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You Won’t Be Disappointed

April 7, 2016

Reviews. I’ve written a lot of them. I’ve read even more of them.

Part of my job is scanning through the reviews that are written about all the businesses in the Capital Region on Yelp. I can’t read them all. But I’ve read thousands. Possibly tens of thousands. And I’m doing a few things as I read through the Yelp Stream.

One, I’m looking for good writers. As Yelp grows, and more people discover the platform, the more the Yelp Elite Squad grows. And while I don’t decide who gets to be Elite and who doesn’t, I do recommend people to the Yelp Elite Council.

Two, I’m on the lookout for troublesome reviews. Anyone can flag a review that violates Yelp’s Terms of Service or Content Guidelines. Reviews have to describe a personal experience at a business. If your friend got fired from his job, and you write a nasty review about that business to punish the jerk who stiffed your buddy, I’m going to flag it.

But there’s a third thing I do when reading through the torrent of local criticism. I’m taking stock of the perspective of Capital Region residents. Occasionally, I’m able to pick out themes or tropes from the reviews. And there’s one that I really want to talk about.

“You won’t be disappointed.”

Very often, this phrase is some of the highest praise offered for local businesses. And I believe it is meant with the utmost sincerity. But nonetheless, it points to some underlying concerna.

For starters, it implies a latent level of disappointment in a region’s dining scene. I’ve stated before that I believe the reason people flock to mediocre chain restaurants in the Capital Region isn’t that people here have no taste. Clearly they do. I think that they have just been burned one too many times by independent local restaurants that charge a lot of money for unexceptional food.

It’s not that the food or service are bad. It’s just that they don’t live up to the expectations set by the price and aspirations of the restaurants.

Or, more concisely, we’ve got a lot of disappointing restaurants.

Regardless if it’s a conscious decision or an unconscious one, consumers have traded the freshly-prepared chef-created food from independent restaurants for the consistency and reliability of chains.Although perhaps the disappointing places have cut corners and are buying some of the same pre-made par-baked products as the national franchises.

But there are however, those brave souls who are still fighting the good fight and are continuing to look for good restaurants in the area. And when they find a place that’s worth your time, money, and calories, the best thing they can say is that “you won’t be disappointed.”

While it may be meant as a great compliment, it can sound like faint praise. You know where I want to go? I want to go to the places that are going to knock my socks off.

I want to go where I’m going to be wowed by the service that predicts my needs before I even have the chance to say anything. Like the time when one of the kids dropped a utensil at Ala Shanghai, and the alert wait staff heard the noise and brought a fresh fork to the table before we could even indicate to a server that we had a problem.

I want to go where to food is remarkable, and it’s clear that the chef has put a ridiculous amount of time and love into a dish. Like pretty much everything that Dimitrios is doing with Ian these days at The City Beer Hall. Seriously. Tomorrow I’m going to share their Restaurant Week menu with you, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I want to go where the ingredients are exceptional. Seriously, have you checked out the grilled cheese sandwiches at The Cheese Traveler? The bread. The cheese. The meats. The condiments. The butter used on the grill. The pickle on the side. The beverage selection. Everything. Literally everything, is exceptional. Put them all together, and it will blow you away.

I want to go where the commitment to craft is high. Like the cocktails at the speakeasy. Or the espresso at Stacks. Or the cakes from Crisan. Or the dim sum at Hong Kong Bistro. Or the pizza at Marino’s Flying in Schenectady.

Of course there are other places I want to go too. But I want to go to those for positive reasons as well.

My request here is that we start focussing on the positive. Maybe there weren’t so many positive stories to tell in the past. But those days are behind us. Remember, the lack of negatives doesn’t make something good. It just means that it doesn’t suck. We can do better. We should expect better. And frankly, these days, we have better.

And perhaps if the best thing you can say about something is that it doesn’t suck, you might want to reconsider your recommendation.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2016 10:47 am

    I of course did an immediate search of my own reviews, and found three pages of reviews in which “disappointed” appeared. However, in every case it was a scenario where I had high or positive expectations and the establishment did not meet them. That’s different than saying it didn’t suck, right? (That was a question.)

  2. albanylandlord permalink
    April 7, 2016 6:46 pm

    I hate “You won’t be disappointed”. How do you know what I will feel about my future visit??? You are so confident that nobody has or will leave restaurant XXX disappointed that you put that right in your review. Please. Be a better writer.

  3. April 7, 2016 6:47 pm

    I admire the sentiment here, but to refer to the food at restaurants here as remarkable comes off as quite hyperbolic. Peck’s Arcade is the closest to that. Ala Shanghai is consistently very good. But even a place like the City Beer Hall, which I mostly like, has disappointed on several occasions, and their regular menu is rarely all that ambitious in terms of conception or technique.

    Maybe my problem is just that, having recently visited Portland, Maine, I saw a number of restaurants doing actually remarkable work. Central Provisions is the best example of this; the creativity and craft on display there blew me away, and nothing here, not even Peck’s, can compare.

    That’s not to say that things aren’t slowly improving in this area. But to use a term like remarkable only works if an asterisk is attached, noting that you’re speaking only for this area.

    • -R. permalink
      April 8, 2016 11:16 am

      You need to blog more Mr. Monkey; you’ve been dormant far too long. Just my 2 cents…

  4. April 7, 2016 8:41 pm

    So when you state the grilled cheese sandwiches at The Cheese Traveler will blow me away, what you’re really saying is that I won’t be disappointed. ;)

  5. Sean permalink
    April 13, 2016 2:23 pm

    A lot of local restaurants do certainly leave one disappointed. City Beer Hall is one that has continuously raised its prices and reduced its portion sizes. $20+ for an omelette, frozen hash browns, and a “free” drink is not inspired, contemporary cuisine, it is a cash grab.

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