Ask Tom, Answer Gansie: Bad, Bad Blogger


NW D.C.: I was out with my wife at a well-known, hard-to-get-into place this past weekend and overheard a conversation at another table. The diner was complaining at their table about the service and indicated that “He is a senior member of a well-known area food blog, and the lack of service will be noted.” Well, the waiter calmed him down and comped the person a full bottle of wine. I checked the blog (will not mention) and sure enough there was an entry, and there was a mention of the lack of service, but no mention of the comped wine. Do the boards hold that much sway over restaurants that they are fearful of bad posts?

Tom Sietsema: It’s a big, bad — but never boring! — world out there in the blogosphere. I think restaurants DO care what is posted about them online. And I think some online scribes are taking advantage of the fact.


Re bad blogger: Restaurants, like so many other places, rely on reputation. This chat has demonstrated that a bad reputation can devastate a restaurant. For a blogger to take advantage of that is despicable. The blogger in question should be outed. I for one would like to know who is blackmailing restaurants and I’m sure the restaurants would like to know who should no longer be considered a decent blogger.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, that’s a sticky, sticky path! I think it’s up to the monitors of the boards to police their chats and/or discussions. Here at the Post, for instance, reporters have editors — a safety net for which I’m very grateful. I don’t think the same can be said for many amateur food sites.

gansie: I’ve only wanted to do this once. Every other dining experience, good, bad or drunken, I’ve never felt the need to disclose the fact that I am reviewing the place. Clearly by the fact that I write this Ask Tom feature, I closely follow his guidance: never announce your critiquing presence. Even when my friends have wanted to leave little notes saying check fill-in-the-blank publication, I always take the high ground. But, no dining establishment tempted me as much as… Westend.

Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert is crap. I took 80 there (by request) for his birthday. And although we were celebrating his getting older, the waiters treated us like effing 15 year olds.

I went to the bathroom when we first got there (journeyed through a bit of a bar crawl on the way over and saw some MLS players!) and when I came back, the ever-eavesdropping 80 thought he heard some sort of interesting special being offered, but couldn’t gather the details.

So when the waiter came to take our order, he didn’t preface it with the specials list. I therefore asked and he said, “Um, it’s a chicken sausage.” With that condescension and lack of detail, we obviously didn’t order that appetizer. And I was pisted!
80 ordered a rabbit salad (um, kinda like a chicken salad) over toast and I ordered a fried duck egg over asparagus. The egg was pretty cool – it was breaded and fried and oozed yolk. But the asparagus was frighteningly cold.

During this portion, we overheard our waiter at the next table generously offer a loving explanation of the chicken sausage. Holy shit did that piss me off! I mean, I almost wanted to leave. Ugh! I actually don’t really want to talk about it. That’s how pisted and embarrassed I was about the lack of respect.

For the entrees, 80 choose the skate with a side of bitter to the point of inedible butter-braised endives. And I got the steak with shallot sauce. Twenty-five bucks with no side. An order of fries was clearly in need to supplement, annoyingly.

The skate was fine. The steak was good, and cooked to my medium-rare liking. (Although I can’t say Edouble and miked’s salt and olive olive grilled steak wasn’t just as good, or better.) But I was still terribly upset. And, the meal was ill paced. We got our appetizer fairly fast and only about 2 minutes passed before we got our entree. Um, we get the point – you want us out.

And to make it even more fun, the table next to us got all this FREE shit. I think they got both an appetizer and a dessert for free. Two girls, not even cute.

Because it was his birthday, we ordered a dessert that really wasn’t that good, which I can’t find on the website and don’t remember the name. Something with caramel and some chocolate and sea salt. But that too a bit bitter, and just off.

When the hefty bill came, we debated the tip. Do we tip like we normally would at a nice restaurant and show to the waiter that just because we look young does not mean we don’t appreciate fine dining? Or, do we say FUCK HIM and tip low? Or, do I let him know that I am writing a tell-all about his shit service and this shit restaurant?

We tipped low.

Full Transcript

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  • BS May 29, 2008  

    Totally agree with your decision. I hate the “he’s treating us bad because he thinks we’re gonna tip him low, should we prove him wrong or prove him right” debate. If they are so convinced you’re not going to tip well, I say surprise him and tip even worse.

  • BS May 29, 2008  

    PS – is there really a blogger pompous enough to describe themselves as “a senior member of a well-known area food blog.” Can we start a poll guessing who this “senior blogger” is?

  • gansie May 29, 2008  

    someone at DCist?

  • BS May 29, 2008  

    I was gonna say DCist too, although they said it was a food blog, not a food blogger at a general blog. Metrocurean is the only DC food blogger I can think of who is actually important enough, but she is a sweetheart. Don Rockwell, maybe? Of course, it could be DC Foodie’s cheese correspondent.

  • 80 Proof May 29, 2008  

    Yeah, Westend is off my list of places to eat for a while. I almost always give waitpersons (like that gansie?) the benefit of the doubt, especially when the kitchen messes something up they have no control over. But this guy was just rude. We are 27 and 28, not 17 and 18. We ordered a bottle of wine. Don’t treat us like we are lucky to be eating there and rush us out.

    Wow, ranting about two places in one day! I usually am not like this.

    BTW, it’s not like we even tipped that low, just not what you would normally tip in a fine restaurant.

  • 80 Proof May 29, 2008  

    “Of course, it could be DC Foodie’s cheese correspondent.”

    ahhh. (JoeHoya, for the uninitiated is our star commenter / DCFoodie’s cheese expert)

  • JoeHoya May 29, 2008  

    I hardly think I qualify as a “senior” member of – I’ve only been writing there since last fall!

    Judging by the fact that the name-dropper in question described himself as a senior ‘member’ and not a ‘writer,’ I’m going to guess it was someone from Don Rockwell, Chowhound, or one of the more board-oriented sites.

    And, because I feel guilty enough to share, I have to admit that I was outed (or given just enough of a lead to out myself, as the case may be) as a cheese blogger at a restaurant whose cheese plate I have discussed (though I had discussed it prior to this occurrence).

    And I’m not proud to own up to the fact that I was bitter after all was said and done because the waiter chatted up our party (which included a chief friend of a friend who was in from out of town), upsold us on a round of Port, and then charged us for it.

    Like I said – I’m not proud of that. Thankfully, my wife called me on my asshat behavior and I’ve made it a point to keep my blog connection under wraps when dining since then.

  • gansie May 29, 2008  

    omg, BS, don’t get me started on metrocurean. i saw her last night at a press dinner (co co. sala – we had about 9 courses, 5 of which were dessert) and she is just so gorgeous. i cant even stand it.

  • BS May 29, 2008  

    Of course, it could be Tom S. himself who is the snobby food blogger in question.

  • Jon Eick May 29, 2008  

    I would like to remove myself from any speculation about this mystery food blogger. First off, I write my site alone, so I couldn’t be a “member”, also, I would never refer to myself as a “Senior member of a well-known area food blog” because, well, because I’m not a huge douchebag?

    Sounds like a Chowhound situation.

  • Maidelitala May 29, 2008  

    I think I would have tipped 12% (not my usual 20% – I used to be a waitress and firmly believe that 20% is the rule for reasonable service – even if the food was cooked poorly) and I would have left a note that said “I’m giving you this tip so that you learn to respect fresh-faced youngsters…. But, beware, this carrot comes with a stick

    Why not tell someone at the end of the meal that their service has been judged, and let them know why you’re tipping low so that you don’t perpetuate the stereotype that young people don’t know how to tip? People need positive AND negative reinforcement… it’s the only way they learn. don’t do it for free shit, but after the check is paid and all is said and done, i don’t see the harm.

    Oh and just so the world knows: I’m NEVER going to Westend… the service sounds just awful. In fact all the 20-somethings and young looking 30-somethings in the city should boycott. hello this is dc where the average age in the summer is like 26…. You can’t afford to treat younger patrons with disdain!!

  • DAD GANSIE June 4, 2008  

    the tip sounded justified

  • sandrar September 10, 2009  

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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