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Controversial Dallas Critic Resigns, Takes Job at Local Restaurant Group

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A look back at Leslie Brenner’s most scathing reviews

Leslie Brenner
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.

Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News’s restaurant critic for the past eight years, has resigned. A press release states that she will be taking a “senior management” job in-house at the Rebees restaurant group. Rebees restaurateur Tristan Simon is quoted in the release saying, “Leslie’s gifts as a writer, storyteller, and conceptualist will translate as naturally to the medium of place creation as they did to journalism and fiction writing.” [Emphasis mine.]

In her role as the top critic in Dallas, Brenner rose to national notoriety largely due to an epic feud with local chef/Top Chef villain John Tesar. Back in 2014, Brenner gave Tesar’s then-new restaurant Knife a three-star review. Thinking it deserved four, Tesar expressed his outrage on Twitter: “Fuck you ! Your reviews are misleading poorly written,self serving and you have destroyed the star system and you really suck.” [sic] He then banned Brenner from his restaurants. Tesar was probably the highest-profile chef to take issue with Brenner, but not the only one. (Later that year, she shed her anonymity.)

Eater Dallas editor Amy McCarthy sees it this way: “Brenner is not afraid to be a hard-ass. She consistently tried to hold Dallas to higher standards than it wants to.”

Often, that came in the form of well-placed zingers. Here now, a look back at some of Brenner’s best:

The Mansion, 2017: “We passed the plate (sans truffles) around the table, trying to find a way to enjoy it and failing miserably.”

Ida Claire, 2015: "If you’re thinking of venturing into Ida Claire anyway, and ordering something relatively simple and straightforward, like a muffuletta sandwich (how can it miss?), hear this: It was the foulest thing I’ve tasted in some years, eliciting from my dining companions a string of invective that can’t be printed in a family newspaper."

Chino Chinatown, 2014: “[Niçoise salad]... seemed to have been assembled by a cook who hates salad.”

PS, 2013: “Everyone was looking at our table — she [chef Najat Kaanache] was really making a scene. I couldn’t help but wonder whether her guests are often treated to such abuse, or is it reserved for one recognized as a critic?"

Cafe Des Artistes, 2013: “Roast chicken ... looked as though it had been run over by a truck.”

Lockhart Smokehouse, 2011: “You know what? If you're not going to offer barbecue sauce, the meat had better be awfully good. This brisket desperately needed some.” (Check out the restaurant’s response.)

Leslie Brenner Resigns Her Post As Dallas Morning News Food Critic [EDFW]