State Your Complaint: Restaurant Critics; Restaurant Designs; Restaurant Menus; Restaurant Websites, and Being Treated Like a Regular (Huh?)

State-Your-Complaint* Will a Twitter campaign take out your least favorite critic? Doubtful, but one tweeter is trying, taking aim at Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Phil Vettel stews over restaurant design flaws. I would concur with the oversized menus being a problem. I never know what to do with them if I just want to enjoy a cocktail before ordering but am sitting at a tiny table for two. Suggestions? [The Stew]

* Menus are less-than-appetizing at many restaurants, as far as Baltimore Sun blogger Laura Vozzella is concerned. She doesn’t mention my new pet peeve, which is seeing the word “foraged” on menus (Way too precious and fetish-y for me, thankyouverymuch!). [Dining@Large]

* Restaurant websites come under fire for a few of the right reasons. [Eater PDX]

* Restaurants come under fire for all the wrong reasons, thanks to the Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli and his resentment at (GASP!)  being treated like a regular (when he is, in fact, a regular). Here’s a bit of free advice, Mr. Borrelli: If you don’t appreciate that restaurants or the barristas at your local Starbucks are able to anticipate what you’ll order, stop ordering the very same thing every time you dine out or grab a coffee. Live a little! Try something new — but not out of spite, because that’s just plain silly. That is all. [Chicago Tribune]

The Best Restaurants That Are Out of Business

Best-Restaurants-That-Are-Out-of-BusinessSome nights when my friend Michele asks me where I’d like to dine out, I will answer, wistfully, “Grange Hall.” After a delicious decade in business, The Grange (as it was often called) closed in 2004, leaving many diners devastated to this day. I find myself daydreaming of a time machine (or a great upgrade to our mobile apps! Are you listening, Josh?) that will transport us back for an evening so we can once again enjoy their beloved burgers. Or the pan-roasted chicken for two. Or the lamb chops. Or…you get the picture. Clearly, Michele and I aren’t alone in feeling a profound and continued loss over Grange Hall and many other restaurants that exist only in our fondest food memories.

This week, Michael Bauer rounded up San Francisco restaurants that have closed during his tenure at the San Francisco Chronicle. Bittersweet memories bubbled up in Baltimore as Charm City’s Restaurant Week Winter 2010 rages, with critic Jacques Kelly waxing nostalgic over gone-but-not-forgotten Baltimore favorites.

If you had a time machine (and if you did, I really hope you would lend it to me at least once), where would you dine? Which restaurant’s closing has left a hole in your heart and a craving that’s still hard to satisfy? Weigh in here or over on Facebook.

Note: The space formerly occupied by Grange Hall is now Commerce, a very fine restaurant that retains some of the Grange’s style and vibe, but with a decidedly different (albeit lovely) menu and without the talented and entertaining Del Pedro tending bar.

Dining out with a Food Critic: Reality Bites

Do you dream of being one of the (supposedly) lucky folks who regularly dine out with food critics? Your dream may actually be a bit of a nightmare if you’re not prepared for the realities of what is required of their dining partners. Baltimore Sun restaurant critic Elizabeth Large reveals 10 truths about what you’re in for when you come along for a free meal, including the fact that there’s no such thing as free lunch (or dinner).

I haven’t had the pleasure (or displeasure, depending on your perspective) of dining out with a food critic, and it might be fun to do once. In general, though, I’d rather dine out as a civilian, if you will, than as a critic. I loathe looking for fault at restaurants as I’ve spent a good part of my life working at them and I know too well how hard it is to get everything right on any given night — the food, the service, the setting, and a thousand other variables. Also, I’m a firm believer that our enjoyment of many of life’s pleasures, dining included, is contextual. If you’re in good company, in a good mood, or simply having a good day, you’re probably going to have a good time. If you’re in a foul mood? Not so much.