Hello Aters. I'll Be Your New Food Critic.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0022_2.jpg
Scott Reitz
Finn, professional left-over consumer
A little over a week ago I threw my belongings into a 16-foot Penske, drove down 16th Street past the White House, and headed west. Finn, my 14-year-old wonder-mutt, sat shotgun, along with a spider plant, a bottle of port, some Gatorade and a bar of chocolate. I was leaving my home in D.C. to be the new food critic for the Observer.

I drove for 24 hours. The journey was a full-blown bitch, featuring a blown-out tire, a bum passenger-side mirror, enough gasoline to fund a Middle Eastern sheik and some really bad food, including multiple bags of Combos. Coupled with my first experience in Dallas, which was plagued by delayed flights, lost luggage and the longest, drunkest interview of my life, I was starting to wonder if I'd made the right decision. The candid words of friends and an article penned by my predecessor gave me more doubt. If I'm to believe what I've heard and read about this city, I inherit a food scene that is fundamentally broken, devoid of fine dining, lacking a defining style and overrun with a mollusk that isn't even indigenous to Texas.

We'll see about that.

I've eaten a week's worth of meals all over Dallas and had some beautiful plates placed in front of me, including a burger (at NHS Tavern) that nearly erased the memory of all those Combos, and a gorgeous ceviche (stay tuned to the Observer for details on that one.) Then again, lousy guacamole at multiple restaurants is giving me pause about the state of Tex's Tex-Mex.

On the off chance that you care: I grew up in the restaurant industry, working as a kid in red-sauce Italian joints, steakhouses and crab shacks on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I waited and bused tables. I ungratefully washed dishes. And after a few years I graduated to the line, where I learned a little about food and more about how to hustle. I also learned that restaurants made for hard work, and that the employees cooking and serving us deserve our respect. (If anyone should be able to empathize with working conditions that melt butter at ambient temperatures, it should be you, Dallas.)

Unable to take the heat -- or maybe just ready for something new -- I holstered my spatula and picked up a pen. I wrote for blogs, developed recipes based on restaurant dishes and earned a chance to work with some of DC's best chefs. Eric Ziebold, protégé of Thomas Keller, taught me the importance of acid and balance. Michel Richard taught me how to bend the will of a chicken into roasted succulence. Morou Ouattara taught me how to use agar-agar, a blowtorch and other molecular gastronomical oddities that made my head spin. I learned that chefs are bad at committing recipes to paper. But their weakness was a gift to me. In making their recipes work for home chefs, I learned to cook well and trust my palate.

When I first reached out to the editors here, I told them I was ravenous to explore their city. Now, I'm hungry to make Dallas my own. Bring on the smoky brisket and the brave Mexican restaurants that dare not flank every plate with rice and beans. Bring on tacos by the literal truckload and what appears to be a blossoming pizza scene.

I hope you guys are as excited -- and as hungry -- as I am.

My Voice Nation Help
47 comments
Antoinetty
Antoinetty

Thank goodness.  That Andrew guy was getting on my last nerve.  

teachergirl23
teachergirl23

Scott-where on the eastern shore?  I spent all my summers while growing up in Chincoteague.

Guest
Guest

Welcome!  I moved back from Old Town Alexandria last year to DC and honestly think the food is comparable. I miss DC area farmers markets, crab, and sweet corn -- but there are a lot better taco/mexican food here and steak is about the same.  Gave me good memories when you mentioned Michael Richard and Morou Ouattara.

Copia93
Copia93

Finn looks like an absolute sweetheart! Make sure you take him to Lee Harvey's.

Margie Hubbard
Margie Hubbard

That dog is a super cutie!  Great ears.  Very curious to hear your take on things.  I hope you are able to breath here.  That last girl had a hell of a time, evidently. 

gabbahey
gabbahey

Welcome to Texas, Scott. Just so you know, there are plenty of pooch-friendly places around town. Also, for the record, there is NO INDIAN FOOD south of I-30. Someone needs to step up and fix this travesty.

Never the less, hope you like it here, you sure picked a hell of a time to move in Texas though. Cheers!

elbueno
elbueno

i hate how people try to give you these broad sweeping statements. Thats sort of unfair to the assloads of restaurants, eateries, gas stations, food trucks and taco stands serving food in this city. Sure, it may be inconsistent...but isn't EVERY OTHER FREAKING CITY? You just aren't going to walk into any damn place and be wowed, no matter where you are. Sure, there are times when you visit a city and swear you didn't eat a bad meal, but when you think about it, isn't that statement false? What about that shitty lunch you had in Chinatown?

Anyway, I recommend talking with Joe Tone. We gave him some good recs and I think you'll be satisfied...as long as you aren't a priss like the last lady. 

There are two sides to Dallas, Jekyll and Hyde. Explore them both. Godspeed.

Oh and also, we are a truly fickle (and cynical) bunch of assholes.

BorntoRhone
BorntoRhone

Since you mention bad guacamole at multiple places, somebody is clearly steering you wrong on Mexican. Do NOT eat any more guacamole until you got to Cafe San Miguel on Henderson. It is the bomb, especially with the fresh corn tortillas.

TLS
TLS

East Coast in the Hizz-ouse!  Welcome to Texas, Scott.  I moved here with a spider plant too.  It died.

Looking forward to reading your opinions.

Lemmonhead
Lemmonhead

welcome to texas! you'll see that you can either embrace what is "texas" or not. the food goes along with that as well. we're not SFO or NYC, which is a good thing.

i'm not sure how people can bitch that much about what is "dallas food". we have some good bbq, great burgers, plus side brunches, great tacos, tex-mex and mexican. fine dining, yes is lacking. but it doesnt bother me at all...even more i cant imagine it would bother many Observer readers either!

Jenny Block
Jenny Block

Welcome aboard. Looking forward to hearing what you think of our Big D eats!

Ralphy
Ralphy

Finn looks like he has some cattle dog in him;  I think he will like Texas !

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

Dallas is neither the culture-devoid town its detractors say it is, nor the greatest restaurant town in the world its cheerleaders think it is.  Its somewhere in between, and there is always something worth writing about.

"Food Critic" is not just about eating out.  Hopefully you cover some of the city's great gourmet markets.

http://cravedfw.com/2011/07/13...

Philip Berne
Philip Berne

Nice to see another Marylander transplant. Next time you're home, please bring back some Ledo's. 

Bob Dobbsson
Bob Dobbsson

Interesting choice for a play on words. You may find it prescient. Interesting thing I've found about Dallas. People either love to love it, or love to hate it and rarely do you find the individual able to see both the good and the bad. Nowhere does that seem to me more apparent then the comments on the COA blog. Good luck.

John Neely Bryan
John Neely Bryan

Congrats, you've already passed Leslie Brenner in the critic rankings.

KoeniginLuisevonPreussen
KoeniginLuisevonPreussen

Be prepared for no end of resentment from insecure locals who will hold your East Coast background against you, no matter how truthful and insightful your writing.   (See: the case of Leslie Brenner)

Please, for the love of god, hold the local restaurant scene to national- or world-class standards; don't pull your punches; don't indulge the local boosterism that pretends things are great that aren't so great.     Only good criticism can help the local scene step up its game.

Coleman
Coleman

Is there any cross-country road trip that doesn't involve Combos? No, no there is not.

Jamo
Jamo

Welcome Scott.  In an effort to make your life easier, I present the following:  There is no good Chinese or Indian food in Dallas.  There area few good Thai restaurants.  The barbecue is way overrated.  The burgers are getting better.  The tacos are definitely hit and miss.  And if you like overpriced steakhouses that aren't as good as a restaurant you'd find in a podunk small town in my home state of Nebraska, welcome to nirvana.  Pizza is on the upswing, and that trend will continue when I open my place in 18-24 months.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

My ENT Allergy guy is great. His name is Frank. I'll send you his number. Oh wait - wrong critic

Truth Has No Agenda
Truth Has No Agenda

Have you seen you co-worker tear up your work already on twitter... here is what this hate monger said about you just now... Howdy, new food critic! You've misspelled "ceviche" and "smoky" in your intro column. But welcome to @cityofate ! Elaine Liner

Bryan Coonrod
Bryan Coonrod

here is an idea...how about someone born an bred here as a critic instead of an east coast or west coast person that has no clue about the area

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Welcome! Be sure to wear sunscreen...it's a life-saver. 

Nick R.
Nick R.

Welcome Scott--prepare for bacon.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

I spent most of my time on Kent Island

cp
cp

That dog looks terrified, like his thought balloon should read "What the HELL did you get us into???"

cp
cp

And they can stand up to his challenge of not putting the requisite side of beans and rice on every plate...

Coleman
Coleman

What you won't love is the dysentery about an hour after trying Panchos, but it is kind of a rite of passage. Stool passage, but still.

Elizabeth Bair
Elizabeth Bair

Damn, now the song from the commercial is stuck in my head. Thanks, II.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

He's from the Eastern Shore of MD. That's like being from East Texas. He'll fit right in

CouponQueen
CouponQueen

Here's another idea: don't give an damn what advice self-declared "experts" want to lay on you as you're coming in. Approach the dining scene in Dallas your way. Said self-important experts, who apparently gave themselves a mission you didn't ask them for, to "make your life easier", can all just bugger off.

cp
cp

haha!! That is why I love Elaine Liner!!

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Elaine went downhill after he fake professor blog thing. Never reached anything near that again

brian
brian

have you seen the texas education system?

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Here's an idea. Stop caring if someone is from Texas

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

You could argue though that his very unfamiliarity will be a strength...he'll approach Dallas with a fresh eye (and tastebuds).

teachergirl23
teachergirl23

The chef at Asador is from the eastern shore as well.  But I believe he's from Northampton County, VA.  

brian
brian

unless of course you're constipated, which makes Panchos great. tastes likes it feels.

Truth Has No Agenda
Truth Has No Agenda

Then it makes you a loser too. She does nothing but spew hate all day long on twitter. If she was any good at her actual work she wouldn't be doing it in Dallas. NYC is the only place it happens. She likes being a BIG lesbian fish in a small pond.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Plus he won't be a redneck asshole who loves olive garden and what-a-burger

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...