Friday, July 25, 2008

Welcome back to the game, TP

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 8:55 PM

The decision of Times Picayune restaurant writer Brett Anderson to resume restaurant reviews today was front-page news in the nation's most influential newspaper, the New York Times.

It's always good to see New Orleans prominently featured in the press, especially when the story pertains to our food. But most of all, today's New York Times story makes me feel nicely ahead of the curve, since Gambit Weekly resumed restaurant reviews two years ago today.

I took on the freelance position of restaurant writer in October 2005 when Gambit was able to start publishing again. For nine months, we used the cuisine section of each issue for feature stories and profiles on the recovery of the city's culinary scene.

By the summer of 2006, however, it became clear that customers and readers were already critiquing New Orleans restaurants on their own.

The discussion of New Orleans restaurants had shifted from a question of where to find an open restaurant to more about which restaurants were serving great food, what the many new restaurants that opened post-Katrina were up to, and what to avoid on this or that menu.

Nobody living here during that time -- nobody who fought through what we all faced to make a life again in this city -- could forget the pall of Katrina. My own neighborhood was still largely empty when I started eating out again with a notebook in my pocket. Restaurant owners still had enormous difficulties, as did their employees, as did their suppliers, and as did their customers.

But people were paying real money for meals, and they were getting comfortable again asking where to find the best for that money. I fielded such questions constantly, and the Web boards about local food were buzzing with opinions about new and old places alike.

So we started pretty gently, featuring places that I could wholeheartedly recommend, then gradually getting into the normal groove of featuring new or otherwise interesting places and assessing both their strong suits and flaws.

Personally, I felt we were following the lead of the public in general by publishing restaurant reviews again.

But what do you think?

In light of today's coverage of the Times Picayune's return to the game, do you think July 2006 was a reasonable time to resume restaurant reviews or was it too soon?

-- Ian McNulty

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