General Discussion

Quality of Newspaper Food Sections


General Discussion 14

Quality of Newspaper Food Sections

Limster | Sep 15, 2000 01:34 PM

The recent post by Tom Hilton about the absence of this site on the SF Chron's Food on the web article sort of prompted this question that I would like to throw out:

Which newspaper food sections do you like and which do you think are bad? Which food critic did you agree with or enjoy reading most?

As for me, I live in SF and for the most part I read all of the weeklies, the Chronicle and Examiner. I also follow the NY Times.

My (humble) opinion:

(Before that - full disclosure: I am the food critic at our tiny school paper that is published weekly on paper and web, but I think it would be a joke if a paper with an extremely limited circulation like ours even considered ourselves in any sort of competition with any of these pros below. Anyway, I am commenting from the perspective of a reader not writer.)

Fairly good food section, quality of writing is above average. I find Michael Bauer's reviews fair and good reading, but I always double check his opinion by looking up what other reviewers elsewhere say. (It's not that I have anything against him, I do that with every reviewer except Patricia Unterman.)
As for Robin Davis, I have a tendency to disagree with her opinions, as the places she recommends don't usually impress me much e.g. Citrus Club - which I went twice and did not like both times. Sometimes I get the impression that she isn't as savvy about Asian foods as she could be. I grew up eating in Singapore, so I think I am qualified to make such a judgement. Overall, these guys aren't as good as finding out of the way gems as I would like. Mostly they review new, flashy and big openings. But those are places that I think they should cover anyway, so that's not a big problem in my book.

I started to follow the Ex only more recently, so not much to say, except that I love Patricia Unterman's column. I've gone through archives of her writing and I love reading her reviews. She's good at ferreting out places that most wouldn't notice e.g. Hama-Ko, and she's sophisticated enough to understand that the red-hot Sichuan dishes can bear subtly different flavors despite the heat. She's the only critic in the city that I would trust without a cross-reference to another review.

SF Bay Guardian:
Paul Redinger has nice prose and makes a good read, and will occasionally cover neat nooks in the city that would otherwise be overlooked.

SF Weekly:
Greg Hugunin tends to long and bombastic. I typically skip the first third to half of his article so that I can get straight to the food descriptions. I suppose he's getting paid by the word. I don't blame him as I do the same occasionally. His reviews are decent if you want to know if the place is good.
I like Matthew Stafford's writing more and he gets to the point faster. He's also a pretty good critic. I think he was the first of many to point out that the new Stars wasn't really that good, and I agreed with him after eating there (yes - cross-referencing does not always work.)

My favorite writing comes from the NY Times, and I read their food section quite avidly, even the restaurant reviews. I love Ruth Reichl's writing - very fun to read and always entertaining. (Yes - I've read quite a number of her archived reviews on the nytoday website.) I haven't eaten at any of the places she's reviewed (on account of being in SF)and can't say much about whether I agree with her tastes or not.

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