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Friends of Eater on their Biggest Restaurant Grievances of 2014

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Sky-high prices, shit service at hip restaurants, and other gripes about the restaurant world.

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. Their answers will appear throughout the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Please, add your answers in the comments.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY restaurant critic/data lead:
Casual restaurants that continue to take too many reservations, too long in advance. I've been singing this song for a while and you can expect me to sing it even louder in 2015. Dinner at a mid-range Italian or American restaurant is not something you should think about more than seven days out. In fact, you shouldn't really think about dinner until the afternoon of, when you're getting hungry, but I know not having week-ahead plans freaks out a lot of you, so let's settle on seven days out for resies, unless you're Blanca or Atera or Saison or another one of those (excellent) fancy-pants places. Also: As a small group of operators like Made Nice and Major Food continue to make better and better cocktails, still too many venues are wrongly emphasizing poorly-concocted signature drinks over the tried-and-true classics. One more: Can't stand when restaurants are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays. This is New York, not San Francisco.

Casual restaurants that continue to take too many reservations, too long in advance.

Jordana Rothman, food writer and editor, cocktail expert:
Eh. Stop being basic.

Mitchell Davis, James Beard Foundation executive vice president:
The price of cocktails and desserts. Ridiculous. Add a drink and a dessert to your meal and you've doubled the price of your appetizer and entree.

Mimi Sheraton, restaurant critic and author of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die:
Maybe same as last year...too dark, too noisy, too cramped.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY restaurant critic:
Waiters asking me repeatedly how I liked the food, but never refilling the water glasses or bringing the check in a timely manner.

Charlotte Druckman, food writer:
I'm still anti the focus on/obsession with trends and have no patience for restaurants that either bow to or milk them; their numbers grow each year and the trends get lamer. Most of all, I am sad and angry about all the shutterings of NYC institutions that we should have found ways to save, and to support BEFORE they were forced to announce their closings.

Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen founding editor:
If the menu even remotely follows the conventions of the past several decades, please don't explain it to me. ("Our cocktails are on the left, and our wines by the glass are here, and then we have our wines by the bottle....") Likewise, unless it's a tasting menu and I didn't actually order my food, don't feel the need to run through every ingredient in the dish when you bring it to the table. Just let me eat it!

Michael Kaminer, New York Daily News restaurant critic:
Front-of-house staff who don't bother looking up or making eye contact when they tell you they can't seat you.
The unstoppable ascent of Manhattan menu prices.
The metastasizing of chains.
The idiotic, Frankenstein-like attempts to create the next Cronut.
Restaurants quoting Yelp reviews in ads.

Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse:
Continuing shit services in hip restaurants.

If the menu even remotely follows the conventions of the past several decades, please don't explain it to me.

Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News senior food editor:
I'm saddened that space in most of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn has become so expensive that creative chefs are leaving town and iconic restaurants are throwing in the towel.

Ben Leventhal, Resy co-founder; Eater co-founder:
I think perhaps we're starting to tread a bit heavy on the pizza/pasta as midcourse menu gambit, even though I fall for it every single time.

Danyelle Freeman, Restaurantgirl.com:
My running grievance with most restaurants is when they reach for your wine glass when there's still wine left in it, or offer you another glass when it's still half full. It makes me feel like I have to vigilantly guard my glass, so that no one swipes it while I'm not paying attention.

With the exception of a Japanese omakase or a once-in-a-lifetime experience like Blue Hill at Stone Barns or Trois Mec (see my answer for best meal 2014), I'm not a fan of restaurants that offer only a set tasting menu. Dining is much more casual nowadays and it just feels pretentious and oppressive.

Sometimes, you just don't feel like eating 6 to 18 courses, or sitting at a table for three or four hours, for that matter. You should have the option of ordering a la carte, too, so you don't have to commit to quite as serious a meal.

Helen Rosner, Eater, features editor:
I had a crispy chicken and cabbage salad at ABC Cocina back in June that was so atrocious that I took a picture and have carried it around on my phone for half a year precisely so I could include it in this very annual roundup.

helen bad salad

I am an indiscriminate glutton who will eat anything, and even for me, this was just inedibly bad: too oily AND too vinegary, giant irregular pieces of cabbage, soggy-greasy half-fried chicken thighs. And it was $22! Though I guess in the end I can only blame myself for going to an ostensibly Mexican place and ordering a cabbage salad.

Max Falkowitz, Serious Eats senior features editor:
Food writers going ga-ga over some pretty terrible ice cream while the city's best practitioners of the craft continue to receive little recognition.

Counter-service restaurants that continue to view line-management as a superfluous part of running a business. If I'm standing on line for an hour waiting to place my order, you don't have a successful restaurant. You need a second POS.

The only thing worse than a paucity of good bagels is public mania over radically inconsistent and expensive bagel boutiques.

Devra Ferst, Eater NY associate editor:
Menu descriptions that don't actually give you a sense of what you're ordering.

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief:
I did not understand the love for Bar Bolonat even though I love Balaboosta and Einat Admony's cooking in general. On the two times I went, the restaurant was loud and uncomfortable, service was absentminded, and they were serving precious and pricey small plates.

Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks and Marrow/enabler of gluttons:
That the myth of the trek to Queens persists; idiots who flock to restaurants on opening night; Chinese restaurateurs in Flushing who'd rather copy someone else's concept than come up with something original.

Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor:
Cocktail menus try too hard. Asian-ish concepts try too hard. Chef Twitter and Instagram accounts try too hard. Food writers obsessively owning chef stories to the point that they are live tweeting the afternoon's parsnip prep try too hard. Brooklyn tries too hard.

Kat Odell, Eater editorial producer:
Moving from LA to NY and finding that so few places here make fresh almond milk.

Andrew Steinthal, The Infatuation co-founder:
Too much cauliflower. Not that I don't like cauliflower, just that this whole full head of cauliflower as an entree thing is never as good as it sounds. Next vegetable, please.

[Daniel Krieger]

Nick Solares, Eater NY senior editor:
Enough with the octopus already.
Too many chickens for two that are just not good enough.

Marguerite Preston, Eater NY editor:
Don't tell me how many dishes to order unless I ask (and for that matter, don't make the menu so impenetrable that I can't figure it out on my own.) Don't guilt me into ordering things by telling me what additions the chef "strongly recommends" or telling me that I've ordered too much meat (which actually happened once at a certain new restaurant of high repute, and I caved and ended up with a very regular tomato salad when I would have been just fine with the tartare).

Chris Stang, The Infatuation co-founder:
Having to close out my tab at the bar when my table is ready. Someone make an app for that. Or just let me pay all at once at the end of the meal, with money. Money still works, right?

The only thing worse than a paucity of good bagels is public mania over radically inconsistent and expensive bagel boutiques.

Greg Morabito, Eater engagement editor:
Every trendy restaurant menu.

Tejal Rao, Bloomberg restaurant critic:
Invisibility is good for a critic, but I'm still tired of sexist robot waiters who automatically hand the man at my table the wine list, the cocktail made with whiskey, or the check.

Foster Kamer, ComplexFirst We Feast senior editor: 
The rise of Bro Culture in what's ostensibly supposed to be great food (culture). Like, Sweetgreen is run by music festival guys. Didn't we learn our lesson from GoogaMooga? Anyway, this seemed to be the year more and more nu-Bedford Stop brahskis are invading and douching up my favorite restaurants more quickly than ever. Remember when assholes only when to Eugene Remm restaurants? I miss those days. Call me an elitist schmuck now, but when you can't get into Mission Chinese because the Pikes are having their big monthly bro-out takeover, don't say I didn't warn you. And then there's Resy: Useful? Sure! But, and speaking of assholes-not that having money to piss away automatically makes one an asshole — I don't know who else is spending $50 to reserve a seat at the bar at Charlie Bird. But go with god, right?

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