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Pittsburgh Dining Reviews

Hello,
Has anyone followed the reviews in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by its new restaurant critic?

I'm a chef in Pittsburgh and, of course, have been following them carefully. Luckily, my restaurant has not yet been reviewed. But what worries me is that this particular journalist doesn't appear to know very much about food, its preparation or presentation. Further, many of her remarks seem mean spirited.

I've read on local industry boards quite a few negative remarks about the restaurant critic, and am wondering what the Pittsburgh folks here on chowhound feel.
Grady

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  1. I have to generally concur with you, although I agreed with her comments about the unreasonable markup on wines at Pittsburgh restaurants. I've noted some lamentable missteps that were almost laughable. I detect a lack of sophistication (although honestly I don't know how important the Post-Gazette holds that trait in its "critics") -- a good example was the recent rave about Lidia's (yes, Lidia's!). But let's keep in mind the critic is only 24 years old.

    1. I have been put off by the recent spate of columns that seem to be more about the challenges of being a restaurant critic than about actually reviewing restaurants.

      borntocook, I actually like Lidia's, and I thought her review of the place was mostly fair and pretty well-balanced. Perhaps I lack sophistication too, but I kinda don't care when they give me unlimited refills of beef cheek ravioli.

      I get the sense that maybe the critic comes from a larger city as she seems to harp a lot on the "over-friendliness" of the service here. I don't find it off-putting, personally, but I can see how a New Yorker or LA transplant might be baffled by Burgh-style "Hi Yinz!!" service.

      BTW, the OP might be well advised to note that the critic in question has posted here on CH, and might be reading the boards.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Greyhoundgrrl

        I have found Lidia's to be terribly inconsistent. The frico, for instance, on my last two visits has been a greasy, overly salted abomination. My point about sophistication referred to a more refined taste expected of a food critic, although this little gem is hard to beat: "[S]ervers ... discretely [sic] delivered leftover food in attractive brown paper bags."

      2. I too have followed the reviews -- and at this point I pretty much dismiss them. And you're right, this person does not appear to be well versed on her subject -- food. It reminds me of the long-time Post-Gazette critic who retired about 5 years ago: the woman who referred to her husband as "His Honor." Same mindset; similar notions about food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MaryLennox

          Glad I found this post as I just commented to my wife recently that I think the Post got a new reviewer and she hates every restaurant in Pgh! Everyone seems to get 1 star out of 4. She seems to excpect 5 star service and decor in all places she visits. I forget which restaurant, but if I recall correctly it was a casual type place that served the little plastic cups of creamer and that really turned her off. Or how at another casual place the sugar packets were left on the table for the entire meal and what a flaw in service that was! I've basically disregarded her reviews after her feeling those two things took away from the restaurant and her experience. I'd like to see China move on.

        2. I somewhat need to disagree with everyone here. Although I might not agree with what she writes about every place she has dined so far, I love the direction she is taking with the rating system. There was nothing worse than the old reviewer either praising a place or being negative (rarely was she negative other than with wine pricing) and then ending up giving everyone 3 stars. In most major cities getting 2 stars is quite an honor. Our old system was artificially inflated so as a reader you could not tell the difference between places by looking at the review. If you read her description of how she was going to change the ratings, they make sense and in the long run we will be much better off because of it. ANd I beleive she writes now about the challenges of being a critic and what she is looking for to try to educate the readers so they can understand that a 1 star rating or 2 star rating is not necessarily bad.
          Pittsburgh restaurants are getting better but they need to be held accountable to a higher standard, I beleive that these ratings are going to help. People need to remember they are just one persons opinion but they can take something from them.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mcharles

            I see nothing wrong with the rating system, mcharles, but I do take exception to the person doling out those stars and half-stars. I agree restaurants need to be held accountable, but how is this person setting a higher standard? There's a lot more to food criticism than being a graduate of a local culinary school.

            1. re: MaryLennox

              Thanks for the enlightenment mcharles, I truly didn't know that 2 stars is an honor in other cities. I guess I'm so accustomed to the PG's rating system that the 1 star, or even the half star rating mean the place is awful. I read her description of the updated star system and it makes sense. Still not sure I like her though, but the new star system, once we get familiar with it, doesn't sound bad.

          2. I'm a review junkie of sorts, used to read them every week in the Washington Post when we lived there, and still do on occasion, but I've only recently been reading the reviews in the PG. Not having eaten at the restaurants she's reviewed (2 kids, few babysitters), it's hard for me to tell. Agree that talking about sugar packets and take out bags is pretty strange and may be an effort to just fill column inches.

            On the other hand, not sure what the other options are. Does the Trib-Review have a decent critic? Pittsburgh Magazine's critic is, in my opinion, useless. Every review is positive (all potential advertisers, I assume) and spends more time talking about the decor and the history of the restaurant that used to be in that location than the food served by the current occupant. It's maddening!

            The current PG critic does appear to try to be thorough, and seems to be credible, from what I can tell, although clearly most people here seem to disagree. I'm hoping to try some of the restaurants she has reviewed in the next several months and will compare my experiences with her reviews, and then hopefully I'll be able to make a judgment one way or the other. Because a reliable critic along the lines of the Washington Post's Tom Sietsma would be welcome.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Whigsboy

              I really like her reviews, and I like the attention to detail she gives. I am not crazy about Lidia's and thought her review was--well I have never been impressed there, not even once. But another restaurant she reviewed, in in my neighborhood, was spot on, everything I have experienced myself.
              Besides, if a restaurant is charging over $35.00 for an entree, wouldn't you think that a cream and sugar bowl could be brought to the table when coffee is ordered? Having sugar packets on the table is kind of what you would expect in the diner that is up the road from the reviewed restaurant.
              Hopefully, her reviews will help to elevate the Pittsburgh dining scene, and create higher expectations for restaurants, chefs and diners too.

              1. re: grapevine

                Not to put too fine a point on it, but I frankly see nothing wrong with a ceramic sugar caddy on the table throughout the meal in a bistro environment. What do you do if someone orders iced tea with dinner, present a sugar bowl and then take it away, bring it back with coffee -- just to not offend anyone's finer sensibilities.