told you last week, the fourth annual Clayton Restaurant Week will run Monday, January 21, through Sunday, January 27. Seventeen Clayton restaurants will offer three-course meals for $25 per person, tax and tip not included. In what has become a Gut Check tradition for the higher-profile restaurant weeks -- namely, this one and Downtown -- I've studied the seventeen prix-fixe menus to determine which restaurants promise the most bang for your buck. This is no guarantee of a great experience, of course, just our way of pointing out which spots offer the most intriguing and/or the greatest number of choices.

Remember: Reservations for Clayton Restaurant Week are pretty much a must.

A couple of notes before we get to the main course:

- Coastal Bistro & Bar (14 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-932-7377) wins the first annual Not Really Trying award. Its menu features only two choices for each of the first two courses -- crab cake or poached apple salad; pork tenderloin or pan-seared corvina -- and then a choice of dessert "shooter" to conclude. Come on, guys. You couldn't have thrown in a a couple of oysters or something?

- I raised an eyebrow when I saw Crushed Red (8007 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-8007) among this year's restaurants. The average diner wouldn't spend $25 there on a regular occasion. In fact, Crushed Red is offering a $25 meal for two people: an appetizer, two small salads and a pizza. Not a bad deal.

OK. Without further ado (except a click-through 'cuz food bloggers gotta get paid, son), your five best bets for Clayton Restaurant Week 2013:

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