Should Restaurants Out Food Critics and Give them the Boot?

Our sister blog Squid Ink broke the news that some loser restaurant in Los Angeles not only took a picture of Los Angeles Times dining doyenne S. Irene Virbila and posted it on their bad-looking website, they also refused her and her party a table because they didn't like Virbila's reviews. I have never cared much for Virbila's writings, either, but the actions of the restaurant is the height of douchery: honestly, you can't take what someone may think of your restaurant, so you won't even allow them to try it? It's your right to do that, but expect everyone to ridicule you.

But their taking and posting of Virbila's picture is a different monster.

Anonymity among food critics was once a much-treasured illusion–we all know the stories of Ruth Reichl putting on wigs, and critics making reservations under different names. But with the advent of social media, should food critics even bother for anonymity? I still believe in that, but I remember speaking at a UC Irvine class earlier this year where a student food blogger maintained that letting people know you're reviewing them does nothing to change how they're going to serve you, a disturbing thought that, like fraternity initiation rituals and streaking, I attributed to his young age.

I know Edwin zealously treasures his identity, going so far as to not show up to Weekly get-togethers, and I'm amazed that he's been able to keep on his cloak of anonymity for so long. I could've kept that cloak on, but the news side of my writing long ago outed my radio face–luckily, I focus on hole-in-the-walls, where the owners don't care about our paper. Dave and Shuji are also relatively faceless, and they make sure to not be too public about their mugs. But maybe we're old-fashioned like that? Maybe we're in a post-modern era, a McLuhan era where identities now mean nothing?

Oh, and for the record, I don't believe any of us have ever been refused service based on our reputation. I heard rumors that a restaurant once banned me from ever returning, but I wasn't going back there anyway.

Gentle readers: what do YOU think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *