Monday, April 21, 2008

Jake at Maggie Mae's

Jacob Legg

One of my favorite restaurants is Maggie Maes on Pikes Peak Ave.. This last Sunday my family went over there to have breakfast. When we got there we had to wait a while for a table because the place was packed. We were able to get one of the big booths behind the cash register. Our waitress, even though she was busy with several other tables, remembered our names when she put down a tin of broken crayons and pictures to color. I like the coloring pictures here because they hang them up around the restaurant.
Now, about the great food. I had a short stack of pancakes with bacon, while by little sister had scrambled eggs and bacon with orange juice. My big sister had her usual scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns and my mother had her favorite French toast. My dad ate corned beef hash, eggs over easy, and hash browns with a cup of coffee. Even though the place was busy, our food got to us before I was able to finish coloring my picture.
Everything about this restaurant is good. Whenever we come in, we see old people, police officers, families with lots of kids, and sometimes people reading the newspaper. If you are ever out on East Pikes Peak Avenue, you should stop off at Maggie Maes. You won't be sorry.

Retort from New South Wales

Here's a letter that we'll run, at least in part, in GO! on Friday.

It's from the owner of New South Wales, who wasn't happy about Nathaniel Glen's mixed review last week:

I have been the owner and operator of the New South Wales Restaurant for the past 16 years. I have worked in the restaurant industry for the past 30 years, in every aspect of the business.

On April 11, The Gazette published a critique of my restaurant. While I believe that all businesspeople appreciate constructive and objective criticism, I have always felt that The Gazette falls far short of this goal.

In the last 30 years, I have been perplexed by its choice of critics. The word “critic” implies a working knowledge of the subject being criticized. But The Gazette continues to hire people with limited or no knowledge of the restaurant industry. Why is this? I struggle to see the relevance of a communication major in the matter of a restaurant critique.

Surely, the people at The Gazette have a great knowledge of their industry. Why then does their circulation continue to drop despite the popularity of El Paso County growth incline. I could hypothesize on this subject: Maybe their business has dropped due to the 24-hour national news networks, including CNN and Fox. Are you threatened by the Internet?

Surely, this could be the reason! Or possibly their circulation has dropped due to the type of pens and paper. But I have no working knowledge of the newspaper industry and can't really say. Perhaps the lights in The Gazette building ... could this be the problem? I'm sure the only illumination that takes pace at The Gazette if from their fluorescent lights.

But again, I have no knowledge of this subject and I can't really say.

Possibly it would be more fair for The Gazette to post a disclaimer before the article:

"I, Mr. "Iknowlessthan," have no working knowledge of the restaurant industry. I have never worked the front of the house or the kitchen. I have no knowledge of serving, cooking, prepping, food cost, beverage cost, operating cost or any other cost associated with the restaurant industry. I have only aware of how to eat. Please take this into account when perusing my article (critique). Thank you, Mr. "Iknowlessthan."

The businesses being critiqued have little or no recourse to these articles being published by The Gazette. I have always hoped there would be some type of moral aptitude by the editor to do what is right, but I have been disappointed for 30 years.
Gary Flewellen


Let me address Mr. Flewellen's key point.

The Gazette has never hired anybody with knowledge of food or the restaurant industry.

NOT TRUE. Anne Christensen had worked in several restaurants, and I think she worked both in the front and back of the house. I don't know if Ralph Millis worked in restaurants, but he certainly had an excellent knowledge of food from his extensive world travels and time lived abroad. Tom Karpel wasn't as deeply studied, but he was a quick learner and had a great way with food writing. Before we hired Nathaniel Glen, we gave him and the other two top critic candidates a tough quiz about food and cooking knowledge. All three scored well.

But I think at the core of this argument lies the idea that only people who work in restaurants can fairly write about the restaurant business. Critics have heard this one for years, and it's nonsense. Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael encountered the same argument about film critics. Being a smart and honest observer is more important to film criticism than having worked in the industry, she argued. The same is true of sports writers. Having played the sport you're covering is incidental.

Curiously, none of the criticisms addressed any of the specific issues of the review, suggesting that Nathaniel's observations are sound, but he lacks the qualifications to make them.

What do you folks think?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jake takes on House of Saigon

Jacob Legg

This last Saturday my family and I went out and had lunch at The House of Saigon on 21st Street. The place wasn’t busy and so the owner of the restaurant had lots of time to visit with us while we ate.
I thought the service was great. I had Shrimp Lo Mein with an egg roll and sweet and sour sauce. My sisters had Chicken Lo Mein with an egg roll also. My mom and dad had noodle bowls with chicken, beef, shrimp, and an egg roll with all kinds of vegetables and fresh mint mixed in with the noodles. We all drank hot green tea and ice water. We all loved the food because it was fresh, well cooked, and delicious. As we ate, the owner talked to us about Vietnam, the United States and his restaurant.
The dining room was very clean, and bright and cheerful. I learned how to eat with chopsticks, and at the end of the lunch I got a fortune cookie with my lucky numbers in it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Jake's take on Panino's

Jacob Legg

Panino's on 8th Street is much better than school lunch. The place was quiet when we got there, so we were able to choose a big round table to
sit at.

I picked spaghetti and a meatball with a soft bread stick from
the kid's menu. My parents choose Paninos, which are a type of sandwich, and my sisters also choose spaghetti, but without the meatball. The food took quite a while to come out of the kitchen. While I waited, I colored a picture of a chameleon on the kid's menu. I also looked around the dining room and noticed what other people were eating. A couple guys in the table next to us were eating a tasty looking pepperoni pizza, while an older couple sitting in a booth ate salads and prime rib.

Finally, when our dinner came we dug in and it was yummy. When I was done I was stuffed and there was nothing left on my plate. Panino's was great because the food was good and the waitress was nice.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Word from the Cabal

The Best of the Springs voting wraps up in a few minutes, and we'll have the most reader participation ever. ... I think we'll have about 2,000 votes. We had a few people comment that they miss the printed version of the ballot, but I feel a lot better about the online version being able to police ballot stuffing. Only one vote from one email address has been allowed.

The Independent had a funny cheap shot at us in Thursday's Annual Manual, which "repurposes" their Best Of content. The Independent has had a tradition, as we have, of doing both staff picks and reader ballot choices. This year, they dropped their staff picks. Now, they're hyping their Best Of as the one with picks by readers, not a "cabal of editors."

I think both staff and expert picks have their place. In defense of staff picks: when you're looking for a movie to see during the weekend, do you look at reviews or the biggest line? Our "cabal" can be useful.

Anyway, thanks to everybody who voted. The Best Of the Springs issue will hit the stands (and the driveways) on May 16.