Young and Hungry

Y&H Doesn’t Plan to Trash the Place

lamb chops

Not the chops in question...and I don't plan to reveal the real ones.

I may lose respect with Former Staffer (see below), but after considerable deliberation, I have decided to save my powder for another day. I'm not going to empty my guns on the unfortunate restaurant that caused me to seek the counsel of so many loyal Y&H readers.

Allow me to explain why. But first allow me to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and insight on the situation. I was blown away by the response — and by a number of specific responses, like these:

  • From "RT": Furthermore, the folks are investing in an area that had seen nothing but disinvestment for the better part of 50 years. They mean well and they’re doing a service to the community. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever go there again except to drink, but I find it very difficult to make their “go” even tougher by panning it publicly.

  • From "xcanuck": I would temper my decision based on the machinery behind the restaurant. Some places have so much money and media manipulation behind them that they achieve an overblown status within minutes of opening (think Bebo). Other places open with nary a sound and struggle to survive. In the case of the former, I say let ‘em have it. I’m assuming you’ve done your due diligence and found a profoundly strong negative pattern after several visits. These places tend to suck in patrons based on the media they can generate through their star power, money, connections, etc. It’s up to you to do your best to counteract that. In the case of the latter, temper your criticism with the knowledge that they’ve come up against plenty just to open...
  • From Camrillo Brillo: You could objectively tell them that they spelled “Giardiniere” wrong and are missing half of the appropriate punctuation on their menu, which reads like it was written with food themed fridge magnets.
  • From Mike: You’ve got a finite amount of time and energy to devote to writing reviews. I would ask yourself if the meal was bad enough and the establishment likely to be well-attended enough to deserve some of that fixed bandwidth. If it was, go ahead. If not, why bother?
  • From OTBerbur: If a neighborhood place is merely mediocre, keep your silence. If it it serves awful food (such as what you seem to describe), I would advocate a footer to your longer features in the nature of “Visited and Dismissed.” This would be a two sentence blurb indicating you reviewed a place and the food was substandard, giving a brief description without going into the gory details. That was you inform readers and save your invective for a more deserving recipient.
  • From Former Staffer: If you don’t like it, say so. Because at this point, if I don’t see the review panning the place my level of respect for you will diminish.
  • From KMango: “…Your motivation must have a higher purpose.” Which is actually your answer. Once you have clarified your purpose in why you write reviews, you’ll know whether or not to post one for this latest experience.

So why am I not going to trash the place? Because, at present, it's not worth my time — on a number of fronts.  There are certain realities to my job that cannot be overlooked: I have a limited amount of time, budget, and calories per day (although, God knows, I love to exceed the last one). Nothing about my first meal at the restaurant in question makes me want to revisit it again soon, wasting valuable time and budget better used elsewhere.

If, perhaps, half my first meal there — and the four of us sampled more than five dishes —  had been even decent (not great or transcendent), I would return for further investigation. But the restaurant just didn't exhibit any promise to merit that investment.

So why not let the place have it based on one meal? Because, of course, it's not fair to the restaurant. Sure, I've done a single-visit trashing before, but it was based upon many previous experiences at the place.  To trash a new restaurant in a struggling economy based on one meal is not just bad form, it borders on negligence.

I am, naturally, open to returning to the restaurant and am open to changing my mind about it. (I take no pride in trashing a restaurant;  I'll leave that to small-minded people who love to watch small businesses have their shortcomings flaunted for public humiliation.) But I will not again actively steer my wife and two close friends to the place to sample its fare. That's an investment that none of us can justify. I may sneak in for a private meal on my own, just to give the place a quick test, but that will be it.

In this case, I have to assume that anyone who knows even a little about food — flavor pairings, proper cooking temperatures, even just plain ol' flavor — will sniff out the deficiencies on their own. It won't be hard.

Frankly, I've done this sort of thing before. I've let a single bad experience just lie there without comment. And the restaurants in question have faded into the woodwork, where they belong, beloved by a few, avoided by many. I suspect something very similar with happen to this place, too.

  • Jeff

    Im glad you came to this conclusion but it seems a little late since you trashed the chichen place that you went to once, and only 10 minutes before closing, just because they weren't "friendly" enough to you. Lets hope that the people working that shift didnt get fired after the owners read your review.

  • Nikki

    I'll keep checking on Restaurant Raters to see what CP readers think of the place!

  • Tim Carman

    Jeff,

    If you recall, I liked the chicken at Nando's(and the way it interacted with the bargain white wines). I just didn't like the service, which was specific to my choice of dining hour: 10 minutes before Nando's closed. That's what caused all the online controversy, not my thoughts on the food itself. It was a situation that I felt deserved some commentary. Given all the feedback, pro and con about dining before closing, I think that was the correct call.

    You can recall the story here: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=36034

    I also want to point out, that the Nando's experience is part of an occasional series I do called Dishing Expedition, which is meant to give quick comments on new places, based on a single visit. DE is designed to do two things, really: give some quick, if superficial, insights on new places and to recreate the average diner's experience, which is often to eat at a place once. I don't typically, if ever, trash a small neighborhood place in that feature, for the reasons outlined above.

    It should be noted that Nando's is also a major international chain that keeps expanding. They should have better training methods in place.

  • Former Staffer

    My complaint Tim, is that you open us up to having to have that experience ourselves. If we're frequenting a food column, we like to eat and eat out. We like to try new places...so failing to warn us, your readers, does us a great disservice in that we may have to repeat your experience, which is one of the reasons we turn to you in the first place, to help us sort good from bad, even with new mom and pops "in a poor economy"...

    Then again, it's decisions like this, that make multisourcing a necessity...so while I'm disappointed, I will continue to consult you, along with Tom, yelp, urbanspoon, etc.

  • Jimmy

    Tim,

    Ironically, in your attempts to "not trash the place", you've created a bona fide online scavenger hunt to find out where you are talking about (which, based on your descriptions in the first article, I was able to do in about 1.5 minutes of googling).

    I wouldn't have been nearly as interested in tracking down the offending restaurant had you not blown this up into such a moral dilemma, worthy of two expository posts.

    You are a restaurant reviewer. Your job is to review restaurants based on your experiences there. If they are good, the restaurant experiences whatever positive side effects your review may have on the public's decision to dine there. If they are bad, the restaurant suffers in assumedly equal proportion. That is the lot one chooses when one opens a restaurant that serves the public, and any restaurateur knows this going in.

    So while I can appreciate your attempt to add an element of socio-economic conscience to your blogging duties, the reality is (a) you probably made it worse, and (b) it wasn't a necessary exercise in the first place.

  • DC Phoody

    Carman is not just a restaurant reviewer. He's a food writer and a journalist, which means that his work entails more than just visiting places and deciding whether to trash or praise them. Instead, he's doing more interesting writing and reporting, which often veers further afield and gets into history, culture, and even media issues like this one. He also pointed out that he may go back at some point, but I think the decision not to trash this joint is an honorable one.

    I also think that some of the clues as to its identity were provided by commenters, not by Carman himself ... and even if people COULD figure it out, maybe that will give this place a quiet hint that it needs to fix its food issues before someone else rips it a new a-hole.

  • Jeff

    Ok, now im confused. I thought you were reviewing restaurants, not just the food.
    Regarding your second point; you can call it an " expedition" if you want but a bad review is a bad review.
    And if you recall, my position has always being about being considerate to the people that work at these places, not your friends the owners or the corporations that are supposed to train them.

  • CH Local

    If you won't say it I will.

    I had a terrible experience at Social. I have not been back. The food was bad. The service was awkward. The owners were rude.

    Skip Social, go to Thaitanic II.

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