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July 28, 2008

Monday Morning Quarterbacking


When I go into work today, I'm expecting three or four e-mails saying, "I used to trust you, but I went to Fin Steak & Seafood based on your recommendation and we had to wait an hour and they were out of half the things on the menu and it wasn't that good anyway."

It almost makes me want to not give places that seem pretty much like a one-man show a positive review. Too many readers think, "Wow. Let's try it tonight." ...

I'd be interested to know if that's your first reaction, or whether you say to yourself, "Mmmm, better give it awhile till people forget about it again."

Of course, you would hope a new restaurant would politely but firmly say, "I'm sorry, we're booked tonight. Is there another night you'd like to come?" But that doesn't seem to happen. 

I firmly believe no positive review has a long-term effect, nor does a negative review. In the end, it's word of mouth that sustains a restaurant (or kills it). Whether a positive review helps or hurts more short term depends on how the restaurant handles it.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:55 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Monday Morning Quarterbacking


My first reaction to a good review is to cut it out (actually now I print it from the web site) and put it in my restaurant folder. When we decide we'd like to try a new place, I pull them out and make a decicion.

I'd no more go a restaurant right after a very positive review than I would go to a movie on opening night.

I pretty make it a point not to try a reviewed restaurant for at least month after the review for the reasons you mentioned.

For the past year or so, most of my "dining" has not been at the places y'all go, but at corner sandwich shops or Chinese takeout. Several months ago, The Sun's "Under $25" gave much-deserved rave reviews to the little shop on my corner, where we "always" walked for Friday night supper. That Friday night, when I called in the order, a neighborhood guy who'd been (literally, I'm told) been grabbed to help out with the crushing crowd, said, "Give 'em an extra half hour, they're swamped here!" That half hour wasn't nearly enough time. I wish the little shop well, but money's getting tighter and my weeks are becoming more and more exhausting and I just haven't felt inclined to walk back over there since that evening.


That is a fantastic idea and I am jealous I didn't think of it first. I'm going to have to steal that and start a restaurant folder of my own.

I generally wait at least 3 months after a restaurant is reviewed before going.

Unfortunately, I've seen too many places never recover from a good review. The quality of ingredients goes down, the portions shrink, staff get attitude and things just generally go down the tubes.

So, the ideal time is before a good review. Alas, my crystal ball is only good for predicting mosquito bites.

I do like to get to places that have been recently reviewed, but I am also concerned about whether a small place can handle the extra business. My usual tactic is to try to get there for lunch (if they're open).

EL - was there anything other than the long wait that caused the 2 1/2 service stars? You didn't mention any other deficiencies, and I understand that the more expensive the place, the higher the expectations all around. But just wondering.

That was the main thing for me, but the other (which my companions liked) was that he started getting involved in our conversations. He was amusing, but it was like having a fifth person at the table, and not a shrinking violet either. EL

EL wrote he started getting involved in our conversations. He was amusing, but it was like having a fifth person at the table ...

I think I posted ages ago about the server at Viccino's who actually pulled up a chair to join the four of us at the table in our conversation. It was charming and extremely off-putting at the same time.

4 of us had dinner at Fin on the 16th. What surprised us most was the lack of many fish dishes. The wait for service was not long at all for drinks or a waiter. First courses were prompt.Main courses were somewhat slow, but not overly. They seem to have enough servers and probably more people in help in the kitchen.
The room was mostly full when we were there. Maybe they have their act together now!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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