Maine Restaurant Week kicks off Friday with the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, but the annual pilgrimage to participating restaurants begins March 1. For 12 days, diners get special meal deals while restaurants get much-needed business to help them make it through the slower winter months.

Restaurant Week fans can be an interesting bunch. Each has his or her own strategies for navigating menus and plotting where to have lunch or dinner next. Here are four types you may recognize as you go from restaurant to restaurant this year.

THE BREAKFAST HOUND

The only restaurant The Breakfast Hound may set foot in during Maine Restaurant Week is the Sea Dog Brewing Co. in South Portland, where the annual Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off pits some of the state’s best breakfast cooks against each other in a showdown that thrills people who would rather eat corned beef hash than a perfectly cooked filet mignon.806919_58688-BreakfastHound3

The event is always a sell-out, or nearly so, and The Breakfast Hound has been known to travel from as far as Vermont and Massachusetts. She doesn’t mind getting a little egg on her face. Or powdered sugar from a Congdon’s doughnut. Although doors don’t open until 7 a.m., she has been lined up since 6:30, at least.

Sampling every generous dish from 11 restaurants is something only the true Breakfast Hound can do. She picks up several dishes at once, then retreats to a table with friends to debate the relative merits of Prime-Rib Hash with Fried Egg and Truffle Hollandaise served on a biscuit (Sea Dog) versus Shredded Pork Belly Blintz with Smoked Ricotta, Maple-Pecan Sabayon and Coco Cracklings (Eve’s).

The Hound takes this decision as seriously as Hillary versus Bernie.

This year, after voting for her favorite dish, The Breakfast Hound will hide in a corner and sob quietly, mourning the absence of The Good Table’s Crème Brûlée French Toast, which won four times previously but has now been retired from the competition.

THE PENNY PINCHER

Restaurant Week meals have fixed prices. Lunches start at $15. Dinners are available at four price points: $25, $35, $45 and $55. So how can you save a few bucks on top of already reasonable prices? Like Mother Nature,


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Eating three lunches out, for example, costs the same as one $45 dinner would. By eating in the middle of the day, The Penny Pincher gets to sample food from three restaurants he may not have tried before. If he likes the lunches, he knows he can go back for dinner some other time and won’t be throwing good money after bad.

The Penny Pincher is programmed to hunt for small plates, because he prefers to pay a little less for a smaller portion, leaving him the option of trying more things.

This year, he’s got his eye on Congress Squared in Portland, which is offering three courses for $35. The Penny Pincher likes the fact that some of the options, such as Lobster Consomme and Rabbit Pot Pie, don’t appear on the restaurant’s current menu, meaning the Congress Squared chefs are going the extra mile.

That’s the true spirit of Restaurant Week – along with offering good deals. (See sidebar for The Penny Pincher’s picks for the best deals.)

THE GOBBLER

The Gobbler is a connoisseur of Maine Restaurant Week, dining out more often than New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells on a tear. He has the Restaurant Week app on his iPhone, so he can look up the nearest participating restaurant at a moment’s notice.806919_58688-RestaurantWeekGobbl2

The Gobbler fits the age demographic – 60 percent of all customers who dine out during Maine Restaurant Week are between 25 and 54 years old – but not the gender. The Gobbler is a he, while 70 percent of Maine Restaurant Week customers are shes. That’s fine with The Gobbler, who is single and finds Restaurant Week a better hunting ground for potential foodie girlfriends than How About We …, the Eater dating site.

During Restaurant Week, The Gobbler dines at restaurants, both new and old, but even if he limited his choices to Portland, he’d have to eat out three times a day to get to them all. (This year 65 restaurants are participating.) So he takes advantage of the lunch deals, too.

The Gobbler ends his week the same way he ends a fine meal – with coffee and dessert. This year’s coffee-and-dessert pairing will be held at Coffee By Design on Diamond Street in Portland. For $35, he can gobble desserts such as Chocolate Pot de Crème with Vanilla Madeleines and Whipped Cream (Sur Lie, Portland) and Brown Sugar Tart with Winter Fruit Compote (Little Bigs bakery, South Portland) while sipping a perfectly paired coffee.

Here’s hoping that by the time he settles in with a cup of Costa Rican Harvest Reserve, he’ll be sharing a bite with the future Mrs. Gobbler.

THE SKEPTIC

The Skeptic could also be called The Cynic. It really dills her pickle when restaurants just cobble together items from their regular menu until they fit the right price point, trying to make a Restaurant Week meal look like a deal when it’s really not.806919_58688-Skeptic

This is offensive to The Skeptic, akin to telling her that the Mast Brothers were using remelted chocolate in their hipster chocolate bars. Fingers crossed she doesn’t figure out which Southern Maine restaurant is posting a dinner that costs more during Restaurant Week than if you ordered the same items off the regular menu. Her indignation might just make her head pop off like a cork out of a Champagne bottle.

The Skeptic will dine out once or twice during Restaurant Week, but saves most of her money and energy for the food-and-cocktail pairing event because a well-made Negroni will take the edge off her perfectionist sensibilities. This year, she’ll likely be perturbed that the cocktails aren’t coming to her – she has to go to the cocktails.

On Sunday, she’ll pay $40 to get a wrist band in the Old Port (“Just like sheep!” we can hear her cry) and go on a Spirit Quest (“What am I, part of a cocktail cult?”) from 2 to 5 p.m.

Chefs might want to hang The Skeptic’s photo in their kitchen next to the local restaurant critic’s.