How I Became a Restaurant Reviewer, NOT a Food Critic By Juliann Wetz

After submitting a sample restaurant review to the newspaper where I’d recently begun writing book reviews, the editor assigned me a new job. I would be a restaurant reviewer. My first assignment was a place called Deuces Wild — a Harley bar. I was scared to death. Not because I was afraid to go there or afraid of what I might encounter, but because I’d never done a restaurant review before, and I knew nothing about Harleys. I felt like I was in over my head.

There was no one to tell me what to do. I studied the restaurant reviews of other newspapers and got the flavor for what information should be included and how a review should be structured. But I didn’t know that restaurant reviews were supposed to be anonymous. I walked in and told the hostess right away that I was there to write a review for the paper and asked to speak to the manager. He came to the table and actually sat down with me and my family. He told me all about the place and his vision for its future. He enthusiastically told me what was so alluring about riding Harleys. And he ordered us the best steaks and quesadillas we had over my entire 3-year stint of reviewing restaurants.

My editor loved the review. He didn’t change a word and it became my modus operandi to interview the managers or wait staff at every restaurant I reviewed. Sometimes I did so before we ordered. More often I did it after we ate. I liked being able to include the story behind the restaurant or specific dishes. It differentiated me from the pack and established me as a restaurant reviewer