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Food for Thought: What's new in Seattle food reviews

Another note Nancy didn't pass.
Nancy Leson
Another note Nancy didn't pass.


Covering the food and restaurant scene in and around Seattle is a tall order. Ask me, I know: I did it, in one capacity or another, for more than two decades, much of that time at The Seattle Times, where I kept a desk — and file cabinets filled with restaurant review notes — before retiring from that job in 2014.


These days, everyone’s a critic, though far fewer folks are getting paid for it, as longtime Seattle Times lead critic Providence Cicero told Eater Seattle before stepping down last month, allowing (not-so) new critics Bethany Jean Clement and Tan Vinh to step up to the plate.


These days, the Times remains one of the last bastions of local media willing to pay-up to help you decide whether it’s worth your wallet to eat at this restaurant (the much-awaited new three-and-a-half-star il Nido, where you need to plan strategy to get in there a month in advance), or that (minuscule two-star sake bar Hannyatou, home to a no-reservations policy).


This week on Food for Thought, Stein and I discuss those big changes.


Chief among them: foregoing anonymity (a national trend, by the way) and star-rating restaurants “in an anti-traditional way” according to Bethany Jean’s intro on the revamped restaurant coverage (wherein a corner pho shop may be worthy of four stars).


Me? I’m glad I’m no longer attempting anonymity, stealing menus or handing out star ratings, but I still love dining out and do so often, at inexpensive strip-mall gems and superb-if-spendy restaurants.


Stein, on the other hand, much prefers to dine in, and swears he’d never stand in line to eat anywhere, nor pay big bucks to get into a restaurant that costs as much as his first car. That said, we both agree that restaurants need to TONE IT DOWN in the noise department, as we’ve mentioned a time or two before.


"The C student starts a restaurant.  The A student writes restaurant reviews." –P.J. O'Rourke

Nancy Leson is an award-winning food writer, radio personality, cooking instructor and public speaker who learned much of what she knows about food during her first career: waiting tables. Seattle readers know her as the mouth that scored — for the better part of two decades — as restaurant critic and food columnist for the Seattle Times. These days, when she’s not chatting about recipes or interviewing makers and shakers in the food world for KNKX, she helps end hunger, one loaf at a time, as the Edmonds hub coordinator for the Community Loaves project. Find her @nancyleson and at