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Nov 6, 2001 07:58 AM

Micahel Bauer

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OK, I know I'll probably hit a nerve with a few but I just gotta say... "Does Michael Bauer like any place?"

Every place gets 2.5 stars or maybe 3 if you're Jardinaire or Masa's but c'mon, if you're dropping $200+ for a couple on dinner, it better be stellar.

His whole attitude towards the restaurant scene is condescending and snide and, god forbid if your restauarant doesn't have white tablecloths and sterling flatware with Reidel water glasses filled with Evian - you WILL get dinged for that too.

I'm just tired and bored with his column. After so many reviews of how wonderful the same 3 or 4 restaurants are (ooooh, the new sous chef skillfully used black sesame seeds on the tuna fritatta instead of the white ones on a prior visit...). We all know how wonderful they are but we also can't eat there every week because either our wallets are fat enough or our bellies would be!

I wish the Chronic would have the sense to run a "Midnight Cabbie" in the Food Section.

Just my opinion. Apologies to Mssr. Bauer as I'm sure this note will have caused his Krug to flatten and his beluga to become slightly warmed now.

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  1. I agree. However, there are a lot of sources of restaurant reviews out there beyond the pink section. Reviews of lower-key places do run in the chron on wednesdays (food section) and fridays (datebook). The weekly papers's reviews (SF Weekly and Bay Guardian) tend towards the self-absorbed and chatty, but they do often ferret out small neighborhood places. There are also monthly "capsule" reviews of smaller places in San Francisco magazine along with their monthly big review. also runs a lot of short reviews and tries to keep up with neighborhood restaurant openings as well as the "big stuff."

    13 Replies
    1. re: dixieday

      I have to go with this one and say that Dan Leone writes a pretty good column and can definetely sniff out the dive food that most of us are afraid to try...
      And, if you write to him, he will write you back!

      1. re: Jupiter

        Maybe it's me, but I find Leone insufferable. I appreciate his mission, but his columns are way too chatty and digressive for my taste. I have the same problem with Leone that I had with Naomi Wise and Michael Whatsisname (who were at least better writers): they wrote more about themselves and their friends than about the food.

        1. re: Tom Hilton
          Kathleen Mikulis

          My feelings exactly.

          And he's getting worse. Sometimes I have to skip to the last paragraph of his column (no kidding) to get to the review.

          1. re: Kathleen Mikulis
            food critic critic

            Oh come on, that's his schtick! What do you expect? I think it's a fun departure from a boring list of 'we liked this, we didn't like that' style reviews. People are taking food writing too seriously these days. Fine, but some of it should be fun and silly, especially if you're just reviewing dives.

            1. re: food critic critic

              I don't mind it when Calvin Trillin does it...but then Trillin is (IMO) one of the 2 or 3 best non-fiction writers in the country. So it can be done well, but for my taste it takes either an extraordinarily good prose stylist, or an inherently interesting person (and Trillin is both, and Leone is neither).

              Actually, my problem with Leone may be that I *don't* take food writing all that seriously. I don't read reviews for their own sake; I read them to figure out if the restaurant sounds appealing to me. I don't find Leone's reviews particularly functional in that respect.

              1. re: Tom Hilton

                OK--I bite: Who's Leone and where does he write?

                1. re: Fine

                  Dan Leone does the Tribute to Dan Leone...umm, I mean Cheap Eats column in the Bay Guardian.

              2. re: food critic critic

                I'd agree to a point. It does tend to be his style to be a bit campy and seems to rant and wander a bit in his writing style. This is annoying and I'd also agree he is getting worse.

                On the other hand, food writing is getting far too serious these days but so is the whole friggin' industry. I can recall a garde manger class at CCA where the only thing they were concerned about was "the architecture of the plate". Gimme a break. I can turn out cute little carrot butterflies and turnip roses all day long but does it taste good?

                There's also the aspect of 'Trying Too Hard'. Difficult to explain so I'll illustrate with an example: a classmate of mine actually made "Cilantro Buttercream" frosting for a cake. (gag!) And most of the class thought her a genius. It was, seriously, the most nauseating, foul thing I have EVER put in my mouth.

                So, Dan may have a schtick to his column. At least it's not the same old thing.

                1. re: Erik

                  Not picking on you Erik. Just a reminder. Your reply this morning to the thread "Dan Leone" from 11/7, stands alone on Hotposts, which many of us use to keep current on what's going on here. When the subject is arbitrarily changed, it makes it difficult to know what the thread is about. Please communicate through the message itself and leave the subject alone, unless it has seriously drifted from the original theme. Okay, back to the chow.

              3. re: Kathleen Mikulis

                Agreed. I always skip to the last paragraph to see what the hell he is talking about.

            2. re: Jupiter
              Melanie Wong

              "definetely sniff out the dive food that most of us are afraid to try..."

              Um, Rachel, this is the Chowhound board you're talking to. No place for scaredy cats here.

            3. re: dixieday

              If it makes you guys feel any better, Bauer is not well respected inside the SF food community. He only represents the "necessary evil" of the restaurant reviewer at the local paper.

              I could go on and on about how worthless he is, but what's the point? Go out and find places that YOU like.

              If you want to read real restaurant reviews (with not only meaningful opinions, but decent syntax too!), pick up the NYT on Wednesdays and see the higher standard of what we COULD have here.

              Our industry is hurting, as are many others in the Bay Area. Please don't let "the little, bitter man" from the Examiner, oops, Comical keep you from having a great night out.

              1. re: Insider

                I agree - he is despised in the food industry but what irks me is how much creedence people give this jerk. Kinda sad that most people have to be told what they should enjoy eating when there are probably a handful of wonderful, unknown restaurants in their neighborhood. (Kinda like Cancun Taqueria at 6th & Market - totally scary area sometimes but awesome food!)

            4. Michael Bauer.

              Not worth spending any time on. My Midwest 20 year old nephews do a more sincere, careful, honest and "something we can all relate too" job of restaurant reviews than Michael will ever be capable of. We are witness.

              My all time, best over-all trust abiding information on anything about food has been chowhounds since day one of knowing this existed. We are a good group.

              1. f
                food critic critic

                I really miss Jim Wood and Bill Citara. What ever happened to them? And of course, Patricia Unterman, who apparantly got axed when Bauer took over the Chron mag. But Bauer I find much more digestable than Robin Davis, who annoys me to no end. I like the SFWeekly guys but the Guardian's Reidenger needs a fact-checker and cut out all that sophmoric theory brain-fart stuff. It's enough to kill anyone's appetite.

                But really, does the Chronicle have ANY good writers?

                2 Replies
                1. re: food critic critic

                  Well, Jim Wood was about 100 years old, so he retired. Citara moved to Florida. Are there any other reviewers in the Bay Area, past or present, that you and other Chowhounds liked?

                  1. re: dixieday
                    randy salenfriend

                    I always enjoyed Stephanie Rosenbaum's reviews.

                2. Truth is, I used to read restaurant reviews religiously, but now I just scan them occasionally. The difference? The Chowhound, of course. I find it extremely frustrating to read a review by someone whom I can't pump for additional information (about their own tastes, for example, or their opinions about restaurants I already know). Bauer doesn't give me anything I can't get here.

                  1. I've probably said this before: I feel Michael Bauer lacks the enthusiastic omnivorousness (is that a word?) that characterizes most 'hounds. For whatever reason, he seems to like high-end restaurants where his reviews may devote themselves as much to decor as to food. I often think people who appear to be enamored uniquely of "new" cuisine have very low threshholds for boredom and prefer innovativeness to deliciousness every time.

                    It's difficult to discuss Bauer without getting into playing psychologist, but one can hardly help but wonder about his apparent need to be almost constantly associated with the most expensive and pretentious establishments and his seeming lack of interest in other wonderful cuisines than the new American, California, and French.

                    He claims his readers want/deserve knowledge about the latest and biggest-deal joints. Perhaps they do--or did before the bust--but I doubt it. I suspect that's just a handful of all his (potential, maybe) readers.

                    It would be more like work to be just another white face at an interesting ethnic place he'd actually have to do some studying up on rather than a usually recognized, cow-towed-to personna at Frette-linened (a reference I got from him!) spots.

                    There appears to be a human tendency for people who start out as critics of whatever to end up identified with the objects of their criticism and, worse, to hang out with them to boot. A version of the Stockholm Syndrome? Probably no more complicated than having a need for approval or, perhaps, a version of the nasty saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Fine

                      >He claims his readers want/deserve knowledge about the latest and biggest-deal joints. Perhaps they do--or did before the bust--but I doubt it. I suspect that's just a handful of all his (potential, maybe) readers.

                      Relatively few, certainly...but they're the readers the advertisers care about. That's why the Chronicle (and a lot of other papers--they're not unique in this) pitch to the wealthy in all sorts of ways, not just in the food section (for example, some years back the Chronicle replaced its Briefing section with a Home section, devoted to the privileged few who happen to own their own homes). Bauer seems to have internalized this imperative.

                      1. re: Tom Hilton

                        "The privileged few who own their own homes" may be accurate in speaking of SF, but the Chron for years has seemed to aim itself more and more at the 'burbs, where home ownership is closer to the norm.(I must look up the figures: I know we read all the time that renters outnumber owners, but it can't be by that much. There are tens of thousands of little houses in SF.)