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Favorite Boston food writer

Until a year ago I lived in Los Angeles and was lucky enough to have a world-class food critic who loved to cover small, inexpensive, ethnic restaurants to guide my meanderings about town. Incidentally, if you've never read anything by Jonathan Gold, you owe it to yourself to check out his column in the L.A. Weekly - he's a terrific, entertaining writer and an adventurous eater. Anyway, I have found some Boston food blogs I like but feel like I'm probably missing some good writers and resources. Does anyone have favorite local writers to recommend, particularly with respect to local low-end cuisine?

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  1. My favourite local writers, not just Boston, but anywhere, are chowhounds.

    1. Am very much in agreement with limster's observation. I especially like what I've read of Chowhound regular MC Slim JB's print entries in the Weekly Dig and The Phoenix, a really good mix of engaging, no-nonsense writing and opinions I trust. Too bad he doesn't have a regular senior restaurant review gig here locally. But I've found plenty to like from the reliable regular posters here as well, and the lack of journalism-ese on this site is refreshing.

      Of the (I assume) purely print folks, I find the writing style of both the Globe's Devra First and the Phoenix's Robert Nadeau to be different from each other but well worth reading. First still occasionally gets a little too tricky or strained in her wording for her own good, but much of the time she's clever in a refreshing, fanciful, even occasionally smart-assed way -- and I think she's getting better as she goes along, plus I appreciate her willingness to take word and structure risks at times. Nadeau's less flashy and more straightforward, but I've never found him boring or repetitive. And I really appreciate getting lots of detail to back up observations from them both. As for whose opinion I value from these two, I've found both at odds with what I think about some places, but am inclined to value First's opinion more, in part because she seems sympathetic to us Chowhounds but also because I've found I seem to agree with her a little more often.

      I'm guessing others may or may not agree.

      1. MC Slim JB writes for every local publication, but is a chowhound through and through and my favorite critic not just in Boston but most cities.

        Devra has a lot to learn. Nadaeu from the Phoenix is pretty good.

        1. When Devra First started writing for the Globe, she spent more time describing her surroundings than the food. I think she has improved vastly since then. Robert Nadeau, whoever he may be, writes concisely and covers a wider range of restaurants from the humble to the haute. I also trust his star rating a bit more.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ghostcat

            Nadeau's an old-timer, he's been reviewing food in Boston since the '70s and was a guru to me in my nascent foodie days. To this day I recall his assessment, written about 1978, of the long-defunct El Phoenix Room: "Yes, some of the food comes out of cans, but they're the RIGHT cans!"

            1. re: BobB

              Agreed, and no one has better range than Nadeau, writing about the high to the low with gusto. He loves his real Chinese food, too.


          2. We don't have a Gold, but who else does? Apart from this site, and writers already mentioned, I like Denise Taylor's contributions to the Globe's cheap eats column. Matt Schaffer at the Herald is worth reading.

            1. I think we also need to mention Sheryl Julian, food editor for the Boston Globe, in any discussion of area writers. I've always found her succinct reviews to be consistently reliable.


              1. Agreed: nobody touches J. Gold. He's the king.

                Agree that Devra First gets better with every review.

                I miss Ruth Tobias.

                Also, gotta cite Wesley Morris at the Globe, whose opinions don't always sync up with mine but who writes about food beautifully and entertainingly. (I like his film writing, too).

                Lauren Clark at drinkboston.com deserves wider recognition for her miles-ahead-of-the-curve writing about the Boston cocktail scene.

                You Chowhounds saying nice things about me are total homers (and your checks are in the mail, thanks!)

                5 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Well then call me a homer as well. As I said on a New England board post, there are many good to great Hounds posting here but we all know who's first among equals.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    From Devra's latest reviewing it looks like she's resorting to Phantom Gourmet techniques. The first comments on the review are about how well the review is written. Very, very strange.

                    1. re: jjbourgeois

                      Fie on that Phantom comparison! I don't detect a whiff of corruption there.

                      I also don't see any self-regard in her Tupelo review. I think she's saying, "Sometimes you want to wax eloquent about food; other times, putting it in the simplest terms is the best way to capture what a restaurant is doing.

                      I like her these days. She seemed to struggle a bit early on to find her voice, but I think she's gotten more relaxed, less mannered, better all around. It's a tough spot to settle into: the most prominent food-writing perch in town.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        She may have gotten better, but I found it very strange that all of the sudden people are commenting on the reviews. And people were commenting on the review, not the restaurant, very, very strange. Since when do people comment about how well a restaurant review is written and not the restaurant reviewed? I find it suspicious and question the veracity of her reviews.

                        1. re: jjbourgeois

                          I'm not sure I'm following you here, jjbourgeois.

                          Are you saying that the fact that readers are suddenly commenting on her reviews somehow reflects badly on the reviews themselves? Are you saying you think maybe her objectivity is somehow suspect all of a sudden?

                          If the former, I say, pfeh: critics get slagged all the time for what they write, for good reasons and bad. In my mind, that constant in no way says anything about what she's writing. Critics will always be critiqued, and that's as it should be.

                          If the latter, I'd welcome facts or observations that suggest that she's being less than professionally scrupulous in her restaurant reviewing. Me, I don't see it. That one looks pretty straightforward, a typical positive but qualified review. I wish I'd been to Tupelo myself already so I could offer my own reactions to it, but meanwhile, I don't smell anything amiss.

                          I'm not saying corruption doesn't exist (I go on at length on my blog about one whoring local review team); I just don't see it from Devra First.


                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      Kummer's a great writer, but he doesn't eat the same food as you and me.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        He sure has, and does.

                        He's a genius of a "food writer." And he does, at times, write about Boston and the scene here.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Yep, agree that he's a great writer; love his books, especially The Pleasures of Slow Food, an area where he is The Man. He was a decade ahead of the curve in covering lthe local, artisanal food movement: how often does something like that happen in the food writing game?

                          I'm speaking of his monthly reviews of Boston area restaurants for Boston Magazine. For one thing, he makes no effort to hide his identity, but that's not nearly as significant as his notorious insistence that local chefs reformulate their dishes for him to minimize their fat and salt content. I don't know if this is based on food phobias, dietary restrictions, health reasons, or what, but the dishes he reviews aren't the same ones that ordinary customers get when we order them.