November is 30 for $30 Month

Categories: restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 12, 2008 : 2:10 pm
  • Andaluca (Downtown, NW/Mediterranean)
  • Barking Frog (Woodinville next to The Herb Farm, Northwest)
  • Barolo (Downtown, Italian)
  • Bin Vivant (Kirkland, American/Wines)
  • Boka (Downtown, American)
  • Brasa (Belltown, Spanish/American)
  • Cafe Campagne (Pike’s Place, French) Not to be confused with Campagne Restaurant
  • Crush
  • Dahlia Lounge (Downtown, Northwest)
  • Earth and Ocean (Downtown, Northwest)
  • Etta’s (Pike’s Place, Seafood)
  • Eva Restaurant (Green Lake, American)
  • Fish Club (Downtown, Seafood)
  • Hunt Club (Capitol Hill, American)
  • Lola (Downtown, Greek)
  • Nell’s (Greenlake, Northwest)
  • Nishino (Madison, Japanese)
  • Ponti Seafood Grill (Queen Anne, Seafood)
  • Portage (Queen Anne, French/Northwest)
  • Ray’s Boathouse (Ballard, Seafood)
  • Restaurant Zoe (Belltown, Northwest/American)
  • Serafina (Eastlake, Italian)
  • Shuckers (Downtown, Seafood)
  • 6/7 Restaurant (Downtown, American)
  • Steelhead Diner (Pike’s Place, Northwest)
  • Szmania’s (Magnolia, NW/German)
  • The Georgian (Downtown, Northwest)
  • Third Floor Fish Cafe (Kirkland, Seafood)
  • 35th Street Bistro (Fremont, American)
  • Veil (now closed)
  • Yarrow Bay Grill (Kirkland, Seafood)
  • 0/8 Seafood Grill (Bellevue, Seafood/Steak)

Happy eating!

Veil is Closing

Categories: food,restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 31, 2008 : 12:43 pm

Wow. Veil is no more, at least according to this blog post at Eating Seattle, which was posted two weeks ago. It would seem that Veil and owner Shannon Galusha might be one of the first casualties in this slowing economy. From my talks with other restaurants in the area, the downturn has been close to 40% and even up to 70% drop in revenues, in an industry where single digit profit margins are the norm.

To me, Veil was always an enigma of sorts. It was as if an alien spaceship landed in the middle of Safeco field, bringing with it an odd assortment of delightful creatures. Some came to worship, others threw judgement. All had validity. Then like a sparkle of sun on a wet October morning, the aliens just as suddenly vanished — and presumably, went to a place more receptive. Say… lower Manhattan?

That’s really what Veil was; a New York dining experience in upper Seattle. Were we ready? Maybe not. Was it foolhardy? Perhaps. Risky? Yes. Dangerous, even? A resounding salted peanut butter ice cream yes.

Mince words I won’t, when I say that I thought the ambiance was two parts Ikea, one part illicit drugs and a healthy shake of pretense. But I’ll still miss Veil. Not because I frequented the restaurant, but because it was pushing Seattle. Between Veil at $30 per entree and three-course homogenized food slosh for $9.99, I’ll take Veil, thank you very much.

Not everyone agrees, even here at Coffee.net. Steve was thoroughly put off, due to his war-ration sized trout skin. But even Steve showed respect where due, with his food score of 9 – a rarity in Steve’s rating world.

The question now is who’s next on the block? Many new restaurants have opened in the last two years with the boom, so it’s scary to think who might be next.

I’ll leave you with this final picture of Veil, as a toast.

Seriously, Why Yelp Sucks

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 3, 2008 : 1:10 pm

Ok, the title of this blog post is a little misleading because I actually *do* like Yelp (mostly). It’s a cool idea with awesome site design and tools (unlike the unslightly Citysearch), but has some sketchy ability to reign in its own users.

We’ll go straight to Exhibit A. This is from an Elite (cream of the crop) Yelp member from the Seattle area, who has created a list of top restaurants in the Woodinville area (close to our neck of the woods). The top 10 restaurants this person lists are:

1. Denice’s Place
2. Mongolian Grill
3. Garlic Jim’s
4. Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill
5. Ezell’s Famous Chicken
6. McDonald’s
7. Maltby Espresso
8. Subway
9. Theno’s Dairy
10. Crystal Creek Cafe

If you’ve been in Woodinville, you know there’s also Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (our full review is coming in with our next update), yet it’s mysteriously gone from the top 10 list. However, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see it listed at #25, one spot below Old Country Buffet and one spot above KFC. That is pure absurdity. Here’s what the review actually said:

“We tried to eat at this cafe and we were told that there was a 45-60 minute wait. So…. if you ever manage to get there when the wait’s not too long, maybe the food will be good.”

The reviewer left a one star (the lowest rating), based solely on the fact they had to wait an hour to find a seat at a fine dining restaurant. This raises the hair on my neck, let alone the manager of the restaurant who is likely fuming at the mouth at the absurdity of this review.

As food critics, we understand quite well that different people have varied taste in foods (apples to oranges, what makes you happy makes you happy, etc). That said, to be a discerning diner of fine gourmet, it’s mind blowing to possibly list McDonald’s as anywhere above Purple (or for that matter, half the list, even though it’s filled with fast food already). Even when comparing similarly styled cuisine, such as McDonalds vs Red Robin, the contest is a scathing no-brainer.

This is the problem with sites like Yelp, because they provide the sandbox for which to play, but they have no way of realistically monitoring the quality of the users. Sure, they can throw out the trouble makers and spammers, but otherwise are handcuffed against taking action against users who obviously have no business reviewing food. Yelp is close to a purist’s democracy of food, which means anybody and everybody can have their time in the sun. To this extent, we have seen a small but vocal contingent of reviewers that use sites like Yelp for their own personal soapbox and often, raging bullhorn. Yelp will tell you that bad apples come with the territory, but tell that to the restaurant owners who get slammed by these self-absorbed crusaders. (In case you are curious, Coffee.net has our own system of checks and balances for these type of things currently in testing.)

Again, this isn’t meant to hark on Yelp (that was a bad pun), but to point that it’s broken in a way that is fixable. Both Yelp and Citysearch fail to understand the foodie by having no way to separate the various restaurant factors like service and food apart. Not all diners believe that eating out is a form of mind and body experience to satiate the soul. In fact, I would say true foodies will gladly make a matyr out of their ego in the quest for good eats. This is why we’ve implemented restaurants ratings based on your priorities: high service and ambiance for a good date; high food and value for down and dirty grubbing. If Yelp used this system, it would break their huge “star” brand, but it would also separate the service nit-picks from the would-be food connoisseurs.

Of course, it’s in our own interest as a competitor to Yelp, to see them go burning down in flames, but we’re not like that and know it’s not going to happen. Competition makes products better and as long as Yelp is around, we’ll have motivation to improve Coffee.net for all our wonderful Seattlelites.

The Battle of the Bulge: Eating for a Living

Categories: food,news,restaurants — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ March 23, 2008 : 10:09 pm

The New York Post posted an article today on what it means to be part of the Fat Pack. If you’re thinking that this is another common newsbite on the life of unhealthy, over-weight Americans who love McDonalds, you would be quite mistaken. At least about the McDonalds part.

The Fat Pack is actually a reference to the army of taste testing gluttons making up the food writing, culinary and review industry. It’s an exclusive club of sorts that meets at fine dining establishments, espouses secretive French lingo and gushes over the wonderful qualities of… fat.


The journalists, bloggers, chefs and others who make up the Fat Pack combine an epicure’s appreciation for skillful cooking with a glutton’s bottomless-pit approach. Cramming more than three meals into a day, once the last resort of a food critic on deadline, has become a way of life. If the meals center on meat, so much the better.

Even to those who have been in the game long enough to have seen more than a few cycles of food and diet fads, the Fat Pack culture is a shock.

“Most of us who are in this profession are here as an excuse to eat,? said Mimi Sheraton, the food writer and former New York Times restaurant critic who has chronicled her own battle with weight loss. Still, she said, “I’ve never seen such an outward, in-your-face celebration of eating fat.?

Research has shown that Americans generally take a dim view on their obese counterparts. The overweight are paid less, make negative first impressions and denied more services when compared to their thinner counterparts. Yet in the food industry, being fat is almost looked on as proof of one’s passion of eating. Portly bellies proudly attest to years in the gladiatorial arena of silver forks and spoons. Looking in the mirror each morning, I can attest to the fact that my own body is slowly working it’s way toward the uniquely dubious honor. Ironically, I mention this all the while chewing away at a coconut pastry passed my way (bit firm, too much coconut flakes on the outside, not enough taste infused into the actual bread).

I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: it’s actually not that fun eating for a living. Don’t get me wrong, I love food. This job would be a living hell if I didn’t like food. Not to mention, I wouldn’t ever hear the end of it from the throngs of would-be critics. After all, who wouldn’t be jealous at a life of gluttony when compared to a life of bland prix fixe: the hour commute appetizer, eight to five entree and casual Friday desert. Like any fantasy however, the illusion disappears when the wizard yanks away the curtain.

For a food critic, the magical revelations come in the form of jeans that no longer fit, uncomfortably tight shirts, a rise in cholesterol and increases in blood pressure. Then there’s the sudden aversion to any restaurant we have already sampled (it’s our version of repeating work). However, the true icing on the cake rears it’s mouthful of glory when we’re in our prime environment- a new, virgin restaurant. Prior to peeking at the menu, comes the fore knowledge that no less than three plates are sure to grace the table for consumption. Damn if those overstuffed, caloric soaked stomachs plead to the contrary. Just like you wouldn’t miss out on pizza in Chicago, we’re not about to pass up the tour du jour of antipasto, primi, secondi and dolce.

As if motivations for over-eating aren’t around each corner, there’s a never ending list of restaurant recommendations. We certainly appreciate suggestions, though it has become an impossibly long list. Imagine yourself a cook walking through Costco, only to have every customer shove a cart full of food for you to prepare. That’s about the gist of our interactions. The definition of awkward occurs when we do take someone up on a recommendation, only to find that the food is quite awful to our palettes. As politically correct as I can spin the tale of different tastes for different people, I’m still don’t find myself above lying to avoid a few embarrassing situations.

Yes, I know, I’m bad. But please, don’t stop sending recommendations. I swear, I totally love those sweet and sour pork globs at the karaoke bar down the street. Honest :)

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