Out of the restaurant rut

fearless.jpgIt’s easy to become a habitual diner at the same old places (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and, since there’s only so much time and only so much money, it’s also easy to overlook the unknown wonderful and go down those well troddden paths yet again. Just this week, and purely by chance, we found our way to Cafe Josie for the very first time and learned what joys we’d been missing. When we have out-of-town visitors who don’t already have favorites to which they insist upon returning, we offer them the Chron‘s restaurant guide, the recent Austin Zagat, and the compendium of Mexican restaurants to help them select a dining adventure. They may now consult The Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide: Feisty Local Food Writers Rate and Review 390 Places to Eat. One of the reviewers is harsher than the others in applying the numerical grading system. All descriptive narratives sampled so far conform very closely to personal experience, which builds trust in evaluations of the unfamiliar. The various categorical lists are inventive, extensive, and particularly helpful in locating dining places for everyone along the scale from vegan to those who’ll eat “fast vegetables.” It’s new, so I haven’t read it from cover to cover, but I will. This book is very current. I strongly recommend it. Enough sales will encourage the publisher to keep this valuable resource updated.

5 Comments so far

  1. wae (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

    Glad you posted this. I heard the interview with Robin Goldstein on KUT, but forgot to follow up on it. I like Guero’s, but enjoyed that the critic identified Polvo’s and “a hundred places” he’d prefer for local Mexican food.

  2. Robin Goldstein (unregistered) on July 27th, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the kind words.

    So which one of us do you think is harsher?


  3. Rantor (unregistered) on July 27th, 2006 @ 6:36 pm

    It’s only a case of first impression, and the entire book remains to be read from cover to cover (as it most certainly will be), but MPN may perhaps tend to be a bit more severe in the numerical assignments, although not always to the same extent in the narrative portion. In future editions, and I hope that they will be many, a database of reviews broken out by individual reviewers would be interesting. In any event, this is such a detail-laden book that, as with movie or book reviews, one comes to have a sense of the individual taste of each reviewer. I’m recommending this book to all my friends. I like its physical design, too. When it comes to ‘cue, personally I think that whether brisket is fat or lean (or whether a choice is available) and how deeply the smoke and the flavor of any rub penetrate are useful to know. Tried Hog Island?

  4. Robin Goldstein (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    Thanks. Before we finalized all the ratings I normalized them around 6.5 (using a slightly lopsided bell curve) so the averages and standard deviations are fairly similar. THat said, the samples for each reviewer were not just different, different in a systematic way (e.g. Monika covered more of the BBQ places and I covered more high-end New American), and so there’s no way you can perfectly adjust for that. We also discussed/argued many of the ratings between the three of us, but of course some of Monika’s places I’ve never been to. Hopefully by the next edition there will be even more overlap between the three of us and we can improve the consistency.

    So many people have recommended Hog Island’s steak and cheese! Clearly an egregious omission. I’ll get there soon. Sometime in the next month, I’m going to start blogging new places at http://www.fearlesscritic.com (Alexis already runs a margarita blog that’s linked from there), so keep your eyes out.

    Thanks for telling people about the book — we don’t advertise, so word of mouth is all we’ve got!

  5. Rantor (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    Yes; the BBQ variance in approach was noticed. The bakery category is another where one reviewer appears to take a different approach from that of another reviewer. This *will* be read from cover to cover. Assignment of numerical values, though interesting, is not the attraction of this book; it is the detailed narrative.

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