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Double the fun, double the bargains

Restaurant Week is morphing this year into two weeks, Aug. 13-18 and Aug. 20-25. That gives diners more time to catch bargains: $20.06 for a three-course lunch and $30.06 for a three-course dinner. This summer, more than 130 restaurants are participating, ranging from favorites (Casablanca in Harvard Square) to newcomers (Sorellina in the Back Bay) to out-of-towners (Chiara in Westwood).

It can be a lot to navigate. Here's what we suggest as you try to nab a table during these food-rich weeks, organized and sponsored by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and American Express:

Plan and mind your manners. Make reservations as soon as possible, and if you can't show up, call and cancel. It's plain courtesy, but especially important when tables are at a premium.

Go for the pricey places. You want to get a break, not just see the same kind of bill you might any old week. So the biggest bargains are the more expensive restaurants: Three courses at Rialto is a steal for that price, but at Croma that might be even more than your usual check. And Henrietta's Table offers a $30 prix-fixe deal every Sunday through Thursday, not just during Restaurant Week.

Consider these. With some exceptions, our best Restaurant Week experiences have been at places that ditch their regular menu and design something just for the occasion. That keeps them from having to please deal-seekers along with the regular crowd, and it often means more interesting choices for diners. Look into Lumiere in West Newton and blu downtown, both of which had some availability as of press time. If you're not sure about the restaurant's strategy, call and ask.

Watch for extras. Metropolitan Club in Chestnut Hill and others are offering specials on wines, too. Meritage, known for its pairings, is sold out, but those who have already snagged a reservation can have wines matched with the three-course dinner for an extra $15. Other restaurants , such as Grotto , offer a wide range of options from their menu.

Don't despair. If a restaurant appears sold out on the website Open Table, call; it may still be accepting reservations. And remember: Several restaurants are extending the offer until Labor Day weekend. That includes UpStairs on the Square and Bambara in Cambridge, Caffe Umbra in the South End, and Lumiere in West Newton.

For information, including some menus and links to Open Table for reservations, go to or .

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