Nancy Nichols, food editor of Dallas' D Magazine, took up the issue of food critic anonymity this morning on her blog SideDish. Turns out all those goofy disguises aren't doing critics any bit of good; their tell is not a resemblance to a greased stained, photo-copied picture taped to the door of a walk-in. No, critics get recognized because they ask too many damn questions.
Nichols cites an incident in which a server who had not recognized her nonchalantly informed her that former Dallas Morning News critic Bill Addison had just entered the restaurant. Curious as to how he was identified, Nichols watched as Addison spent 14 minutes yakking at a server about the specifics of the menu. As she put it, "Dead. Giveaway."
The blog post was a response to a review by Leslie Brenner, critic for The Dallas Morning New, who . Brenner was identified while reviewing upscale Texas seafood chain Eddie V's, despite having used a pseudonym to make her reservation. She took issue with the resulting service; servers were overly attentive once they knew her true identity. This, of course, is the reasoning behind critic anonymity in the first place, but Brenner excuses the error because she can tell that plebeian tables are receiving service that was "attentive and warm, but not so overwhelming."
Nichols admits that anonymity is not the key to an accurate review: "Several of the times I’ve been recognized, I’ve been served terrible food and received unforgiveable service." So why continue the hullabaloo of dining in disguises and giving costumed interviews, if critics' big mouths are giving them away anyhow?
Nancy Nichols [Photo: D Magazine]