"Nobody Is Willing to Nut Up": The Effort to Shun Leslie Brenner Is Failing

Have a look at the three star digs at Proof + Pantry.
Have a look at the three star digs at Proof + Pantry.
Catherine Downes

We told you yesterday about the latest chapter in the Dallas restaurant scene's epic struggle against Evil Critic Leslie Brenner: An organized effort, first reported by The Washington Post, to thwart The Dallas Morning News' critic by banding together to refuse to accept her money, boxing her into an ethical corner.

Leading the charge is restaurateur Michael Martensen. While tension has been building between the two for years, the struggle reached a tipping point back in November, when the Proof + Pantry owner refused Brenner's payment for edibles rendered. Martensen hoped his move would stymie her review efforts in protest of the paper's star system, since critics aren't permitted to accept freebies.

Martensen failed: Brenner published a three star review later that month -- she even called it sexy-- but the confrontation still polarized part of the local restaurant community. At least 10 restaurants joined Martensen, according to The Post, to form a group dedicated to opposing The Dallas Morning News' restaurant rating system.

But now, almost a month later and on the heels of national coverage, very little has changed. Martensen says his group has finally approved a markup of a logo they plan to add to their menus and hang as stickers in their windows, but nothing has been displayed so far at any of the restaurants.

They've also failed to recruit more participants. "People have been reaching out, but at the end of the day, nobody is willing to nut up," Martensen told me. Other restaurants are verbally supportive, he points out, but none are willing to commit to publicly shunning The Dallas Morning News.

That puts a significant drag on the momentum of the movement, because Brenner and her supporting critics have recently reviewed most of the participating restaurants (Rosewood Mansion, Knife, Meddlesome Moth, etc.), and those restaurants will likely not be reviewed again for some time. The group would need new restaurants to join to thwart any future reviews.

The Washington Post describes a handful of other restaurants' attempts to thwart critics across the country, and none have gotten anywhere close to achieving their goals. For now, while Martensen and his peers have gotten further than any other restaurant critic usurpers, their effort is quickly running out of steam.

Not that they're giving up. They've reserved a web domain. Martensen says they've designed some flash for the site, but nothing has been published to the web page.

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