What Does the Internet Say About the Health of Dallas' Dining Scene?

Categories: Complaint Desk

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Eric Asimov, the interim New York Times restaurant critic sandwiched between Sam Sifton and his permanent replacement Pete Wells, published a story last week about his short tenure as a critical diner. Asimov reviewed restaurants before becoming a full-time wine columnist in 2004.

His column compared dining during his first and most recent stint, commenting on the improvement of ingredient sourcing, well-developed wine lists and craft-beer options -- and, of course, the internet.

In addition to Yelp and Eater, Asimov wrote of the internet message boards, specifically Chow Hound and Egullet.

Yes, plenty of inconsequential venting occurred. More important, an astounding breadth of knowledge was displayed that was great for public discussion and for journalists.

This made me sad.

There were 148 threads on the New York City regional dining conversation of Egullet in the last year. Many of these threads involved reposes numbering in the 100s. At 2:45, Manhattan's Chow Message board had 40 active threads going just today.

I realize that a direct comparison is silly, and that southwestern cities will never draw activity on par with New York, but Dallas has only 21 threads that have been touched this year -- more than Houston's 14, but still dreadfully low. The Egullet message board lists 9 active threads on Dallas and Fort Worth combined for the entire year of 2011.

Where is all the dialogue about our dining culture?

If you believe that discussion drives change and improvement in a dining scene (I do), then what does this level of activity say about Dallas and its love of or interest in food? Maybe Texans express themselves differently and these conversations are occurring in some other forum, unknown to me. (The bar, perhaps?) I wish I knew about it, and I hope City of Ate can provide a little corner, free of random observations on the Patriots' pass defense, for it to develop.

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therrick
therrick

I only have time for so many message boards. I am foremost a nerd, and those message boards take up more of my time. Plus, I have to leave my computer some time.

Also it is self-perpetuating. If people go to the message boards and see no activity, then they are less likely to go back. Thus it slowly gets less and less participation.

Biz
Biz

A few comments:

1)  Comparing Dallas to Manhattan will always get you in trouble.  Dallas is a very young city by global standards and only really started to grow quickly with the advent of A/C.  Let's compare apples to apples.

2)  Density drives a lot of the creativity, and cities that grew during the age of the automobile suffer from urban sprawl.  Dallas is not alone in this regard.  Los Angeles is not overrun with foodie restaurants in many areas such as the inland empire or the valley.  Fortunately, this is changing.

3)   In comparison to Austin, I'll take Dallas food all day long.  Austin has the food trucks and breakfast tacos in spades (along with much better BBQ within an hours drive), but that is about it.  Dallas is a much more diverse city with large populations of Vietnamese and Ethopian (among others), cuisines that you can't find in Austin.  Houston even more so.

4)  I think the music comparison is an apt one.  Some of the decision comes down to whether you want to be in a mature robust restaurant/foodie community that attracts people from around the world.  Lots to talk about, but ultimately a small fish in a big pond.  Or you can participate in building that community and the satisfaction that comes with it growing and your role within it.  There will be pains along the way, but that is part of the growth.  Pete Freedman was able to witness a lot of positive change in the music scene in the short time he was editor and he was directly a part of much of it.

The seeming lack of internet forums may or may not be an important metric as to the health of the food culture.  I don't know yet.  But I think Dallas has a lot going on.  I think we can hold off on the comparisons to Manhattan for the time being.

ObserverFan
ObserverFan

Dallas (and Houston) has great Vietnamese food. I didn't realize how great until I tried some in other big cities.

Guest
Guest

Second that!

Guest
Guest

I totally agree, Jon. With the few exceptions of innovative and imaginative chef owned restaurants like Lucia, Nonna and, Nosh, all that's left to really tickle the taste buds are Dallas' vast wealth of ethnic fare. I like to say, immigrants make some of the most delicious food in Dallas. Be they Indian, Asian, Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, or Mexican or Central American.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Well - Dallas is a chain restaurant town. Just drive by any suburban Olive Garden or Buffalo Wild Wings any night, and you will see the truth.

This does not require a large group of invested people to debate the merits of the honey mustard vs. the honey BBQ boneless wings.

I think there are some analogies to the music scene in Dallas over the last 15-20 years. It took YEARS for the fans, bands and venues to be in place for it to become even where it is now. And finally, there are interesting things happening....

But we have to look at the demographic truth too, and that is that there is a core of people who are really invested in food/music/art/architecture etc in Dallas, but the vast vast majority have no interest in these things. They prefer to stay in their clean, safe, homogeneous suburbs eating shit food, or go to over-hyped, over-priced uptown restaurants with mediocre food at spectacular prices, or go to 30 year old places that sling Sysco food to the willing native Dallasites.

The truth is, the kind of people who would be the most invested in a food culture in Dallas do not want to live in Dallas if given the choice. There is a big brain drain in Texas except for Austin. I'm waiting for some journalist to explore this further on a state/national level. We'll see...

It's like I say about old buildings - It's not that there is not cool stuff to save, it's that there is no one to save it for.

Tim
Tim

I've been reading a lot about Dallas lately because I will be spending a few days there this month. It looks like there are a lot of great things going on in the restaurant scene. I can't wait. And I think the majority of most populations whether it be New York, Boston (where I come from) or Dallas, settle for mediocrity. Too bad for them.

Guest
Guest

I agree. Very strict moderation! They have zero tolerance for anyone straying from their (many) rules. I will say, though. It keeps everyone quite civil. That's "civil" as in, booooooring!

Guest
Guest

Chowhound's moderation sucks so bad there aren't many that haven't been banned for innoxious behavior. I left CH years ago.

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

maybe its my computer, but sometimes i have a terrible time logging in to CH.  anyone else have that problem?

maybe we suck at messageboards, but there is a lot of food discourse on blog commenting and general social media channels.

Justin B.
Justin B.

Look no further than our humble blog, buddy.  THAT'S where the fruitful pontification on Dallas dining occurs. 

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