Food Critic Anonymity: Not Dead Yet

Categories: Food News

slow bone bbq.jpg
There's a bit of a kerfuffle -- that's French for "shitstorm" -- about Pete Wells' latest restaurant review for The New York Times. Wells weighs in on Daniel, chef Daniel Boulud's fine-dining French outfit in Manhattan that's enjoyed a lengthy four-star run in the paper. While dining there, he enlisted the help of a friend who sat at a different table. They both ordered the same tasting menu and compared notes after dinner.

The food, it turned out, was exactly the same. But there was one difference: Wells was recognized by staff as the Times critic; the other dude wasn't. Wells' service was significantly different. Combined with some other food snafus, that service helped knock down Daniel to three stars.

See also:
- Slow Bone's Bravado

Now the review is being used to revive a never-quite-dead discussion about food critics and anonymity, which I am now using as a hook to point to this week's review of Slow Bone. (Sly, eh?)

Despite Eater posting two small pictures of me after I arrived in Dallas, I've done my best to eat anonymously here whenever possible. I'm not so naive to claim that I'm never been identified, but l dine anonymously most of the time. My recent review of Five Sixty was certainly conducted anonymously. Or, if the staff knew I was dining there, they should be ashamed.

And that's the point: We all share the hope that restaurants will treat everyone the same.

I was busted at Slow Bone, on the other hand. Every. Single. Meal. Jack Perkins and I have bumped into each other a few times at Maple and Motor, which is right up the street from Observer HQ. He can definitely pick me out of a crowd.

At Slow Bone, he worked the counter, which is right next to the front door, three of my four visits. The first time I bailed and grabbed a burger at Off-Site Kitchen, which is just about the best back-up meal in town. The second time I gave up. I couldn't get around him.

The one time Perkins wasn't working the counter, the register had a hiccup and my credit card was declined. Then another card was declined, and then a third. "I'm going to grab the manager," the cashier said as I desperately mined my pockets for sufficient cash.

Oh. Hi Jack.

Thankfully Slow Bone is one of those places where the food is cooked long before you arrive, and Perkins doesn't seem likely to confer special treatment on anyone. The only thing his employees could do was ladle a little more of this and that on my tray as I moved down the line.

Here's hoping your portions are as generous as mine were.

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J_A_ topcommenter

Scott you are so cute


On most any day, Jack's brisket is every bit as good as Pecan Lodge. And on the rare day it isn't, It's still a hundred times better than any other Dallas BBQ. A delicious new item at Slow Bone (Friday only but, not today.) is tender melt in your mouth ham sliced from a long marinated whole bone-in slow smoked ham. The sides are excellent. As are the corn bread and hushpuppies. Jack told me he doesn't believe in sliced white bread. And be sure to try the home made pickles at the condiment station. But the best thing is, there are no ridiculously long lines of sheeple.


Didn't that building house BW's BBQ back in the day?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Wells noted that he was charged only $25 for a bottle of wine at Daniel.  $25 at a three star Michelin restaurant??? 


"And that's the point: We all share the hope that restaurants will treat everyone the same."

Unfortunately, human nature simply won't allow that. Be it food critics or regulars. People do get treated differently.

ChrisYu topcommenter

hopefully Jack DOESN'T recognize some of your readers, that could be trouble.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Wells' move was brilliant.  Boulud must be seething.   

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@cyrrndr They shouldn't be treated differently when they are presented a bill as expensive or more than the "preferred" diner.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Nictacular Oh God.  Remember that crap.  And Mateus.  And Almaden.  And I'll never forget puking after drinking a bottle of Chateau Luzerne.


Does anyone have a picture of the wind blowing through the Ouichita mountains?

primi_timpano topcommenter

I used to think Mateus and Almaden were fancy.

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