Friday, January 20 was a rough one. I didn't quite have it in me to finish off last week's column. Saturday was Beer and Cheese Fest -- you'll be able to read my recap later today at Isthmus.com. And then Sunday, the Packers barely showed up (figuratively and literally) for their NFC championship game. By Monday, I just didn't have it in me. BUT: how could I pass up the chance to self-promote my own review? It's way down at the bottom, aren't we all, of this Flyover Friday for the week of January 14-20.
Understandably, the latest pin in the Publican map draws two-thirds of the critical attention of the Chicago papers. Sure, Michael Nagrant's review of Anker for the RedEye is a "mini"-review, but his minis are as long as most full-size reviews elsewhere. (I can't decide if his Matrix lead-in is hokey or apt.) Mike Sula couldn't have known the shot he'd be taking at Nagrant with his burger commentary in his Anker review for the Reader. The Trib's Phil Vettel reviews Elske, another high-profile opening he gives three stars.
Okay, well, it's a small paper. I'm glad we have someone, anyone, from the Hoosier state putting out regular restaurant reviews. But Ryan Duvall's review of the Original Salsa Grille for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is awfully bloggy. Way too many I's, and some editing slips as well.
No reviews this week; the Datebook Diner position remains vacant.
Detroit, fresh off of its really very loving mention in the Trump inaugural address, gets the usual two reviews in this column. Aaron Egan reviews Ye Olde Saloon for the Metro Times and it's not really a review, more of an ode. But I won't fault anyone going out of their way to reference a good bar burger. Meanwhile, Molly Abraham reviews Downtown Louie's Lounge for the News, and she might have eaten an oyster. Two and a half stars, that oyster.
There's a problem in the Twin Cities restaurant criticism world, and it's this: the papers of note just don't want you to be able to find reviews easily. I get that confused, searchy clicks are still clicks, and the higher the number the better, but at a certain point, a percentage of potential readers are going to give up. The Strib stopped putting the number of stars next to the review headlines (see Rick Nelson's review of Mercury Dining Room and Rail), and the Pioneer Press tags every damn thing with "restaurant reviews," even when they aren't (though Jess Fleming's review of Augustine's Bar and Bakery is). The City Pages has no reviews this week, but I remember when they had their own little panel on that site, and now they don't.
Missouri has given us some things we don't see all that often. For one, a review from the Kansas City Star. Tyler Fox reviews Brown & Loe, covering ample ground but also seeding that ground with a bounty of "nice." I count eleven. And in St. Louis, Ian Froeb delivers a truly stanky review of Mona's for the Post-Dispatch; he doesn't get to bring the knives out very often, and it can't be helped -- a negative review always brings a thrill. It's a shame that Cheryl Baehr's review of Eat Sandwiches for the Riverfront Times is just a cute review of sandwiches that look and sound amazing.
I know the line is always how you can't get fresh seafood in the Midwest, but I would never have expected an Omaha deli to ship in the bagels. Sarah Baker Hansen reviews Swartz's Delicatessen for the Omaha World-Herald and is quite complimentary, but come on, bust the guy's chops a little for not putting that famed Nebraska tap water to the test.
Seriously, Ohio needs its own review aggregator. Polly Campbell raves over Panino (yet another Over-the-Rhine opening) for the Cincinnati Enquirer, though I think sandwiches are going to kind of be their thing, with a name like that, Polly. Beth Segal packs a lot of shabu-shabu exposition into the first half of her Ushabu review for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Douglas Trattner goes on a shopping spree in his Astoria Market and Cafe review for the Cleveland Scene. G.A. Benton's quippy first line could've been phrased better to land better, and the review others the restaurant a bit much, but this Chinese Beef Noodle Soup review for the Columbus Dispatch is still positive. And if you can make it past the flip-phone lead photo and the tortured English of the opening grafs, the anonymous Toledo Blade review of Delta 109 Tavern and Eatery...well, it still is kind of terrible.
Blow right on past the wispy review of Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant by Franklin K.R. Cline for the Shepherd Express, because hey look at that, it's a Carol Deptolla sighting. She reviews Durbar Restaurant and Lounge for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In Madison, there's no Cap Times review this week. Your dutiful aggregator has a review of the Sun Prairie Salvatore's Tomato Pies in this week's Isthmus; I found the new location and menu to be largely successful and entirely enjoyable. Samara Kalk Derby reviews Porter for the State Journal, and it'd be fine except for the last line, which leaves a really nasty tasty in my mouth.