Writing More Professional Restaurant Reviews

I took a food writing class recently and picked up these tips from Brad Johnson, editor of Modern Luxury Magazines. I know that many of us are not aspiring professional restaurant reviewers and are perfectly happy with our blogs, but it doesn't hurt to at least know what kind of guidelines the professionals follow so that you have the option of using them.

1. Restaurant reviews and ratings are based on the entire experience of dining out, the holy trinity of food, service and ambience. The review should always be first and foremost about the food (not how bad the traffic was on the way to the restaurant). Make sure to somehow mention what kind of food the restaurant serves in the first 200 words or you will lose the reader.

2. Above all else, tell a great story rather than providing chronological commentary on the meal. Let the story be a vehicle for conveying your impressions of the food and the experience. (Personally, this is one of my pet peeves about published restaurant reviews, which is why I don't do this on my site. Fluffy food stories are generally a waste of my time.) Convey your passion for food and dining and always provide the reader with a sense of discovery and new information.

3. Allow the food to come alive. Fish should wiggle. Pasta should swirl. Buns should sigh. Don't just list what you ate, because that's boring.

4. Always remain authoritative and enlightening. Be frank and critical without being negative or mean-spirited.


H. C. said...

Great tips! I've never taken a writing class strictly for food, but from my previous non-fiction writing courses & experiences those are sound advice.

Another two I'd throw in is 1) minimize use of adjectives; instead, activate descriptions with verbs and 2) do the food homework/research (either before or after the experience) ~ it allows the writer to describe things accurately and makes complicated dishes/methods more accessible to the reader.

Chubbypanda said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing them.

- Chubbypanda

chicopants said...

Nice post. I like Ruth Reichl's book about doing reviews dressed up in costume. That always makes for an additional discription or insight or two.
Plus, I love to know about the restroom in a restaurant--just something to give me an idea of how detailed the interior is all accross the board, or, for that matter, if its not the kind of place with a special interior.
I guess it might not be real cool to talk about a bathroom ina review, huh.

cstew said...

I like the bathroom idea. Because I have been to a lot of restaurants where their bathrooms have very interesting decor. For instance, there is a Thai restuarant on the Northside of Chicgo that has 70s Peez dispenser all over the wall in the women's bathroom. It is very intriguing and different