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Seattle Newspaper Restaurant Reviews

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  • JayDK Mar 6, 2011 09:49 AM
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Stranger, Seattle Times, Weekly?
What do you think?

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  1. Seattle lost its best restaurant critic early last year when Jonathan Kauffman went to the SF Weekly. His replacement at the Seattle Weekly, Jason Sheehan, is anything but. In addition to merely describing the plates in front of him, Kauffman would relate to the reader some context for the food he was reviewing, along with comparitive benchmarks he could offer from eating similar dishes before in other locales. Sheehan has a unfortunate tendency to pad his reviews with personal anecdotes about working in kitchens in central Florida, or drinking heavily in Albequerque. Unlike Kauffman, to my knowledge Sheehan has yet to unearth a single local gem or scoop anybody. I've concluded that this comes from sheer laziness and lack of experience with, or interest in, foodways and foreign cultures in general. He comes across more like a self-absorbed wannabe Bourdain, assuming that the reader is keenly interested in whatever gonzo-lite, stoned observations occurred to him while eating greasy diner food or working on the line.

    I enjoy the potty-mouth humor that the Surly Gourman provides, and I think that Jay Friedman knows alot about Asian cuisines. The rest of the Weekly crew seem ill-informed to me.

    Nancy Leson of the Times is much more informed than Sheehan, and has of course much better connections in the industry which enable her to scoop her competitors. That being said, I could do without her cheeky gossip-column writing style, which is a bit much for me.

    I find the Stranger writers to lack high-end experience/perspective, maybe because they cater primarily to a very frugal sort of diner from the hipster set.

    3 Replies
    1. re: equinoise

      You'll be happy to know that Jason Sheehan announced his upcoming departure: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voraci...

      1. re: equinoise

        I don't read the Weekly very often and get a kick out of the Stranger as it tries to be off the wall and Seattle Times, what happened? When Leson was anonymous it was much better than now. She seems to think the column is about her and not the food. Not to mention it's overweighted on Lynnwood. I swear that when my daughter was a student at Garfield, the writing on their school paper was far and above Leson's column. Where are the editors? I used to subscribe to the Sea TImes but canceled it about the same time she came "out."

        1. re: JayDK

          Leson doesn't do the reviews anymore. Isn't it Providence Cicero now? Nancy just does that blog, which is meant to be a chatty, informal column.

      2. Jay, When John Hintenberger retired from the Seattle Times, we have had a derth of any qualified reviewers. Fortunately, local Chowhounds have done an admirable job of filling in!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Leper

          Mos def.
          I remember a Hinterberger reference to an imported food store in a really hard to find building but worth the search. He was talking about Big John's PFI. I became their customer and some years later I worked there for awhile (before getting fired!) Still shop there and my good friend is the manager. She's great and really knows her stuff. So check it out if you don't know about it and to come full circle, a well respected food writer mentioned it in his column years ago. And it's as cool now as it was then.

          1. re: JayDK

            Jay, I love Big John's PFI. I too found it due to Hintenberger's column. (I finally parked my car and walked the neighborhood until I found it.) His review of Chinook's in Ballard was the best restaurant review I've ever read due to a major building fire across the water. He described each course of his meal as the fire went from one alarm to two, then three. At four alarms, when dessert came, he noted that "now I know how Nero felt when Rome burned." Classic!

        2. Kauffman is great, and I do hope that the Weekly can find someone of his caliber to replace him. Here's a little thing I wrote about who would be a good replacement: http://www.thegastrognome.com/2011/03...

          I have to agree regarding Leson post-anonymity. The Stranger has it's ups and downs, and I had to learn who to trust/bother to read--for example Schmaeder (vegetarian) are skipable. Lindy West, I might not agree with regarding food, but are hilarious. Bethany jean-clement actually knows what she's talking about, etc, etc.

          That said, there are a number of great blogs (the Seattle Met's, in particular, http://www.seattlemet.com/blogs/nosh-...), Wright eats, http://www.wrightangle.com/food/blog/, who beat Leson to the Bahn-mi taste off, but also have a number of great articles, and so many more. Until a newspaper has a quality critic, (like the old Leson, Hinterberger, or Kauffman), I'm sticking to online.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dagoose

            Just checked out Wright Eats and thanks for the heads up.
            What others to you look at?
            (With all due respect, you don't work for Seattle Met do you?)

            1. re: JayDK

              Haha, no, I don't. I've already shown you my blog (thegastrognome.com). I like the met's blog for quick informal interviews (rare on personal blogs), and round ups of events--you don't always get those with out minions of interns.

              In terms of other blogs--I have a list on my site under blogroll, but I would recommend: http://patmybutter.com/ and http://allecia.com/ as well.

          2. I agree very much with Equinoise's perspective. In fact, I think Equinoise should be a food critic. Or might already be, in real life?

            Need another Kauffman who will unearth new restaurants and provide comparisons. In print, sometimes Seattle magazine gives good reviews. Would like to see more from Mathew Amster Burton, if I'm remembering his name right, as I remember he would find hidden gems.

            Hopefully Seattle Weekly will bounce back. A name to watch there is Chelsea Lin, who seems to be doing a new ethnic eatery column. But that's just online. Agree w/Equinoise that Jay Friedman seems to know his stuff, especially around Asian food. But same problem, online writers get little space, which is probably good considering how bad some of the other writers are. (His sex and food column is interesting and fun for me, though maybe not for everyone.) If you go to his website http://www.gastrolust.com he writes more there.

            Better stuff seems to be online, but its so inconsistant. At Crosscut, writer Hugo Kugiya (http://crosscut.com/account/HugoSPACE...) is interesting and writes with depth, but their other food writing is quirky. I think online writing, especially blogs, tend to be too much about the writer, and that style has made its way to print?

            But, even here on Chowhound, need to find who we agree with and disagree with.