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Austin Critic Slams Restaurant in Blind Item Review

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Photo: Austin Ale House / Facebook
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

What's a critic to do when they have a terrible experience? If they're Austin Chronicle critic Virginia B. Wood, they post a blind item review and offer tips on how to avoid bad reviews in the first place. Wood doesn't name the restaurant she was supposed to file on today, even though she says dining there was "one of the most excruciating experiences of my career." Instead of "simply annihilating the restaurant," Wood offers guidance to this restaurant and every restaurant in her path, using examples from this anonymous restaurant to prove her point.

Her advice ranges from having a concept that's more developed than "a few dishes borrowed from each stop on the inept kitchen manager's résumé" to seasoning dishes properly because "an entire meal's worth of salt should not come in one bowl of soup." On the subject of service, she advises servers to not be "chatting with other employees" while customers in the "almost empty" restaurant wait for silverware.

In the course of her two visits, Wood claims the restaurant staff figured out her identity. Because they knew she was in, she doesnt "feel the need to identify this particular restaurant." She does, however, drop some big hints: the restaurant is located "in a prime piece of Downtown real estate that's hosted a revolving door of bar concepts"; the menu features dishes like "Tacos, fries, quesadillas, duck rillettes, Hawaiian poke, risotto, carne asada, mussels Sauvignon, beet salad, burgers, and panini"; apparently a "large local beer selection is a selling point"; and the restaurant "opened in the late spring." Commenters over at Eater Austin suggest it could be Austin Ale House, which seems likely because the menu appears to match Wood's description. Disagree? Leave your guesses in the comments below.

· How to Avoid a Bad Review [AC via Eater Austin]
· All Critics Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Austin Coverage on Eater [-E-]