Rooting for the Underdog, Restaurant Version
In the January issue, I review the charming and very delicious Travelers Thali House on Beacon Hill. It's a bittersweet review for me because the restaurant is so good, so welcoming, and the food is lovely in so many ways. But where is everyone?
Travelers was virtually empty on each of my three visits. Great restaurants struggling to find an audience? It's one of my frustrations as a restaurant critic, one I know is shared by other obsessive eaters in town: You taste remarkable food in a (sometimes) out-of-the-way spot and worry that the restaurant won't make it for lack of early buzz, neighborhood support, foot traffic, what-have-you. Truly remarkable sandwiches couldn't save the Chelsea Deli, which closed last week after just one year in Columbia City. Nettletown, which always charmed me (even if the long, neverending wait for food made me insane), also couldn't make it despite feverish support from the foodie contingent.
I'm rooting for Mike Easton, whose marvelous pastas at Il Corvo have a strong repuation with the food set in town, but whose restaurant within a restaurant (Il Corvo lives inside Procopio Gelato) could easily be missed because of its locale, even with all that Pike Place hillclimb foot traffic. Easton, though he does serve beer and wine, surely doesn't sell as much as he would if he were open for dinner; he's open only at lunchtime, and liquor sales often account for the majority of net profits in restaurants.
It's a reality of the business that with so many restaurants opening week after week, some will falter. So perhaps 2012 is the year we resolve to keep the restaurants we adore open a little longer. We all have those places we praise to others but haven't been back to in, has it already been a year? Go back. Go back to the good ones. Let the crummy restaurants die instead.