Filed Under:

If The Pretzel Chicken Isn't Awesome, Why Review It?

Play associated audio

In a week in which the news has been filled with a fiscal cliff, rockets, sex and security, a restaurant review also raised a ruckus.

Pete Wells, the restaurant critic of The New York Times, reviewed the new restaurant Guy Fieri has opened in Times Square with a string of rhetorical questions that began by asking Mr. Fieri if he's ever eaten at his own place.

"Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?" asks Mr. Wells. "Did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?"

Let me step in right here — the way a boxing ref might when a fighter on the ropes is about to be clubbed — to ask: Did the critic order a blue drink just to make fun of it? Did he think the taste would be subtle and complex?

Margaret Sullivan, the Time's public editor, called Pete Wells' review "a masterpiece of scorn ... very mean and very funny and completely within the purview of the restaurant critic."

Guy Fieri hosts a Food Network show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in which he drives a Chevy convertible across the country to gorge himself in a succession of genuine, no-star, family-favorite neighborhood spots. Pete Wells wondered if Mr. Fieri's new restaurant is some kind of barely culinary scheme to cash in on the authenticity of others.

"Is it all an act?" he asks. "Is that why the kind of cooking you celebrate on television is treated with so little respect at Guy's American Kitchen & Bar?"

I've often enjoyed Pete Wells' writing. He's complained that so-called tasting menus can leave you feeling like you've been strapped to a table at a Coney Island eating contest, and wrote a beautiful column recently about low-end downtown restaurants closed during recent storms that could use business now.

But in these days when anyone can be a critic online, why is a New York Times critic reviewing the kind of place that people who read restaurant reviews probably wouldn't go to for a bowl of hot soup if it was the only spot open during Hurricane Sandy?

Does a New York Times drama critic review Macy's Santa Clauses just to observe, "They repeat the same tired old 'Ho-ho-ho's' with rote warmth?"

Why doesn't a critic hop the subway and find some unheralded spot in Queens or Staten Island that's worth the attention?

I asked Pete Wells: When you could tell that the food was so bad, why didn't you just leave?

"I'm struggling to come up with an interesting answer to your question," he quickly wrote back. "I get paid to eat bad food."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Peruvians Love Their Chicha Street Art. The Government ... Not So Much

Walk down a street in Peru and you'll likely see an example of the glow-in-the-dark posters and murals. Lots of people love them. But the upper crust — and the government — aren't impressed.
NPR

Tea-Infused Sweets: Chocolate + Jasmine Tea Is A Match Made In Heaven

Smoky and floral brews can provide a kick of flavor to desserts, especially when blended with chocolate. Pastry chef Naomi Gallego shows us a few tricks for surprising the palate with tea.
WAMU 88.5

America's First Ladies

They walk a tricky line: closest adviser to the President of the United States and hostess in chief. A new book examines the evolution of the role of first lady of the United States.

WAMU 88.5

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

Last week, the D.C. Council voted to designate e-cigarettes and "similar vapor products containing nicotine" as tobacco products. That means that their sales tax will jump from the regular 5.75% sales tax to the 70% tax that's tacked onto sales of products like cigarettes and cigars. We explore what this means for the evolving public health debate surrounding e-cigarettes.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.