It was an odd publication schedule for the biggest paper in the Flyover Friday region over the last six weeks, but a strong value proposition. Monteverde (handy Google link) was a strong review, a review of Next Restaurant's Alps menu (handy Google link) shows that Next will always be a big deal even when it's just okay, and Dos Urban Cantina is a big deal in its own right. Maple & Ash is just a good ol' time. Irritatingly inconsistent application of the paywall lately.
A Malay/Chinese/American mashup (Serai), a superpowered kitchen that seems to think a lot of itself and not a lot about its plating (Band of Bohemia), a restaurant named after the grunt you make when you push your chair back (Immm Rice & Beyond), and an inconsistent Boka group opening were all touched on by regular critic Mike Sula. Julia Thiel covered Maple & Ash and Aimee Levitt reviewed Vivial during the couple of weeks when Sula was out of the rotation.
When did "Social" become such a ubiquitous restaurant name suffix? It came on fast. Michael Nagrant filed a trio of reviews. Two were his still-quite-lengthy mini-reviews -- a stinker for Packed: Dumplings Reimagined, which has a ridiculous name, and a better one for that Mad Social joint, which is also stealing Madison's willingness to name everything "Mad." In the middle, a lengthy four-star (okay, four-exclamation mark, ugh) review of Naoki.
More papers in the Flyover Friday region tend to have regular critics than a bullpen, but the CityBeat is not one of those one-critic papers. Katie Holocher reviewed Ché and E+O Kitchen, though the latter was brunch-only coverage. Anne Mitchell got ZBGB Gourmet Burgers & Bar -- maybe the only negative review of the bunch -- while Pama Mitchell (no relation?) reviewed Tela bar + kitchen. Colleen McCroskey rounded out the crew with a review of El Camino.
Polly Campbell has a habit of filing one-visit reviews, which irritates me tremendously. Her excessive deployment of the "word" "OK" -- not the full word "okay," but the slangy, shortened version -- in her one-visit coverage of Rodizio Grill only adds to the irritation. Velvet Smoke earns positive commentary but no small measure of slight with the "I won't give stars to a counter service restaurant" editorial at the end. Inspirado is a head-scratcher for everyone involved. While this column was on a little break, Campbell broke from anonymity.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Laura DeMarco's review of Restaurant Europa taught me the proper spelling of a common Russian toast, so for that I thank it (and her). Beth Segal showed teeth on a harsh review of Sanctuary Restaurant and Wine Bar, using Heavy Table's "if they're charging for food, they deserve a review" philosophy. (She was happier with Citizen Pie.) Debbi Snook shows the necessity of multiple review visits in her piece on Camino Taco & Tequila Bar. And the lone Cleveland dude of this timeframe, Joe Crea, filed a merely-okay review of Blue Ginger Asian Bistro, which is about what I'd expect for one of those unfortunate all-Asia Midwestern mashups.
Only two reviews from Scene critic Douglas Trattner, appearing at the beginning and end of February. Reviews of Warren's Spirited Kitchen and Kantina are fine, but include a lot of restaurateur commentary, which I tend to not like all that much.
There are anonymous critics in the Flyover Friday scene, but probably none as inscrutable as G.A. Benton from the Columbus Dispatch. You can try -- and fail, I'll wager -- to find a photo of Milwaukee's Carol Deptolla online, but try to find so much as a reference to the gender of G.A. Benton, nevermind a picture. Positive reviews that seem to be under-starred include Blind Lady Tavern, Taqueria Charrito's Mexican Grill, and Easy Street Cafe. (The last one is most illustrative, I think, of there maybe being one too many stars on the Dispatch scale.) I'd tell you more about the reviews of Namaste Indo-Nepali Cuisine, Strongwater Food and Spirits, and Paulie Gee's, but the Dispatch paywall is grumpy af lately.
Des Moines Register
The Datebook Diner beat had been the domain of one Carlos Acevedo for quite some time until relatively recently, when Karla Walsh took over. She's had a few reviews in regular Flyover Fridays, but here's a batch look at her style, and we can learn some larger lessons. She's not afraid of gimmickry, whether it makes sense or not (Ceviche Bar) or whether it serves the point of the review (Lurra Cocina). To her credit, she'll cop to a poor choice in gimmick if, as I suspect, the paper gets letters (Bistro Montage). And she is really, really trying to make "Iowa Nice" happen (Kosher Deli, Trellis, Flying Mango).
Detroit Metro Times
The Metro Times critic, Serena Maria Daniels, uses a Royal We that I find a little distracting, especially with the common reference to the opinions of "our dining companion." I don't particularly care if your friend/s enjoyed the filet at Jim Brady's Detroit (a review that uses the word "Brady" more than Boston football coverage), the infused water at Brome Burgers & Shake, the General Tao's chicken at Feng Taste (what areas of the country use what spelling of Tso/Tao/Tsao/Cho, I wonder), or the lamb shoulder at La Rondinella. You're the critic; give me your thoughts. Reviews of Standby and GreenSpace Cafe eschew the extra opinion.
What food has Molly Abraham actually eaten in the last six weeks, you ask? Notorious (with me, anyway) for spending more time describing the sconces than the scones, if you will, Abraham rarely offers an opinion on the food she mentions. So. Stache International: the Happy Drunk sandwich and maybe the hot sauces. Jim Brady's Detroit: none. Arthur Avenue: the minestrone. GreenSpace Cafe: possibly the tamale pie. Bangkok 96: she at least smelled a shrimp stir fry, and must have eaten something because she likes the medium spice. She knows what textures certain foods have but she may just be guessing. Crispelli's Bakery: probably the Mediterranean salad. Maybe.
Kansas City Pitch
What happened, Charles Ferruzza? You were one of my favorites in Flyover Friday-land, and now this? One review in a month and a half, and it's this unsubstantial, not-what-I-liked-you-for review of Bob Wasabi? Sad face emoji.
Madison's Capital Times
If the restaurant criticism beat was Lindsay Christians' only or primary responsibility, three big reviews in six weeks would be a respectable output. The Cap Times puts her on the arts scene, too, and given that, three reviews are quite all right. Christians loved Double S BBQ, pretty much liked Tavernakaya a lot, and thought Charlie's on Main was merely okay with a bullet -- but avoided mentioning the moaning ghost of Mason's on Main, the fairly awful predecessor of Charlie's in that location.
The rotation at Isthmus has taken on a new look lately. Of course there's Linda Falkenstein, Features editor and food writer, covering the Madison Oriental Market (hidden southeast Asian gem alert). Your truly published two reviews during this stretch: a sometimes-good, often-unfortunate review of the new Norske Nook, and a much more positive review of Tavernakaya, a Food Fight-affiliated second offering from the Umami team. Allison Geyer covered Kangchen Indian Cuisines, comedian Alan Talaga reviewed something called a Burrito Box, and Candice Wagener hit the Taigu beat.
Madison's Wisconsin State Journal
Here's a whole stack of Samara Kalk Derby reviews. Normally a one-visit critic, she managed to find time (or reimbursement) to hit the wholly pedestrian Madison Cuisine university food court thrice. She described Tavernakaya's success downtown as if it was 20 years ago when nothing else was happening there. Not much time was spent on the smoked meats at Double S BBQ, and there's a shoehorned millennial angle to the Freska Mediterranean Grill review. All told, though, there's minimal Dining Companion input (which is good) in all these reviews, as well as for Forage Kitchen and Plow.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
What's up with the largest papers of the northern Flyover region lately? The Chicago Tribune's off its weekly pace, Minneapolis is yet to come in this roundup, and Milwaukee's been scarce too. Carol Deptolla files two 2.5-star reviews (Indian Village and Point Burger Bar) and a 3.5-star review (Giovanni's). Less review output has been the story for the Journal Sentinel for a while now, but you can't question Deptolla's depth of menu research.
Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
The Shepherd Express is mostly Alisa Malavenda's territory now. At least, it has been over the last six weeks. She reviewed Redbar (sorry, tots are no longer exclamation mark-worthy), Agave Southwest Bar & Grill (sketchy editing here, some errors), Supper (which, I'm sorry to say, pads out the word count by basically reading the menu), and Iron Grate BBQ (also a little sloppy). K.L. Lorenz's review of Buckley's Restaurant & Bar and Franklin K.R. Cline's review of Casa Noble Mexican Restaurant & Bar weren't, unfortunately, much more interesting. When is the Shep going to hire Lacey Muszynski to write the reviews? Her stuff is traditionally more engaging.
I'm not sure if I've noticed this in the past and forgotten, but I've been typing out the Strib's name incorrectly based on my own style guide. If the city is in the name of the paper, it is written out in total. If the city's name isn't in the paper, though, the city gets a possessive apostrophe. The name of the Minneapolis paper is the StarTribune, not the Minneapolis StarTribune. The name of the StarTribune critic is Rick Nelson, and lately -- especially since shedding his anonymity last summer -- he's been a bit quiet. Only two reviews in six weeks, of the weirdly-named Cedar + Stone, Urban Table, and of Scena Tavern.
Minneapolis' City Pages
Mecca Bos reviewed The Commodore in late January, and Lela a couple weeks later. As bad as the Lela experience was, I'm almost not surprised she didn't reappear for the next month. Pete Kotz chimed in with a goofy but charming review of the unprepossessing Great Moon Buffet at the end of the Flyover Friday hiatus.
I have enjoyed watching Omaha's dining scene grow, even with my non-resident perspective and short frame of reference. Upstream Brewing Company, El Basha Mediterranean Grill, The Burlington League, and Flagship Commons are all local joints doing good work by regular critic Sarah Baker Hansen; meanwhile, Hansen lowers the boom on chain steakery Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. In the middle is a middling review of Pizzawest.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Ian Froeb has a decent excuse for only filing three reviews in six weeks; he's been hard at work on the second STL100 listing of the best restaurants in St. Louis -- coming next week! When he turned in review copy, it was for Milque Toast Bar (amazingly appears to be the real deal after two reviews), Tai Ke (I agree, pork blood shouldn't shock all that much anymore), and The Copper Pig (why does the P-D use graphic stars for the explanation of ratings, but then write out the number of stars for the actual rating?). There's also a spiffed-up page design which should be familiar to readers of the State Journal and Cap Times here in Madison.
St. Louis' Riverfront Times
The RFT made some waves during my Flyover Friday nap thanks to an odd counterprogramming decision, running a poll of St. Louis' most overrated restaurants seemingly to oppose the P-D's STL100. It then pulled the concept, acknowledging what chefs, RFT readers, and food writers were saying: it was a shitty thing to do. Fortunately, critic Cheryl Baehr didn't appear to have anything to do with it. She's a good critic, writing positive reviews of Doughocracy, Edibles and Essentials, and Truffles Butchery, a frowning assessment of Brickyard Tavern, and a mixed commentary on Copper Pig. (Her editor, the one with the overrated poll idea, should nix the use of "[Restaurant] brings [quality] to [location]" subhed format, however.)
The stankiest art in all of Flyover Friday closes out this recap, as it often does week after week. I kind of feel badly, leaving this one at the end of most Flyover Friday posts, but the Blade publishes late in the week, and Toledo comes late in the alphabet. These are the rules, man, I just follow 'em. The only fully anonymous critic(s?) in the region reviewed Revolution Grille, Tiger Bakery, Avenue Bistro, Charlie's Homemade Pizza, Luckies Barn & Grill, and that's about all I have to say about that.