“It is sad that the more “successful” a neighborhood becomes, the more it gradually takes on a recognizable, common look, as the same banks, drugstore chains and national brands move in. Be honest: Would you rather have one more bank branch in your neighborhood, or another independent restaurant?”
Danny Meyer, who will relocate his pioneering Union Square Cafe at the end of 2015 because of a brontosaurus-sized rent increase, speaks some TRUTH about how the NYC real estate market isn’t looking out for NYC or its wonderful communities (Source: New York Times).
“Given the rate at which Michael White’s Altamarea Group spits out restaurants these days, this column has adopted a new policy. The amount of time spent critiquing each Altamarea place will be proportional to the time Altamarea spent coming up with the idea. This review of Ristorante Morini, open since December, will be brief.”
Pete Wells, in his two-star review of Morini for The New York Times.
“You go into Carbone, and the whole thing is so fake…I went for dinner and I was embarrassed to be there”

Says Sean MacPheron in an interview with The New York Times. He’s the guy behind Waverly Inn, which sells $55 truffled mac & cheese to celebrities. He’s also the guy who’s allowing Tao, a Buddha-themed restaurant that sells $88 Wagyu ribeye to tourists, to open underneath his Maritime Hotel. 

So to be fair, the dude clearly knows a thing or two about fake. 

“Mr. Bouley is setting up a computer system so that diners can get digital images of what they’ve eaten before they even get the check.”
From an amusing article about the downsides of food photography (which we’re in favor of), as published in a January 2013 issue of the New York Times. This Bouley system seems particularly ridiculous. 
“I could go on against tipping, but let’s leave it at this: it is irrational, outdated, ineffective, confusing, prone to abuse and sometimes discriminatory. The people who take care of us in restaurants deserve a better system, and so do we.”

So says NYT restaurant critic Pete Wells in his fine essay against tipping, a ridiculous American practice where guests are expected to “voluntarily” add 18-20% to any restaurant bill to compensate waiters for their services. 

The Bad Deal has long argued that mandatory service-charges or European-style service-included pricing are fairer than tipping for both diners and wait staff. Earlier this year, we broke the news that Sushi Yasuda had eliminated tipping. We also published an interview with Manresa’s David Kinch arguing that tipping is the last major hurdle holding back dining in America. You know it: It’s time for tipping to go. 

“For dozens of Korean and Chinese immigrants living in Flushing, Queens, riding the casino buses has become a way of life. Twice a day, they descend on unmarked bus stops off Main Street to secure a $15 seat to the Sands casino in Bethlehem, Pa. Many do not gamble. They make the trip solely for the free gambling and meal vouchers they receive when they arrive, coupons they sell on the black market. A half-day trip to the Sands can net around $40.”
From a brilliant New York Times photo essay on how the promise of easy money at the casinos have lured a vulnerable segment our society into a never ending commute. As this quote reminds us, a free meal is never really a free meal. 
“While the service can be among the best in the city…it is not always that way for everyone. When people who are known at the restaurant tell me about their meals, they look blissful. Others look disappointed or resentful as they tell me about cramped tables in the neoclassical arcades around the grand sunken dining room and hasty, perfunctory service.”
Pete Wells downgrades Daniel from FOUR STARS to THREE STARS in his review for The New York Times. Do click through for the full read, as it includes a brilliant play-by-play account of his VIP treatment versus the every-man treatment of a colleague at another table, who orders the same six-course menu ($195) and encounters very different service.  

California's Most Expensive Restaurant Facing Claims of Underpaying Workers.4

Urasawa in Beverly Hills, where dinner for two can easily exceed $1,000, is facing state and civil accusations of underpaying workers and withholding overtime, the New York Times reports. The sushi bar, which previously housed Masa Takayama’s Ginza Sushi-Ko, is California’s most expensive restaurant, with a starting price of $375 per person before drinks, tax and tip. 

“The Internet might have made pimps less necessary, but today’s escorts are as marginalized as ever, and every bit as vulnerable. The police rarely help them when they are at risk, and they rarely take their disappearances seriously." — Important New York Times read about the new economics (and human cost) of pimp-free prostitution.  

The Internet might have made pimps less necessary, but today’s escorts are as marginalized as ever, and every bit as vulnerable. The police rarely help them when they are at risk, and they rarely take their disappearances seriously." — Important New York Times read about the new economics (and human cost) of pimp-free prostitution.  

Restaurants Paying Workers with ATM Cards Whose Fees Can Push Pay Below Minimum Wage4

Taco Bell and other restaurants are paying hourly employees with debit cards (rather than with checks or via direct deposit) that require those workers to withdraw their hard-earned money via ATMs, the New York Times reports.

The authors write, "In the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card.

It’s a raw deal for low-wage employees who work hard to make ends meet. Click through for the full NYT report, which gives us a fascinating insight into a very interesting class of Americans: Those without bank accounts. Turns out that without these cards, some of the un-banked would instead resort to check cashing services that charge even more. 

There’s your lose-lose dilemma of the day. 

“The only time the room feels small is when you are attempting to book one of the 28 seats, but even that is a fairly painless process thanks to a widget on Chez Sardine’s Web site that lists open time slots rather than making you guess. (I hope the technology catches on.)”
Hey OpenTable, Pete Wells is talking about you! He’s criticizing those reservation time GUESSING GAMES you make us play. End the madness and just tell us when there are available seats, OpenTable! 

The Marrow: When Critics Disagree

We always like to say that when critics disagree, the consumer wins, as diversity of opinion beats reading the same review over and over again.

No, you can’t really divine the truth about any particular restaurant (or from any individual critic) by comparing star ratings (Time Out’s is “out of five”, the rest are more or less “out of four”). But in this case, the stars are a pretty good indicator about how each of these critics feel about Harold Dieterle’s Italian-German joint. Some of them like it a lot, others, a little. (Bad Deal editor Ryan Sutton, of course, is the man behind the Bloomberg review).