Since the end of 2015 is near, Eater asked a group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past year. The annual survey spans eight questions from dining surprises, best dining neighborhoods, to restaurant grievances. All answers will be revealed as the week rolls on—cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Readers, add your answers in the comments below. Seventh up:
What was the biggest restaurant grievance of 2015?
Kathy Blackwell, editor in chief of Austin Way
Unless I'm at a restaurant that's doing something completely unconventional or has a menu in a language I don't understand, there is no need to "walk me through the menu." We all know how small plates work by now. I found service wildly uneven at a lot of the new restaurants this year, especially in terms of overselling and over-explaining. I was also surprised by some of the price points I saw (especially at lunch); execution and service really need to match those numbers.
Jolène M. Bouchon, critic for Austin Monthly
We've got a diverse group of wildly talented folks shaping the Austin dining scene, but it rankles me to see so much sameness: small plates, farm-to-table, unabashedly upscale. I love and admire each, but done and seen. Surprise us!
Katie Friel, editor of Tribeza
This is something I have discussed at length with friends and colleagues, and my biggest restaurant grievance isn't about dining out, but in regards to the lack of real criticism about our culinary culture. As Austin's food scene grows, people are spending more and more time dining out. Meanwhile, we have more and more restaurants bursting onto the scene and no one really telling us where to go and spend our hard-earned money. Journalistic outlets have a responsibility to put these things into a greater context. If we expect our restaurants to compete with those in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, we need to be able to cultivate a discussion that extends beyond restaurant ratings and into good food journalism.
Melody Fury, freelance food writer, blogger at Gourmet Fury, and contributor of Eater Austin
How so many new restaurants naively believed that today’s diners would still accept mediocre quality and service. PASS.
Dan Gentile, staff writer at Thrillist
A lack of super cheap dining options.
Melanie Haupt, freelancer writer and contributor of Eater Austin
So many wonderful restaurants, so little time and money.
Veronica Meewes, editor of Zagat Austin
It's been sad to watch all the original staff of laV drop off one by one. It's such a beautiful restaurant and had such a talented team when they first opened. Hopefully they can recover and build back up to where they started.
Patricia Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
Noise. Incredibly, after all the complaints, many restaurateurs do little or nothing to control sound. Every single person who asks me for a restaurant recommendation says, ‘I want a place where we can talk." What part of that do restaurateurs not understand?
Tom Thornton, food and drinks editor of CultureMap Austin
Austin's culinary and bar talent has absolutely caught up to the "big" markets, but service here is still a consistent issue. The sheer volume of openings and the lack of server/front-of-house stability at many places mean that service remains uneven. When visiting markets like Boston and New Orleans this year, the difference was glaring. I have no doubt that Austin restaurant owners and managers care, but they're fighting a lot of market disruption.
Anastacia Uriegas, contributor of Thrillist
Not being able to get a table or reservation or having an hour+ wait is very frustrating. Then I remember that all these people are there because they read the Chronicle, Zagat, Eater, and Thrillist. Then I curse my lovely editor BFFs. Eventually I may try to mastermind an evil plan...to start hyping up the Chili’s on 183. "Why bother with parking downtown, or paying exorbitant prices at trendy East Austin eateries when the Chili’s Triple Dipper platter is Austin’s best kept secret." (I don’t even know if there’s a Chili’s on 183, it just sounds funny.)
Brandon Watson, food editor of Austin Chronicle
New American. The concept, which used to give freedom to the world's most talented chefs now gives the world's most mediocre chefs license to tediously repeat techniques and ingredients. Give me modern Moroccan or an elevated take on what your nanny cooked you in fourth grade, but please give your cooking some focus. And don't expect me to be bowled over because you taught your servers to pronounce furikake.
Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
More diverse options. Instead of having the same kind of restaurant open over and over again, let there be different approaches.