The Best (Most Savage) Restaurant Reviews - Culture | MERRY JANE
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The Best (Most Savage) Restaurant Reviews

Because sometimes crap eateries and their food deserve worse than a low rating.

by Claire Downs

Some things just leave a bad taste in your mouth. For restaurant critics, this is a more literal feeling. No matter how highly rated the chef, elegantly plated the food, or experimental the cuisine, it’s impossible to please everyone. But, when a person who makes their living judging and tasting dining experiences decides that your food sucks, restaurateurs beware. The Internet thrives on the scathing quips, witty takedowns, and savage descriptors that come with negative reviews. Here are the most hilariously awful restaurant reviews in recent history. Enjoy the schadenfreude and congratulate yourself on staying home, getting stoned, and eating your own grilled cheese (or something healthy if, for some strange reason, that’s your thing). It’s probably better than any of these dishes, and costs a whole lot less.

Michael Kaminer on Joanne Trattoria

“Maybe Lady Gaga’s parents are forsaking their famous daughter,” begins Michael Kaminer’s 2012 savaging of Joanne Trattoria for the New York Daily News. He adds: “I came with an open mind, despite the fact that most of my colleagues have portrayed Joanne as the worst thing since herpes.” This severe beatdown includes zingers like “marinara sauce [that] tastes like a powdered mix,” “eggplant parmesan arrives a gloppy, sloppy, mess,” and “egregious” entrees. This one is almost painful to read, knowing that it’s a passion project for Lady Gaga’s parents.

Most spectacular savaging: “The result is a careless, lifeless production that feels like a weird facsimile of a restaurant rather than the real thing.”

Lesley Chesterman on Les Enfants Terribles

Chesterman’s zero-star Oct. 2016 Montreal Gazette review delves into one of the most hilarious customer service experiences I’ve ever read. She starts by explaining that Les Enfants Terribles is on the top floor of a very tall building and it takes 15 minutes to ride the several broken escalators and two elevators to the top. Upon finally arriving, she writes, “I came face to face with three young women. I’d like to say ‘I was greeted by three young women,’ but there was no greeting.” The writer’s saga then details being shuffled to a outdoor terrace in 12-degree weather, for 45 minutes, before losing her mind. “That, dear readers, is when I lost it. I started by telling them their no-reservation policy was a joke, and that treating people like this was wasting their time. Barely a shrug.” What comes next is a supremely sarcastic and funny story of how the restaurant tried to atone for its terrible service once finding out that Chesterman was a restaurant reviewer.

Most spectacular savaging: “There are several words I can drum up to describe the treatment I received at Les Enfants Terribles PVM, but let me limit it one: shoddy. No, wait, remembering the manager patting our shoulders time and again, I would add: patronizing.”

Tom Sietsema on Second State

Tom Sietsema did not have a good meal at Pennsylvania-themed restaurant Second State in D.C last year. His Washington Post review begins with a Larry David-esque scene that ends with the waiter declaring, “The bahn mi is AWESOME.” Sietsema’s response: “The bahn mi is AWFUL,” like that, in all caps. Select barbs include writing that the french fries have “no discernable potato flavor, only a hailstorm of minced garlic that no amount of breath mints can mask,” and “venison is so undercooked it practically snorts.” At the end of the meal, the reviewer noted a patronizing sign that urged diners to “enjoy your food, not your phone.” Sietsema clapped back, “At Second State, frankly, scrolling trumps chewing.”

Most spectacular savaging: “The young restaurant should be declared a disaster area by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, so great are its culinary misfires.”

Jay Rayner on Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger, the fast-casual lunch chain, made the grave mistake of attempting to open an “upscale” version  with waiter service and a dinner menu in London last year. Jay Rayner, of the Guardian, described his brutal experience inside the sandwich chop with virtually no filter. He describes drinking a £25 bottle of prosecco as “the most depressing 10 minutes” of his life. His meatballs? “A bunch of tightly packed spheres of indeterminate animal.” And, there was a Lebanese dip that was an “insult to a whole country.”  

Most spectacular savaging: “It’s all rather sweet, like the Year 6s have decided to be really grown up and run a restaurant in Mrs Wilson’s art room to raise money for charity. Look! They’ve printed out menus and everything, bless them.”

Pete Wells on Per Se

Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York is not a new restaurant—in fact, it was last reviewed in the New York Times in 2011. But, as reviewer Pete Wells wrote in January of this year, “with each fresh review, a restaurant has to earn its stars again.” Wells’ most recent review of the once-posh Per Se earned only two stars, making the restaurant “officially over” in New York-speak.  Per Se’s outrageous price-point ($3K for four people), combined with snooty service (“servers sometimes give you the feeling that you work for them”) made for an excellent takedown of the joint. One highlight: “It’s possible to pass an entire meal in this no-fun house without a single unpleasant incident apart from the presentation of the check.” The review was so damning that Thomas Keller issued a public apology addressing the review.

Most spectacular savaging: “I don’t know what could have saved limp, dispiriting yam dumplings, but it definitely wasn’t a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water.”

Tina Nguyen on Trump Grill

In December, Vanity Fair writer Tina Nguyen re-ignited the publication’s long-standing feud with President-elect Trump by checking out Trump Grill at Trump Tower NYC in an article titled “Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America.” The review was full of so many hilarious burns that Mr. Trump himself tweeted about the review in full defense-mode. Nguyen’s awful meal included: Szechuan dumplings described as “flaccid, gray innards,” noticing discrepancies in the establishment’s name (sometimes Grille), and over-poured neon cocktails.

Most spectacular savaging: “Renowned butcher Pat LaFrieda once dared me to eat an eyeball that he himself popped out of the skull of a roasted pig. That eyeball tasted better than the Trump Grill’s (Grille’s) Gold Label Burger, a Pat LaFrieda-branded short-rib burger blend molded into a sad little meat thing, sitting in the center of a massive, rapidly staling brioche bun, hiding its shame under a slice of melted orange cheese.”


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Claire Downs is a writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She's written for Nickelodeon, VH1, Funny or Die, and Hello Giggles. You can follow her on Twitter @clairecdowns. She prefers Indica to Sativa, in case you're wondering.



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