San Francisco’s 11th Annual Dine About Town is here, from January 15 thru 31. It’s a great time to sample many of the fine dining options that the city has to offer. Visit a new place that you’ve never tried before, or enjoy a value priced meal at your favorite local restaurants – 2 course lunch for $17.95, and 3 course dinner for $34.95.

Regulars know that some DAT menus are better than others. But with more than 100 local restaurants participating this year, the problem is deciding which to choose? Some top local restaurants like Absinthe Brasserie and La Mar have chosen to participate during lunch only. And although these are good restaurants, their DAT menus play it safe and don’t showcase what those kitchens can do.

Another helpful tip to narrow down your list of DAT choices: skip restaurants that already have a similarly priced lunch or dinner prix fixe, available year round. Because you can visit those places any time. For example, 1300 Fillmore has a dinner prix fixe for $36, Le Charm’s prix fixe is $32, and Chapeau! in the Richmond district charges $38. And then sometimes you find a prix fixe that’s cheaper than a DAT meal. For example, 54 Mint has a $15 prix fixe lunch.

For modest savings, the downtown office crowd will appreciate the DAT lunch offers at Campton Place, Town Hall, Salt House, Anchor & Hope, and Waterbar. And fans of the famous Marlowe‘s hamburger will be able to save a few bucks with their burger DAT lunch.

Chez Papa Resto, a favorite for contemporary French fare, has a 3 course business lunch prix fixe for $24. So the DAT lunch, is simply the prix fixe minus the dessert. A better alternative is the DAT dinner at sister restaurant Chez Papa Bistrot in Potrero Hill, which includes several customer favorite’s menu items.

For Italian food, try E Tutto Qua at the edge of North Beach, it’s a hidden gem worth checking out during DAT. Dosa on Fillmore, and Dosa on Valencia are a must for elegant South Indian cuisine. This year both are participating only for DAT dinner.

Sutro’s at The Cliff House has fantastic views of the bay, and their DAT menu (lunch and dinner) allows you to sample several regular menu items. One Market Restaurant and Foreign Cinema are solid choices for a pleasant dining experience.

A standout choice among the handful of Asian restaurants is Nombe, an Izakaya restaurant on Mission street that has recently recruited a new prominent chef, Noriyuki Sugie. Just last week, Nombe added lunch service featuring Nori’s unique beef ramen (I’ll post about it later). The DAT lunch includes the beef ramen, a mini donburi and your choice of drink, beer or housemade soda. While the DAT dinner features a traditional Kaiseki 7 courses meal, served in 3 stages.

This year’s crop of brand new restaurants joining DAT that are worth checking out: Trace Restaurant at the W Hotel, which features Chef Paul Piscopo’s farm to table cuisine, Txoko, a Spanish tapas place in North Beach, Cupola Pizzeria at the Westfield Centre, and Claudine, a casual French-American bistro by the same owners of nearby Café Claude.

Last tip, remember to always check the specific restaurant’s participation dates online. Because some DAT offers are only valid during weekdays, and some places don’t have DAT menus on Fridays and Saturdays. Also make early reservations in OpenTable, because the most popular places will fill up quickly.