Let's say you proceeded non-anonymously. What are the chances any particular restaurant you walk into would know your identity?

Just seems there's lots of gray area. Lots. Busy places, tons of people filtering in and out. You could be "known" and never really be identified depending on the circumstances. Can you merely be either inconspicuous or "outed?"
It would be interesting to hear from someone who actually works in a restaurant on this one--I could never take the anonymity thing too seriously when I was doing the job. it just never seemed likely that anyone would 1) know who i was or 2) care.

Yeah, I began to feel that people didn't really give a shit. But by then it was something I'd internalized. I would have felt less credible, even if it never affected my reviews.


That's exactly why I never had to go to Bruni or Riechl (both NYT critics) extremes when I was on review. The measures I mentioned are seriously, like, low end for a high end reviewer. I mean, were talking false noses and shit.
Having grown up in Portland, I occasionally get recognized by people I went to elementary school with and haven't seen since. It's a small ass town, and if someone had a vested financial interest in recognizing me (as opposed to just wanting to point out that my haircut hasn't changed since 1998)? Yeah, it'd happen in a busy restaurant.
I always thought the most contentious issue you had to deal with was me correcting your spelling and grammar.

Oh, "lightning."

(might be the last chance I have to do that!)
I would like to confess something here.

And it is that I take secret pleasure in commenters correcting the spelling/grammar of blog posts.

So obviously I got a lot of secret pleasure out of Patrick's posts, and I will miss that.
I've worked in some Portland establishments that schmoozed heavily with a couple of the local bloggers. These were, for the most part, good restaurants with good reputations and buzz. But it was, at times, sort of icky to witness this phony little circle jerking--special little treats comped for blogger-person, blogger person fawning excessively about the place, etc.
I'll add that I feel vaguely ashamed of the way some of my former employers spoke when Ms. Brooks was in the house. She seemed to be known by all. I don't know enough about her work to know whether or not she deserved the disrespect.
@Alison Hallett

And I will miss trying not to take all the shit you all seem to enjoy giving me so personally.

Wait. No I wont.


Don't worry you have 'till next Wednesday. I'll do my best to give you ample opportunity to get your kicks.
PAC, I appreciate your efforts to stay anonymous. I can identify with a nearly comic obsession to appear above-board at all times. However, if the only way to stay unbiased in a small town is to go to these kind of extremes* for years, I'd say the pragmatic answer is that reviewers should scrap anonymity and frankly state their possible biases at the end of each piece, and let the reader decide what weight to give those admissions.

* I mean, really - that's a lot of bullshit for $100 a week.
Having worked in restaurant management... we could give a fuck about professional reviewers. But Yelp reviews mattered. But I also worked in a place that was routinely slagged by local indie-press, even though all those dicknoses came and drank in our place all the time. Wait, am I bitter about this?
Woah there are cracks in the happy facade of Portyland Mercury bon homie.
I know who you are Patrick Allan Coleman, and when I find you, I'm gunna make your ASS BLEED OUT OF YOUR FACE!
Isn't this a good ploy- pretend you're quitting...write a very public "Here's why I can't review food anymore", then a little plastic surgery (paid for by "Hump" mob hush money), and then viola- "The Unknown Food Critic" (Patrick, brown baggin' it). I'm on to you PAC, and your little dog too.
Wow. Someone takes Yelp reviews seriously?


Nah, we're just playin'.
This Robb Walsh column is one of my all-time favorites on the subject of anonymity. Was dismayed when he recently joined the being-recognized-is-fine crowd.…
Let me just say that I love that you ended your Mercury career with a review of FIN. God knows how long you were planning that.

Also, that you were a wonderful asset to the Mercury, and I'm sure you will be missed, and best of luck with your next endeavors.
A few years back my husband and I visited Las Vegas on vacation and were using a Southwest Airlines package that included airfare, hotel transfers and 4 nights at the New York, New York. I traveled a LOT on business and was a fairly savvy traveler, but got my special treatment at hotels (and I did get lots) based on establishing a relationship with a hotel and proving myself to be a desirable guest (recommending these hotels to others, recognizing good service, low use of resources and always a smile and thank you).

Our rooms in Vegas were to be "run of house" i.e. hotel's choice. At check-in, we were assigned a room and was getting the normal and very impersonal spiel, when as part of that the clerk passed over a mini Zagat guide for Vegas. Without thinking and in my usual friendly way I said "Wow, thanks! I love these guys. I contribute to their hotel ratings and write some reviews for them" (only done as part of my extensive travel and they just gave me copies of the books I contributed to). The desk clerk literally yanked back the stuff she had given me and got very friendly and assigned us a "much better" room. At first I naively thought my niceness had finally broken through to her and it all happened so fast, it wasn't until I was walking away I realized what had happened. That seriously creeped me out and I almost lost all respect for that hotel then and there. I have not stayed there again and did not include a rating for them to Zagat, but did mention that they tried to buy a good review. Other than the daily maid service, they had no chance to give me any service, so I can't speculate as to whether anything else might have been "much better." Ewww!!!
You're wrong. Anonymity is one of the most over-rated features of food reviewing. There are many things above it rarely as focused on.

eg, a food reviewer is much more hampered by their limited ability to experience the restaurant in a complete way. How many meals did you have at most restaurants you reviewed and how many dishes did you try at each meal? How many times over the course of going there did you try certain dishes? Consistency is one of the toughest things to maintain in a restaurant. Staff changes often, either because crews have varying shifts or because there's just turnover, people get sick, etc. This is the real advantages of the internet, even Yelpers, over a single reviewer. The internet review is continually evolving, commented on, amended, and put into context along with more and more reviews. (Personally, I think the traditional media restaurant review should go away. There's no utility in it anymore. Traditional media should focus more on what it can do well that the interweb can't.)

And truth is, the stuff that restaurants try to do when they recognize a reviewer don't make that much difference, or actually have the opposite effect. Schmoozing is rather obvious and feels icky. A reviewer knows when they're being buttered up. Comped plates don't help -- in fact they hurt -- if the food's not good. If it is good, then who gives a shit whether it was free? The reader isn't harmed. If you fuck up a dish, or, more likely, want to make it perfect and have to re-fire it, then it takes extra time. It may be marginally better to go out late and right than to go out late and imperfect, but still only marginally so. Sure, little service things here and there. Making sure someone doesn't wait long for a table, making sure the staff is attentive, etc. But it's little stuff that probably won't be able to be fully replicated for over a series of meals, unless the place has their act together anyway.

And you can't change the palate of the chef, the menu, the ingredients, the recipes, the concept, etc, just because you recognize the person walking in the door. And this is 80% of what the reviewer will be focused on.

That said, I respect your opinion. One of my best friends and a food blogger, Scott at and I go back-and-forth on this all the time.

I'm friends with Robb. I've argued against him on the subject both online and in-person. It's worth noting that he still largely believes in that. He stopped reviewing and focuses on his books and feature writing now, plus has helped open a Tex-Mex restaurant.

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