I’ve been Yelping.
Mostly because I realized I have opinions about local restaurants and it’s silly not to share them…even though I remain terrified someone is going to call me out, a la the Lucky purse disaster on Consumerist. I guess this proves that despite all the book rejections that have come my way, I still haven’t developed very thick skin.
Nonetheless, I did a bold thing today: I posted a review of Prime Meats in which I alleged the restaurant is completely uninviting. Angry mobs may be assembling as we speak.
I’m not sure whether I’ll become a hard-core reviewer on Yelp — after all, there are so many places on the Internet where you can review things and provide your opinions…like, say, on Epicurious…and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write it all.
But I also know a little cross-promotion can’t hurt…and am kind of proud of this review. There — I said it. (Which probably means it is terrible as that is usually the case whenever I like something I write.)
Nevertheless…for non-Yelpers, here’s my review:
I am going to make a bold statement. And I’m fairly certain it’s going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think, to a degree, Prime Meats — like the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale — has no clothes. Or it is at least half-naked.
The food is very good, to be sure. Prime Meats wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if that wasn’t the case.
I also think it was a bold move for the owners to focus on German cuisine – although perhaps therein lies their genius.
But somehow Prime Meats, despite its delicious food, doesn’t have the warm, inviting atmosphere of other restaurants of its caliber. That is not to say it is not aesthetically pleasing. But it is permeated by a sense of entitlement that belies the site’s humble history as a dry cleaning business.
On a recent weekday, one of the owners waltzed about with his French bulldog in hand with such an air of confidence, I wondered if he would actually get in trouble if a health inspector dropped by or if he could simply say, “Do you know who I am?” and get away with it.
I’ll repeat: The food is very, very good. You can get a fine steak here – and this is a neighborhood that cannot otherwise boast a good steakhouse.
But I think the fuss over this restaurant is partly psychological. In other words, I think part of the reason people rave about it is the same reason the head cheerleader and the quarterback of the football team are powerful in high school. It’s not necessarily because they’re good people…
Sam Sifton did an excellent job describing diners in his NYT review last May: “…brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home.”
They are served by waiters in beards, skinny jeans and suspenders…or, as Sifton described them, “a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”
I am admittedly a struggling writer with a degree that has so far not justified its pricetag…and perhaps if I had landed a job at the New York Times or Conde Nast, I would feel more welcome here. But I don’t. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a restaurant where I’ve felt so unwelcome.
I could perhaps understand if I was dressed inappropriately or was spewing profanities. But I wasn’t. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And I live very close. I walk by virtually every day. And yet when I decided to drop by to take advantage of an oyster special and the restaurant was unoccupied with the exception of one other party, it took 15 minutes for our drinks to come and yet another 15 more for the oysters to appear.
“I’m sorry, but the oyster guy is backed up,” our waiter explained as the table next to us received their second platter of oysters and we checked our watches.
We were eventually served and, as noted, the food was good. But at no point did I feel my business was wanted or that I would ever be compelled to return…unless I was suffering from acute hubris and needed my ego cut down to size by a staff eager to imply that I wasn’t good enough to eat there.
It’s not just me. I’ve heard stories from neighbors who were deemed unfit to mingle with the clientele and who were encouraged to sit at the bar or move along.
Take Frank Bruni on Twitter, for example. On January 5, he wrote, “At Prime Meats last nite, didn’t think: I’m in BROOKLYN!”
In his defense, he went on to say, “Didn’t mull geography. Just ate well at super place. The borough has plenty.”
But, at the same time, a Brooklyn prejudice seems terribly outdated and pompous…and somehow completely fitting for this restaurant that calls the borough its home.