Toledo Talk

The Blade-Restaurant reviews

Since i'm in the industry, I awake each Thursday, eager to read The Blade's restaurant reviews. Over the years, the reviews have gotten better from a writing and dining perspective. However, I'm frustrated by the nearly default 3-star reviews they assign to everything.
Here's the breakdown of ratings in 2013:

0*-0 Restaurants
*-0 restaurants
**-4 restaurants
***-33 restaurants
****-13 restaurants
*****-3 restaurants

In reading the reviews, if you get 2 stars, you really blew it up and down and embarrassed yourselves. I'm not going to even begin to discuss the 5 stars Georgio's or 5th Street pub received, which, I believe, really diminishes the accomplishments of the other 5 star restaurant, Element 112, or the previous year's, Revolution Grille, and Registry Bistro. I know we should all be in the business of promoting the local scene, but does a homogeneous star system benefit anyone? The NY Times, uses only 4 stars, and in their paper, getting A star is a big deal. The list of 3 star restaurants in NY is about the size of ours (link below), but read that list-Grammercy Tavern, Momofuku Siam, Veritas-these are big time restaurants getting 3 stars. Maybe I'm ranting about something that's silly and inconsequential, but isn't 3 stars here sort of like kissing your sister (to steal a quote)? Shouldn't mediocrity be met with an unfavorable review or star assignment?

This isn't a knock on The Blade as an entity, just an observation that frustrates me. There's a Blade thread specific to their other inequities. This, however, is a pretty broken bell curve. If 3 star is indeed the default, I want to see restaurants getting 0 stars and 1 star to legitimize the top. I know this often has more to do with the editor than the reviewer

Here's a link to the entirety of 2013 reviews:
http://www.toledoblade.com/Food/2014/01/02/Dine-Recently-Reviewed-6.html

NY Times 3 star restaurants:
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/restaurants/three_star_restaurants_nyc/

created by ahmahler on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:13:26 am     Comments: 101

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Comments ... #

Interesting! I have to say, the quality of writing zoomed upwards when Daniel Neman, the previous food editor, began working at the Blade.

Legitimate restaurant reviews are anonymous and presumably the reviewers dine undercover, but he was a great writer, and I thought I recognized his touch. Even after he left, there were very well-written restaurant reviews for a few weeks, so maybe he stockpiled some for later publication.

A food reviewer in this town is in a tough spot. If you look at who's reading the print edition of the paper, the customer base is probably elderly and possibly skewed towards Irish-German-Central European heritage. If I may generalize, these are the folks who like bright yellow liquid cheese squeezed all over their nonspiced "Mexican" food.

I would imagine that they are thrilled by quantity of restaurant portion, not so much quality ... in fact, most of the older friends I have complain if they can't get a giant box of leftovers after their $10.99 restaurant meal. They would be angered if they got an exquisite but small portion of anything, and they also would never darken the door of a place that charges more than about $15 for an entree.

There's also a vocal cheap-booze contingent; they just want a bigass pitcher of margaritas and they apparently don't care what kind of fluorescent chemicals are mixed into the brew. People in my neighborhood won't go back to a restaurant if they charge "too much" for old-fashioned cocktails: these folks want to have 2 mixed drinks with supper and they perceive a ripoff situation if the bar bill exceeds $8 per person.

(I apologize to all the foodies who read TT: when I talk to these folks, I really probe to get at the facts because I almost can't believe what they're saying. Alas, it is true!)

I think a significant portion of Toledo residents enjoy mediocrity. To call it like you see it -- i.e. most places reviewed getting one or two stars for their middling performance -- would be to insult the readership of the publication. So there's the dilemma.

posted by viola on Feb 13, 2014 at 11:58:13 am     #  

viola: I believe your observation is dead-on accurate - with one caveat: I don't think it is just the older, ethnic crowd that is satisfied with the lopsided mediocrity of restaurants/meals in this area.

How else can one explain the wild success of so many "Mexican" joints who serve "bright yellow liquid cheese squeezed all over their non-spiced "Mexican" food" who pair it with the aforementioned mystery Margaritas?

"I think a significant portion of Toledo residents enjoy mediocrity"

Also dead on accurate. Ever notice the amount of processed crap in people's grocery carts? I suppose if your home diet consists of this stuff, most anything served at a restaurant seems like Sunday dinner at Grandma's house.

We enjoy dining out as much as anyone else and between work and home, there isn't much free time. But, with some planning, you can make great meals at home for a fraction of what you'll pay at a restaurant. With the added bonus of knowing what went into it and that it was prepared in a clean environment.

My general rule for eating out has always been: I'll go to an establishment that offers good food that I can not or don't care to prepare at home - for a multitude of reasons. Not saying I don't violate that rule from time to time but not too often. As much fun as going to Loma Linda (an establishment that does indeed smother most everything in bright colored, liquid cheese goo) can be, if I could duplicate their Margarita recipe at home, I'd never make the drive again.

posted by Foodie on Feb 13, 2014 at 12:37:13 pm     #   2 people liked this

I've rarely taken the Blade's restaurant ratings seriously. Everything gets 3 stars. I read one review a while ago where a restaurant got its expected 3 stars. Part of the review mentioned that the food was somewhat bland and one person at the table's steak wasn't seasoned well. For me an unseasoned steak is a cardinal sin. If you can't make a dish which consists of taking a slab of meat, rubbing some salt and pepper on it, and cooking it to a desired temperature, you're doing something terribly wrong. Under no circumstances should that allow for a 3 star review.

I imagine rating a restaurant is hard, especially across dining styles/cuisines. How do you quantify it? Lets say we have the fine dining spot called the Toledo Steakhouse. They use high quality meats and cook them well enough. Then you have the Maumee Diner, a hole in the wall that cooks eggs better than a classically trained chef could ever hope and makes awesome pancakes. Do we give the steakhouse a 4 and the diner a 5? At the end of the day one place is just serving pancakes and eggs and the other is serving a $60 steak with a side of truffled potatoes. Or, how can you compare the best slice of NYC thin crust pizza with any dish Eric Ripert serves at le Bernadin?

Speaking to viola's comment on Toledoans being happy with mediocrity, I'd extend that to the whole country. I mean, most chain restaurants exist for this very reason. Some people will always be happier just pulling up to Famous Daves or TGI Fridays rather than even considering going to Shorty's or Swig.

posted by taliesin52 on Feb 13, 2014 at 05:20:53 pm     #   1 person liked this

I would suggest, if anyone is interested, in contacting the new food editor. Maybe she has a new idea/philosophy on rating restaurants?

posted by Nolan_Rosenkrans on Feb 13, 2014 at 05:57:09 pm     #   3 people liked this

Then you have the Maumee Diner, a hole in the wall that cooks eggs better than a classically trained chef could ever hope and makes awesome pancakes.

Which is where reality stops. A graduate of the Culinary Institute is going to prepare eggs as well or better than any cook at a greasy spoon, and it's almost always better with a classically trained chef.

What I like to see is an accurate description of the restaurant. Is it crowded and noisy with the tables too close together and families of five competing to see whose tribe of semi-trained chimps can make the most noise and trash the area faster, is it some variant of this train wreck or is it fine dining where with the owner on site? These things matter.

Describe the service. Is the wait staff professional, or a group of barely trained high school graduates that don't care what they're doing so long as it isn't difficult, doesn't involve manual labor and provides regular praise and pay. Is it someplace in the middle of all this?

The quality of the food matters, so if you're going to judge and review it behooves you to eat at a few five star restaurants so as to get a good feel for how things are supposed to be done. Where steak is concerned, if the chef starts off with a poor grade of meat there isn't a thing he can do to turn it into a gourmand's delight. He can, of course, ruin it by over-cooking.

And yeah, far too many people are happy with mediocrity these days, mainly because they don't know the difference.

posted by madjack on Feb 13, 2014 at 06:35:05 pm     #  

Then you have the Maumee Diner, a hole in the wall that cooks eggs better than a classically trained chef could ever hope and makes awesome pancakes.

Which is where reality stops. A graduate of the Culinary Institute is going to prepare eggs as well or better than any cook at a greasy spoon, and it's almost always better with a classically trained chef.

What I like to see is an accurate description of the restaurant. Is it crowded and noisy with the tables too close together and families of five competing to see whose tribe of semi-trained chimps can make the most noise and trash the area faster, is it some variant of this train wreck or is it fine dining where with the owner on site? These things matter.

Describe the service. Is the wait staff professional, or a group of barely trained high school graduates that don't care what they're doing so long as it isn't difficult, doesn't involve manual labor and provides regular praise and pay. Is it someplace in the middle of all this?

The quality of the food matters, so if you're going to judge and review it behooves you to eat at a few five star restaurants so as to get a good feel for how things are supposed to be done. Where steak is concerned, if the chef starts off with a poor grade of meat there isn't a thing he can do to turn it into a gourmand's delight. He can, of course, ruin it by over-cooking.

And yeah, far too many people are happy with mediocrity these days, mainly because they don't know the difference.

posted by madjack on Feb 13, 2014 at 06:35:14 pm     #   1 person liked this

Sorry about the double post. I get the message Service Temporarily Unavailable and so hit the post button again.

posted by madjack on Feb 13, 2014 at 06:36:26 pm     #   1 person liked this

madjack posted at 05:36:26 PM on Feb 13, 2014:

Sorry about the double post. I get the message Service Temporarily Unavailable and so hit the post button again.

I've seen that a lot lately - the Service Temporarily Unavailable message that is.

posted by Foodie on Feb 13, 2014 at 06:49:56 pm     #   1 person liked this

I'm so glad that somebody like ahmahler thinks the same thing about the Blade's reviews that I do. I just thought maybe I didn't understand the industry enough. I often read a 3 star review and barely see any criticism and I think "well then, why 3 stars?" Likewise, although I absolutely love 5th Street Pub they most definitely are not worthy of 5 stars. Heck, even Mancy's isn't.

I also get a kick out of Zagat ratings. A lot of Wendy's have a Zagat sticker on their door. I also noticed that a lot of the restaurants featured on shows like Kitchen Nightmares show a Zagat endorsement or whatever you want to call it. I'd be interested to hear ahmahler and Foodie's opinions of that rating system.

posted by dell_diva on Feb 13, 2014 at 07:20:55 pm     #  

I received this from The Blade's Assistant Managing Editor, who is in charge of the department that includes the Food Editor and Bill of Fare.

Our Food Editor does not write the restaurant reviews, and hasn't done restaurant reviews for more than 30 years. This is primarily for two reasons. First, their mug shot runs twice a week in the newspaper, and can be spotted on line throughout the week, so they could be recognized at a restaurant. We do the reviews anonymously, so that the experience of the reviewer is the same as a patron's. We do not receive any special treatment. The second reason the Food Editor does not do reviews is to avoid the appearance of impropriety -- chefs are sources for stories, etc., and we don't want offers of free dessert, etc. in exchange for a positive review.

If our Food Editor writes about a chef or a restaurant, they openly state that they were there, and for what purpose. They do no "review" the restaurant and no stars are assigned in those cases.

The stars are assigned by copy editors (working as a team) who read the reviews and based on what is written, determine a ranking.

We do have more 3-star reviews than anything else, and if you think about it, it make sense. We compare restaurants to similar restaurants -- in terms of price and food quality. We do not compare a Revolution Grille to a Al's Diner. That would not be fair. We would compare Al's Diner to other diners. We are definitely not a New York. We actually tend to review a lot of middle-of-the road restaurants because we try to go to restaurants people can afford. 5-star restaurants are limited in number in our area, and can be pretty expensive. But we don't review the same place more frequently than every two years, and then it is if there is an ownership change or chef change. Bad restaurants - the 1-2 star variety, usually don't stay in business very long.

And we take reader suggestions for restaurants that we should review. That is how we have increased our variety of restaurants that are reviewed.

We don't do chain's, i.e., Fridays, Applebees, Bob Evans.

Best regards,

Paul M. Hem, Jr.
The Blade
Social Media Manager
paulhem[at]toledoblade[dot]com

posted by paulhem on Feb 13, 2014 at 09:26:50 pm     #  

It surprises me that an Assistant Managing Editor would make a blatant grammatical error ( the apostrophe in the word "chains").

I'm also fairly certain that I have seen a chain restaurant reviewed, because I recall thinking how odd that seemed. I could be wrong though.

posted by dell_diva on Feb 13, 2014 at 09:42:38 pm     #  

"...blatant grammatical error..." LOL! The person pounded out an email to me to answer my questions. What's your point?

"We don't do chain's, i.e., Fridays, Applebees, Bob Evans." I know this doesn't lie and is a reliable source for the information.

posted by paulhem on Feb 13, 2014 at 09:49:32 pm     #  

Should have been "...this person does lie..."

posted by paulhem on Feb 13, 2014 at 09:50:15 pm     #  

nope DOESN'T

posted by paulhem on Feb 13, 2014 at 09:50:41 pm     #  

A quick search on the Blade's website shows that you guys have reviewed Famous Dave's, Claddaugh Irish Pub, Scrambler Marie's, and last but not least, Olive Garden. Olive Garden, the queen of all shitty chains. Sure, it was a handful of years ago that you reviewed these places. So is it a newer policy that you don't review chains?

posted by dell_diva on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:31:34 pm     #  

To give you my $0.02 regarding Zagat dell_diva:

IMHO, it is a bought and paid for review/endorsement. I've read enough about them and, like you, have seen enough of their endorsements on various fast food chains that I do not take them seriously at all.

Regarding Blade reviews, I've rarely agreed with their review and, when we've tried a restaurant based on their review, we were generally disappointed.

It's probably their anonymous and vaunted editorial board that does the rating. That would pretty much explain everything.

posted by Foodie on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:38:37 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 08:49:32 PM on Feb 13, 2014:

"...blatant grammatical error..." LOL! The person pounded out an email to me to answer my questions. What's your point?

"We don't do chain's, i.e., Fridays, Applebees, Bob Evans." I know this doesn't lie and is a reliable source for the information.

Oh, and I forgot to mention - you guys have indeed reviewed TGI Friday's.

posted by dell_diva on Feb 13, 2014 at 10:41:20 pm     #  

Hey Paul-could you ask the people that assign stars to start spreading them out a bit? The reviews often don't match the stars given, and it seems silly that the editors have a say in now many stars a place gets (now I'm starting to think conspiracy). You have a decent critic, 5 stars, doesn't have to mean fine dining, but it better be perfect for what it is-and I believe a pizza or burger place could earn 5 stars. Trust them to decide how many it deserves. If that isn't a system to the Blade's liking, perhaps scrap the stars altogether.

Toledo is full of middle of the road restaurants. Some kick ass, and some suck, and some of the restaurants that suck stay in business for generations. AND, some of the great places close quickly because the 3 stars they earned in the Blade didn't mean anything.

Challenge back at you Paul-49 of 53 restaurants last year were reviewed at 3 stars or better, which means good. Do you think (and you will need to go back and read those reviews) that you and that critic would agree that all but 4 restaurants reviewed last year was good? If so, we might have the greatest concentration of restaurants in the world. That's over 92%! I can tell you based in my vast Toledo dining experience that the number is way, way off. I can also tell you from reading the reviews, that editors hang a 3 star on plenty of restaurants the critic wouldn't return to if the blade paid them to, again.

posted by ahmahler on Feb 14, 2014 at 02:01:43 am     #  

*were good-sorry

posted by ahmahler on Feb 14, 2014 at 02:03:35 am     #  

Seriously. You guys (and dell_diva) have me waaay outclassed with your expertise, here.

The good news is that I know Blade folks are reading your criticisms. So, thanks for the feedback!

This chain thing, though... I think there are chains and then there are CHAINS. Right?

So is it a newer policy that you don't review chains?
The Blade's AME runs that area. Whatever her policy is the way it's done. BTW, you're right about Cladaugh's.

I'm surprised you didn't notice The Main Street Ventures' restaurants as a chain.

Do you have a link for that Friday's review?
i.e., Fridays, Applebees, Bob Evans.

I think those type of restaurants are thought to be "chains."

BTW, Mickey D's has the Shamrock Shake back at the window. There. That's my review. I give it ten stars!

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 05:25:05 am     #  

dell_diva posted at 09:31:34 PM on Feb 13, 2014:

A quick search on the Blade's website shows that you guys have reviewed Famous Dave's, Claddaugh Irish Pub, Scrambler Marie's, and last but not least, Olive Garden. Olive Garden, the queen of all shitty chains. Sure, it was a handful of years ago that you reviewed these places. So is it a newer policy that you don't review chains?

I don't know that I'd lump Scrambler Marie's in with the other restaurants as far as being a chain. They are a local restaurant that has branched out to multiple locations in Ohio, but it's still owned and operated by a local family.

Speaking of Olive Garden, anyone remember the review written by that older lady in North Dakota a few years ago?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/marilyn-hagerty-olive-garden_n_1332753.html

posted by mom2 on Feb 14, 2014 at 07:30:41 am     #  

paulhem posted at 04:25:05 AM on Feb 14, 2014:

Seriously. You guys (and dell_diva) have me waaay outclassed with your expertise, here.

The good news is that I know Blade folks are reading your criticisms. So, thanks for the feedback!

This chain thing, though... I think there are chains and then there are CHAINS. Right?

So is it a newer policy that you don't review chains?
The Blade's AME runs that area. Whatever her policy is the way it's done. BTW, you're right about Cladaugh's.

I'm surprised you didn't notice The Main Street Ventures' restaurants as a chain.

Do you have a link for that Friday's review?

i.e., Fridays, Applebees, Bob Evans.

I think those type of restaurants are thought to be "chains."

BTW, Mickey D's has the Shamrock Shake back at the window. There. That's my review. I give it ten stars!

http://m.toledoblade.com/Restaurant-Reviews/2004/09/10/Restaurant-review-T-G-I-Friday-s.html

posted by dell_diva on Feb 14, 2014 at 02:29:07 pm     #   2 people liked this

Jumping up and down having tantrum

Deep breath... Deep breath...
joking Or AM I? ;)

Thank you dell_diva - you were right and we were wrong. Still, 2004... -- Oh. That's the year I nuked thementalblock.net. It was, indeed, a good year.

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 02:39:17 pm     #  

My mother will tell you that I am a rabble-rouser. So would my sister... Well, so would my high school teachers. And... Maybe my colleagues at The Blade.

So. Please don't get upset with me. I just can't help myself.

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 02:43:08 pm     #  

And, yes. The Blade expects the same love here in Toledo as the Indianapolis Star receives in Indy.

See for yourselves.

http://t.co/Lichy30Om1

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 03:29:16 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 01:43:08 PM on Feb 14, 2014:

My mother will tell you that I am a rabble-rouser. So would my sister... Well, so would my high school teachers. And... Maybe my colleagues at The Blade.

So. Please don't get upset with me. I just can't help myself.

Some say rabble-rouser, others say annoying douche. Whatever floats your boat Blockhead. Thanks for the link delldiva.

posted by hunkytownsausage on Feb 14, 2014 at 03:46:01 pm     #   3 people liked this

hunkytownsausage : And some call you an @$$h0l3

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 04:18:40 pm     #  

@Paul: Wait wait wait!!!?!! Whatever happened to the "disruptive innovator" we have all come to love and admire? Much more dignified title doncha think?

posted by Mariner on Feb 14, 2014 at 04:31:55 pm     #  

@Paul: Wait wait wait!!!?!! Whatever happened to the "disruptive innovator" we have all come to love and admire? Much more dignified title doncha think?

posted by Mariner on Feb 14, 2014 at 04:32:30 pm     #  

Whoops another nsa glitch

posted by Mariner on Feb 14, 2014 at 04:33:17 pm     #  

@Mariner: But, rabble-rouser is probably more accurate... Just sayin' The innovation stuff? Well, that's in my blood, along with the rabble-rousing. Believe me, my great-grandfather and grandfather loved them some rabble-rousin' http://www.utoledo.edu/library/canaday/HTML_findingaids/MSS-176.html

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 04:47:12 pm     #   1 person liked this

Nice Paul, thnks for the input. Worldwide it was good to see the logo "No Springs Honest Weight" How many enterprises can make that claim today? I still think disruptive innovator is more contemporary and has a certain elegant sound to it.

posted by Mariner on Feb 14, 2014 at 06:31:12 pm     #  

OK. I yield to the gentleman from Toledo

posted by paulhem on Feb 14, 2014 at 06:50:29 pm     #  

Can't help but laugh when I hear:
Toledo food mediocrity, a self proclaimed foodie, and a Loma Linda's margarita being great.

posted by MrGlass419 on Feb 14, 2014 at 07:33:55 pm     #   2 people liked this

You've taken an awful lot for granted there MrGlass - no doubt to suit your own agenda.

"A self proclaimed foodie" - where have I done that here?

Proclaiming a LL Margarita "great" - nope, didn't do that either.

Toledo food mediocrity - yep, I'll stand by that one.

posted by Foodie on Feb 15, 2014 at 06:55:57 am     #  

Foodie posted at 05:55:57 AM on Feb 15, 2014:

You've taken an awful lot for granted there MrGlass - no doubt to suit your own agenda.

"A self proclaimed foodie" - where have I done that here?

Proclaiming a LL Margarita "great" - nope, didn't do that either.

Toledo food mediocrity - yep, I'll stand by that one.

I read it and didn't think of you.

But if you are a "self-proclaimed foodie" you can be the Official Foodie as far as I am concerned. Besides, isn't "foodie" a label that we mostly place on ourselves?

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:05:07 am     #   2 people liked this

Why not go with a 5 star system for prices and a 5 star for quality. The dive bar, Centre Court lounge has a great 1/2 cheese burger. I'd give them 1 star for price and 4 for quality. Great burger, fries and 2 beers will run you $10.

Burger 419 is 2/3 star in price and also does a 4 star burger. It's a better burger, but you are paying for it. Burger fries and a 2 beers will run $20-$25.

posted by SensorG on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:47:13 pm     #   1 person liked this

agreed... reviews are relative

it would be nice to know the reviewer's background
have they worked in restaurants?
do they have any sort of formal training?
how often do they eat out?
what is their favorite genre of food?

while I appreciate that anonymous reviewers get the most honest service, there is something to be said for the opposite. I'm not saying we go back to the days of Mary Alice Powell but it would be nice to know what sort of expertise the reviewer has.

posted by upso on Feb 15, 2014 at 02:32:06 pm     #  

My observations during the past 18 years are the same as Luann's (The Blade Asst Managing Editor). The Blade writes for the average person, not for experts.

I used to (and still get) miffed over military stories - especially when ranks and units get mangled. Soldiers and other military members fight for their unit brothers and sisters. When those units are not correctly identified, It is just another wedge driven between the professional military society and the mainstream civilian society.

So. Before someone with a food background is hired, I'd like a military expert on staff to make sure that the terminology and first-hand experience is properly applied to military stories.

However, to hire someone from the military to write about the military might be just as much of a problem to hiring someone who has "food experience."

Very very few journalists are experts in the fields and the people in the fields on which they report.

In the end analysis, journalists' expertise is in their craft. And they are all aware that many in their audiences think that they could write a better story than the journalist who is reporting the story.

I came from the outside to journalism. Believe me, it is a hard life - and I mean life. It has never been nor ever will just be a job. There are some poignant similarities between the military and journalism. The most poignant is the high number of journalists who are killed around the world in various kinetic actions without the benefit of the training military or police have.

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 03:11:22 pm     #  

Food combat? not sure what any of that gibberish has to do with someone writing restaurant reviews. It seems to me they are writing reviews based on second hand knowledge. What if the person doing the actual review was having a bad day? I think the person actually trying out restaurants show be writing the review, many did, do, or used to do this, your statement above made it seem as though journalism (or what it is today) is too hard for some schmuck that knows his way around a restaurant and knows what good food tastes like, or that they would become so famous in this mediocre city that they couldn't see past the owner's attempts to suck up to him. I figure a completely surprise visit to any restaurant would solve that problem. They cannot prepare to wow you if they don't know your coming. Maybe what your saying is you cannot find anyone that knows food and is capable of string their thoughts in comprehensible sentences worthy of showing up into your overpriced rag of a paper. Or maybe you just wont pay for someone qualified to do both, either way all your reviews seem incomplete, incompetent and untrustworthy for the average or comprehensive palate that occupy this city.

posted by MIJeff on Feb 15, 2014 at 05:42:15 pm     #   1 person liked this

...and scene.

posted by Nolan_Rosenkrans on Feb 15, 2014 at 05:52:49 pm     #  

Some of the best reviews I have read are here http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=t2PbWNkBv9QT1zfIQtWbSQ
I know when experts review movies, they tend to over analyze them and the general public like the movie. I can see the same thing happening in food reviews.

posted by OldTimer on Feb 15, 2014 at 06:12:58 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 02:11:22 PM on Feb 15, 2014:

My observations during the past 18 years are the same as Luann's (The Blade Asst Managing Editor). The Blade writes for the average person, not for experts.

I used to (and still get) miffed over military stories - especially when ranks and units get mangled. Soldiers and other military members fight for their unit brothers and sisters. When those units are not correctly identified, It is just another wedge driven between the professional military society and the mainstream civilian society.

So. Before someone with a food background is hired, I'd like a military expert on staff to make sure that the terminology and first-hand experience is properly applied to military stories.

However, to hire someone from the military to write about the military might be just as much of a problem to hiring someone who has "food experience."

Very very few journalists are experts in the fields and the people in the fields on which they report.

In the end analysis, journalists' expertise is in their craft. And they are all aware that many in their audiences think that they could write a better story than the journalist who is reporting the story.

I came from the outside to journalism. Believe me, it is a hard life - and I mean life. It has never been nor ever will just be a job. There are some poignant similarities between the military and journalism. The most poignant is the high number of journalists who are killed around the world in various kinetic actions without the benefit of the training military or police have.

Oh my gosh... What in the hell are you talking about?!

posted by dell_diva on Feb 15, 2014 at 06:13:56 pm     #   1 person liked this

If you don't understand now, then I would be wasting my time answering your question.

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 06:38:51 pm     #  

Simply... Journalists can not be objective by working in the business that they are critiquing.

I'm saying that if that changes then I damn well want them reporting favorably about occupations that I am invested in. Got it?

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 06:42:14 pm     #  

Since I posted immediately after @upso posted, I figured people would understand the point. I was trying to be polite because I think @upso is a great guy and a great citizen of Toledo.

it would be nice to know the reviewer's background
have they worked in restaurants?
do they have any sort of formal training?
how often do they eat out?
what is their favorite genre of food?

Isn't this every industry's complaint about journalists?

"They aren't in my business, so how can they report on it?"

"What is their experience in my business so I can be assured that their reports are from a 'qualified person's' perspective?"

I won't say that it will never work that way. Why? Because journalism, as we know it may POSSIBLY disappear.

Check this out. I am actually advocating this because writers need to make a living and I am sick of jingles and other traditional B.S. marketing-speak.

And, yes, @justread, John Fedderke knows my position on this.

From the Press Club of Cleveland Web site:

"The content marketing revolution has begun! Journalists, grab your keyboard and join your colleagues. Joe Pulizzi is the author of "Epic Content Marketing," a top performer on Amazon."

I have met Joe and he is absolutely right.

http://www.pressclubcleveland.com/general-news.aspx?newsid=108

Doesn't anyone else worry that we will be losing something, while we are counting our money?

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 07:04:19 pm     #  

Paul Hem wrote: "However, to hire someone from the military to write about the military might be just as much of a problem..."

"Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret who was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration.
He joined the Toledo Blade in 1995, and moved to the Post-Gazette in 1998."

...and he's never written about any military issues, right?

posted by MadAnthony on Feb 15, 2014 at 07:16:54 pm     #   1 person liked this

"And, yes, @justread, John Fedderke knows my position on this"

I suppose he and Joe Zerby also know that you are the resident doucebag of the forum.

It was nice, for a while, when every thread wasn't a FUCKING BLADE LOGO HIJACK. But slowly, by inches, we become Toledo Blade Talk once again.

The thread that you got owned on is still gone though.

And "Hem" is still a verb.

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 07:19:11 pm     #   1 person liked this

Actually. They know that there are people like you who use anonymity to cowardly attack those you would be afraid to even face person to person.

I got "owned" on no thread. The disappearance of that thread was something that I engineered. Remember, child?

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 07:31:27 pm     #  

Look douchbag, I was minding my own business until you sent a SNARKY FUCKING COMMENT MY WAY. If you don't want negative attention from me, don't DRAW ME IN.

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:02:53 pm     #   4 people liked this

Besides Hem you big brave hero, you made a HUGE freaking deal about putting me and others on ignore TWICE.
Why don't you go back to ignoring the opinions that you can't handle. After all, in your twisted mind, anonymity equals invalid.

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:08:43 pm     #   1 person liked this

"I got "owned" on no thread"

Delusional.

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:12:03 pm     #  

I could care less whether you respond or not. And, yes I did draw you in. I get bored without your tripe now and then.

To me you are a blow hard little twerp who has delusions of grandeur. However, entertaining...

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:15:41 pm     #  

" ...And, yes I did draw you in. I get bored without your tripe now and then. To me you are a blow hard little twerp who has delusions of grandeur..."

Is this the proper engagement protocol to enhance readership for the social media manager of a large mainstream media outlet?

Again we should point out that their is no social media manager position listed on the Contact Us section of The Blade's website.

posted by MadAnthony on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:31:17 pm     #   2 people liked this

No Social Media Manager?

Check for Spammer.

http://toledotalk.com/cgi-bin/tt.pl/article/171742/14Feb2014/Blade_reporters_Valentines_Day_tweets/2#171747

posted by justread on Feb 15, 2014 at 08:49:35 pm     #  

from @paulhem Isn't this every industry's complaint about journalists?

I totally get where you're coming from Paul... but this sentence concerns me:

The Blade writes for the average person, not for experts.

I think you're misunderstanding me. The experts should be writing to help make the average person experts.

That statement is not a critique of the blade, but rather an encouragement for all media.

I want my movie reviews, food reviews & art critiques to be written by experts in their field with an explanation of why we should care. And if experts aren't available, I'd at minimum want people with distinct perspectives who could explain where they are coming from.

Most writers are somewhat experts in their fields or at least can explain why they have a passion for what they are writing about. Actually.... all writers except anonymous food reviewers.

posted by upso on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:10:33 pm     #   3 people liked this

and don't get me wrong, i'm totally into anonymous reviews. I'd just like some background!

it's obvious there are multiple reviewers for the blade. I would just love to know their individual perspectives going in to each review. :)

posted by upso on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:18:19 pm     #  

Yep, what he said. "...somewhat experts in their fields or at least can explain why they have a passion..." This is why I stopped going to docent-led tours at the art museum. If I'm focussing my attention on a learning experience, whether it's learning about a restaurant I haven't visited, or learning about historical art trends, I prefer to get the info from someone who has some credibility. Without that basis, IMHO, it's just chatter from well-meaning strangers. Or chatty words on a page. If all I'm going to get is random opinions from Joe Average, I don't need to open up a newspaper for that.

posted by viola on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:24:04 pm     #  

If you want "experts" read you industry publications, not newspapers. However, don't expect average folks to embrace the spin.

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:52:15 pm     #  

MadAnthony: Like I even have the slightest interest in engaging with a former employee with an axe to grind. Go back home to NYC.

posted by paulhem on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:56:13 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 10:52:15 PM on Feb 15, 2014:

If you want "experts" read you industry publications, not newspapers. However, don't expect average folks to embrace the spin.

paul... don't think you're getting what I'm saying! :) I'm looking for little to no "spin" in cultural reviews. :)

posted by upso on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:03:04 am     #  

No media outlet hires restaurant owners to write reviews. They do hire trained journalists. We all realize - like I mentioned before - that many of you think that you can do a better job writing about your business than a journalist.

@upso. The depth of knowledge you exists in your industry pubs. Real reviewers have no investment in time or money in your industry.

I know who writes most of The Bill of Fare reviews. The Blade's top editors vet the critics. I know these folks, respect them, and am confident that no one else, regardless of where they live get any better.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:14:08 am     #  

And frankly, this community gets a far superior product than any other community it's size from the newspaper's restaurant critics, and for that matter the general quality of journalism, than any community of a similar size in the country.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:20:37 am     #  

hey friend, I think you are misunderstanding me! :)

I stepped out of the food biz a while back, and am merely posting as a food fan.

I know who writes most of The Bill of Fare reviews. The Blade's top editors vet the critics. I know these folks, respect them, and am confident that no one else, regardless of where they live get any better.

I'm sure everyone is 100% legit. It would just be nice to know where they are coming from! :) SO if someone reviews a fish place, it'd be nice to know their previous fish angle ... etc.

posted by upso on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:33:17 am     #  

And upso, how would that be possible if they are anonymous? What type of evidence would you accept? Like I said, they are vetted by the top editors. What else is practical?

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:43:43 am     #  

It should be noted that the only thing I'm trained to be is a snarky son of a bitch.

posted by Nolan_Rosenkrans on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:46:52 am     #   1 person liked this

I am not upset with your request - just puzzled about how The Blade or any other media outlet would be able to satisfy your request for knowing reviewer expertise without a restaurant owner knowing who is walking into their establishment to perform a review?

If you can't take my word for it, nor Luann Sharp, who is in charge of that area, then what possibly can be done to assuage your concerns?

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:48:37 am     #  

Amen, Nolan. Me too.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:49:05 am     #  

paulhem posted at 11:43:43 PM on Feb 15, 2014:

And upso, how would that be possible if they are anonymous? What type of evidence would you accept? Like I said, they are vetted by the top editors. What else is practical?

hey friend...

what about giving the reviewers "profiles"
so when you post a review of a burger joint, you see that... oh hey! it was reviewed by the "burger dude" ETC

the fact that there are multiple anonymous reviewers with no public background check makes things hard to take serious.

That said... I still read the weekly reviews! :)

posted by upso on Feb 16, 2014 at 01:04:29 am     #  

That's a great idea! Like I mentioned earlier, the feedback is appreciated.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 08:21:26 am     #  

I have always put more emphasis on the Health Department reports than the reviews. Reviewers are naturally biased because of their own personal tastes - if they prefer some types of food over others, it is almost impossible to be unbiased towards the ones they don't like, even if the food they are reviewing is delicious. I am not interested in eating food that has been stored on the floor or otherwise improperly, at unsafe temperatures, cross contaminated or thawed incorrectly. I don't want pop or ice that came out of a moldy dispenser or bin or handled by someone without gloves on.
I've always thought that if customers had to enter a restaurant through the kitchen door, many would continue on right through the front door without stopping to eat after seeing the back area.

posted by Mike21 on Feb 16, 2014 at 09:00:48 am     #   1 person liked this

@Nolan: hey it's possible we went to the same school bud!

posted by Mariner on Feb 16, 2014 at 09:01:19 am     #   1 person liked this

You know I didn't even put the anonymous posting and anonymous review issue together but something just clicked in my mind. If its not ok to post anonymously according to Paul why is it ok to write restaurant reviews anonymously? Again the blade doesn't allow anonymous posts on their site so why are their food critics allowed to be anonymous?

posted by MIJeff on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:51:12 pm     #   2 people liked this

Sorry, Paul. My comment above devolved into a rant against things that are not directly connected to the subject at hand. At night I write with a glass of red wine in hand, and then later I see that other people haven't made the same mental journey as I have :-)
I didn't mean to insult the current corps of Blade writers.

I'm troubled by what I see as a national trend to put everything (news, scholarship, criticism, announcements) online, all content written for free by anyone who wants to cobble together a few sentences. Fear was affecting my word choice. I'm sorry.

I like upso's suggestion about assigning profiles to the reviewers. That's a good way for readers to be more directly involved with the content.

I would take it one step further and have an Ebert-and-Siskel approach, running reviews side-by-side with opportunities for two reviewers to award a different number of stars.

Reviewers often mention that they've made two trips to an establishment (one lunch, one dinner, for example). Maybe two different reviewers could make one visit each and compare notes as an occasional feature.

Call it the Monthly Showdown or the Throwdown or something. I would love to see a review of a familiar Toledo establishment featuring comments by "The Steak Snob" vs. "The Mexi-cheese Fan."

posted by viola on Feb 16, 2014 at 01:56:43 pm     #  

Hi viola: What a beautiful sentiment. Thank you. Also, even if I were in a position to criticize - which I am not - I not be able would find anything in the least negative in what you have expressed.

However, I think we (The Blade) have some good take-aways from this thread.

Thanks to @ahmahler for starting it. It is fun and informative for someone who is not that knowledgeable about food and restaurants.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 02:30:42 pm     #  

someone who is not that knowledgeable about food and restaurants.

I am that "someone," mentioned above.

Paul

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 02:32:31 pm     #  

"Also, even if I were in a position to criticize - which I am not..."

So you were in that position yesterday, but not today?

Sounds like you took your meds today, good for you!

posted by dell_diva on Feb 16, 2014 at 03:41:44 pm     #   2 people liked this

Ha! Just high on life!

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 05:24:52 pm     #  

And, to further Upso's point, the restaurant business is such a transitionary business, it's surely possible to find someone that has some actual experience in the industry. It's important understand the difference between a bad day and a bad restaurant. EVERY restaurant has bad days from time to time. It would also be beneficial, because, some expertise would allow them to understand what things are supposed to be-I.e. A sauce or preparation that has historical reference that a layperson may not understand. I'm not saying them really need to be an expert, but experience and a frame of reference would help. Divulging background would certainly be possible, while keeping the critic anonymous.

One knock I really have with the current critic-they have an aversion to spice, and don't seem to empathize with that flavor profile. Again, I generally like the current critic.

Paul-if I can offer a suggestion to avoid to hatred and critiques fired at you-when the blade is mentioned-maybe hang back and see what develops over a day or 2, jump in for corrections or clarifications. Sometimes it feels that you are trying to really influence hearts and minds, and then, inevitably the thread feels pointed at you. Then it devolves into vitriolic rants on both sides. I know you get baited, but it damages any credibility when you insult TT'ers. All I'm saying is, you'll always be a target, take a lead from JR about weighing in-judiciously, and with authority.

posted by ahmahler on Feb 16, 2014 at 07:21:13 pm     #   2 people liked this

ahmahler: Thanks. Day or 2... I will try that.

It is very kind of you to offer the suggestion.

Great feedback on the spice thing. Thanks for that.

posted by paulhem on Feb 16, 2014 at 07:43:12 pm     #  

Why would the Blade write exceedingly harsh reviews of restaurants that could be potential advertisers?

If the Blade starts peeling off a bunch of one star reviews, why would a restaurant then say "by god, let's fix up our image by advertising in the entity that ripped us a new corn chute!"

I know--ethical journalism means they don't care about such concerns yada yada blah blah. But it appears that there is not a normal distribution curve of ratings and that makes me wonder.

Or, to take it out of the $$$ realm, perhaps it is self protection? The Blade already gets ripped enough for it's "strong publisher" (thank you justread) form of political coverage. How would it look if they start hypervetting (thank you again, justread) restaurants?

Anyhow, just some random thoughts as to why you might not see so many poor-to-middlin' reviews. Food for thought/chum for debate/plankton for life...

posted by oldhometown on Feb 17, 2014 at 06:14:36 am     #  

Directed at the entire thread not at singular posters: I have observed a goodly number of people when food, food preparation, fine dining comes up morph into haughty mini Martha Stewards. Sure it's a specialty, but along with it includes something called atmosphere. Blogs as well carry a tone and a flow. I strongly object (councelor you don't just object, you strongly object?) when the open transmission of communication is hindered then "All is Lost." Forgive that with 60in of snow there's not much to do but watch flicks. Putting some of the exchanges to the test Fair Enough? some fall a bit short. Participation in any social dynamic requires decorum. Now back to task. I have read and enjoyed food articles from many sources. I still walk in the establishment, try it out, and make up my own mind if I want to return. Satisfaction gets a repeat and a lousy meal or service gets the boot. Been a workable program.

posted by Mariner on Feb 17, 2014 at 07:12:31 am     #  

BTW-In case you didn't catch it, there's a new food editor at The Blade, Mary Bilyeu, and it would appear that she will be a nice fit-Born in NYC, but lived in Ann Arbor for 35 years. She comes off as younger than many Food Editors and definitely has a POV. This could be promising. I like Neman, I thought he was good, positive and witty. The recipes from readers made me cringe, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Each recipe included a can of soup campbells soup.

Mary's First Column:
http://www.toledoblade.com/Food/2014/02/18/Getting-comfortable-in-the-kitchen-and-in-Toledo.html

posted by ahmahler on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:45:47 pm     #  

Can't go to the link unless you are a paid internet subscriber to the blade

posted by Mike21 on Feb 18, 2014 at 01:03:52 pm     #  

Delete you cookies and clear your history and it will think you are new and let you in a few times.

posted by OldTimer on Feb 18, 2014 at 01:13:12 pm     #   2 people liked this

I am addicted to cookies....is there a specific cookie i can remove?

posted by Molsonator on Feb 18, 2014 at 01:34:31 pm     #  

Yep, ahmahler, I agree about the recipes submitted by readers. Sometimes I would look at the ingredient list and laugh out loud. So, therein lies the food/restaurant dilemma. People whose "best" recipe calls for adding packaged convenience foods are also dedicated Blade readers -- and presumably they patronize the restaurants that get reviewed.

posted by viola on Feb 18, 2014 at 01:44:01 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 08:50:15 PM on Feb 13, 2014:

Should have been "...this person does lie..."

LMAO, Paul, you're a trip...

posted by McCaskey on Feb 18, 2014 at 01:50:45 pm     #   1 person liked this

Dude. I corrected that. I fat-fingered my iPhone. Many people have found that humorous.

posted by paulhem on Feb 18, 2014 at 02:08:18 pm     #  

What's wrong with tomato soup. I love it

posted by deere1 on Feb 18, 2014 at 02:16:22 pm     #  

Tomato soup, in a bowl, with a grilled cheese is awesome. In a slow cooker with ground beef, is gross.

posted by ahmahler on Feb 18, 2014 at 02:42:15 pm     #  

That's your opinion Ahm, everyone has different tastes.

posted by MIJeff on Feb 18, 2014 at 02:44:32 pm     #  

Mike21 posted at 12:03:52 PM on Feb 18, 2014:

Can't go to the link unless you are a paid internet subscriber to the blade

using chrome: right-click, open in incognito tab.
IE: copy link address, use control-shift-P to open "inprivate mode" and paste the address in the address bar for that window.

NOT THAT I WOULD EVER ADVOCATE THEFT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FOR ANY REASON EVER. If you use it, and they want you to pay for it, you should.

posted by endcycle on Feb 18, 2014 at 04:52:25 pm     #  

paulhem posted at 01:08:18 PM on Feb 18, 2014:

Dude. I corrected that. I fat-fingered my iPhone. Many people have found that humorous.

Duly noted, Paul.

posted by McCaskey on Feb 20, 2014 at 02:07:25 pm     #  

I thought this was interesting!
https://www.facebook.com/DOMODOMOSUSHI/posts/10152224074716830

Frankly, I thought the review was pretty good and makes me want to visit. The restaurant owner thinks otherwise!

It's very rare for restaurants to respond to reviews, especially so negatively when the review itself was quite positive!

posted by upso on Feb 27, 2014 at 05:38:36 pm     #  

Eh. The owner wanted five stars and got three. Okay, so what? Next time Main Lady's daughter is in town I'll take her to lunch and try it for myself. Flopsy loves sushi.

Me, not so much.

posted by madjack on Feb 27, 2014 at 06:42:11 pm     #  

ok-now this is making me slightly crazy-yesterday's review, of ANOTHER Sushi place, one I know well, was Spicy Tuna. They gave it, wait for it-3 stars. That's the same as Domo.

I have essentially 2 knocks on these reviews-first, since they are both sushi places and reviewed just 2 weeks apart, they should be comparable-well, they're not. In, not just my opinion, but, the opinions of the vast majority of sushi loving folks out there, there are tiers of sushi restaurants (and believe me, this is a conversation I have far more than a normal person should) . Top of the heap is Domo and arguably Koto-Buki. Most real sushi geeks, really put Domo on their own level. Next level down-Sori Sushi, Koreana, perhaps Nagoya. Below that is sushi, but it is not great. That would be occupied by Spicy Tuna and Yoko. Now, none of the places are necessarily bad. I've had good meals at Yoko, and you may love one of these "bottom tier" places. we should probably consider ourselves slightly lucky to actually discuss the top 5 sushi places and perhaps leave out a decent 1 or 2. we've come a long way in that respect.

Now any of the places above can have a good or bad night, so I'll allow a little flexibility, but, I can see why Domo was outraged-they hold themselves to a very high standard.

Now the second thing that sets me off, is, the person that raved about Spicy Tuna thought the best rolls on the menu were essentially gringo rolls. Mexican -a glorified Jalepeno popper and the Philadelphia roll (an inverted bagel and lox). These are ABSOLUTELY not sushi rolls to judge a sushi restaurant by. I want my critic eating mackerel sashimi. No rolls, no crab rangoon! If you go to a sushi restaurant-review the fish!!!! Clearly, this critic doesn't get sushi. They reviewed Spicy Tuna in context much better than Domo. While, restaurant reviews and food opinions are fairly (completely) subjective, and I acknowledge that-I'm starting to have a really hard time with some of these reviews.

http://www.toledoblade.com/Restaurant-Reviews/2014/03/06/Sushi-joint-in-Holland-surprises-with-complexity.html

posted by ahmahler on Mar 07, 2014 at 10:45:04 am     #  

So maybe the Blade's reviewer doesn't like sushi, which would explain the reviews. Why he can't get someone to hit for him while he's raving about the fish sandwich is more than I can figure out.

posted by madjack on Mar 07, 2014 at 11:49:05 am     #  

Didn't Paul say the people writing the reviews aren't necessarily the people actually visiting the restaurants?

posted by MIJeff on Mar 07, 2014 at 12:31:54 pm     #  

mljeff-yes-and that's very typical-I've had friends that reviewed restaurants and films and they never were able to give their own star rating-that's usually their bosses.

Madjack-right on-I totally agree

posted by ahmahler on Mar 07, 2014 at 01:25:02 pm     #  

Domo and Spicy Tuna are not even in the same league. To give them both three stars is ludicrous.

posted by Dappling2 on Mar 07, 2014 at 06:12:54 pm     #