Food & Drink » Dining Reviews

Uncertainty remains, but we’ll dine critically again

A long intermezzo

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MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper

I’m hungry. Actually, I’m starving.

I can’t wait to get back to work. (Said few people, ever.) It’s been three months (breaking a 14-year streak) since I’ve gotten to eat, drink and pen full-length food and drink criticism. But as you all know, COVID-19’s had a way of messing everything up as we continue to reboot the world around us.

We made the unprecedented decision as the pandemic hit to suspend critical reviewing. As restaurants and bars were forced virtually overnight into delivery- and pickup-only models, we felt it would be in poor taste to publish our unflinching write-ups as they struggled for financial survival. Still today, several local spots haven’t reopened. National restaurant associations continue to track billions in lost sales revenue and millions of industry people remain out of work.

We’ve spent the last few months printing only our Dine & Dash mini reviews so long as they were neutral or leaned positive. Yes, we shelved some we felt were brutal for the times, which we plan to revisit soon and eventually print, whether we see improvement or not. We put our Appetite column focus on narrative stories instead, sharing stories of how restaurateurs were adapting to the wild new marketplace where you couldn’t stand close to someone, but suddenly you could walk out with a cocktail. 

Though we remain concerned about the health and vitality of the industry moving forward, and what that means for our city as whole, smaller community groups and our food and drink scene culturally, professionally our discussions have led us to believe that it’s time to get back to critical reviewing, starting in our pages July 1. No mulligans, no kid gloves, no BS.

We’re fully aware that restaurants and bars continue to struggle in a marketplace now hyper-concerned with sanitation and safety protocols. Most are still operating with limited staff to address state-mandated limited capacities, and they’re continually adjusting to uncertainty — everything from maintaining smart food inventories to enduring supply shortages and price hikes (yeah, there’s the beef).

Some might argue that they don’t deserve to be nitpicked right now over the minutia of textures, flavors, presentations, etc. — perhaps arguing we should continue the cease-fire until restaurants and bars are back to full strength. Though we’d love to see them there tomorrow, health and safety measures continue to take precedence and none of us can know exactly when that time will come. We could be doing this COVID-19 dance for a very long time.

Know that we remain devoted to our readers first, so our goal in a nutshell is to return to the utilitarian service of honest, critical reviews to help them spend their money wisely.

As of this writing, activists remain in the streets calling for the reform of our police state. It’s a stark and necessary reminder that there’s always a time to question the way we’re doing things and if they can be done better. (In a word related to that: yes.)

We’re open to questioning our policies and procedures here, too. Comment on this article at csindy.com if you disagree with our assessment and have an idea for how food and drink media coverage should proceed differently during the new COVID-19 era. Cheers. 

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