I get a little cringy when people call me a “restaurant critic.” I’m comfortable with “food writer,” but “restaurant critic” has such a host of connotations — none of them particularly good — that I try to stay away from the term. Think “restaurant critic” and you don’t think of someone fun, laid-back, drinking a beer and asking you if your sister is still single. No, you picture a fussy, possibly mustachioed, narrow-shouldered, whiny loser who will pick apart everything that the waiter (who willÂ also beÂ Â picked apart,Â by the way) brings to the table.Â
I mention that because as a diner I’m pretty uncritical. I let a lot of stuff slide. I don’t give much of a care is service is good, or bad, or horrendous as long as the food is good. There are, however, a few things that drive me f’ing bonkers, and I’ve been running into them a lot lately.
Crappy Bread– Uh huh. I’m looking at you, Plan B, you, Sweetwater, and you, Cafe Marika. It’s really not hard to order good bread from a good bakery. You have absolutely no excuse for the doughy, cold, chewy slices you’re trying to pawn off as dinner bread. Honestly, just buy rolls from Safeway and heat them up. Odds are they’re better than the 1) frozen dough that you’re cooking before the shift starts, 2) cheap bread that you’re using for way too many days, or 3) the misguided crap that you’re trying to make yourself. Call a bakery. Don’t be a hero. Or a tightwad.
Individual butters and jams– This seems really picky, I know, but if I’m at a place that’s charging nearly $30 an entree, I expect that my butter will not come in individually wrapped Darigold squares. That’s the stuff of buffets and cafeterias and diners, not a high priced riverside dining establishment. Yeah that’s right, I’m looking at you, Pearl on the River. Also, if you’re doing a breakfast, Sweetwater Cafe, don’t bring those little Smucker’s packets of jam (invariably grape)Â to the table. That’s a greasy spoon diner move. If you want to be a greasy spoon diner, great, but you can’t have it both ways. Dig? Either put out something yummy and fruity or just stick with buttered toast.
Top 40 Music in Ethnic Themed Restaurants– I love, I mean love, listening to music while I’m eating, but most of the time I hate it. Why? Because too many restaurants just throw the digital radio on and hope that everything will be ok. Well it’s not ok, especially if you have an Indian, or Thai, or Mexican restaurant. Go ahead, set the mood, play some indigenous tunes, bust out that sitar and work out some choruses. Bombay Bar & Grill, besides your depressingly weak naan, your choice of dad-rock in the restaurant doesn’t exactly make me thrilled to chomp on my chana masala. Make some good bread and bust out a Bollywood soundtrack.