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Year-End Grievances From New York Critics and Food Writers

Here are the most annoying things about dining in New York

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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. We've heard about the top standbys, the hot newcomers, the words of the year, the best neighborhoods, biggest surprises, and best meals of 2015. Now it's time for dining grievances. Please add your answers in the comments.

Foster Kamer, Mental Floss executive editor — I've waited all year to answer this question. A great, neighborhood joint closes, and a new one opens up. We, the neighbors, have hope. But something is off. The attitude is somehow entitled—as though they're bringing our neighborhood this great thing from square one. It is often, to some of us, downright antagonistic. Example: On three separate occasions, I go for breakfast. Three times, I ask for coffee—black coffee. And three times, the response: "No, we don't have black coffee. No, you can not bring in black coffee. But have you ever tried an Americano? Are you sure you've really had an Americano? You haven't had our Americano, have you? You should really try our Americano." Fact: This restaurant's Americano is no doubt no different from every other shitass cup of watered down espresso anyone's ever ordered. Also, Variety, which is next door, which roasts some of the best coffee in Brooklyn, is essentially verboten in their restaurant. Also, why would you harass me and try to upsell me on your shitass coffee, and then whisper snickering nothings into your bartender's ear while staring at us after we refuse? My biggest restaurant grievance of 2015 isn't that my neighborhood has a new restaurant, but that it has one run by Americano-shilling assholes. Also, it's called Concorde Hill.

Hillary Dixler, Eater's senior reports editor — ​Not a uniquely 2015 problem but I would kill for a new restaurant to have comfortable seating.

Levi Dalton, Eater wine editor/host of I'll Drink to That — It isn't so much a grievance as a recognition of that fact that fast casual has come to stay. This is something we Americans have created and given to the world, like jazz, or baseball, or Family Guy. You know when Harvard grads stopped wanting to write the great American novel and started wanting to lead a hedge fund? That is what is happening in food right now. The brightest and the most able are going into fast casual. They want to replicate an idea and they want to make some money. And I guess I'm fine with it, except that I really do think that dining in New York City should be different than dining alongside the freeway off-ramp in California and it doesn't seem that the market agrees with me.

Helen Rosner, Eater features editor/co-host of The Eater Upsell — This really was the year of overcrowded rooms and shitty service, wasn't it?

Erik Torkells, editor/publisher of Tribeca Citizen — I'm frustrated that so many good restaurants refuse to put prime-time tables on OpenTable, presumably because they know they'll fill them anyway and/or they don't want to appear unpopular. It renders the site pretty useless. Does anyone really want to go back to calling? (Runner up: No, I don't want to have a drink at the bar while I wait for my dining companion, because your restaurant is empty and there's no valid reason I shouldn't be seated at my table, so instead I'll just stand right here in front of you.)

Serena Dai, Eater NY reporter — If you're opening a small plates restaurant in a gentrifying neighborhood, don't make a point to tell me it's accessible to "all residents." Your food may be worth the price, but let's not pretend the poor who are still left in the neighborhood can afford to regularly eat at your restaurant.

Kat Kinsman, Tasting Table editor-at-large — I definitely ate at more new restaurants in cities other than NYC, in part because I traveled so frequently, but also because the experience of booking and eating at a restaurant here can be so deeply unpleasant. For instance: earlier in the year, I'd tried to go to Cosme and put my name on the online waitlist. Days later, I turned my phone on after a movie and saw a text saying that a seat was available at 10:30 (it was 9:15 on a weeknight) and if I wanted it, I had to respond in the next 15 minutes or I'd lose my shot. I think I was supposed to feel lucky. That is not what I felt.

Nor did I on evenings when I teetered on high stools, split small plates down to the atom with my dining companions, stood up multiple times during a meal so tables could be slid out and diners pinned against the wall might make a brief escape, or felt like a third party on doomed Tinder dates because we were all practically in each other's laps. I fully understand that restaurants work on turnover and itty bitty margins, but it's increasingly coming at the cost of diners' comfort and pleasure.

Mimi Sheraton, former Times restaurant critic and author of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You DieNoise.

Devra Ferst, Tasting Table senior editor — Noise. Lots of restaurants have improved on this point, but there are some where shouting at one's dining companion is still required — something I'll never enjoy.

Matt Duckor, Epicurious senior editor — That Margot's Pizza is so damn hard to get a ticket too. And that it's so damn good.

Jordana Rothman, NYC-based food writer — Blatant, slavish menu plagiarism. A certain degree of echo is expected in this world—when there’s a feedback loop of particular ingredients, techniques or flavor pairings it can be interesting to watch chefs try to make a thing their own. But I’ve seen a few bills of fare this year that should qualify as creative larceny, and there just isn’t accountability for this kind of thing. There may be little recourse or protection for the visionary victims, but to the perps: Know that it’s lazy, it’s cynical and it’s shameful. And know that I notice.

Charlotte Druckman, NYC-based food writer — The casualties--Kin Shop was the last straw. It's all wrong that a restaurant like that can't survive in NYC.

Kenzi Wilbur, Food 52 managing editor —Really, really liking Sadelle’s. Because I really, really want to hate a place that charges me $20 for a bagel and a coffee. But guys it’s very good. First you feel like you want to stage some kind of citizen’s arrest for price gouging, but then you eat and you cede. And then they bring you a second bagel, so you tell yourself it’s okay to go back.

Matt Rodbard, NYC-based food writer — This might be cheating, but my statement last year still remains painfully true: 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. This is a game, a hustle. But, please, food people need to be real for just a second.

Matt Buchanan, editor at The Awl — My perpetual grievance is militant full-party seating policies. I understand them at peak shitshow hours or if barely half the party has showed, but not when you're one person in a party of two when the restaurant is deserted at 3 p.m., or when like seven out of eight people have showed up and are clearly ready to start ordering because fuck that other guy. If the overwhelming majority of the party has arrived and are ready to start spending money, let them; the laggard will catch up.

Oh and most restaurant coffee is still sewage.

Oh oh and I think the widespread agreement that an eight-dollar chicken sandwich or a twelve-dollar chopped grain leaf bowl is "affordable" is fucked up—affordable for whom?

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic — Decline in restaurant comfort. Crowded tables, backless metal stools, deafening noise levels, and the bum’s rush have become standard in many new restaurants.

Joe DiStefano, editor/publisher of Chopsticks + Marrow — Lack of brodo.

Dan Saltzstein, editor at the NYT Travel section — Cocktail pricing. It's reasonable for cocktail prices to creep up slowly -- restaurants are using better booze, mixed by more accomplished bartenders. But $16 is already really pushing the markup; $18 and up is obscene. (Also, that thing where if you don't confirm your reservation the day before, you lose your table. Not cool.)

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief — See here.

Patty Diez, Eater NY associate editor — Another year living in NYC, and I still haven't been to Katz's.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY critic/data lead — It's a tie for me. First gripe remains online menus without prices. The second thing requires a bit of explanation. I had a companion arrive before me at an old four-star restaurant sometime in 2015. She waited at the bar for 10 minutes. She wasn't greeted; wasn't handed a cocktail menu. Then I walked in and things changed. Dramatically. Still makes me angry, that "before and after" scenario. No matter how much I wax poetic about how high-end gastronomy is becoming more accessible to all, I still have close food-loving friends who are too petrified to even walk into these haute establishments, or who are too nervous to eat at the bar alone. And so when something like this happens, when you neglect to make someone feel welcome before she spends loads of dough, you're hurting not just your restaurant but you're giving novice diners the somewhat cynical impression that fine dining is an institution that reflects the tiered society in which we live rather than being a place where we can momentarily forget about our economic and social differences and all enjoy the same plate of Heritage cuttlefish innards with Kobe cucumbers. Or whatever.

Nick Solares, Eater NY senior editor — Being quoted a three hour wait.

Greg Morabito, Eater NY editor and co-host of The Eater Upsell — I wish Superiority Burger was open for more than 24 hours a week.

Top photo: Daniel Krieger

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