Ask the Critic: How Long Do You Wait to Visit a New Restaurant?
There is no science to reviewing restaurants.
To the contrary, it's all about what my gut tells me, based on a series of dining experiences, impressions, and a sense of timing. It's purely subjective, after all.
In a way, I'm trying to read your mind (yes, you: The Reader) and figure out what kinds of places you'd be interested in reading about, what kinds of places you're talking about. And when I sit down to write a review, I write exactly what I'd tell my closest friends about an establishment.
People have often asked me how long I wait until I visit a new restaurant for a review, and truly, there is no rule. It might be a couple weeks, it might be a couple months, it might fall off my radar before I ever get around to writing anything about it. In general, I'd like to give the place a chance to get up and running, so it's at least a few weeks.
But is that even necessary anymore?
To anyone who would argue that a restaurant needs to be open X amount of time before any food critic should take a stab at reviewing it, my rebuttal is simply this:
If they're taking people's money, they're fair game.
Seriously. I'm not about to set anyone up for failure (or, at least, a negative review) by visiting prematurely. But there is no grace period for the paying consumer, and since I go into restaurants anonymously, as a paying consumer, I'm going to call it as I see it.
Recently, I was chatting with Into the Soup radio show host Heidi Lee, chef Josh Hebert of Posh, and food blogger Eric Schaefer about this issue, and basically said the same thing, explaining that things are getting sped up even more thanks to social media and blogs. And here's the perfect example, a review of the *brand new* Citizen Public House on Schaefer's blog, Eric Eats Out. Bless his heart -- Schaefer was there, chowing down, taking notes, and snapping pictures, within a couple hours of the joint opening its doors.
I may not go into a restaurant on opening night, but plenty of people will, and they will write about it.
Any smart restaurant owners will take the free feedback in stride.
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