Here’s my dilemma: I’m a restaurant critic. It says so right there in the job description.
To be an effective critic, one has to point out the negative aspects of a restaurant alongside the positive ones. Ideally, the pluses outweigh the minuses.
But the minuses, if indeed they exist, are important to convey. They give balance. They give credibility. Criticism, in the basest sense of the word, is not always easy to mete out, and despite what some assume is a stereotypically sadistic trait of anyone who takes on the job, it isn’t fun to do. But in the 32-plus years I’ve been a restaurant critic, I’ve never shied away from it.
The other day I got food from a place that has, over the years, been a favorite casual dining spot for many. And it has even been singled out for excellence for one specific dish. I craved that food item and I couldn’t wait to get it home (a mere two-minute drive away).
It was, in a word, inedible. The other food that I got with it wasn’t much better. And the experience as a whole was ultimately unpleasant.
Where was it? I’m not going to tell you.
Restaurants are struggling and trying to do the best they can, and I have no reason to believe the restaurant in question meant to do otherwise. That it failed miserably is, at this point, beside the point.
If I could have found something good to say, I would have accentuated the hell out of that particular positive. Any business that is still open deserves a hand up. I’m not going to kick someone who is down. But I won’t be a cheerleader for a failing team, either.
Over the past several months, millions of people have seen their jobs transformed, at least those lucky enough to still have one. Mine is no different. As restaurants zigged to offer food for takeout or delivery, I zagged to focus on reviewing that aspect. I hope I’ve helped you find some restaurants that are doing a good job; I hope even more that you’re supporting their efforts. Please know that I will not falsely inflate a review.
Those of you who look to me to also steer you away from the restaurants that are not doing a good job, well, those reviews will return. Someday.
For now, the only good negative is the one that comes from a COVID-19 test.
Over the past three decades, I’ve been told time and again, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” For the time being, I’m taking that advice.