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The Sneetches

September 22, 2009

I read a lot of Dr. Seuss.  Maybe you don’t.  So let me read you a few lines from his lesser-known masterwork, “The Sneetches.”

Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches would brag,
“We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort,
“We’ll have nothing to do with the plain-bellied sort.”

And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.

This was how I felt about the Albany Times Union restaurant review policy, when I wrote this post a few months ago.  In short, the paper had created two classes of restaurants by giving some starred reviews, while others received just as much ink but without the corresponding stars.  Most alarming to me was that this system was on its face based solely upon entree price.

My argument must have struck a nerve, because the post is one of the top five most read on the FLB and even elicited a lengthy response from Steve Barnes at the Times Union.

Imagine my surprise, when I was reading Steve’s blog Sunday night when I happened to stumble onto his starred review for what is ultimately a gussied up diner.

Honestly I was thrilled.  And this diner, despite its lack of creature comforts and polished service still walked away with a three-star review.

It was almost as if Sylvester McMonkey McBean himself drove up with his star-on machine in tow.

I am not often thrilled by the food criticism at the Times Union.  So to commemorate the occasion, I thought I would give some positive reinforcement in the form of a comment on Table Hopping.  You can read it here.

But the Internets are not always a warm and cozy place.  And there can be some nasty comments that fly back on forth on the Times Union message boards.  So I’m not terribly surprised that a Mr. JohnL took a dump on my intended compliment.

To be clear, I would LIKE to think that my input may have pushed the Times Union editorial staff to consider doing things a little differently than they have in the past.  However, I have no idea why there was a change of heart, and most likely it is just a matter of coincidence.  It would not surprise me if this were merely the result of budget cuts at the paper, and not some shift in philosophy.  The paper has been making ongoing changes to save money, and certainly giving starred reviews to less expensive restaurants would help towards those ends.

And frankly, while it was this review that made me sit up and take notice, the paper did give starred reviews to the family style Mercato’s Pizza and Sake Café.  The later review included the quotation, “The evident care given to flavors and presentation is a delightful surprise at this price point.”

Regardless of the reason, the Times Union has started treating less expensive restaurants as legitimate players in the area’s culinary landscape.  And after two years living in the region, I believe this is for the best.

Again I say, “Bravo.”

I may still disagree with the reviewers on more subjective matters of taste and how they scale the ratings.  But I am trying to stay focused on the big picture and find some common ground.

So I am glad we can agree at last, “No kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2009 9:51 am

    Dr. Seuess is a genius! a clever critique about anti-semitism.

    you should read the food reviews in the Sunday Gazette, it’s a little more varied but i don’t understand why they gave a positive review to The Melting Pot of all places

  2. September 23, 2009 4:49 am

    look at you, causing a ruckus! i’m an ardent reader of those reviews, and i’d like to think that they’re actually going to give me some good info, so thanks. and thanks for the dr seuss reference–it’s been too long. :)

  3. September 27, 2009 12:59 am

    :D Ah, Dr. Seuss.

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