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Phantom Gourmet.

What's the deal with the Phantom GOurmet? Can someone clue me in here? I've never really paid a whole lot of attention to it but the few times that I have seen the show, they're pushing places like Applebees.

Is this just a Boston shill or what? Is it an independent group? How does it work?

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  1. I watch it from time to time and I haven't seen Applebees on it. The worst place I've seen them rave about is the Kowloon- well maybe Sunset Grill too. I like a lot of places they find in the Hidden Jewel spot - like fried chicken at Coast Cafe. Occasionally I see some place that I haven't been to in a while and it motivates me to get there - like the Parish Cafe recently. The show is okay, it's easy to spot the crap and occasionally something good turns up.

    1. I think it's mostly Boston area/New England area, but he has reviewed "outside of New England". Here's a link to the areas he's reviewed:


      As to how it works, not sure. With some of the places he reviews, you wonder if it's advertising based?

      Here's the list of food vendors at the PG Food Festival last weekend.


      Nothing there that really floats my boat. I've read several accounts of people going to this thing, and it sounds like a madhouse with many vendors "selling out" early and people just not able to get through the crowd to get food/drink. Just not worth it to me.

      1. It used to be hosted by Billy Costa and was highly rated in the Boston area. Then Costa left and started TV Diner. Dave Robichaud took over as host of PG for a while, to be replaced by the Andelman brothers who may still be on the show. One of them (Dave?) owns the show and his brother, Dan hosts.

        I thought it was worth watching when Billy Costa was on it, it went downhill with Robichaud but with the Adelmans, it is too painful to watch. They remind me of the Deen boys on Food Network.

        1. The idea is that the "Phantom Gourmet" is an anonymous critic... restaurants aren't supposed to know who he is or what he looks like and therefore he (or she) will theoretically get the real restaurant experience as opposed to the gussied-up experience some restaurants will provide if they know the person is a restaurant reviewer. It is my impression that the host(s) of the show is a different person from the critic. That being said, he is one person with his (or her) own particular tastes and tastes vary from person to person. The Phantom is not afraid of admitting that he likes to visit chain restaurants. I haven't watched the show in a very long time, but I do check out the website from time to time.

          1. There appear to be some hijinks. Strega gets a rave next week, but they clearly have a close relationship with the fat owner, as he is on all the time.

            1. there are alot of hijinks!!!!! Everyone who advertises on the show gets rave reviews or is mentioned tons of times:

              fuddruckers, fireflys, kowloon, strega, etc. and if i see another review or hidden jem review about carl's steak n sub i'll barf. They are not that great, the only good thing about them is that they give you a TON of food for little money.

              I still watch the show though, because sometimes they will mention a restaurant I have never heard of and want to check out.

              1. I agree that you occasionally learn something really useful on the show. I learned about Hell Night from Phantom Gourmet! Also, hard to find spots like Vinny's at Night at that guy who sells ribs out of a truck (forget his name!). I also learned about Arrows...it got the best review in Phantom Gourmet history with I tihnk a 98/100. I went this summer and it was one of the best meals i've ever had (better be at $400!)

                If you can see through the obvious shilling, the show has its moments.

                1. THe show is just bad. It is a base for shills, with the Andelman bros. dishing out rave reviews to their advertisers. Their scoring system is a joke too. They are bad hosts, with poor writing and equally poor execution. Their admitted love of fast-food and junk food does nothing for their street cred either. What is worse is their heavily moderated (read: censored) message board. A total waste of time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AHan

                    I have no problem with them at least giving fast food a chance. No one would deny that some fast food is better than others...(Wendy's is better than McDonald's, etc.).

                    I agree with everything else you said.

                  2. It's one thing to make the comparison, it is something else to glorify garbage foods like they do.

                    1. The Phantom is easily the most shameless and obvious trader of raves for advertising among Boston-area food critics, confirming the worst suspicions of anyone who has ever read a restaurant review.

                      But I guess I am grateful that someone *else* is covering the market for disgusting junk food, emetic fast food, and heinous casual-dining chain outlets.

                      What I really want to know is, what do those guys put on their hair? Surf wax?

                      1. Never seen it, but it sounds like a really bad show...so how long until FN picks it up?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Withnail42

                          It's carried by Boston's CW (fka UPN) affiliate. I don't watch FN: does it run local restaurant review shows? This one sticks mainly to Greater Boston.

                          1. re: Withnail42

                            Hey--far worse than anything on FN. Rachel Ray calling food yummo would be a huge improvement, believe it or not. It's a shame, because the concept isn't bad, just poor execution (bad bad bad hosts and writers) and too much time spent on self-promotion and appealing to the lowest common denominator.

                          2. I actually watched the show today, and there was an amusing segment where the owner of Prince Pizza in Saugus came on the show to defend his restaurant after the Phantom had given it a mediocre review weeks before. The host Danny Andelman practically groveled in front of the guy....what kind of show apologizes for its bad reviews?!?!

                            They also did a head to head "CHALLENGE" between Ruth's Chris and Smith and Wollensky's that was completely perfunctory and uninformative. "They're both good, but Ruth's Chris is soaked in butter...so they win!"

                            1. I haven't seen it on TV, just heard the quick bits on WBZ radio occasionally. I've rarely heard anything I've actually tried, but have been struck by the variety of price ranges and the fact they get out into the 'burbs as well as around the city. Kowloon sponsors the radio spots.

                              1. Phantom Gourmet taught me about two things for which I will always be grateful.

                                First, they gave Arrows their highest rating of all time, when I had never heard of it. It did not disappoint.

                                Second, they had a huge piece of ECG Hell Night three years ago or so.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tamerlanenj

                                  Those *are* two stellar recs: I love both Arrows and ECG's Hell Night. I guess even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.

                                  Note, however, that the first review currently on their website is a rave ("Gourmet Greatness") for Cafe Escadrille in Burlington, one of the worst expensive restaurants in Greater Boston, just a horrible, horrible place.

                                2. When you're washing the kitchen floor on a Saturday morning, it's not bad for background noise. Sometimes you do pick up a tidbit here and there if you're listening at the right time.

                                  TV Diner with Billy Costa (also on Sat AM in the Boston area) is a bit more interesting and informative, much less favoritism to sponsors, but his 'just kidding!' act wears on me.

                                  1. Who's the "Phantom Gourmet" likely to be? Probably Eddie Andelman(the father)?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: BLM

                                      Pure speculation, but I'll suggest that they have a panel of anonymous researchers, not just one person. I've talked to some restaurant owners who claimed to have known when the Phantom was coming, so either their anonymity is imperfect, or I'm being told tales.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        I was once told by a friend, whose husband supposedly knew one of the Phantoms, that the show does indeed employ a whole stable of them, rather than a single critic.

                                        1. re: Chickpea

                                          I saw the last Phantom Gourmet program, & in the segment with the owner of Prince Pizzeria, host David Andelman stated that he's not the Phantom Gourmet, or any of the Andelmans for that mattter. Prince's owner had mentioned that the Andelmans have been regulars at his restaurant & enjoy the food(David agreed with that).

                                    2. The Andlemans have greater food knowledge but Billy Costa has the less grating personality, IMO. Understand we're talking small matters of degree here. Neither The Andlemans nor Costa would be in the running for Best-in-Show for coiffures.

                                      1. BTW, with all the restaurants advertising on the Phantom Gourmet, & the other commercials airing during the hour seemed to use the Andelmans as pitchman, it would appear to me, that the Phantom Gourmet television show is buying time on the WSPK Boston station. Am I correct? Are the Andelmans making boatloads of money in the Phantom Gourmet venture? Not sure if people outside of Boston are aware, that WSPK is available on cable & satellite systems across North America(it's considered a superstation maining for its sports). I catch WSBK from Montreal.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: BLM

                                          I think PG does buy TV time from WSBK. I assume the show is produced in the WBZ/WSBK studios.

                                          I used to get WSBK here in Halifax until a few months ago when the cable co. took it away from me unless I bought the movie channels, so I can't watch PG any more. It, along with Patriots postgame, were the only things I watched on that channel once the Red Sox left after 2005. PG was sort of fun, mindless entertainment on a weekend. It was all too obvious that they were shilling for their advertisers but some of the ads themselves were so bad they were funny, almost like going back to the 70's and watching some really small-market TV station's attempts at ad production. I think of the ad that has the woman telling you the recipe for the greek salad dressing at some Greek joint until the owner pulls the plug. Or the one for the insurance co. that has all sorts of restaurant disasters happening.

                                          There are a slew of problems with the show, not the least of which is their devotion to Dunkin Donuts, but I still found it entertaining. It always made me hungry because the shots of some of the things they review always look really good -- if there was a Philly cheesesteak place nearby I'd have to be there after every show. One of the things I wondered about were the occasional bad reviews that appear -- are they potential advertisers who turned them down, or are they truly bad? I can't see how they could do too many bad reviews before places would pull their ads.

                                          1. re: Greg B

                                            And yet, there are restaurant critics who are allowed to work without consideration for their employer's ad revenues. The pub I write for (Boston's Weekly Dig) has never pressured me to soften anything harsh I've said in a review, although there's no question it costs them potential ad revenues from the venues I don't say nice things about. They have a different calculus: trustworthy reviewers will draw more readers, and the ad revenues will grow accordingly.

                                            I'm glad to see the number of folks here who recognize the Phantom for what it is, a rather transparent pay-for-play deal, but I suspect many of their viewers and listeners are less discriminating media consumers. But even if their game is obvious to all, that kind of whoring diminishes the reputation of everyone who writes about food professionally.

                                            1. re: Greg B

                                              Just wanted some confirmation(as it's fairly obvious, they're buying time). I'm guessing when they were on NECN, they were also buying time(based on comments on this thread). I enjoy watching it, from Montreal. Still gives me insights on what's going on in the Boston-area restaurant scene, although I don't take everything seriously by them.

                                          2. Years ago when I first found the show on TV it was good. Billy Costa hosted and they reviewed good restaurants. But toward the end of Billy's time there, they started reviewing crap like Fudruckers and Applebees. Who needs a review of Dunkin Donuts? I always assumed that Billy left, unhappy with the new mission of the show - to review places that aren't at all gourmet.

                                            Now when I see the show (I stumble upon it once in a while)I just can't get over the stupid places they review. All of the segments between reviews are chain restaurants and the most mediocre of supermarket foods. A true dissapointment.

                                            25 Replies
                                            1. re: puppymomma

                                              Not to be parochial, being a beer lover, but Costa did a TV Diner segment last year on beer & ales and he'd didn't have a c-l-u-e. His knowledge on the subject ran the gamut from A to B. That would be Anheuser to Busch. I know he's a wine lover and so am I. They are not mutually exclusive. You would think at that pay grade he'd at least have or get a cursory knowledge for a scheduled segment on the subject.

                                              1. re: Harp00n

                                                I accidentally tuned into Costa's morning radio gig recently. Apparently his job there is to play some kind of sad-sack, put-upon, whiny fifth wheel amid a typically loathsome crew of A.M. drive-time gabbers. *Any* other gig has to be a welcome relief from that, and the couple of times I've seen it, he does seem to be enjoying doing TV Diner. I'd say it has inherited some of Phantom's dubious objectivity, but is less relentlessly lowbrow. As another poster noted, it's not hard to be more genial and less grating than Phantom's crew.

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  Frankly, I find the Phantom show to be a better "review" than TV Diner. Anybody else notice that about 9 out of 10 places get the "Gold" plate on TV Diner, while the tenth gets "Platinum"?

                                                  At least it's easy to know who the Andleman boys are shilling for, simply by who runs commercials on the show, and who is featured on the Hidden Jewel segment. The actual "Phantom Reviews" seem to me at least to be legit.

                                                  With about two exceptions, EVERY place on TV Diner gets the kid glove treatment.

                                                  Of course, the absolute worst "review" show in New England is that loathsome "My Favorite Restaurant" show on the channel you have to plug your TV into a toaster to get.

                                                2. re: Harp00n

                                                  >His knowledge on the subject ran the gamut from A to B.
                                                  >That would be Anheuser to Busch

                                                  HA!!!!!!! That is fabulously funny!

                                                  1. re: fullbelly

                                                    I'm glad that you got a chuckle out of it. "fullbelly". But, in the spirit of full disclosure, it ain't mine!

                                                    "She Runs the gamut from A to B."

                                                    Dorothy Parker: speaking of Katherine Hepburn
                                                    - U.S. Author, humorist, poet, wit & member of
                                                    N.Y.C.'s legendary Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel

                                                    This quip was made in a review of Hepburn's first leading lady performance on Broadway in 1933's, The Lake. Her early film career hit rock-bottom shortly there after. The Hollywood moguls thought her to be too cerebral & too Nu Yawk stagey,
                                                    I'd say she exceeded their underwhelment fairly well, considering she went on to garner four (4) Academy Awards for Best Actress, hmm?

                                                    1. re: Harp00n

                                                      I'm still giving you the credit for the Anheuser Busch part though. :)

                                                      1. re: fullbelly

                                                        Okay, I'll drop the false humility. It wasn't half-bad and feel free to swipe it. :-)

                                                3. re: puppymomma

                                                  I watch both fairly regligiously and they get more annoying the longer they're on. Billy Costa and his just kidding as someone said is just dumb. He has to say that tho cuz his jokes suck. The Andelmans are big goobers and now they're on even more when they do the Great 8 and they and the other brother along with a couple other local "celebs" have to give their idiotic comments. I can't remember specifics, but there have been a couple "hidden jewels" lately that are so famous, I don't know how they can use the term. And they've run that chain episode about 90 times. Yet after all that, I still watch it almost every week (except when NFL pre-game is on ESPN) and I *will* try again to be diner for a day.

                                                  1. re: Joanie

                                                    And another thing, how long & hard are they gonna shill for that friggin' Yummies in Kittery? It ain't even a restaurant, it's a candy store! Once every 2 years or so O.K., as a change of pace, but enough already.

                                                    1. re: Harp00n

                                                      Don't forget the Maine Diner in York! Fuddruckers in Saugus! The Kowloon! The Halfway Cafe! Strega!

                                                      What are their other favorite places to shill?

                                                      1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                        I don't think even THEY deny they shill. But they DO legitimately review 4 places each show.

                                                        And no, I'm not the Phantom Gourmet.

                                                        (This message brought to you by When Pigs Fly Bakery, and Panera Bread.) :)

                                                        1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                          Curious, do Asians eat at The Kowloon restaurant? I have a feeling they cater to mostly caucasians. Is at least the Kowloon Special Saugus Wings very good(the Andelmans regularly rave about this dish)?

                                                          1. re: BLM

                                                            The Kowloon is really a throwback to the 50's and 60's style Polynesian restaurants. I would be their biggest seller is the pu pu platter. A favorite of mine when I was a kid- especially the big room with the boat and volcano!! They do Polynesian well, if that answers your question!

                                                            1. re: macca

                                                              Is Kowloon the largest chinese restaurant in North America at least? Host Dan Andelman claims it's one of the profitable restaurants in the world. An article that I read from several years ago, claims it's the most lucrative Chinese restaurant in America.

                                                              1. re: BLM

                                                                Don't know if it is the largetst in North America- their website says it seats 1200. It is big- and they offer chinese, thai, pllynesian, sushi. But their big draw is the pu pu platters, wings and fried rice. So I would belive it may be the most lucrative,

                                                                1. re: macca

                                                                  The largest Chinese restaurant in Canada is Floata, & they seat 1000.

                                                                  1. re: BLM

                                                                    There are lots of large restaurants in the same area as the Kowloon. It is on route 1 in Saugus MA, just a few miles north of Boston. Lots of big restaurants, but not lots of good food. The Kowloon is huge, and the front looks like a polynesian tiki. Then there is the Hilltop ( steak), which is also large- probably seats at least 900- and they have huge plastic cows out front.

                                                                    1. re: BLM

                                                                      Just out of curiousity where is Floata?

                                                              2. re: BLM

                                                                I agree that the Kowloon is a far cry from authentic, but those Saugus wings really are very good.

                                                                It's funny; you can get the recipe for almost anything at the Kowloon online, but the Saugus wings are a closely-guarded secret.

                                                                1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                                  There is a recipe on their website for wings- not sure if they are the ones you are talking about. They have soy, garlic, ginger and gin!!! Click on recipes, look down the page for "Kowloons Chicjen Wings". Hope that is what you are looking for.

                                                                  1. re: macca

                                                                    I've seen that recipe. It's not for their Saugus Wings, unfortunately.

                                                                    1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                                      Oh well. Have never had them, but I think it is about time I tried them. May even have to get a scorpion bowl !!

                                                              3. re: tamerlanenj

                                                                Bye the bye, is Strega just the most hideous Italian you've ever been to or does that limit it's hideousness too much?

                                                                1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                                  Tamerlanenj, I'll heartily agree with you on the poor quality of all the places you mentioned except the Maine Diner. I actually thought the food was good the time I went there and would gladly return.

                                                                  But then again, one out of five ain't exactly great....

                                                          2. Seems like every time I watch this show they are raving about some place on the south shore that sells ice cream injected into twinkys or something. Oh, they recently had a whole segment on Dunkin Donuts new cookies. Fun.

                                                            1. They recently rated Papa John's as the best-tasting pizza chain. 'Nough said.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                What IS best tasting pizza chain?

                                                                They all suck.

                                                                1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                                  That is a fine, fine question, and you're most likely correct. But I don't believe that the answer would ever be Papa John's. Probably fodder for a different thread.

                                                              2. This, today from PG, so typical of the idiocy of the reviews:
                                                                "It’s an ooey gooey pot of pure pleasure. And it can only be found at The Melting Pot. With its new location in Framingham, this national chain has Bostonians bubbling over fondue. "
                                                                So, it's a "
                                                                Hidden" jewel, yet it is a national chain which despite opening recently already has Bostonians "bubbling over fondue"?
                                                                Also noteworthy in it's lack of discriminating taste, the PG Chinese Food Festival is happening IN Kowloons? Ridonkulous.
                                                                Am I missing something? Why do people fall for this crap?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: AHan

                                                                  People "fall for this crap" because people in general are not chowhounds. It is the same reason why there is often an 1 1/2 hour wait for a table at Olive Garden, TGIF or Cheesecake Factory and yet you can walk right into a little Indian or Malaysian restaurant on the same night and have no wait and the food will be 10x better.

                                                                2. i have so many varying dislikes for the show yet I can't stop watching it. I emailed a question once and got a very nasty email back..and they censored my post.. I have never seen a website that has a couple days delay for posts so they can read and censor or approve it first. It's nuts... And obviously i dont usually get my ideas for where to eat from the show, like i do here, but i enjoy watching despite constant cringing... Anyways, for North Shore boys, they totally snub this area..Some of the food does look good though.. I like a lot of the goofy commercials too. So i guess i am walking a precarious line between chowhound and shame..

                                                                  I wanted to try one of their places.. Lulu's diner, i think in Malden but they never answered the phone on several tries. Anyone know if it exists?? I saw a listing for DuWop diner.. is that the same place with a name change??

                                                                  I used to like Costa on Phantom and try to sometimes watch TV Diner, but i find him getting too snotty now... The whole show seems to be about who he knows and how cool it makes him.. Recently I saw a viewer give a bad review to a place(they have viewers go try places) and give the first thumb down ever and he was really flustered. It was kinda funny.. About Kowloons..It's fun when you want a kitschy nite out. Just revisted a couple times after years of staying away and it was actually excellent! Our avocado maki, Thai food and seafood panfried noodles were actually better than we have had lately at our usual small standbys.. Just dont bother to try to ask for the little foodie extras like ponzu sauce..the waiters are nice but they mostly only know the standard stuff... Now i am really hungry and will have to visualize an Andelman head of hair to help destroy my appetite..

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: chompie

                                                                    I think Phantom Gourmet is getting a bad rap from all of you!! The Andleman's are just trying to put a humourous spin on food they review. By the way, the Phantom never raved about Applebees!!

                                                                      1. re: BostonBarGuy

                                                                        There seems to be an advertising/review relationship which isn't good but who doesn't have that (Boston Magazine? Sorry). I think if you take that (and TV Diner) for what it is which is informational and don't use it as a de facto final word on a place it serves a purpose. BTW, are there are there any more obnoxious people in this world than the Andlemans and Costa?

                                                                        1. re: donjay

                                                                          I mentioned this earlier, but in doing restaurant reviews and food/drinks writing for Boston's Weekly Dig, I have never experienced any editorial influence or censorship on my reviews. They run my occasional negative/less-than-positive assessments of places and don't seem to care about the potential impact on ad revenue. Nor have they ever "encouraged" me to write about a particular place. Not everyone whores their opinions like the Phantom et. al.

                                                                          Even if you believe, as I do, that the Phantom's reviews are completely untrustworthy (despite their occasional praise for places I like), I guess you could say there's value in knowing about new places. But what restaurant have you ever discovered via the Phantom that wasn't endlessly discussed on Chowhound first?

                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                            Don't forget that there is a segment of society that is not computer literate and/or do not own a computer for economic or other reasons.

                                                                            1. re: emilief

                                                                              This is a good point, emilief, not to mention folks that have computers and know how to use them but don't frequent Chowhound. So I guess Phantom does deserve props for occasionally bringing worthy places like Speed's to the attention of a wider audience. (But I bet they're getting a lot of intel here.)

                                                                        2. re: BostonBarGuy

                                                                          way back i thought the show was ok but since the bros have taken over i am beginning to agree with bostonbarguy it is becoming a joke
                                                                          and a not too funny one at that

                                                                          1. re: foodperv

                                                                            My first job out of college I returned to Mass. and remember enjoying "Phantom Gourmet" on New England Cable News. Eddie was host of the show back then. ... And I'm figuring that if they're still using the same format 15 years later, it might be getting a little stale.

                                                                            Any native New Englanders remember 'PM Magazine' from the late 70s and early 80s? Matt Lauer was the co-host. It was a locally-produced, but nationally syndicated enterainment / light news show. Two segments I remember my dad the chef enjoying: The 'Phantom Gourmet' segment that reviewed local joints with a grade system based on a maximum of 4 Gold Forks; and also the cooking segments with Chef Tell and his "Very simple! Very easy!" catchline.

                                                                            Out here, Chicago Public Television has a decent review show called 'Check, Please!': a 3-guest roundtable with a host. Each guest talks about their favorite place, and the other two review it. Not only does this show unearth area gems, but you also gain perspective from hearing 3 different reviews regarding the same place.

                                                                            1. re: ML in Naperville IL

                                                                              that sounds better than the phantom Bourmet
                                                                              i have givin up on that show it has become so aahhhh

                                                                        3. re: callitasicit

                                                                          Callitasicit, you're right that the PG never raved about Applebee's -- in fact, they make no secret about their dislike of them. And I'll agree with that notion. But I think the posters here are spot on with their gripes about Phantom otherwise.