Do OC Weekly Food Critics Practice Payola?
Last month, I took issue with The Filling Station in Orange because I felt they overcharged for merely good food. Over the weekend, owner John Hughes (not the same genius behind all those Brat Pack films) left this humdinger of a comment:
I always found it funny that OCweekly [sic] gives great reviews for people who advertise. Thus we never advertise. Food price is based on a 25-30% cost basis. Make your own omelet for $3 at home and you will have achieved something. So I'm confused, you thoroughly enjoyed your Turkey chili cheese omelet(which we make from scratch), but we are overpriced? Unfortunately, you shouldn't be making reviews if you have no concept of what it takes to run a restaurant. We serve 600 meals out of an 1,800SF facility on a Sunday(quite an amazing accomplishment). I don't expect every meal to be perfect, but we try our best. Sorry Gustavo, but I don't think you are qualified to write reviews. Give it 20 more years and I think you will be ready.
Yikes! Someone lost their pacifier! Before we dissect the guy's grief, however, let's take up Hughes' very serious charge of payola.
Does the OC Weekly "give great reviews for people who advertise"? Disregard the bad grammar of the sentence, and refry this: Hughes is full of you-know-what. Most of the restaurants that advertise with us never get mentioned in any way by either Edwin or I. My This Hole-in-the-Wall Life column focuses on places who have probably never heard of the Weekly or the English language, let alone want to advertise with us, and the stats prove it. According to records given to me by the Weekly's advertising department of every restaurant that advertised in our rag in 2008, only three restaurants of the 51 that I reviewed last year ever bothered to place an ad: the now-shuttered Carm's Coneys, Green Rice, and Eurostation. All appeared after my review was published. Edwin focuses more on new restaurants and higher-end places, but his record of reviewing restaurants that bought ads last year is only slightly better than mine: Slow Fish, Back Bay Bistro (not too kind of a review), Manhattan Supper Club, Victory Bakery (reviewed by me years ago) the Auld Dubliner, Blackmarket Bakery, Tokyo Table, and Blake's Place BBQ, and guess what? All of them appeared in our paper after Edwin's review.
Sorry, Hughes, but we don't praise restaurants simply because they buy ads, even though our very nice ad reps constantly leave menus on my desk insinuating I should review their clients and even though I've had many run-ins with corporate over the years because of the type of restaurants I review. Payola is unethical, and readers would immediately catch on. Now that I've shown you to be talking out of your ass, care to apologize to Edwin and I?
PS: to say I "shouldn't be making reviews if you have no concept of what it takes to run a restaurant" is the same propaganda cops use on us whenever we take them to task for killing people. I'm notorious for being a cheapskate, and I'm always bemoaning the cost of food in my column even while recommending it, so my criticism of The Filling Station remains. Readers: not only does the Filling Station overprice people for food, it's also run by a pendejo. Avoid at all costs.
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