The Richest Source Of Information About New Orleans Restaurants, Cooking And Food
Restaurant websites are common in the internet. Eating is imperative, ranging from, “If you don’t eat, you die” to “Eating makes life worth living.”
I come from the latter end of that spectrum. I write the New Orleans Menu for those who feel the same way.
The New Orleans Menu is not for everybody. Let’s see if this is the dining website that suits your tastes. Look over this chart for a minute. If you can, right-click on the chart and select “Print Picture.”
Circle any number of matters (three to five) that you consider of greatest importance to you when dining out. Then find the spot on the chart that’s in the center of all the circled items. Draw a star there. There are no wrong results, of course. It’s all about personal preferences. Below is my chart, which shows my main interest in the flavors of food. And that I also care about service, wine, and both innovation and tradition. It also shows that I’m less interested in aspects of a restaurant that don’t affect the goodness of the food. I don’t present this as an idea that anyone else should follow–just my own leanings as I review the New Orleans restaurant scene. What worth do my reviews have for you? We’ll get back to that shortly.
For most of the forty years I’ve pursued this odd career of mine, it’s been frustrating to watch my columns and guidebooks quickly become obsolete. The restaurant business constantly changes. Not just year by year, but minute by minute. It’s not like a book or a movie, remaining forever as it was when it was first released. The food supply, vogues of taste, personnel, and customers are in constant flux. All sixteen editions of my printed restaurant guides included restaurants that had closed or changed while the book was at the printer.
The web, when it came along, was the perfect medium for reporters of this ever-shifting universe. The New Orleans Menu updates, adds, and subtracts reviews daily at the rate of about ten a week. What an advance!
If the web has a problem, it’s that its sheer information-gathering power can get in the way of good reporting and writing. It’s too easy to suck in data from online sources and then regurgitate it back out again. Most dining-out sites post “reviews” made of minimal information–address, phone, maybe hours, maybe culinary style–added to sketchy comments from readers, most of whom are anonymous.
It sounds like a good idea, but it isn’t. The eateries with more than the all-too-common “Be the first to review!” rarely get enough reader input to make the ratings statistically significant. The ratings mean different things to different people. Generally, if a reader likes a restaurant, her or she just gives it the full five stars. Some of the reviews are clearly written by friends of the restaurant–often the restaurant owner himself. If something went wrong, then the place gets bashed by the anonymous writer, and the lowest rating. Could this be a disgruntled former employee or a competitor? Maybe. Nothing to prevent that. Few “reviewers” take responsibility for their comments.
Another kind of online dining guide may be even more reprehensible. Some only report on their advertisers. You can tell those site easily: no ratings. They’d have you believe that all restaurants are equally good. What use could that be to a diner in quest for the best?
The New Orleans Menu fits neither of the categories above. We generate all of our information the hard way. I go to the restaurants, eat, pay, consider, and write. No automatic feeds from any source. We don’t even trust online phone directories. (We’ve found too much bad information there.)
Among my standards is a disdain for restaurants that buy almost everything already prepared. (More of them do that than you’d believe.) They open the pouch, warm up the contents, and serve it. How could that possibly compare with the cooking of a skillful chef who makes each dish by hand, to order, with fresh ingredients? I apply the same standard to The New Orleans Menu. It’s all created from scratch, one page at a time.
Yeah, but who is Tom Fitzmorris? Beyond an overly long career spent happily in the pursuit of and reporting of great dining, I’m nobody special. Anybody with an avid interest in food and an urge to write thousands of words a day could do what I do. Frankly, I don’t know why more don’t.
To quote my late mentor Richard Collin (“The Underground Gourmet,” New Orleans’s first restaurant critic), my qualifications are in what I write. If you disagree with my opinions most of the time, you would be a fool to use this service. If you find my reports reliable and useful, know that I will keep on feeding them to you here.
If all this rings a bell with you, welcome. I’ve been looking for you. Thank you for looking for me.