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NYT Connecticut Section Outrage

Did anyone read the CT section this Sunday that featured a HUGE section on chain restaurants? It was so insulting on so many levels. The gist of the piece was: "Gee, you can get edible food at Outback and Olive Garden!" Like, duh. Only if you'd never before set foot outside of Manhattan would this be news to you. And it's a direct slap in the face to all the excellent non-chain restaurants in the suburbs. It's also just plain wrong--the article asserts that the "casual dining" chains like Applebees are thriving, when anyone who's glanced at the Wall St. Journal in the last few years knows that casual dining as a sector is in a severe slump as people cut back their restaurant budgets in favor of high-end, less frequent splurges. I'm sure this was some bone-headed editor's idea--a half-dozen new restaurants have opened in the last month in New Haven alone, and yet the NYT's food writers were dispatched to Applebees.
My irate letter is on its way to the editors--come on CT readers, let them know that we demand better from the NYT!

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  1. One of my favorite parts of the Sunday NY Times is getting to the restaurant review in the CT section. I have to say that I shuddered when I saw the front page of that section. I may have even yelled out loud in disgust. It was pretty disturbing to me on so many levels. You are right, there are so many great new places out there, I can't believe that they sent 8 different reviewers to the Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Very very strange.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sibeats

      Please write a letter to the editor--the higher-ups there may pay attention. I'm sure it was some idiot editor's idea that made it through because it was a cheap way to fill space. All those meals at Applebee's and OG probably cost less than one outing to a Greenwich two-star. I'm no snob--My partner's mom loves Olive Garden and we go there often--but I don't pay money for the NYT to get reviews of chains! ARGHHHHHH!

    2. Well, I don't really understand places like Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Olive Garden, etc. It makes no sense to me, here in the tri-state area. I suppose if I lived in greater (pun intended) Des Moines or something, a seafood urge would be somewhat satisfied by an excursion to Red Lobster; a pizza craving by a hop, skip and jump over to a Papa John's or something, but I just don't understand how these places stay in business in NY, NJ and CT. People actually go to Pizza Hut? What???? Why on earth would anyone? Vinny's is probably next door and probably at its worst makes a pizza that kills anything Pizza Hut could possibly conceive. I just don't get it. Now, that said, I do sort of have an inkling as to why people would go once every other month or so to, say, a White Castle. That's a shot of nostalgia. You don't go to White Castle for a good burger. You go for, well...White Castle. It's not a burger. It's, ummm, White Castle. There are certain iconic crap foods that just work, mostly because of something that happened to our damaged brains during our pre-adolescence, but so what? If it's a taste crave that just won't go away, you gotta feed it every now and again. White Castle doesn't happen to be mine, but it worked, I think, for illustration purposes. As my screen name implies, I'm an Ipswich clam (whole belly) fan. It's just something I adore. I don't eat it very often, and even if I could get it (which I can't, without a trip to New England, because all the other places in the tri-state area I've tried suck for fried clams) I still wouldn't eat it that often, simply because it just can't be any good for you. But when that urge hits, you go. Who on god's green earth actually gets Olive Garden cravings? If you do, make an appointment with a shrink, and do it soon.

      10 Replies
      1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

        A lot of people like these types of restaurants, even though you may have great local restaurants nearby. Growing up in NYC where there were a lot of great local slice joints, my schoolmates always though it was a treat to go to Pizza Hut. Wendy's was really big too as well as Red Lobster for special occasions. Guess where I went for a high school boyfriend's graduation dinner? At one place I worked, everybody insisted on ordering from Dominos when you had Nick's Pizza (one of the better places) nearby. I think that's just the way it is. When I pass by Olive Garden in Chelsea, NYC at whatever hour, it's always full of people. My friend would go to Applebees on date night with her husband in Manhattan. When I was in LA, I ate at Sizzler a lot because I was working with somebody who was infatuated with the place, and it was always packed.

        I don't really understand that behavior, but the fact of the matter is that these restaurants are really popular with a lot of people. I've seen many great local restaurants close down time and time again while these chains manage to stay in business -- and not just stay in business but thrive. Perhaps all the money they spend on advertising really works.

        But I didn't get that same reaction that the OP did reading this article. I don't think it was a direct slap in the face to non-chain restaurants in the suburbs. However, the Times could have mentioned that you had some of these chains in NYC as well -- the suburbs aren't the only place where chain restaurants are common. But the Times also does cover local establishments both in NYC, the suburbs and other places in the world.

        I just took the article for what it was. Chain restaurants are indeed popular and you can always find a few edible things on the menu. They are "safe" choices for many people and they're here to stay. It may not be my first choice when I go out to eat, but apparently it is for a great segment of the population.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          "However, the Times could have mentioned that you had some of these chains in NYC as well -- the suburbs aren't the only place where chain restaurants are common. But the Times also does cover local establishments both in NYC, the suburbs and other places in the world."
          ~~~~~~~~~~
          I haven't read the article, but my first question would be - has the NYT *ever* covered chain restaurants like Applebees and Red Lobster for the NYC branches of those chains? If not, and by only covering chain restaurants in this particular article, isn't the subtle implication that you can ONLY get chain restaurant-type food in CT? Yes, the cover local restaurants elsewhere. But focusing on chain restaurants located solely in CT smacks to me of elitism on the NYT's part, implying that for good high end food - stick with Manhattan or Brooklyn. All you're going to get is chain restaurant food in CT, even if it is "edible food" as the OP noted (not sure if that was a quote from the article).

          1. re: LindaWhit

            The reviews of chain restaurants was not limited to Connecticut in spite of the OP's heading. They covered restaurants in Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              OK, thank you, Miss Needle.

              However - my original statement stands - focusing on chain restaurants outside of NYC proper, the implication is that that's all you're going to get there. Yes, we know that's not all you're going to get there. But why weren't Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, etc. included in the chain restaurants review?

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Yes, I agree that they should have thrown a NYC chain in there (there's tons to choose from -- Outback, Olive Garden, Applebee's, etc.).

                The NY Times does have articles about chain restaurants in NYC -- but they're generally written with the slant of the new Outback is going to drive away local businesses.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Now that I think of it, there's a monstrous Red Lobster right around the corner from NYT HQ, along with TGIF, etc. Yet they decide to treat us country bumpkins to a whole page of reviews as if that's all we get a hankering for here out in the sticks.
                  "C'mon Hank, let's load up the wagon and the no-neck monsters and git ourselves to Outback--the NYT says its gots some tasty eats!"

                  1. re: newhavener07

                    I'm missing the outrage. The NYT promotes gazillion dollar a person restaurants every week of the year, year in and year out, what's the big deal with giving some press to less than stellar, cheaper eats? The Legal Seafood across from the new Ritz Carlton in White Plains is still in business, I have to assume people are eating there.

                    Maybe the uber rich in CT are battening down the hatches?

          2. re: Miss Needle

            After some thought, I think I am beginning to understand this weird behavior. I think it is something akin to a guy's natural self-consciousness, say, when approaching a particularly beautiful woman for a date. I think there is a basic trepidation of people to take themselves to places that might have a reputation. Perhaps there is a level of responsibility one must take when going to an individual place that is known for this or that. Paint a French name on the front window and you REALLY put some people off. I don't know whether they're thinking that it's going to be ridiculously expensive or if it's just that in some way they are not "good enough" to go to a place "like that." I can't imagine what else it could be. Living in the metro area, I'd NEVER (repeat necessary? I think not), oh, what the hell...NEVER go to a Pizza Hut, Domino's, Sizzler, Applebee's, et al. The reason? No, I'm not a snob. I'll grab a hot dog any day of the week. It's because with all the established local places available to me that specialize in the various things that these chain operations purport to specialize in, I can get far better quality and usually for less money. I mean, has anyone noticed the prices at places such as McDonald's these days? I might not get the drink or the fries, but for the same 5-7 dollars, I can go into, say, J.G. Melon and have a burger that will BLOW anything McDonald's can even dream about away. So, why do New Yorkers go to McDonald's a block away? Let's just chalk it up to the human frailty in all of us. Besides, it's all very entertaining fodder for message board conversation.

          3. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

            Rick, I agree with you that most of those restaurants don't make much sense anywhere. But, as a New Yorker who for various reasons is stuck living in Greenwich CT now and has spent quite a bit of time in Des Moines, (1) it's hard to get a decent casual, relaxed (as opposed to upscale dining) meal in either place, but (2) there's enough good local food if you look hard enough. I wouldn't knock Des Moines (and, if you have any favorite places for fried clams around Greenwich, let me know).

            1. re: adam

              Adam, I wasn't really knocking Des Moines...I was just using it as (what I hoped would be) a safe illustration instead of having to say Bumblef**k. No offense meant, there, you Iowegians!

          4. Jfood, like many on the Tri-State, look forward to the Sunday review and agreeing, disagreeing, with the reviewer. And jfood's head snapped back yesterday morning when he saw the front page.

            But it was very well done. It was a hoot to read the reviews and jfood would have paid a lot of money to see Patricia Brooks at a chain restaurant. Then again she may pay a lot to see M&M jfood there as well.

            But give the NYT credit for going to a bunch of these and reviewing all at one time. Look at the wait times that people endured, 2-hours in some cases. Talk about someone serious about eating at a restaurant, 2-hours? Look at all the posts on these boards and see the "I leaving after 20 minutes" statement. yet these restaurants are demanding AND receiving 2-hour waits.

            Jfood did not read all of the reviews, but the ones he read were pretty well done.

            1. I was horrified too when I saw the cover! Red Lobster? SERIOUSLY??? That they devoted that much space in the paper to seriously reviewing these chains, in depth, annoyed me so much.

              1. I'm sorry for the hyperbole in this post, considering we are at war, facing financial ruin, parboiled planet, etc. But it just makes me mad considering I know so many people putting their family's financial future on the line to create interesting restaurants. Yet the paper of record decides to devote dozens of inches and all that writing talent to chains with million-dollar advertising budgets. Come on, do a big takeout on "Undiscovered Gems" or small local chains. It just seems wrong, wrong, wrong, and especially wrong for NYT readers in the suburbs, who treasure the occasional review that can highlight out-of-the-way places. A good review in the NYT can really put a place on the map, yet the paper decides to french-kiss mediocrity. Okay, time to take a walk before I break my keyboard!