Baltimore's pretentious restaurants
Richard has suggested a discussion of what we mean when we call a restaurant "pretentious" on this blog.
It's not good enough just to name Baltimore's fanciest places: There's a difference between a restaurant that serves excellent food in a formal manner and one that has pretentions it can't live up to or are unjustified or make the customer feel uncomfortable unnecessarily. ...
In other words, while name calling is fun, let's be more creative.
If a waiter corrects your pronunciation of Chateauneuf du Pape, that's pretentious. If the menu lists every ingredient and technique of a dish, using words many customers have never heard of, that's pretentious -- at least in Baltimore. If the waiter gives you attitude because you ask if the restaurant has ranch dressing, that's pretentious. (OK, we may have to rethink that last one.)
The most blatant example of pretentiousness I've ever run into is one I wrote about once before. It happened in California at a very nice restaurant with very good food. There were five of us at the table having an interesting conversation, and the head waiter interrupted us to name every ingredient on each plate as another server placed it in front of us. That said to me, "We think our food is more important than your conversation."
The food wasn't that good.
Anyway, here's Richard's e-mail -- not Other Reviewer Richard, by the way:
One thing I noticed about the comments on your blog is that folks often use the term pretentious to describe a restaurant. I would be interested in seeing a discussion of exactly what people think that means. It is clearly a derogatory term, and I know what the dictionary says, but I'd like to know specifically, whether it is some particular action or some particular thing said, that causes this term to be used. When used without some context, it always comes across to me to say more about the individual using the word than the restaurant it is meant to describe.
So, what particular traits make a Baltimore restaurant pretentious?
(Monica Lopposay/Sun photographer)