Spend time with me socially and you’ll eventually learn that I used to be a restaurant critic in the Bay Area. The anonymous kind of critic, with a fake OpenTable account and no photos on Facebook. Just look at this silliness.
A new (non-food writer) friend will usually say “Oh em gee that is my dream job!”, giving me a chance to spoil everything. Typically I shoot them a weary look and say “I really disliked that job.” They wilt.
My reasons for disliking the job are beyond the point, maybe. I didn’t like that my writing could affect someone else’s income (one review got a waiter fired). I didn’t like that I spent time at what should be a special occasion — someone cooked for you! — looking for flaws. I didn’t like the pay, which was dismal (at least at a second-tier daily and an alt-weekly).
Don’t get me wrong — I had some fun. Like at this brunch spot, where your meal comes with a side of haunted dolls and naughty talk. Or the Japanese maid cafe. Or the restaurant where you eat in the pitch black. But in many ways, it seemed like a weekly grind — an issue that my friends had limited sympathy for. (“Dude try teaching high school in Oakland, then tell me how your job sucks.”)
I was thinking about all this on Saturday night, on my way to have dinner with family at Ditch Plains. We’d chosen the place through a combo of train convenience and gluten sensitivities. (I had suggested a top-notch dumpling-and-noodle spot).
As I walked to Ditch Plains, I was thinking how glad I was to not be reviewing this meal. I could just catch up with my cousins — they happen to be great — without getting too invested in whether dinner was spectacular. I would eat shrimp tacos, and that would be enough. Ditch Plains, you are safe.
Not so fast! Turns out my young cousins Geo and Chloe have eaten at many Manhattan restaurants, developing sophisticated judgment along the way. At Ditch Plains, they were both so vocal on their likes and dislikes that I asked if they’d like to write a one-paragraph critique. The next day, I had two reviews in my inbox!
First we have 14-year-old Geo, who starts high school this very week. Geo is an aspiring photographer with his own business, which makes me feel quite lazy (when I was 14, I cared about girls girls Nintendo girls). Here is his very serious review:
Eating at Ditch Plains is a small twist on your regular dining experience. The dark ambiance matched with dance music makes for a great late night dinner. The food is great too. Though unusual, the combinations of hotdogs with Mac and cheese on top or creamed corn with thick bacon make a great meal (though the price may say otherwise). Overall I give Ditch Plains a 4/5. Great food and feel but a bit overpriced and the waiters could be more attentive.
And Chloe, who is 9, is a fiercely opinionated lover of Disney and dancing (in my opinion, she stole the show in the Nutcracker last winter). Here is her review, in its original format: