Dining » Dining Lead

Tomatoes in Winter

What the critic loves and loathes at the 1,000-meal mark.


If my calendar and calculator are to be trusted, nearly 1,000 professionally consumed meals have found their way beneath my ever-expanding waistband at this point in my tenure; and while I still inexplicably adore dining out, I've developed some pretty intense opinions about what makes for a good time. Here's a rundown of my personal passions and peeves.

I love warm greetings . . . wintertime coatracks, coat rooms, and coatchecks . . . prompt seating . . . smiling hosts and hostesses . . . complimentary valet parking . . . energetic ambiance . . . nonsmoking dining rooms . . . three-season patios . . . amuses bouches and mignardises . . . knowledgeable servers who can make informed suggestions . . . managers, owners, and chefs who know how -- and when -- to schmooze . . . purse hooks on the bar . . . fresh flowers in the bathrooms . . . small plates . . . artisanal breads and unsalted butter . . . homemade potato chips . . . cheese courses . . . real maple syrup . . . wines by the half-bottle . . . fresh pots of coffee, left on the table . . . dessert lists that venture beyond the tired triad of crème brûlée, cheesecake, and tiramisu . . . and a sense of value, regardless of price.

On the other hand, I could live happily without call-ahead seating, that misbegotten conceit that requires diners to phone in advance and wait for a table . . . having to drape a full-length winter coat off the back of my chair . . . outdoor tables plunked down in the middle of parking lots or on the edge of busy streets . . . kitchens that don't remove the tail shells from shrimp before adding them to saucy dishes . . . plates dusted with dried parsley or cocoa powder . . . half-raw stalks of unseasoned broccoli . . . tomatoes in winter . . . overcooked pasta . . . margarine, nondairy creamer, and instant iced tea . . . bent forks . . . televisions in dining rooms . . . restroom attendants . . . servers who pull up a chair . . . tavern staffers who don't know what's on tap . . . plate-splitting charges . . . soggy pie crusts . . . and quantity masquerading as quality.

Please tell me I'm not alone here.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.