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The Year in Eater: Deviled Eggs, Amateur Salumists, and Other 2014 Dining Grievances

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The worst of 2014.

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Each year, Eater asks food writers, editors, media types, and the generally well-traveled for their opinion on the year's best and worst dining. Today, the haters weigh in. What sucked in 2014? High rent, trend diets, endless media obsession over pretty much anything, and unnecessary surcharges and fees. Below, the 2014 Year in Eater Thumbs Down list — stay tuned for the respondents' Thumbs Up list running tomorrow.

Pork Belly Deviled Eggs

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Downer Dishes

"Pricey toast." —Sara Billups, Editor, Eater Seattle

"The same damn menu (deviled eggs, oysters, carrots with yogurt, steak for two) all over the country." —Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant and Drinks Editor, Bon Appetit

"So over mashup desserts. (Other than the creme brûlée scones at Union Square Cafe.)" —Kat Odell, Editorial Producer, Eater.com

"Braised short ribs are still obnoxiously ubiquitous. Dear chefs, please find a new go-to protein." —Whitney Filloon, Editor, Eater Dallas

"The amateur 'salumist' movement is irritating to be sure, but if I really look at that then I need to be more patient with a new generation of chefs who are all about learning to cure and preserve meat. HOWEVER the Pork Belly Boom of the last several years has to stop. A huge hunk of fat on my plate is gross and doesn't allow me the opportunity to eat other foods in a restaurant setting. If you serve a whole trimmed belly with requisite meat percentages then it's a nice cut, but the vast majority of derivative cookery in this country has elevated the mis-cooked and poorly butchered belly to a cult status that just has to end." —Andrew Zimmern, Bizarre Foods and Delicious Destinations Honcho

"Mushy or chewy octopus has supplanted badly cooked calamari on menus everywhere." —Bill Addison, Restaurant Editor, Eater.com

"Mushy octopus has supplanted badly cooked calamari on menus." —Bill Addison"Chefs sneaking bacon into places it doesn't belong." —Erin Perkins, Editor, Eater Charleston

"Eggs on everything." —Jonathan Gold, Restaurant Critic, LA Times

"Oysters in non-seafood or non-French restaurants. Restaurants use oysters and raw bars as a crutch or an item to bring up check averages." —Matthew Kang, Editor, Eater LA

"Dishes 'for sharing' that are not easily shared. It usually starts with, 'the chef recommends ordering several small plates…' Some dishes need to be re-thought if they're going to be shared, particularly soups and those with less than three bites." —Adam Goldberg, Blogger, A Life Worth Eating

"There is this taqueria in my neighborhood that serves round multigrain chips with their burritos. I just don't agree with this policy." —Paolo Lucchesi, Columnist, Inside Scoop SF

"Increasingly savory (ie not sweet) desserts." —Mitchell Davis, Executive VP, James Beard Foundation

"The Nordic street food scene with 'pulled pork' and 'tacos.' Where are the Nordic innovators when you need them? Busy foraging?" —Per-Anders Jörgensen and Lotta Jörgensen, Editors-in-Chief/Founders, Fool Magazine

"Deviled eggs. They're food you bring to potlucks, not something at a good restaurant. Be more creative!" —Matthew Kang, Editor, Eater LA

"That silly butter coffee." —Mike Thelin, Co-Founder, Feast Portland

Ampersand 3
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Crappy Concepts

"Ingredient-comma-ingredient menus: a dated noughties pretension, now every bit as loathsome as the plague of 'dishes' 'in quotes' that preceded it in the 1990s." —Pat Nourse, Restaurant Critic, Australian Gourmet Traveller

"I hate that high-end, chef-driven restaurants are so humorless. Just because you take your work seriously that doesn't mean you have to take YOURSELF seriously.  The dining experience should be fun, and if you're throwing that much money around, it ought to be A LOT of fun.  Although it's not the fanciest restaurant, I think Batard in Manhattan did a great job bucking the trend here.  The food is soigne and the service is on point, but the dining room experience is loose and lively." —Greg Morabito, Engagement Editor, Eater.com

"Ampersands." —Sara Billups, Editor, Eater Seattle

"If you are going to open a new restaurant with a menu of French bistro classics, make them sing. Steak frites is a wonderful thing. But not when the steak is overcooked and underseasoned. This happened at more than one of the new NYC bistros this year and naturally, I couldn't stand it." —Hillary Dixler, Associate Reports Editor, Eater.com

"Restaurants that are 'The Noma of ____.' Writers, if you use the phrase: that's lazy. Chefs, if you aspire to the concept: No no no! Be your own thing!" —Helen Rosner, Features Editor, Eater.com

"Incredibly dark restaurants. I like to see my food and my fellow diners when I eat. Plus restaurants should know you're a lot less likely to get Instagramed if your lights are darker than a dive bar." —Matthew Kang, Editor, Eater LA

"Every menu doesn't need to look like the buffet at a child's birthday party." —Jordana Rothman"Can we please stop naming restaurants after old-timey general stores? And what’s with all the ampersands. It’s getting a bit silly." —Bonjwing Lee, Blogger/Photographer, Ulterior Epicure

"My diet has changed a lot over the past year and I’m now seeing how difficult it can be to eat healthfully at most restaurants. That isn’t to say every place needs to serve grilled fish, but every menu doesn’t need to look like the buffet at a child’s birthday party either. Comfort food still owns us in a major way, and if you want to be mindful your choices are stupidly limited. I find myself in a crudo ghetto more often than I’d like. I’d love it if in 2015 we found some balance." —Jordana Rothman, Food Writer

"[NYC restaurant] Cherche Midi. I’ll cop to being a McNally fanboy pretty quickly, but this one felt like such a phoned-in, inferior byproduct of everything else in his empire—the great restauranteur’s ode to Frankenstein. What did the (surprisingly positive) reviews say? A pretty good burger! 2014: Year of the Pretty Good Burger." —Matt Duckor, Restaurant Editor, Epicurious

"The word 'pop-up' is used to describe so many types of restaurant situations that it no longer means anything." —Mike Thelin, Co-Founder, Feast Portland

"The worst restaurant meal I had this year was entirely my fault. Coming back from vacation in Italy, my traveling buddy, who is not a fancy eater, insisted we go all-American with a layover dinner at the Palm Bar & Grille in JFK’s Terminal 4. The salad was watery, the New York strip (ordered medium-rare) arrived gray, and the cheese-less crab cake tasted oddly of gorgonzola. Next time, we agreed, a Shake Shack burger will suffice." —Bill Addison, Restaurant Editor, Eater.com

"Airplane food, even in business class, is a sad affair." —Per-Anders Jörgensen and Lotta Jörgensen, Editors-in-Chief/Founders, Fool Magazine

"Fine dining and innovative cooking being thought of as mutually exclusive. I’m getting tired of hearing that fine dining is dead. The problem is chefs who check-out of cooking and put their kitchens on autopilot. Restaurants like Blanca, Saison, Meadowood, and Next combine fine dining with risk and excitement." —Adam Goldberg, Blogger, A Life Worth Eating

"One of the best meals I ever had in my life was a plate of massive, lightly sweet pancakes and thick bacon in a South Dakota diner. I have no idea why those pancakes were so perfect, but I wish more new restaurants were daring enough to put a simple, perfect dish on the menu." —Meghan McCarron, Editor, Eater Austin

Freaky Fad Diets and Healthy Hijinks

"Paleo and gluten free, in equal measure." —Sara Billups, Editor, Eater Seattle

"The overwhelming number of expensive-ass juice bars popping up everywhere." —Whitney Filloon, Editor, Eater Dallas

"Food-world personalities leading exercise classes as PR stunts. Please don't invite me to go do SoulCycle with chefs. Even if it's for charity." —Helen Rosner, Features Editor, Eater.com

"Fresh squeezed juice is delicious. Drinking it for health magic is ridiculous. That said, when hungover, I totally seek out this magic." —Meghan McCarron, Editor, Eater Austin

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Service Sins

"'Let me explain how the menu works': to paraphrase Adrian Gill, 'I order, you bring me food, I pay, you bring my coat?' If the concept is complicated enough to require explanation, chances are it’s not a very good concept to begin with." —Pat Nourse, Restaurant Critic, Australian Gourmet Traveller

"My girlfriend and I are both small people with healthy, but not huge, appetites. Rarely do we approach a tasting menu without a frisson of dread. We love the format, but wish servers wouldn't pester us about not finishing every bite." —Meghan McCarron, Editor, Eater Austin

"Being told that the food will be sent out whenever it is ready." —Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant and Drinks Editor, Bon Appetit

"Editorializing from plate-runners: 'And here is your delicious blah, your beautiful blah and, of course, the exquisite blah blah blah.' Spare me." —Pat Nourse, Restaurant Critic, Australian Gourmet Traveller

"Servers over-explaining menus remains an epidemic. Just last night our waiter literally encouraged us to follow along while he prattled off every description, adding nothing new, like we couldn't read for ourselves." —Bill Addison, Restaurant Editor, Eater.com

Reservation Hesitations

"The rise of restaurant reservation 'services' that use technology to scarf up desirable reservations and resell them for profit. I prefer the ticketing process so at least the restaurant has a better way of controlling food costs, assessing demand and pocketing any profit that may exist. The business is tough enough." —John Sconzo, Blogger, Docsconz.com

"I'm sure there are people who would argue with me ad infinitum about how restaurant reservation services are a boon to the industry, some grand democratization, indicative of a free market economy, etc., but they just make me feel icky. It's a transaction that occurs before you even sit down and feels as if a middleman has their hand out in a way that mars the hospitality of it all. Maybe if I cared more about scoring ultra-hot tables at coveted times I'd be down with the program, but mostly, I'm good with dining elsewhere. (Note: I'm not talking aboutTock, which I think is brilliant and serves to minimize angst and awkwardness. Get that stuff out of the way upfront and enjoy the show.)" —Kat Kinsman, Editor-in-Chief, Tasting Table

"This notion that paying for restaurant reservations is a public service. It's a respectable business, and a great way for restaurants to monetize popular dining times, but don't pretend like you're doing me a favor." —Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch and Food Is the New Rock

"The mere idea of paying for prime reservations." —Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant and Drinks Editor, Bon Appetit

apples

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Sustainability Slow-Downs

"The continued dominance of big Agribusiness and factory farming and their apparent undo influence on the FDA." —John Sconzo, Blogger, Docsconz.com

"Restaurants that make any claim to being 'seasonal' whilst serving Brussels sprouts in July and asparagus in November. Nope." —Whitney Filloon, Editor, Eater Dallas

"How hard things still are for farmers and restaurant workers. People like cheap food and they like fast food. It's a dangerous combination and it doesn't bode well for the country's economy or collective health." —Kerry Diamond, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Food

"Chefs who persist in serving near-endangered bluefin." —Jonathan Gold, Restaurant Critic, LA Times

"Fruit without Flavor…so irritating, and over use of sriracha, and all the rest of my usual snark just isn't there this year because hunger still is. Eating well in America is still a class issue and 20% of children in our country are hungry. Food poverty numbers are even higher. In the greatest country and culture in the history of the world, at a time when food is fetishized and romanticized like at no other time in any place ever, we should be able to feed our people. Food waste is at an all time high, somewhere between 22% and 40% depending on who you believe. It's awful and shameful. If we have this waste, distribution and wellness problem and aren't able to feed our citizenry it seems to me that it approaches a genocidal definition. Criminal behavior at its best. It's that bad." —Andrew Zimmern, Bizarre Foods and Delicious Destinations Honcho

Ridiculous Rents

"High rents forcing out excellent, long-term tenant restaurants." —John Sconzo, Blogger, Docsconz.com

"Real Estate Restaurant Crisis. HATE that so many restaurants are closing because of NYC's crazy town prices. I'm especially sorry right now about wd~50 which just traumatically shut its doors. I'm with Robert Sietsema — there should be a historic preservation system to save important restaurants that helped establish neighborhoods from shutting down." —Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor, Food & Wine

"Greedy landlords in NYC. Fuck you all, especially you guys in Brooklyn. Kicking out hard-working, always-paying tenants to wait YEARS for a bank or yoga clothing chain or olive oil store to comply with your insane financial demands is screwing everything up. Empty storefronts existing within a thriving economy is pure sadness. You guys make me sad every day." —Matt Rodbard, Contributing Editor, Food Republic

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Needless Nickel-and-Diming

"The fact that more restaurants haven't switched to service included policies, which result in more transparent pricing for diners and more equitable compensation programs for those who work at restaurants." —Ryan Sutton, Chief Critic, Eater.com

"Surcharges and tickets. Look, I get that restaurants are difficult to keep afloat and that every little bit helps, but shifting all of the risk and responsibilities to the customer seems a weird move. Yes, making people buy tickets in advance for a meal definitely makes it less likely that there'll be no-shows, but how does that really serve the customer? When we had our tickets to Trois Mec, it stressed me out more than it relaxed me; what if we got into a car accident on the way? What if one of us had a family emergency? We'd just have to swallow the loss? And there's a similar trend with surcharges meant to tip the back-of-the-house (at Alimento in L.A.) and to cover healthcare for workers (at Republique); I'm all for those things, I really am, but I'd much rather have the menu prices go up a smidge than to have to awkwardly pencil in an amount to tip the dishwasher. But maybe that's just me." —Adam Roberts, Blogger, Amateur Gourmet

"I hate that many trendy New York restaurants lack any spirit of generosity.  And by that I mean free bread, good water, substantial portions, and side items that are included with the protein. Yes, these are all things that old people complain about, but they gripe about them for a reason — these are little luxuries that add value to the dining experience. Why does every serious new American restaurant price its food like a steakhouse? Nobody really wants to pay $39 for a pork chop on a big white plate with nothing else on it, and then $10 for a side." —Greg Morabito, Engagement Editor, Eater.com

"Dirty French's (NYC) service and prices. Let's wrap all of the Torrisi clan in here. Charging more just because you can? Favoring diners you know and not showing hospitality to those you don't? Pathetic. I'll spend my money at a Danny Meyer restaurant instead (and tell everyone I know to do the same)." —Daniela Galarza, News Editor, Eater.com

"The American tipping system. Please give people decent wages instead." —Per-Anders Jörgensen and Lotta Jörgensen, Editors-in-Chief/Founders, Fool Magazine

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Media Mania

"The continual obsession with New York dining. Yes, most media companies are based in New York City, and yes, New York City has plenty of fine dining options worth obsessing over. But the West Coast is doing incredible things and New York media, by and large, is missing the boat on all of it. I think the critics at major outlets based in NY (including the NYT and WSJ) should get out to the West Coast more often." —Daniela Galarza, News Editor, Eater.com

"Overwritten restaurant reviews. I can’t stomach the irony of overwriting my distaste for overwriting, so I’ll just say this: my kingdom for stronger editors in the food space." —Jordana Rothman, Food Writer

"Fake food holidays. Nobody cares, especially journalists." —Matt Rodbard, Contributing Editor, Food Republic

"Uh, is it just me or did they change the way they produce Top Chef this year?  And not for the better." —Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch and Food Is the New Rock

"Giant chef cookbooks with ridiculous pictures and impossible recipes. I get that these books are an inspiration to other chefs, and that there are weirdos out there who like to challenge themselves to make this food, but really? These books are useless documents, masturbatory, self-congratulatory tomes with no clear purpose except to prop up the idea that cooking is this high-falutin' thing, as much an intellectual pursuit as a degree in semiotics from Brown. The truth, though, is that these books are really just souvenirs for the 1% who are wealthy enough to patronize these restaurants; everyone else looks at a picture of a single ramp on a clothespin and thinks to themselves, 'WTF?' If I never see a pretentious chef cookbook again, I'll be a happy man." —Adam Roberts, Blogger, Amateur Gourmet

"The food media's slavish worship of the same people, over and over. Take your blinders off, folks. Instagram something else." —Kerry Diamond, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Food

"Reviewers who don't take sustainability and related issues into account." —Mitchell Davis, Executive VP, James Beard Foundation

"The endless jazz hands over 'Mexican food finally getting its due' or whatever. Not because I don't love Mexican food (it's physically impossible not to love Mexican food) but because of the largely unspoken second half of that phrase, which is 'because media-friendly white bro-chefs have started being into tacos.'" —Helen Rosner, Features Editor, Eater.com

"The paywall in front of Phil Vettel's reviews for the Chicago Tribune. Sometimes a guy just wants to read a four-star review of Next, okay?" Kyle Nabilcy, Food and Beer Writer, Isthmus

"If you whip out a selfie stick, I will ask the kitchen to batter and fry it." —Kat Kinsman

"Food Blogging. 2014 was the year that food blogging stopped being fun. What was once a lark is now an industry and what's fueling the industry, these days, is sponsored content. The whole thing feels icky. Also, there's just so much noise out there — with Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Instagram — our attention spans have dwindled down to almost nothing, so even when there is a great post on a food blog somewhere, we barely have time to read it. That said, I'm still a huge reader of food blogs — the good ones still remain good — I'm just having a hard time tapping into that original spirit that made food blogging worthwhile. Here's hoping I find it again in 2015." —Adam Roberts, Blogger, Amateur Gourmet

"Each degree my dish temperature goes down while my fellow diners painstakingly light it for Instagram is another silent tear that I struggle to hold back. And if you whip out a selfie stick, I will ask the kitchen to batter and fry it." —Kat Kinsman, Editor-in-Chief, Tasting Table

"Derivative food and travel TV is killing me. Oh my god so much of it is so bad. So many networks offering so much and the majority are just awful. There are copycat shows that don’t have a point of view. My problem is this: Why on earth would someone want to make a TV show, reach a huge audience and not want to say something that hasn’t been said before, or that contribute nothing to the canon of understanding? You don't need to be smart, or sacrifice entertainment for f***s sake, just have a point of view that means something! Cupcake battles, tailgate television chronicling nothing but bad food made by boring people, some unknown good looking guy standing next to a chef not asking the right questions..I mean The Neelys for god's sake…Had the anaconda actually eaten that dude I would have been thrilled. It would have meant no second episode. Sadly, it was a bait and switch of the highest proportion and stands as the nadir for the year for me in travel TV. What a mess."—Andrew Zimmern, Bizarre Foods and Delicious Destinations Honcho

"Paula Deen's umpteenth apology." —Daniela Galarza, News Editor, Eater.com

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Brunch Bullies

"Brunch hate. I know this isn't unique to 2014, but I felt it was loud in 2014. I'm sick of the posture of hating brunch. Brunch is just a meal that you eat because you slept through breakfast. May we all be so lucky to have the ability to sleep late on weekends." —Hillary Dixler, Associate Reports Editor, Eater.com

"Brunch. I know everyone wanted to hate on brunch this year, but I still love it, and I'm psyched that so many chefs I like are making such good food for me to eat on the weekends." —Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor, Food & Wine

"Brunch trollery. Like most trollery, the opinion at brunch-hate's center is perfectly fine to hold (even if it's wrong) but the going out of one's way to insult brunch — and by extension, Team Brunch — is what makes it objectionable. LOOKING AT YOU, NEW YORK TIMES." —Kyle Nabilcy, Food and Beer Writer, Isthmus

"Frankly I hated the culture of food hate this year. Just like there are cool things to love, there are cool things to hate: Kale salads, hipster roast chicken, brunch. Our collective dismissal of these things defines our perspective as much as the things we champion. Then comes the backlash and the backlash to the backlash and on and on until we’ve all forgotten the point. Brunch hate, for example, came full circle this year with the blowback on that New York Times "Brunch is for Jerks" op-ed. For the record, I have always hated brunch (you know…before it was cool), but I’d like to think my opinion belongs to me, and isn’t some statement of where I stand in relation to the zeitgeist. Let’s just like what we like and hate what we hate in 2015." —Jordana Rothman, Food Writer

Atrocious Awards

"Michelin. Just stop publishing this thing, at least in the United States. No one takes the list seriously. Why? The tire company gets it wrong just as often (or, honestly, more) than they get it right." —Matt Duckor, Restaurant Editor, Epicurious

"Rampant star inflation is rendering the American Michelin guides unreliable. The Chicago guide, especially, is becoming worthless." —Bonjwing Lee, Blogger/Photographer, Ulterior Epicure

Sad Shutters

"Seeing Madison's best biscuit and hot link sandwich purveyor, Papa Bear's BBQ, close in November after 8 years." —Kyle Nabilcy, Food and Beer Writer, Isthmus

"The closing of Cafe Edison and everything it says about Midtown (and New York in general)." —Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch and Food Is the New Rock

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Bad Booze

"Cocktail-food pairings. I may be old-fashioned, but I'm starting to miss wine." —Jonathan Gold, Restaurant Critic, LA Times

"I hate modern cocktail lists.  It's a tiresome chore to read through the descriptions of all the house cocktails to figure out which ones most closely resembles the drinks you actually like.  In my experience, at least, those house cocktails rarely surprise and delight." —Greg Morabito, Engagement Editor, Eater.com

"The growing homogeneity of new bars. Not all bars require games/entertainment. Good bartenders, on the other hand..." —Paolo Lucchesi, Columnist, Inside Scoop SF

"Bars that pay more attention to their frozen water program than their cocktails." —Mike Thelin, Co-Founder, Feast Portland

"$17 cocktails and overpriced wine by the glass lists." —Amanda Kludt, Editor-in-Chief, Eater

"$20 cocktails." —Mitchell Davis, Executive VP, James Beard Foundation

The Big Bad Bro Club

"I'd love to see a de-bro-ification of, well, most things, but especially restaurants. I get why they'd be courted — expense accounts, peer influence, the traveling packs — but I can't help thinking that the $20-something apps, $50+ entrees and litany of premium vodka cocktails are a bit much, brah." —Kat Kinsman, Editor-in-Chief, Tasting Table

"Casual sexism masked as chivalry." —Amanda Kludt, Editor-in-Chief, Eater

Coffee Crisis

"Pour-over coffee for the sake of pour over coffee. Specialty coffee shops continue to explode, and with it pour over as the defacto brewing method. Pour over — a slow, delicate process —works great at home where there isn’t time constraint. But it doesn’t guarantee a great cup. In a busy coffee shop pour over is inconsistent. I think a lot of places would serve better coffee if they tossed the V60s and switched to old-fashioned batch brew." —Adam Goldberg, Blogger, A Life Worth Eating

"People hating on coffee roasters when they don’t know what they are talking about. I’m sorry, but until you throw away that dirty auto-drip machine you used back in college and start making coffee with a little strategy (measuring water, weighing beans perhaps, pouring over perhaps), please don’t tell me about how much you 'absolutely hate' a particular roaster. And about a roaster’s coffee being 'too strong' — you can just stop that." —Matt Rodbard, Contributing Editor, Food Republic

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