Opinion: Outside In

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Anti-Social Media

By David Weinstein

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. – Mom                                      

I am not a food critic. You will almost never hear me comment on the quality of a meal. This is not because I don’t love food. I do. But a meal must be exceptional before I feel compelled to comment. And you’ll not find me posting anything negative about a meal on social media. I believe that restaurants, like people, have their good days and bad days; and it seems unfair to judge either, publicly, if you happen to catch them on one of their off days. We’re all better served if you simply let the manager or owner know of your displeasure and, if all else fails, simply quit spending your money there. That’s the old-fashioned way. Social media has a way of spoiling everything, good and bad. So, regardless of your belief, you are not doing mankind any great service by posting your righteous indignation on the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, or Facebook because you got seated too near the kitchen. But you are probably harming some hardworking person’s business. So, unless you’re a professional food critic, chill.  It seems we have become a country of anonymous critics, which I’m not sure is a good thing.

I write this because I was surprised by a particularly unfavorable post about a local restaurant. It was on a Laguna Beach social media site, and it got nearly 200 responses. The restaurant was newly opened and quite expensive. It got me thinking about the reasons for our disappointments. Sometimes it’s because we set our hopes too high. A bespoke handmade item that costs 10 times more than its manufactured counterpart is not necessarily 10 times more satisfying. Or we are disappointed because of an unintended misunderstanding—we don’t get what we expected to get. My favorite example of the latter is what I have come to call “The Portabella Mushroom Burger Affair.”

I needed to pick up office supplies, and I had convinced Stan, the guy I share an office with, to accompany me. This was predicated on me buying lunch. It took longer to buy supplies than expected, and we found ourselves far away from the food court we usually ate at. This was a challenge for Stan as he is a creature of simple tastes and habits. I suggested a nearby Mediterranean restaurant, and he reluctantly agreed. It was upscale, and, although I was paying, I could tell Stan still felt uncomfortable. After we were seated, he studied the menu much like he studies his Daily Racing Form, only with a greater sense of befuddlement.  I ordered the chicken kabob, and he finally settled on a Portobella Mushroom Burger. When the food arrived, instead of digging in, he lifted the top from his bun and carefully inspected each component of the sandwich, before laying them aside on his plate. Then he looked at me quizzically.  I simply shrugged as he motioned to our server.

“Can I help you, Sir?

“Yes, there’s something missing here.”

“And what might that be, Sir?”

“Well, the burger. I ordered a portobello mushroom burger, but there’s no burger here.”

Both the waiter and I chuckled as we politely tried to explain to Stan that the mushroom was a tasty substitute for the burger, but he wasn’t buying it. He finally exclaimed in protest to me, “Hey, Slim, if you ordered a cheeseburger and they brought you a grilled cheese sandwich, would you be okay with that?” I thought about his logic for a moment and couldn’t disagree. I traded him my chicken kabob and I ate his meatless mushroom burger.

No pictures of our meal were shared. No apologies were offered or given. No public opinions or comments were proffered. We simply ate our meal and left—Old School. Stan even enjoyed the kabob, which was a culinary leap for him, and we have since returned. And I enjoyed my portobello mushroom burger, but not like the grilled portobello tacos I had at South of Nick’s last weekend.

Food matters, but so does civility.

David lives in nearby Newport Beach and his column frequently appears in the Laguna Beach Independent.

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  1. While I agree that there needs to be more civility in folks’ interactions with one another—along with humor and wit, such as Mr. Weinstein displays in his enjoyable columns—I respectfully disagree about the role of customers’ reviews of restaurants. I entertain clients frequently as part of my work, and like to vary my tried-and-true favorites with new spots. I pick those spots based on reviews by patrons on various social media sites, including Open Table. As a return favor, I’ve posted reviews of meals, too–often favorable, and sometimes, not. These reviews save disappointments, and big tabs on meals that weren’t worth the money spent. Why rely on food critics, who may have been copped a free meal for their review, instead of other folks like me?

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