I had a chat this morning with a freelance writer from Chicago, who mentioned she sometimes wishes she could be a restaurant critic there. Near the top of the list of reasons was the fact that there are so few female food critics in the Chicago area. It got me thinking about how many of the critics I've covered in this feature are women -- over half this week! Balance, duality, dichotomy: you should see a thread running through many of the reviews in this week's Flyover Friday.
"Prosperity Social Club in Cleveland's Tremont area makes Old World food new, and cool again," by Laura DeMarco for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Another one visit review, this post reads more like a feature than a review, but there's "review" right in the hed. DeMarco forgets that Macklemore made grandparents cool again. What I know of my American history, I think there's some Cleveland-specific commentary here -- suburban flight and whatnot.
"Vivo Ristorante in Parma does traditional Italian fare with robust flavors and flair," by Joe Crea for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
A double-whammy in Cleveland this week, as two reviews come out within the window of consideration. Crea has heard all about arancini, too, a trend that's been mentioned here before. "Cooked to a turn and sumptuously toothsome" is a weighty sentence that could easily turn some readers off.
"At the French Hen in St. Paul, dinner is served," by Jess Fleming for the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Well, I would hope so. Too much "we" -- I thought it was reviewer plus friend or spouse, but then thought it was editorial/royal we, and that's pretentious. No wait, it is meant to be family. Just stop! Ill-defined perspective only amplifies a fractured, staccato delivery.
"Experience both sides of Appare, each delicious," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
This would be a fine opportunity to educate readers on teppanyaki rather than use the outdated and apparently inapplicable-to-Des Moines Benihana as a reference. Wouldn't hurt to explain the name of the restaurant, which means "bravo" in Japanese, more or less. A fairly run of the mill review.
"Sonora Grill finds stand-alone success," by Rick Nelson for the Minneapolis Star Tribune
Nelson should be caught up by mid-April, as he continues to pick up after his slow start to 2014. As with the Citypages review from a few weeks ago, this review finds the growth phase at Sonora to be proceeding apace -- not flawless, but with plenty of promise.
"Lemongrass Thai Cuisine can be good -- if you know what to order," by Charles Ferruzza for Cincinnati's The Pitch
I wonder if the "crazy noodle" dish Ferruzza praises is supposed to be drunken noodles, but renamed? Be warned, beef fans: the lead photo is extremely appetizing. I like this review for the willingness to hold the restaurant's feet to the fire on menu choices and public statements of intent. The close might be a little harsh on the place, though.
"Blind Tiger serves great pizza in a space with a split personality," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
Similarly, Baehr's review of Blind Tiger is appropriately critical of the cognitive dissonance between concept and execution. A lot of playfulness in what sounds like a slightly joyless space. I continue to enjoy Baehr's work.
"Swad Indian brings curries and samosas to Monona Drive," by Lindsay Christians for Madison's Capital Times/77 Square
It's still a little hard to review Indian food in much of the Midwest; regional Indian cuisine hasn't sunk in even as well as regional Chinese has, and that's only now coming along. Christians does an adept job of highlighting the hallmarks of this mostly-northern restaurant.
"Southern hospitality: Peachtree serves up comfort food and comfort atmosphere down in Hudson," by Douglas Trattner for the Cleveland Scene
Free corn muffins? Southern-style gribenes? Sign me up. Southern cuisine is extra hot right now, and Trattner captures its appeal in this very nice review.
"New Berlin's PeachTree offers something special for everyone," by Emily Patti for Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
What's this? Another restaurant named PeachTree? (The capitalized T is essential to distinguishing them.) You wouldn't think Greek-American diner/comfort fare with that name, though peaches are apparently grown in Greece, too. I renew my objection to the brevity of the Express' reviews, as Patti has hardly any space to actually render opinions on the food.
"At Analogue, cocktails get top billing but the food steals the show," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
From the low country of Cleveland's Peachtree to Analogue's Chicagoan rendition of Louisiana cuisine, I'm now craving pimento cheese and pepper jelly something fierce. Sula pulls the curtain back just a bit in the open, but lets the food commentary propel the review from that point on.
"The revitalized J. Baldwin proves equal to its fine menu," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
I get that the restaurant had to rebuild, and thus the interior is something of an interest point. But talk a little bit about the food, if it's so good, please? Two indistinct paragraphs at the end are not enough. And with a chef who puts up a painting of himself in the dining room, there should be some criticism of his product.
"Craft Work in Detroit: adroit in Detroit," by Jane Slaughter for the Detroit Metro Times
A bit biting at times, Slaughter brings more preconceptions to this review than I think is appropriate, but the menu is covered broadly. I'm wondering if the order of fried chicken is really just one leg, as the review would seem to indicate. If so: paltry!
"Ginza Go: budget-priced teriyaki, sushi impressive with flavor, variety," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
I'm running out of ways to express my disappointment in Christensen's reviews. "Adequate." "Competent." "Innocuous." "Serviceable." Some of these seem to be positive, others negative. And yes, he continues the use of "seems," as though he can't be bothered to confirm a suspicion or put a strong opinion on the page.
"Vietnamese, American-style: Viet Bistro sticks with pho and curry dishes," by Julia Burke for Madison's Isthmus
Last review of the week is one from last week; I missed it -- sorry Julia! A startling bummer of an experience reviewing this spot, but one that resulted in a review with a couple legit jaw-drops as I read it to my wife. "We had it, but nobody ordered the dishes, and we had to throw a lot of things away" is a brutal summation of what happens when a restaurant doesn't properly gauge its customer base. And from what I hear, the new (and, frankly, anticipated) dim sum menu misses the mark. Maybe this calls for the secret, made-to-order menu?