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.)