I'm not tooting my own horn here, but this feature isn't always easy. Tracking down restaurant reviews from 20-some newspapers throughout the Midwest -- sometimes the review isn't really a review but more of a snapshot or a first look, sometimes the websites are really awful, sometimes the publication date isn't easy to spot, or it's in relative mode and I have to count hours backwards in time to see if it was published under my deadline for inclusion. An RSS feed is a lot easier, but in setting mine up, I'm discovering how shoddy or unhelpful a lot of RSS work is. This includes two of three Madison publications I follow. RSS stands for "really simple syndication," and I'm not sure it's as simple as advertised if so many papers can't get a grasp of it. This week's Flyover Friday will only consider the publications whose RSS feeds are legitimately helpful for readers of restaurant criticism.
"At Paul Kahan's Nico Osteria, two worlds collide with a bang," by Mara Shalhoup for the Chicago Reader
Mike Sula has the week off of the review beat to do a food feature on Michael Sheerin, the chef at Cicchetti. Shalhoup has a distinctly different style, chattier and a little biographical. Maybe too biographical, since personal preference appears to have overridden a commitment to try a full cross-section of the menu. The one commenter on the piece, emotionally over-invested as most commenters are, raises a valid critique. Also: more arancini!
"Cibreo Italian Kitchen re-imagines rustic Tuscany with a warm, welcoming decor -- and a delicious bounty of food," by Lisa DeJong for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
That headline, so lonnnnnnng. This review's almost a doppelgänger of the Reader review of Nico, with branzino, arancini, and a local heavy hitter's restaurant group. The OH/OK transition's fun, but ultimately I feel like Cleveland can't need this much explanation of Italian food words, can it?
"Let's toast to time warp called High Life," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
I think the Plain Dealer stole some words from the Register's headline; this seems more like a note from the creative process than a final version. Yes, nitpicking. I feel a little sad that there's a place that's consciously trying to evoke that which any number of supper clubs and family restaurants in Wisconsin achieve without effort. I don't know what makes me angrier: wussing out on the gizzards, or broasted chicken being written in very fraught quotation marks. [EDIT: Oops! This one should have fallen into the "bad RSS practices" section for a two-day lag in syndication, but I clicked the link in my reader and forgot about the date. I couldn't contain my thoughts on it, I guess.]
"At least one restaurant chameleon helps Carma's karma," by Charles Ferruzza for the Pitch
Yes, the restaurant's name is Carma, and yes, there is a not-small point made about the musical geography of the dining room, but okay, Charles, dial back the punnery. I don't actually know to what "restaurant chameleon" the headline refers, and that's a decent sign you've gone too far in pursuit of a chuckle. The weakest of the three Italian reviews this week.
"Street tacos settle in at Taco Republic," by Jill Wendholt Silva for the Kansas City Star
In this review, it's the restaurant that feels like it's trying too hard. A barely-contained dining room in a city that's even a little bit northern? Weird choice, and it definitely sounds more Texas than Kansas City. Still, I don't think the restaurant deserves the left-handed compliment that is the Costco mention at the end. It makes the restaurant seem even more gimmicky than it might be, rendering a successful dish (the churros) more than a little ridiculous.
"Bollywood Grill a sequel to Mayura with south Indian twists," by Carol Deptolla for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Here, the hook of the article works. It's easy to zone out on a rundown of Indian buffet options and massive a la cart menu. Deptolla's long view of the former Mayura informs the choices she made during the review, and the slight filmmaking references zip it all up. It's not the most thrilling read, but like I said, it works. Unframed posters sound kinda sloppy, though, reinforcing the garish image I have in my head since the Shepherd Express review of Bollywood from last week.
"Milwaukee's new Korean contender," by Jeff Beutner for the Shepherd Express
Here's something I don't get: not using contractions. Either Beutner or his editor doesn't like them, and won't use them. If this doesn't seem odd to you, re-read the first two sentences in this section without the contractions. If it doesn't sound stilted to you, perhaps you are secretly British royalty. In other news, I love bibimbap, and want to go eat some at New Seoul now. Mmm, crispy rice bits.
"At the Precinct Sports Bar & Grill, the diners are doing hard time," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
We haven't had a good claws-out review for a while, and here's Cheryl Baehr with a doozy. This restaurant seems like a bad idea at the best of times, and there hasn't been a good time here since the place opened following re-envisioning. (Also, thank you to the RFT for putting your SEO in the URL, not the headline. NBD.)
I'd have loved to give you my thoughts on this review, or this one, or this one, or this one, or even gone meta and given you thoughts on my own review from this week, but a couple of those papers don't do a Dining section RSS feed at all, one doesn't appear to plug any data into its existing feed, and the two Madison papers don't give enough attention to the user experience for their RSS feeds. My opinions on improving the RSS experience are available to any papers that ask. Really!