Tom Sietsema, the longtime Washington Post
food critic, recently was in town on a whirlwind eating and drinking research expedition in advance of some RNC coverage. In Cleveland for just three days, Sietsema managed to visit Edwins, Mabel’s, Alley Cat, Flying Fig, Sokolowski’s, Jack Flaps, Mason’s Creamery, Nate’s Deli, Butcher and the Brewer, and Trentina. If you’ve ever dined at Trentina, then you know how impossible that itinerary sounds.
Still, Sietsema is a pro, so he managed to pack it all in. But if you expected him to file the usual travel-style round-up filled with fluff and compliments, you’d only be partly accurate. You see, he did shower praise on some of our beloved establishments, but he also managed to denigrate the collective Cleveland service staff, save for two spots.
“One missing ingredient: good service,” the critic, who is known to don wigs and dark glasses in a futile attempt to maintain his anonymity, wrote in the feature. “With a handful of exceptions — the upscale Edwins, the happy-go-lucky Mabel’s BBQ — most of the places I tried treated this anonymous diner as if I were invisible.”
It’s certainly true that as this market continues to stretch its collective belt in terms of new restaurants, service (and back-of-the-house talent as well) has undoubtedly suffered. There just aren’t enough seasoned pros to go around – a problem that is hardly unique to Cleveland. Every city other than New York, Chicago, San Fran and a few others all are experiencing similar issues.
Sietsema even manages to take a whack at a cabby, which apparently makes perfect sense in a restaurant round-up.
“A local cab driver had no idea where one of the city’s oldest and most beloved institutions, Sokolowski’s University Inn, dished out Polish fare.”
Sure, we here at Scene are a bit defensive when outside journalists descend upon our town and cast a critical eye, but hey, at least they’re coming.
Give the feature
a read and see if you agree.