Monday, August 25, 2008

What's with all the hatin'?!

New ChuffPo columnist, Steve "The Hungry Hound" Dolinsky.

Steve "The Hungry Hound" Dolinsky, the newly crowned dining columnist for ChuffPo, wrote one little line in his Urban Belly "review" that started a war with Time Out Chicago:

"I try to stay away from the arms race in food coverage currently being waged by Time Out, Metromix and a host of other bloggers, all of whom seem to be descending upon restaurants as soon as they open."

He went on to give the new Logan Square noodle joint a glowing review, and as far as I could tell, he was only making an observation about the current competitive climate of dining media coverage.

Who knew he'd elicit such a nasty response from TOC's David Tamarkin:

"But for a journalist with so many years of experience, his reporting is frighteningly shoddy. So before he slings another arrow, let me assure the public that not only do we give a restaurant adequate time to get off its feet, we also pay for our own meals and visit all restaurants anonymously. That last point precludes us from handing out signed headshots to every restaurant we visit, but hey, that’s the price of credibility."

What's with all the personal attacks lately, Time Out?! Is it not enough that the dining writers there spew such hatred toward anything they deem too "high end," "trendy" or "sceney?!" Or that their idea of a dining or nightlife review is to have some (*&^%$#@!@* snark in every other line?!

In their online rant, they claimed to visit restaurants after the third week or so after opening—which, in my opinion, is still too early to visit as menus are still not finalized—but interviews with several high-profile restaurant publicists prove this wrong.

I was told by four out of five of the publicists that TOC's reviewers have come into their clients' establishments as early as the first week of opening. I've also been told in the past that some staffers attempt to pressure publicists into giving them exclusives and first shot at photographing a new venue.

They also had these choice words to say about the TOC restaurant and bar reviews:

"If a place is too upscale, and not 'hipster' enough, they're always tough. . . . As soon as it appeals to a higher-end demographic, they get snarky in their reviews."

"They tend to favor the more 'underground' spots to make themselves look like the heroes . . . . they obviously have way too much opinion of themselves."

"I know for a fact that they've come in the first week; also the first or second day of opening."

"Sometimes I feel like they never find good in anything."

Also, what I think is the biggest problem here with the Dolinsky slam is just plain jealousy. Dolinsky is an established, well-respected, award-winning food personality who is recognized for his food coverage in Chicago and beyond. And for that, he's gonna always get some hater trying to come up.


Anonymous said...

Do you want to talk about shoddiness? How about the fact that one does not "sling' arrows. Mr. Tamarkin, you are clearly confused. Shakespeare used the phrase "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" in Hamlet. In fact, it is from Hamlet's most famed soliloquy beginning "To be or not to be"......shame on you Mr. Tamarkin for your shoddiness. Have you forgotten your Shakespeare already?? For the record, one knocks and shoots an arrow. A sling is itself a weapon. In case you need a little more help, the phrase generally refers to the daily injustices life throws our way that we all must face....kind of like the one you flung today at Steve Dolinksy.

Mark A said...

Audarshia, thanks for this post and for providing the links to these other stories! It's amusing and interesting and I wouldn't have heard about it anywhere else! :)
- Mark (a restaurant owner who's been covered by both Dolinsky and Tamarkin)

Anonymous said...

Thought I'd chime in on TOC from a PR standpoint. They're *purposely* unfair to anything that could be mistaken for The Scene. Cheap eats are closer to their general readership. It's good business for them. What this means is that there are better places to take a story about finer dining. With or without David Tamarkin, that's my point of view and I'll stick to it.

It also, definitely, takes longer than 3 weeks to get an operation going. Menus, servers, rhythm on the floor and flow in the kitchen.

brendan m said...

man, i seriously have started to stop reading TOC all together because of the snarky attitude and negative energy that i find each week in the food section. bottom line is that those editors definitely wreak of insecurity and i feel bad that they were always the awkward "odd man out" when growing up. okay, that was a mean jab. but seriously, karma is a bitch. just watch.

Mr. Smith said...

With respect to the notion that TOC reviews a restaurant in its first week, I'll copy here what David said in the post:

"In an effort to give our readers the most up-to-date information possible, we run short "Just Opened" articles as close to a restaurant’s opening date as we can (for example, our own coverage of Urban Belly in this week’s issue)."

These aren't reviews, and aren't labeled as such.

- Scott Smith; TOC Web Editor

312 Dining Diva said...

Hey, Scott:

I totally understand what you're saying and I read that remark in the blog post, however, that's just NOT the case.

If these TOC writers go into an establishment when it first opens, then give their opinion on said restaurant in those first few days, then yes, that constitutes a "review." I've seen them do it many, many times. It may or may not change when they write their more formal reviews, but it does count when they form an opinion that early on, which can certainly affect the business at that particular restaurant.

Good try, though. ;)

Mr. Smith said...

If you read our "Just opened" reports, they're just that: reporting. We say what the cuisine is (not how it tastes or whether the chef hits the mark in what he or she is attempting), what the room looks like (in a descriptive way, not in a qualitative way), and sometimes include a quote or two from a chef or owner.

The reviews we write are qualitative, based on what the restaurant is doing at the times we're there to do a formal review. -SS TOC Web Ed

312 Dining Diva said...

I dig what you're saying, Scott, however, I have reliable sources telling me--and pointing me in the direction of--about some of these "Just Opened" stories that strayed away from that format. Please know that now people are going to be paying close attention to "Just Opened" as well as the reviews and calling them out for the unnecessary digs.

Also, I find it interesting that in your defense of your TOC reviewers, you opted not to acknowledge the fact that the reviews (and yes, some of those "Just Opened" pieces and blog posts in general) have become increasingly nasty, snarky and filled with personal attacks on places as well as patrons.

Cinnamon Cooper said...

There have been several times that I've read a review that has stated that the reviewer went once early on, and then returned to see how the experience compared. And I actually like reading how the experience differed from early to later in the life of the restaurant. It helps give you a general idea of how much improvement they've done since they opened.

And I don't think a restaurant should be judged permanently during their first few weeks of being open. But after the first month of service, the major problems should be solved and the list of minor problems should be very small.

That said, the snark in the restaurant reviews is off-putting and often seems like the easy way out. TOC is not the only pub guilty of this, though.

Mike Doyle said...

it just seems like jealousy and a little bit of desperation to me on TOC's part. Like other print publications, they've just retooled and shed staff, so I doubt anyone's too happy there.

The PR diva above is right: they write the way they do and do the thigns they do for a reason. If they don't exude an aura of cutting edge, they've got no way to sell magazines.

Mind you, that cutting edge could use a lot of editing out. WIth all the snarkiness and foul language you find in the average TOC issue, you'd think you were reading the old Chicagoist website.

Sorry, TOC. I'm not 22 year old and don't belive that potty language and dripping sarcasm belongs on every other page of a what's-on magazine. Heather Shouse's resturant section is like the rest of TOC: so fully in love with itself that there's barely room for anyone else to care.

If you pay attention, there's also damned little actual heart in any of the reviews. Not to Shouse: I want to read how you FELT eating somewhere, not yet another overly dry and clinical deconstruction of your plate.

Kim said...

Audarshia, this is juicy stuff! I think I'll be reading here more often especially since I no longer live in the Chi!! Keep it coming!