Edit ModuleShow Tags

The State of Restaurant Criticism in the Age of Half-Stars

A Yeti makes a list


Published:

Tangerine, goat cheese, hazelnuts, and chicories come together in Jsix’s rainbow beet terrine.

Oh, wow. You must be the last critic in town,” said the young woman from the online review site. She cast me a sweet look, as though she’d encountered an arthritic Yeti churning butter in a thatched domicile. I liked her. She had the go-getting moxie of the freshly converted—unwaveringly assured her way was the future. Confidence smells nice.

The doors of restaurant criticism flung open years ago, and the once-elitist conversation spilled into the quad. As it should. In all cases except maybe presidential elections, popular vote matters. San Diego Magazine opens the “Best Restaurants” issue ballots every year.

As for us Yetis, it’s been a long time since the New York Times’ Craig Claiborne turned restaurant criticism into a serious, star-giving arena for writers to earn a living. At their best, restaurants are living, breathing stories about culture, community, vice, ritual, history, religion, eco-politics, agriculture, economics, and sensory stimulation. And at their equal best, restaurant critics like Jonathan Gold, Ruth Reichl, and Robert Sietsema are highly informative, entertaining, insightful interpreters of those stories.

Despite Claiborne’s intent to elevate the conversation surrounding restaurant and food culture, too often it devolves into a snooty assignation of worth, full of pretentious windbags using language as a fraternity paddle on the vulnerable backsides of hard-working restaurant owners.

That’s not what thoughtful criticism was ever meant to be. We’re not doctors analyzing X-rays and announcing life expectancy to a crowd of schadenfreuders. We’re storytellers who live in restaurant culture.

So take our annual “Best Restaurants” list as it’s intended—not as an exclusionary exercise or a greater-than decree that delegitimizes restaurants that aren’t here. Some of my favorite places aren’t here, simply due to the musical-chairs nature of list making. Rather, look at it as a documentation of where I’ve found joy over the last year. A recollection, publicly shared.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

A Family Afar: Palm Springs Then and Now

Our travelling dad learns how to redefine fun for the whole family in a city he loved before kids

San Diego Happy Half Hour Podcast: Episode 116

Golden Hill gets a modern ice cream parlor, Land & Water Co. has a sustainable new concept coming to Liberty Station, and Polite Provisions’ Erick Castro stops by

These 15 San Diego Restaurants Are Guilty of the Same Offense

Here, we parse some of the most egregious examples of similar-sounding restaurant names
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best of San Diego Party 2018
  2. The Best of San Diego 2018
    We crown 103 winners in food, shopping, fitness, kids’ activities, and more
  3. Ten Pet Friendly Palm Springs Restaurants
    Ten Pet Friendly Palm Springs Restaurants
  4. Javier Plascencia Eyes Barrio Logan
    The award-winning chef is all over Mexico, but looks to make a San Diego comeback
  5. A Sneak Peek at ‘The Heart of Rock & Roll’
    The Old Globe’s newest world-premiere musical promises a familiar soundtrack and all the good feels of an ’80s rom-com
  6. What San Diego Women Want
    53 working women share their compelling stories on navigating pay equity, the baby penalty, #MeToo, and more
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Ten Pet Friendly Palm Springs Restaurants

Ten Pet Friendly Palm Springs Restaurants

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags