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Industry Tastemakers on Their Biggest Grievance

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. We've already covered restaurant standbys, top newcomers, 2014 in one word, best dining neighborhood, biggest dining surprises, and single best meal of the year. Now, it's time for breakups.

Chris Guy/Flickr

EOY SmallQ: What was the biggest restaurant grievance of 2014?

Julien Perry, co-founder, One Night Only Project

Restaurateurs opening businesses that just don't make sense and/or aren't very good in what appears to be nothing more than an ego-driven decision. It's disappointing to see these baffling concepts taking up, for the most part, perfectly good real estate in charming neighborhoods.

Nicole Sprinkle, food editor, Seattle Weekly

For me it's a tie between ho-hum desserts and cocktail bars with ambitious sounding small plates that don't really deliver.

Jonathan Zwickel, senior editor, City Arts

Exploitation under the guise of preservation. In their new iterations, "The Comet" and "The Canterbury" have only their names in common with the original versions. (Split the difference and you get Sam's Tavern, which is basically a suburban TGI Friday's set in the middle of Seattle's most vibrant neighborhood.) Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of Seattle's fumbling relationship with its own history and using any vestige of legacy to make a buck. Let's call a spade a spade: It's capitalism, not preservation.

Allison Scheff, food & dining editor, Seattle Magazine

My grievance continues to be meal pacing. I think this relatively new "dishes will arrive when they're ready" style of service (and I mean this in particular about mid- to higher-end places) is a cop-out for the kitchen and wait staff. In most restaurants, it does matter what plates come out first—it matters for drink pairing, and it matters because diners can't eat three plates at once and the food suffers, it gets cold and limp. Course it out, or at least have it be an option. It's a bummer to sit with six dishes on the table, feeling like you've got to hurry to taste everything before it gets cold. It's not relaxing, it doesn't feel like the restaurant is taking good care of the customer, it's not good hospitality.

dick's vintage

Capitol Hill's old restaurant guard. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Leslie Kelly, editor, Zagat Seattle; project manager, Tastemade Seattle

Sweet cocktails! Gag me with a stirring spoon! I know bartenders are trying to be creative, but it seems like even a drink that purports to be bitter leans toward sweet. I was served a sweet martini recently, and told that's the classic recipe. Uh, sorry, but hells no. Fortunately, they were sweet about remaking it. Also, it's sad to see some places treat wine like an after-thought, and then charge big bucks for a glass pour. I'll buy an extra-large adult beverage for the bartender who can figure out how to make wine as sexy and cool as (dry) cocktails or craft beer.

Jameson Fink, wine blogger, Wine Without Worry podcast host


Surly Gourmand, "world's greatest food writer"

Mixologists who dress like steampunk villains. You don't need a vest and a watch fob to be a great bartender. Please note that Murray Stenson somehow manages to be the best bartender in Seattle while wearing a mock turtleneck and mom jeans.

Allecia Vermillion, food & drink editor, Seattle Met

Can we stop it with the whimsical menu categories, please? I'm cool with small plates. I'm cool with entrees and appetizers. I'm not cool with parsing how many things I should order when menus categorize dishes as bites or noshes or (god forbid) nibbles, or sort them by animal, vegetable, or mineral.

Bethany Jean Clement, food writer, The Seattle Times

My 2014 Seattle restaurant grievance is TOO MANY NEW SEATTLE RESTAURANTS. I know, waaaaah, but 27 new places have opened on Capitol Hill alone in the past year (not a joke), and many (maybe most) of them seem absolutely worth checking out. Then there are lots more great-sounding new spots all over town. My immediate 2015 goal: Manolin.

Nancy Leson, food writer, KPLU food commentator

Scott Carsberg hasn’t opened a new restaurant—yet.