Welcome to Year in Eater 2017, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2017’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Today’s topic: What was your biggest dining grievance of 2017?
Kevin Nguyen, GQ senior editor: Nothing gives me more self-loathing than how much I like DeKalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn. Food halls — like the Gotham Markets or Smorgasburgs — are the culinary equivalent of condos: culturally empty, overpriced, convenient to a certain class of people. A joyless proposition, really. It’s fitting that DeKalb Market is buried in a reception-less basement beneath a monstrous condo that also offers a Target and an Alamo Drafthouse. The dream of new urbanism turned out to just be combo high-rise/malls.
Ugh, it kills me, but I enjoy the whole thing. I’ll eat a jianbing from DeKalb before a movie at Alamo, and if I’m really undisciplined that day, again afterward. My biggest dining grievance isn’t the Dekalb Market — it's me.
Sonia Chopra, Eater director of editorial strategy: Probably way too many people trying to capitalize on trends instead of putting out good food. I mean, an avocado restaurant opened this year, people!
Patty Diez, Eater editorial coordinator: That Butcher’s Daughter still has a line outside of it every damn weekend. And all the dang closings. Namely that really wonderful, unique neighborhood restaurants are shuttering while there are round-the-corner lines at, say, Butcher’s Daughter.
Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic: The installation of point-of-purchase devices that won’t accept cash, demand an email to get a receipt, communicate with other point-of-purchase devices, and then spam the fuck out of you.
Ryan Sutton, Eater NY chief critic: I have two grievances. The first one is service. I feel like the quality of hospitality has been declining at middle-of-the-road restaurants, both in traditional tipping spots and service-included places. I’ve noticed fewer servers on the floor, and I’ve had a harder time flagging those overworked staffers down. The second grievance is that as chefs take more and more risks experimenting with the business model of dining out, culinary risk, especially at the affordable-ish level, has decreased. Translation: Enjoy all your soft serve for dessert in 2018.
Serena Dai, Eater NY editor: Man, 2017 was another year with a lot of chains, fast casual-izing of fine dining, super high-end sushi, monied restaurant group openings, and dumb trend-baiting restaurants without a lot of soul. A few exceptions managed to poke through — notably, Hanoi House and Ugly Baby — but even restaurants that once epitomized charming neighborhood dining seemed to lose some luster with over-saturation and eyebrow-raising scandals. (I also really wanted Pasta Flyer to taste better, but maybe it will improve in 2018?) Anyway, I get it; opening a restaurant is hard and expensive and sometimes you gotta draw the masses with neon signs and lots of pink. Can’t blame me for wanting more, though.
Devra Ferst, Eater contributor: Culinarily speaking: the proliferation of identical menus around town. Culturally speaking: Where do we begin?
Stefanie Tuder, Eater NY senior editor: I moved back to NYC from San Francisco in March, and while I maintained the entire time I was there that NYC has SF handily beat in the restaurant department, I’m starting to rethink that claim. At least when it comes to newcomers, that is — in SF, chefs are still finding ways to open mid-range restaurants with inventive takes, whereas in NYC it’s increasingly harder to steel oneself against the barrage of watered-down fast-casual spinoffs. There are notable exceptions here — Hanoi House, Cote, Nur — but they are few and far between the Martinas, Made Nices, and Pasta Flyers of the world.
Mayukh Sen, Munchies staff writer: I love Kings Co. Imperial, but I regret the time a bench collapsed beneath my friend as we were eating. Her poor butt! Also pissed I did not get beyond the waitlist for Anne Burrell’s Cheetos restaurant, but whatever.
Daniela Galarza, Eater senior editor: La Grenouille’s quenelles de brochet were awful, certainly the worst thing I ate in all of the past year — the caviar on top of them was rancid. My dining partner and I only ate one out of three and yet the server acted as though nothing was amiss. The duck was tepid and flaccid and covered in what was certainly reduced orange juice concentrate. The people-watching is fabulous, and the souffles are fine, but I’ll never recommend it and will never return.