Dueling Critics

Last week a reader commented on the impression, shared by many, that Dallas Observer (that's us) reviews tend to follow Dallas Morning News (them) pieces by a week or two. For instance, their Bill Addison tore into Pyramid on November 21. We did the same in the December 4 issue. He scoped out Bolsa November 28 while our piece on the Oak Cliff joint comes out on Thursday.

The implication is that some sense of rivalry drives our selection of restaurants for review. While I wish for the sake of conspiracy-minded types I could confirm our deep and abiding resentment of DMN's fine reviews, the reality is somewhat less...well, interesting.

While Addison and his crew work on the fly--fidgeting with deadline dates, scrubbing one place off the list, adding another at the last minute--we schedule reviews up to three months in advance. Not that we inform the restaurants, mind you. It's just an internal plan allowing everyone from design to production to the folks who post listings on the web site a heads up, which in theory eliminates some dreaded last minute scrambling.

In practice, I know which restaurants I'll be visiting through March 26.

So why do we tend to hit the same places? Most critics use a similar method for picking restaurants, looking first to new establishments then to those with a new chef, concept or major redesign and finally kitchens with dated reviews. We also give new restaurants at least one month to work through opening jitters before making a first visit. Nick Badovinus' much-ballyhooed Neighborhood Services is, therefore, just about on the clock. The new Wolfgang Puck concept, 560, will come under scrutiny sometime in March or April.

Other factors muck things up once in awhile, knocking us thankfully out of synch. Otherwise, we're all just ticking the same places off our lists.

Not much of a conspiracy--unless, of course, they sneak past our tight security cordon, hastily copy our list and scramble out to the restaurants we planned to review. Then again, we slip one in ahead of the Morning News every once in awhile. Beat them to Go Fish Ocean Club, Victor Tango (unfortunately--Addison visited after the new Consilient space fixed some rather glaring mistakes, we went before) and coincidental revisits to Suze.

But that may just be their way of disguising...nope--no way they get past our trigger happy receptionist.
--Dave Faries

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