It is a post such as this that keeps me reading my friend Stewart’s blog, and despite the shot across the bow of our beloved Restaurant Rater and the fact that he is taking all this waaaaay toooooo seriously (on purpose BTW for those of you who have trouble spotting sarcasm and irony), his mock-versation primes my pump in a big way. I love hashing this stuff out with Shefzilla. He saw the numbers on the Restaurant Rater attributed to Heartland and was troubled by its implications. Not for Lenny. Stewart hasn’t eaten there yet, but as a diner he mulls the number and is more confused by its size than enlightened. I see his point for sure. Restaurants, regardless of where they sit, should be evaluated many ways. Local critics can put them in the context of local restaurants and that is what Beth Dooley’s piece attempts to do. National critics and international scribes, as well as those that have eaten in many of the restaurants that are part of our Top 250, both here in the USA and abroad, can do their part for the more seasoned diner. I have yet to eat at Heartland V2.0 and I cant wait to check it out. When I do, I plan on telling you on this page what I think of it both in the local and national sense.
Now I just checked the RR and the rating for Heartland is a 91.5. That number is based on tons of dated reviews and comments, and so to attempt to judge the current incarnation on this stuff is silly. However, what I like about the RR is the fact it aggregates the current blogs, reviews, and articles in one handy place so that the diners can make up their own mind about restaurants that interest them.
The confusing part for diners is that by assigning numbers it appears (for example) that both Cossetta’s and Corner Table both serve similarly rated foods, they both have 84 next to their name. Any article or blog or review that this number is derived from would by its very nature have graded those eateries out on the natural curve that applies to all commentary, that is to say it is compared to others in its class. One is a pizza and sub shop, essentially, and one is a chef driven restaurant specializing in American regional cuisine. To say that each 84 is true up at all in some way is perverse. The 5-8 Club got an 87. Does that make it better than Corner Table and almost as good as Heartland? No way. But for those looking for some generic guidance it’s a nice tool and in my opinion demands ignoring the numbers and looking at all the opinions that the RR pulls together in one spot.
I don’t think Heartland is in Alinea’s class, as Stew wonders out loud, and numerically codifying restaurants is indeed troubling on many levels. I can’t think of many restaurants in the country that are in Alinea’s class and I have eaten in almost all of them. I will say this about a Twin Cities restaurant that should be WAY more packed than it is . . . I just ate at Corey Lee’s Benu in San Fran (new resto from French Laundry chef de cuisine) and Dan Humm’s 11 Madison Park (arguably one of the five most applauded restos in USA over last six months), and DOUG FLICKER’S FOOD AT PICCOLO IS AS GOOD AS EITHER ONE OF THOSE MEALS. In last six months I have dined at half of Zagat and Gayot and Michelin’s top 50 restaurants in the country and I can safely tell you that from a food quality standpoint what Doug is doing over there is superb. So if you want to eat in a national caliber restaurant (and I think Alma and LBV are in that conversation as well) get your ass over to Piccolo. And I will tell you as soon as I eat there if the new Heartland belongs in the national caliber restaurant club for inspired cuisine.
Speaking of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine , I was reading Jason DeRusha’s blog the other day and he asked, “Would it be more useful to evaluate restaurants that are three months old or three years old?” Good Question.
I couldn’t resist that one BTW. At Mpls.St.Paul we used to do that. Adam Platt and I used to do a Second Helping column for years. These days with the proliferation of reviews and columns online I think it became less useful for readers, but I still love telling you on this page what I like and don’t like about all places I dine for that very reason. I also have seen a plethora of columns online all detailing a wish list for concepts, or dream restaurants, that the authors wish existed in our neck of the woods. I think an upscale Izikaya would rock, a real inspired bar-tabac/salumi bar/tapas restaurant such as Avec in Chicago, and please Lord, send us a true delicatessen with real pastrami and real rye and real matzoh ball soup. Please, I am begging.
Stew, maybe you and I could do that one day?