Restaurant Reviews Are Back! (But It's Complicated.)

A little insight into how we're judging restaurants these days

The last pre-pandemic restaurant review I filed for this paper never ran. It was of the now-defunct High Note on South Lamar near Barton Springs, and I submitted it on March 3, 2020. As it so happens, the last pre-pandemic restaurant review this paper ran was one I wrote. At the time, it was unfathomable to think that dining out would become a fraught decision tree of risk assessment, the stakes of which seem to change on what feels like a daily, if not hourly, basis.

As we reintroduce restaurant reviews to these pages, I thought I'd take this opportunity to do some level-setting regarding what restaurant reviews will look like for the foreseeable future. First, for the time being, we're sticking to patios and food trucks. We want to support and nurture our local restaurants, but we also don't want to put workers (or ourselves) at risk. So it's outdoor dining only until Austin returns to Stage 2.

We also won't be reviewing any takeout. It's not fair to the restaurant to judge them based on a foil tin of lukewarm (at best) enchiladas or a plastic bowl of room-temperature ramen. A restaurant review should portray a restaurant experience as intended: hot food served fresh, eaten in a bustling dining room and not in front of another viewing of the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.

We will note excellent service but won't remark on it otherwise. Everyone is short-staffed, and it would be ungenerous and just plain dumb to expect non-pandemic standards. And, for the time being, we will make note of what COVID precautions seem to be in place in a restaurant, as appropriate. We figure that if we want to know these things, our readers do too.

We are just as eager as everyone else for things to go back to something approximating normal. Until then, these are the guardrails we've put in place to safely and ethically resume restaurant reviews.

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