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Funeral Wreaths from Chefs
December 27, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

"I was never threatened covering the cops beat nor while reporting on a big Mafia trial, but I was threatened – twice – for writing negative reviews of two restaurants. Shows where the passion is, I guess." Restaurant critics write about (and link to) their most negative reviews and discuss the measured and reasonable responses they received after their publication.

In response to the controversial takedown of Guy Fieri by Pete Wells, discussed by Mr. Wells here.
posted by the young rope-rider (54 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
We eat in the neighborhood pretty often. So do the editors at Conde Nast and the lawyers at Proskauer Rose and a lot of other people. A few tourists get hungry in that neighborhood, too.

Interesting choice of companies and careers. Those are all big employers in that area, but it says something about who the NY Times sees as their audience!
posted by Jahaza at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2012


Interesting choice of companies and careers. Those are all big employers in that area, but it says something about who the NY Times sees as their audience!

Not really. He's just responding to people wondering why he bothered reviewing a place in the tourist shithole of Times Square in the first place. He's saying that it was a valid choice because it's not just tourists (the "A few tourists get hungry in that neighborhood, too" joke) but many people work in that area and eat there. Times Square isn't some residential neighborhood; it's just office towers, so those are the kinds of offices there.

Still, I don't think his answer really works:

Do you think we sit at our desks at lunchtime every day, holding our noses in the air because we’re too good to go outside in search of a meal? We do not. We eat in the neighborhood pretty often.

As someone whose firm has an office in Times Square, come on. Yeah, we eat around the area because we don't want to go far for lunch but no one likes the area or the choices there. There are some decent places but picking a big stupid tourist place like Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar for a serious review is shooting fish in the barrel. The critic was trolling. There was no way that restaurant in that place from that guy was going to be anything but terrible. It would be like a serious art critic going into one of the ubiquitous tourist knick-knack shops in the city and writing a scathing review of the poor design of the I Love New York novelty taxi paper weights.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:03 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jonathan Gold writes, "I’ve written reviews that have closed restaurants, and I’ve written reviews that have cost me friends." Well, congratulations. You've evidently landed a lucrative, paying career as a professional asshole.

The thing he and all the other foodie snobs don't understand is that sometimes, Olive Garden tastes damned delicious, and its consistency and conformity are exactly what the day calls for. I'm as adventurous an eater as anybody else and I love exploring one-off restaurants. But you know what? I'm glad that $6.99 unlimited breadsticks and soup option is out there, in virtually every city with more than one highway exit, for when it's the comfort we need.
posted by jbickers at 1:06 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


While death threats are... out of line... I would have to say that reviewers occupy a uniquely strange position. They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

If the critic is really good, like Alex Ross or Kenneth Tynan, then it's a joy to read and think about, but I can't help thinking that restaurant critics are the worst kind of sponges.

The whole Foodie movement has made restaurant criticism insufferable, and it's so easy to write a blog post that destroys the online reputation of a local restaurant, with no second chances.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:10 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would have to say that reviewers occupy a uniquely strange position. They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

Critics create pieces of writing. You can even win a Pulitzer for one if you do a good job.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:15 PM on December 27, 2012 [34 favorites]


My culinary background is very strong: apart from an early flirtation with a liquid diet, I have been eating solid food for almost all of my time on this earth.

This is the best line from the Pete Wells article.
posted by desjardins at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I actually found the Olive Garden review pretty charming and self-aware, and that's speaking as someone whose favorite restaurant is Bonefish Grill.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2012


There was no way that restaurant in that place from that guy was going to be anything but terrible.

I keep seeing a lot of people say this, but it's wrong. Why should it be automatically terrible just because Guy Fieri's a downmarket cultural icon? It's not hard to make good wings, or good burgers, or good dipping-sauce. Friendly's does it. McDonald's does it. Island Burger, a wee unassuming place that's like two blocks away, does it just fine.

The review is worthwhile precisely because it highlights that the problem isn't that the food is what the critic expects the food to be; it's that the food is a surprisingly disappointing version of what the food attempts to be.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2012 [22 favorites]


While death threats are... out of line... I would have to say that reviewers occupy a uniquely strange position. They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

Also, plenty of reviewers also create content.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

Are you asserting that restaurant critics cannot, themselves, cook?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:31 PM on December 27, 2012


I've eaten at Olive Garden - once, before I knew any better. I also quit going to Red Lobster (and Howard Johnson's, remember them?) once I reached the age of consent and was no longer legally bound to attend family gatherings there. Sorry, jbickers, I definitely can't claim "foodie snob" status - I may have read the odd local restaurant review in the past, but I couldn't tell you when - but I thought their food was, shall we say, unexciting; and I've never found "comfort" at either place. It's better than drive-thru fare but not by much.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:34 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, all of mefi chat knows of my love affair with meat sticks, gummi bears, and other such Foods of the Masses. I don't have a lot of money to spend and so when I do go out to eat, I want it to be decent. Critics do a great service for people like me.

And yeah, Olive Garden is the worst possible thing a restaurant can be (besides dangerous): not worth the money. The breadsticks and salad, sure, but everything else is not good. People who are deciding where to eat with their once-a-year special occasion money deserve better than Olive Garden.

I really felt horrible for all the tourists at Guy Fieri's restaurant. They mostly didn't look like people who had a lot of money, but like people who wanted to dine out somewhere nice for a trip they'd saved up for and planned for. I felt so bad for them to be eating that food at those prices that it made my stomach hurt. It still upsets me to think about. Most of my family would be in the same category, using hard-earned money they scraped together over a matter of a few years to have a good time, and deserving better than that bullshit restaurant.

This whole "Of course he wouldn't like Real American Food!!! Don't listen to the critics!!" thing hurts people like them the most.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:41 PM on December 27, 2012 [38 favorites]


They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

Are you asserting that restaurant critics cannot, themselves, cook?


Whether they can or not is really beside the point and that whole critique of critics is a non sequitur (in the literal "does not follow" sense). Critics attempt to provide a valuable service for readers by directing their attention to things that may be good, or advising avoidance of things that may be bad. A reviewer will typically have much more experience in whatever medium they're reviewing than the average Joe, which is the basis for their authority. Whether they can accomplish the things they're reviewing is irrelevant. If you eat at restaurants for a living, you're probably going to have a pretty good idea of when a restaurant is actually good.
posted by LionIndex at 1:45 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And before anyone asks, I know Olive Garden very, very well because (to their credit) they were one of the first places in my Father-In-Law's hometown to really be able to accommodate his need to eat gluten-free food, so whenever my in-laws wanted to go out to celebrate something, we'd head to Olive Garden and we would eat a bunch of mediocre frozen crap on their fixed retirement income. Thank goodness gluten-free food has become more mainstream and they don't feel the need to waste their money there anymore.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:47 PM on December 27, 2012


Not really. He's just responding to people wondering why he bothered reviewing a place in the tourist shithole of Times Square in the first place. He's saying that it was a valid choice because it's not just tourists (the "A few tourists get hungry in that neighborhood, too" joke) but many people work in that area and eat there. Times Square isn't some residential neighborhood; it's just office towers, so those are the kinds of offices there.

Not just tourists, but also not just tourists, lawyers, editors, and newspaper writers. How about the legal secretaries at Proskauer, the t-shirt sellers, the hotel room cleaners. Not that it's wrong to pitch your product to upper class professionals, but this case amused me.
posted by Jahaza at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2012


I used to like Boy-Ar-Dee sphaghetti-Os, now I don't.

I used to think Olive Garden was good, now, not so much.

My tastes didn't change because I'm so goddamn sophisticated, strictly speaking, but because there is better stuff out there these days. Plain noodles with butter and salt beats BoyArDee, and any number of laid-back Italian eateries, even in the wilds of Dallas, are as good or better than Olive Garden for the same price. And even my plain old middle-class relatives haven't asked to eat there in a long time. They'd rather check out the new Thai place down the road.
posted by emjaybee at 1:52 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have a lot of great options for Italian in a metro area with more than 6,000,000 people in it (fourth largest in the country), you say? My university town with a metro area of 37,000 people does not actually have a non-pizza Italian restaurant. Not even an Olive Garden.
posted by gilrain at 1:57 PM on December 27, 2012


They can't create themselves, so they critique other creations.

I have been an arts critic for two decades. I am also an accomplished playwright, a SAG-AFTRA actor, and the artistic director of a theater.

I started writing theater criticism because I was editing a newspaper and felt that the critic currently doing the job was substandard. He was honestly very appreciative of theater, but was mostly just a cheerleader for local productions, and I felt theater needed criticism that offered a broader perspective -- it is not the job of a critic to do a theater's audience-building or promotion for them. Before social media, a good critic was the only source that could regularly provide an unaffiliated perspective, and, as my former coworker Dara Moskowitz says in the first link, paraphrasing Orwell, everything else is PR.

A good critic can also offer more than simple guidance to consumers. A critic has the time and the experience to put a piece of art into a historical perspective. They play an essential function in educating their readership, and I argue few things improve the cultural health of a city than an engaged, educated audience. (Fran Liebowitz, in the Martin Scorsese documentary, laments that AIDS did not simply cost New York an entire generation of artist, but also an entire generation of arts audiences, and that blow was just as bad for NY arts.) Critics have the time and professional opportunity to investigate a piece of art (or a restaurant) in a way that a casual audience member cannot -- Dara goes to a restaurant multiple times before she reviews it, and I have often sat in on rehearsals and interviewed artists before writing my piece.

As to whether critics can accomplish or not -- that's no even a question for anybody who has read really find criticism. I have read reviews of plays that were much finer written than the plays themselves.

Are there bad critics out there? Sure, plenty, just as there is with any other profession. Fortunately, few critics wield anything like the sort of power Jonathan Gold claims in his piece. We provide, at best, one more perspective, and hopefully one that is honest, well-researched, and well-written. I have closed exactly one play with my crtiticism, and it is because the actor in the play was using monologues he had not authored and did not get permission for, and the producer did not know it until I pointed it out. He then closed the play voluntarily.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:01 PM on December 27, 2012 [35 favorites]


I am going to post in defense of chain restaurants here. Usually, I like the independent places. I much prefer then to places like Olive Garden and the like. But, there is something to be said for consistency and uniformity.

I have potentially fatal food allergies to sulfites and nuts. And while I'll go to the independent place 99 out of 100 times, it comes with its own risks. Like, having to ask about the ingredients they use, they cook with, etc. Now, most restaurant people are OK with the questions. But some? Are not. Once, I was asked to leave. Once, I was accused of racism. I've walked out of places where they refuse to tell me what they use, because it's a 'secret', even when I explain 'life threatening allergy'. I've been in restaurants where I had really good meals, but then I get an allergic reaction because they've changed things around. I've had staff reassure me that peanut oil doesn't contain peanuts. I've had people try to convince me that my allergies didn't exist.

Now, Olive Garden, McDonald's, etc. isn't good food. But, it's safe food, uniform food. I know what I can eat, what I can't, and they're all over the place. A McD's burger and fries in Memphis is the same as Madrid, Milwaukee, Montevideo, etc. So when it's late at night or I'm exhausted from travelling or a long day at work, and I don't want to play 1000 Questions at some new place, I'l eat there instead. That'll give me the fuel to gear up for eating at the next place. Which will hopefully not be a chain, and will hopefully tolerate my questions.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:05 PM on December 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I used to like Boy-Ar-Dee sphaghetti-Os, now I don't.

Boy-ar-dee doesn't make spaghetti-os. They were made by Franco American, and now campbell's. And taste fairly different. Namely, boy-ar-dee pasta is passable; spaghetti-os is comparably fairly gross.

That's the thing. There really is a range with these things. Some Olive Gardens will be far better than others--and Olive Garden is a culinary world apart from, say, Cracker Barrel. When I worked in an office, the ladies would like to go out to lunch at either OG or CB, and I'd take OG any time--the food at Cracker Barrel was so salty that it inevitably gave me a migraine halfway into my meal. The real shame is that these "predictable" chains have put many smaller, but equally cheap, equally American places out of business. White Mana burgers and Red Tower chili dogs are far cheaper than any burger you could nom at Ruby Tuesdays. And better, too. But far more rare, these days.

Does saying so make me a snob? I dunno. There is good cheap food and there is passable cheap chain food, but it can be hard to find and highly variable. You'd think chain restaurants means greater quality consistency but it really doesn't.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:05 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I hear all of you guys on the uniformity of ingredients. My husband, who can't eat eggs, gluten, or nuts, had probably the best dining experience of his life at a Maggiano's that breaded a piece of chicken with potato chips for him. But frankly, consistency of quality and a decent dining experience across the board has very little correlation with predictability of ingredients and quality of food for those with food allergies. Not to say that non-chains can't be bad--there are some awful diners out there, too. But I believe this guy that that Olive Garden sucked.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:13 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, plenty of reviewers also create content
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


spinifex23: But, it's safe food, uniform food. I know what I can eat, what I can't, and they're all over the place.

Fair point. But - and I don't mean to belittle its absolute necessity for those who need to take precautions with their diet - that's not really a part of the typical restaurant critic's objectives. "At least it's safe, uniform food" isn't what you'd call an effusive review.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:12 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


My grandfather, whose family was from Italy, who lived in Italy for a number of years when he was young, and who ate Italian food (usually home cooked) most every day of his life, loved the Olive Garden. It was where he always wanted to go when we took him out to eat. I mean, I think we started going there with him after he was 75, but he honestly loved the place. So I can never be too hard on it.

I do object as someone who's grown up in New Jersey to the moderately priced chain restaurants taking too much niche space from the Jersey diner tradition, which is very near and dear to me. But those things do make meaningful food memories to a lot of people, and they're affordable. Once you talk about having a bottle of wine, you're out of a lot of folks' budgets already.
posted by graymouser at 3:26 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand how Olive Garden has become the whipping boy for mediocre chain restaurants when Applebees exists.
posted by young sister beacon at 3:28 PM on December 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


I just don't understand how Olive Garden has become the whipping boy for mediocre chain restaurants when Applebees exists.

What you mean The Bee's?
posted by graymouser at 3:32 PM on December 27, 2012


I just don't understand how Olive Garden has become the whipping boy for mediocre chain restaurants when Applebees exists.

Because you can get food at the Olive Garden. I'm not exactly sure what that stuff they bring you at Applebee's is, but I'm pretty sure it can't possibly be food.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:44 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Olive Garden is more offensive because it is a mockery of another culture. The only thing missing is an organ grinder and a monkey, and then the stereotype would be complete.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 3:46 PM on December 27, 2012


Hey, whatsa matta you?
posted by zombieflanders at 3:50 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Olive Garden is not going out of business because of a bad review. Olive Garden is not the kind of place you go to for that reason. It's a cheap casual family-dining option that is reasonably consistant across the country. People who read food reviews are looking for a place that has more than average food, that provides an experience centered around good food.

It's hilarious to act like foodies/food critics are victimizing some all-American classic food, when in reality Olive Garden exists in an ecosystem where it's not threatening or even in the radar of foodie meccas, but parasitizing and often demolishing small local family-owned casual dining options. The Sunbelt Suburbia I grew up with once had a large variety of such little places, like Clell's, which was never fantastic, but was owned by a local family and the food was made with care and love. Such places no longer exist. Only chains.

But I sympathize with what spinifex23 says about food allergies. I think of the Garlic Press in Bloomington IL, which advertises itself explicitly as catering to food allergies and attracts such travelers pretty well. I think Yelp classifies restaurants as gluten-free, but so far there isn't really a killer app to allow smaller non-chains to distinguish themselves that way, but it's interesting how many gluten-free items I see advertised even while in the Midwestern country towns.
posted by melissam at 3:54 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be fair, I love food trucks, carts, chain restaurants, fast food and the like. Never complained or sent anything back. And I ate at the OG that Jonathan Gold reviewed. And it was by far the most inedible meal I've ever had. First time I've ever left a restaurant without eating more than one bite.
posted by buzzkillington at 5:11 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I finally read Wells' review. Positively Dickensian. If the food and service at Guy's were even half as bad as Wells alleges, I'm glad the review was written. If you make just a living wage and have ever had truly bad food and/or service for a special occasion, you know how demoralizing it can be, especially with the check as a coup de (dis)grace. It would be one thing if the food/service were just mediocre; to be honest, I'd expect that of a large-scale Times Square restaurant catering to tourists. Sounds like things were dismal.

I'd imagine that many aspiring Times Square restaurateurs, and their backers, read the Times reviews. Perhaps, even if no tourist or admin assistant booking a company lunch ever sees this one, it will serve as a cautionary tale in other circles.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:12 PM on December 27, 2012


The thing he and all the other foodie snobs don't understand is that sometimes, Olive Garden tastes damned delicious, and its consistency and conformity are exactly what the day calls for.

He went there by choice! He says he wanted to like it! It sucked, as anyone could have predicted who's been there.

There's nothing wrong with wanting some red-sauce-and-a-checked-tablecloth italian food, and I doubt Gold would disagree, but come on, Olive Garden?
posted by kenko at 5:17 PM on December 27, 2012


Olive Garden is mediocre food packaged in a family friendly slightly upscale manner and priced well above it's value. I understand wanting consistency when you are on the road and chains provide that but honestly homogenized food off a Sysco truck isn't worth what you are paying for it.

Add in the fact that the parent of the Olive Garden chain is engaging in blatantly anti-labor policies by limiting the hours of it's employees to 30 or less in order to avoid paying benefits and honestly I can fully endorse taking your food dollars somewhere better. Preferably a locally owned restaurant but if you have to go full chain try to pick out something with a better value and better business practices.
posted by vuron at 5:29 PM on December 27, 2012


My only problem with Gold is that after he gives a good review, you are not going to get a table there without murdering all of the other people in line, and that much murder is very tiring.
posted by flaterik at 5:29 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, "But sometimes I want it!" is not a compelling response to "this food is crap". Ok, so it's crap that sometimes you want.
posted by kenko at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Add in the fact that the parent of the Olive Garden chain is engaging in blatantly anti-labor policies by limiting the hours of it's employees to 30 or less in order to avoid paying benefits and honestly I can fully endorse taking your food dollars somewhere better. Preferably a locally owned restaurant but if you have to go full chain try to pick out something with a better value and better business practices.

Do you really think that those locally-owned restaurants even offer their servers benefits? Seriously, the fact that corporate chains even have health insurance coverage for part time employees is huge.

Not saying it's a great company or that one should even eat there, but c'mon.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:46 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


A small restaurant—even a high-end small restaurant—is staggeringly unlikely to offer benefits to its waitstaff or its kitchen staff.
posted by kenko at 5:48 PM on December 27, 2012


I used to think places like the Olive Garden were pretty good, because I had never really experienced anything else and I lived off of Hot Pockets at home. Now that I've been to good restaurants, it's almost impossible to go back. We went to a really, really good (and really expensive) restaurant for our anniversary and everything tasted like crap for awhile after that. Your taste buds get calibrated differently depending on what you're exposed to.
posted by desjardins at 6:07 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hadn't read Well's review until now. I got to the end and all I could think was...
Metafilter: SERVICE The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant.
posted by meinvt at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your taste buds get calibrated differently depending on what you're exposed to.

Maybe yours, but I grew up on government cheese and damn if mac and cheese (a staple in Wisconsin - they even have Mac and Cheese pizza) at any fancy restaurant doesn't taste like ass.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:54 PM on December 27, 2012


Devra First, the Boston Globe food critic, wrote a thoughtful piece about Pete Wells' NYT review of Guy Fieri's new restaurant. The quote that stood out for me was: As one critic friend of mine said, “I bet that was the most fun Pete Wells has ever had writing a review. And I bet it was the fastest review he’s ever written.”

The whole situation really made me think. I write a food blog. I'm as low as can be on the food writing totem pole; no post of mine is ever going to make or break a restaurant. But nevertheless, I decided that I wasn't interested in posting negative reviews. I only write about my good dining experiences.

There were a number of factors that influenced this decision. First, I have a limited amount of extra time to devote to my food writing. I can't do a decent post on every meal I dine out, have a social life, and still keep up my GPA, so I have to pick and choose which meals are worth spending my time to write about. Second, unless I have been to a restaurant 3+ times and had consistently negative experiences, I don't necessarily believe that my dining experience is representative of most diners' experiences there. People make mistakes. I want to be very careful not to immortalize any genuine one-off mistakes on the Internet.

I've had many bad dining experiences, at the highest of the high (3 Michelin stars!) down to the you-get-what-you-pay-for greasy spoons. I'll admit, it might be fun for a little while to unchain my inner snark. But I can't imagine that writing or publishing a piece about those miles-from-the-mark meals would make me happy. I want to forget those meals, not immortalize them. Let other people write about the bad food.

I don't try sell myself as a "food critic," because I'm not. Critics write about the good and the bad. That being said, I would love to someday be a food critic. I think that that job could really make me happy, and with enough practice and time, I could be good at it. But I'm not writing my current blog to be a food critic. I'm writing it because it makes me happy to write about food that makes me happy.

I love food.
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 7:29 PM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think my biggest problem with Olive Garden is that they crowd out the local. I live in Grand Forks ND, which happens to be the newspaper home of Marilyn Hagerty. You may remember her as the woman who did that sincerely delighted review of Olive Garden which when viral this year. As far as I can tell, Marilyn Hagerty has never done a review of one of the two local Italian restaurants (it earned a listing but not a review) even though it's been open for years. And the local Italian place is actually pretty good!

So it's aggravating to find a review of a chain--a chain where, barring things going wrong with the local franchisee,* I will know exactly what to expect when I walk in the door--with no corresponding review of a local restaurant.

As for true restaurant critics, I definitely enjoyed reading the 'collected bad reviews' article and I take the point that everyone loves to read a good takedown review in the same way they love to rubberneck at an accident, but I also think I'd enjoy reading these critics' reviews when they genuinely enjoy something as well. Anyone who is gifted enough with words to savage a bad restaurant is usually also good enough to write good-but-not-cloying praise of a place that does stand out.

*I suppose I should note that things do occasionally go wrong with the local franchisee. The local Denny's was recently shut down and brought under new management, for example.
posted by librarylis at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Girl Who Ate Boston: I love food.

"I don't like food, I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow." -- well-known food critic
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:18 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a blog I was thinking about - Your Restaurant Sucks.

The whole purpose of the blog is not criticism, but just drive-by hatchet jobs of struggling mom and pop restaurants. There isn't ton of online coverage of these restaurants, so this guy's blog and Yelp reviews carry an enormous amount of weight. Too much, I would say.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:37 PM on December 27, 2012


It would be like a serious art critic going into one of the ubiquitous tourist knick-knack shops in the city and writing a scathing review of the poor design of the I Love New York novelty taxi paper weights.

No it wouldn't, because art critics aren't generally reviewing something that people usually have an hour to do, including transit times.
posted by rollbiz at 9:25 PM on December 27, 2012


Maybe yours, but I grew up on government cheese and damn if mac and cheese (a staple in Wisconsin - they even have Mac and Cheese pizza) at any fancy restaurant doesn't taste like ass.

In other words, your tastebuds were calibrated to something you were exposed to?
posted by kenko at 9:29 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Q. Do you think we in America have taken the food culture too far where we care and think too much about eating and making really great and unique food? I have read some critiques making this point and was wondering your thoughts.

— Dan, Washington, D.C.

A. I’ve read a few of those criticisms, too, and I have found them as puzzling as their authors seem to find food culture. They tend to start well, because they’re mocking the excesses of people who take food too seriously. It’s easy to mock people who take anything too seriously. That’s why mockery was invented. But when the mockery ends, the pieces I’ve read eventually grow indignant at the very idea that people care about something as insignificant as pleasure. Pleasure is only insignificant if you’re not having any, and I have started to suspect that the people who write these critiques are just upset because everybody else is having too much fun. And then I start to feel sorry for them, and want to send them a dozen cookies from Beurre & Sel in the Essex Street Market. But then I decide that cookies would be wasted on people who don’t know how to have a good time.


I ... am considering taking this as a philosophy of life.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:11 PM on December 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


damn if mac and cheese (a staple in Wisconsin - they even have Mac and Cheese pizza) at any fancy restaurant doesn't taste like ass.

Some things should not be made "fancy." Mac and cheese is one of them. Hipster pizza places seem to be amongst the worst offenders; a close second is anything with "café" in the name that doesn't have a counter to eat at.
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on December 28, 2012


I dunno, I am totally in support of reviews like the one of Guy's American Kitchen. All over the place there are completely mediocre-to-terrible restaurants that survive handily purely on the merits of their locations, such as Guy's in Times Square, although many start out on a good path, with reasonable food and service and then go downhill when it becomes apparent that they don't even have to TRY to make money. Guy's apparently didn't even pretend to try in the beginning.

How many places do you know of that have a FANTASTIC location and also have great food? Not many, in my experience. The spinning restaurants on the tops of the tallest buildings, boasting the greatest views? Usually mediocre, at best. Those restaurants nearby all the attractions in almost any city? Terrible. And they're always priced quite a bit higher than their better quality, better serviced counterparts elsewhere.

At least with reviews like that one, and the increasing availability of non-professional reviews on sites such as Yelp and Urbanspoon, the restaurant runners aren't fooling as many people and there are readily-available alternatives nearby to help keep them honest. People have more options, so they can go visit those attractions or see that view and then go spend their hard-earned money somewhere else where the restaurant actually CARES enough to work to earn it.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some things should not be made "fancy." Mac and cheese is one of them.

Having eaten the bacon-jalapeno mac and cheese at Del Frisco's (a fancy steakhouse) I strongly disagree with this statement.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2012


And more on topic, there's also the recent case here in Ottawa where a restaurateur was found guilty of defamation after she harassed a woman who had left a bad review of her restaurant on a site called Restaurant Thing. The restaurant owner set up a fake dating profile in the woman's name (link to description of profile, not to profile itself) and emailed her boss!

And hey, true to my comment above, both of the restaurants that restaurant owner owns are mediocre, overpriced restaurants with hit or miss service in one of the main tourist areas in Ottawa.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:53 AM on December 28, 2012


a close second is anything with "café" in the name that doesn't have a counter to eat at.

What if it serves coffee?
posted by kenko at 11:39 AM on December 29, 2012


librarylis: "I live in Grand Forks ND, which happens to be the newspaper home of Marilyn Hagerty. You may remember her as the woman who did that sincerely delighted review of Olive Garden which when viral this year."

As I recall, the Metafilter thread was sharply divided on whether Hagerty's review was indeed positive, or a very Midwestern way of sticking the knife in.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:05 PM on January 7, 2013


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