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[The famous Spotted Pig burger]
[Nick Solares]

Bib Gourmand Shocker: The Spotted Pig Loses Its Michelin Star

Michelin unexpectedly downgraded chef April Bloomfield's gastropub to its Bib Gourmand list

Michelin has unveiled New York’s latest crop of Bib Gourmands, a collection of affordable-ish restaurants where diners can, we’re told, enjoy two courses plus a glass of wine or dessert for $40. Or that’s how the official narrative goes. The bigger behind-the-scenes story with the Bibs is that it lets the public know which restaurants won’t be receiving a more prestigious star when Michelin publishes its famed Red Guide next Friday.


The math is simple: Any restaurant that receives a Bib won’t receive a star.

And the big news is that this year The Spotted Pig, a gastropub run by April Bloomfield, one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs, and an institution that has held a star since 2005 when Michelin's anonymous inspectors first came to New York, has been downgraded to the Bibs. It will not receive a star. This is a big, big, big deal.

Some other takeaways from the Bibs: Olmsted in Prospect Heights, run by Alinea-alum Greg Baxtrom and considered by local critics to be one of the year’s most impressive new restaurants, will also be left off the starred list. Oiji, an ambitious Korean spot in the East Village, and Untitled, Michael Anthony and Danny Meyer’s vegetable-friendly restaurant at The Whitney, were both omitted from the Bibs this year, possibly a sign that they’ll receive higher honors next week.

If you like, you can scroll down for a full list of the Bib awards, but I’d appreciate it if you stayed with me for a few minutes to chat about The Spotted Pig because its presence on the list — and now absence from it — is an important point of reference for understanding some of the guide’s highs and lows over the years.

Michelin’s decision to bestow a star on The Pig (just think about how that sounds) in the first place was a controversial one. A guide known for worshipping the fanciest of fancy restaurants came to New York and effectively declared that a bare bones tavern serving bacon wrapped prunes was on par with Babbo, a high-end Italian spot selling intricate pasta tastings. "They're blowing it. They can't put the Spotted on the same level as Babbo," Mario Batali told Florence Fabricant in 2005.

Olmsted, another restaurant that didn't get a star this year. By Krieger.

Ultimately, Michelin was prescient in honoring The Pig, a venue that, along with David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar, became the hallmark of a brash new style of American dining, a budget gourmet approach to cuisine that championed ambitious food at not-outrageous prices in stripped-down spaces that were friendly to walk-ins.

The inspectors continued to promote these high-low restaurants over the years, awarding stars to The Breslin, Bloomfield’s beer-stained meatery in the Ace Hotel, Casa Mono, Batali’s creative tapas spot, and Public, an Aussie-leaning hangout in Nolita. These unexpected accolades helped win over Zagat-loving local gourmands, folks who were skeptical of a European guide that simultaneously overlooked some of the city’s most iconic restaurants and foodstuffs (not a single pizzeria or barbecue joint held a star, a fact that remains true today) while it continued to fete bland tasting menu spots like Gordon Ramsay, which held two stars for way too long.

There is, to be fair, no indication that Michelin won’t continue to honor more casual venues. It recently awarded its first star to a ramen joint in Japan, and its first star to a brewery restaurant in Chicago. But the way the Pig was demoted highlights a larger problem with the Michelin Guide, namely: transparency and trust.

The Spotted Pig is one of New York’s most beloved dining institutions. It’s not uncommon to wait an hour for a solo bar seat, something I’ve done recently to partake of Bloomfield’s famous burger, topped enough Roquefort to qualify as a fondue course. And you can’t just shoot a sacred cow like The Pig and expect New Yorkers to acquiesce to that decision. There needs to be an explanation.

Make no mistake: Michelin Guide director Michael Ellis has always been great about discussing, over the phone, why a restaurant is demoted or promoted. And I understand he'll discuss the Pig's demotion next week when the full starred selections come out. Inevitably, he'll talk about the consistency and quality of the cooking at The Pig. We’ll also get a soundbite for why Olmsted was snubbed.

Those statements won’t be enough. When this critic and Pete Wells demoted Thomas Keller’s Per Se to two stars, we both penned thousand word-plus reviews. We made forceful arguments because we knew that our readers, whether Keller loyalists or not, wouldn’t passively accept our judgements on one of the country’s most revered bastions of fine dining. A food critic knows that while readers ultimately come to her for a verdict, it’s her job to build support for that verdict by conveying the minutiae of review-related eating, by opining on the larger state of on dining in America, and through humanizing the ecstasies and ignominies of spending up $1,000 per person on dinner (or more).

Michelin doesn’t muse. It doesn’t make arguments. It is sometimes clear about prices, but it usually is more reticent on value. The guide does not advance ideas about gastronomy in any meaningful way. Michelin publishes blurbs and doles out stars.

I love reporting on Michelin and analyzing the yearly selections. The guide, first published in 1900 to benefit chauffeurs and their discriminating clients, has become one of the most respected worldwide resources on where to eat, largely thanks to its employment of anonymous inspectors (who pay for their meals). And there’s surely no other worldwide organization that’s so dedicated to tracking the progress of so many venues year after year; Michelin’s decision to gradually up the number of three starred venues in the San Francisco Bay Area from one to six over the past decade is proof of that.

But if these inspectors eat out so much, if they’re so diligent about filing detailed reports on every meal (I’ve heard they take about two hours to fill out), Michelin needs to find a more reliable way to make its knowledge base and the inspectors’ day-to-day meals more apparent to the readers. I don’t have any illusions about Michelin turning itself into a cadre of critics, but if the Red Guide expects our trust when downgrading institutions like The Spotted Pig (or really, when awarding or withholding any stars) we’ll need more transparency to go along.

Now, without further ado, here is this year’s full list of Bib Gourmands:

Achilles Heel

al Bustan

Angkor

Arharn Thai

Atoboy

Baker & Co.

Bar Primi

Basil Brick Oven Pizza

Beyoglu

biáng!

bún-ker

Buttermilk Channel

Casa del Chef Bistro

Chavela's

Cho Dang Gol

Chomp Chomp

Ciccio

Congee Village

Coppelia

Cotenna

Dim Sum Go Go

DOMODOMO

Don Antonio by Starita

Donostia

East Harbor Seafood Palace

Egg

El Atoradero

El Parador

Enoteca Maria

Falansai

Frankies 457 Spuntino

Freek’s Mill

Ganso Ramen

Gastronomia Culinaria

Gladys

Glasserie

Good Fork (The)

Gran Eléctrica

Gregory's 26 Corner Taverna

Hahm Ji Bach

HanGawi

Havana Café

Hecho en Dumbo

Hide-Chan Ramen

High Street on Hudson

Hill Country Chicken

HinoMaru Ramen

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Hunan Bistro

Hunan House

Hunan Kitchen

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

Il Poeta

J.G. Melon

Jin Ramen

John Brown Smokehouse

J. Restaurant Chez Asta

Katz's

Khe-Yo

Kiin Thai

Kiki’s

Kings County Imperial

Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen

La Morada

Land of Plenty

Larb Ubol

Laut

Lea

Lil' Frankie's

Little Pepper

Llama Inn

Lulu & Po

Lupa

MáLà Project

Manila Social Club

Mapo Tofu

Mexicosina

Mile End

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Momokawa

Mu Ramen

New Malaysia

Nyonya

Olmsted

Oso

Paet Rio

Paulie Gee's

Pearl & Ash

Phoenix Garden

Pippali

Porsena

Prime Meats

Prune

Purple Yam

Ribalta

Rider

Roberta's

Rubirosa

Runner & Stone

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Rye

Salt & Fat

San Matteo

San Rasa

Shalom Japan

Shanghai Café

Sip Sak

Soba-Ya

Somtum Der

Sottocasa

Speedy Romeo

THE SPOTTED PIG

Streetbird Rotisserie

Supper

Sweet Yummy House

Szechuan Gourmet

Tanoreen

Tertulia

Thelma on Clinton

Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi

Tra Di Noi

Turkish Kitchen

Uncle Zhou

Uva

Vida

Vinegar Hill House

Xixa

zero otto nove

00+Co

Zoma

Restaurants That Dropped Off The Bibs List in 2017:

ABC Cocina

Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar

Baci & Abbracci

Bread & Tulips

Bianca

Boqueria

Crispo

Cotenna

Diner

DBGB

Ed’s Lobster Bar

Elberta

Faro

The General Greene

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan

Keste Pizza

La Morada

Marlow & Sons

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Oiji

Prova (closed)

Snack

Traif

Venturo Osteria & Wine Bar

Wild Edibles

Umi Nom

Untitled

Yunnan Kitchen (closed)

Zabb Ellee

Zizi Limona

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