Louisville’s culinary milieu generates ample media coverage, and justifiably so. In my view these newspapers, magazines, web sites and social media feeds each have something to recommend them (although yes, there are occasional exceptions), the point being access to differing points of view.
I’m the sort who appreciates historical context borne of institutional memory. We have it here at Food & Dining Magazine, with two former Courier Journal restaurant reviewers aboard: weekly bourbon columnist Susan Reigler and our editor-in-chief Marty Rosen, as well as the CJ’s longtime kitchen wizard Ron Mikulak. F&D’s publisher/founder John Carlos White has been at the helm for quarterly print editions since the magazine’s inception in 2003, and we’ve always featured the amazing photography of the award-winning Dan Dry.
At 60, I’m the newbie, although a few random factoids about beer remain lodged in my cranium.
This digression about the wisdom standing to be gleaned from experience is occasioned by a fortuitous glance at LouisvilleHotBytes.com and Robin Garr’s column this week, “The Restaurant Critic Ponders the New Normal.”
Robin is another of the Louisville foodie veterans, surely one of THE longest tenured, having covered the food and dining scene since most of us figuratively (perhaps even literally) donned knee pants, beginning around 1980 and the debut of his wine column at the CJ and the Louisville Times. Robin’s on-line food, dining and wine discussion forums date to the 1990s.
This week’s column intro follows, just to give you a taste. To read the entire essay (there’s no paywall), just click through to his web site. It’s an insightful summary of where we’ve been the past 15 months, with an analysis of the tea leaves in an effort to foresee what’s coming next.
Slowly, gradually, with some stutter steps, Louisville’s restaurant scene, like the nation’s, is edging back toward normal, and I for one am delighted to see that.
But even with widespread vaccination and declining positivity rates that mean many of us are pocketing our masks much of the time, it’s a new kind of normal. Some restaurants have been lost. A few new ones have arrived. Takeout, delivery, even curbside service seem likely to stick as more frequent options than ever before.
Meanwhile, a lot of eateries are reporting serious difficulty hiring enough servers and cooks, and these shortages are showing up in reduced menus and, on occasion, slow service. Nobody likes that! The notion that folks are staying home on the state’s limited unemployment payment is a pile of steaming bovine excrement, but it’s a fact that some former restaurant workers have found better paying work with more comfortable hours elsewhere, and some of them aren’t coming back.
Quite a few longtime restaurant patrons, too –vaccination to the contrary notwithstanding – remain wary about going back inside a restaurant for an indulgent sit-down dinner.
So it’s an optimistic but still bumpy scene for diners, restaurant workers, and restaurant owners too. But how about the restaurant critic? What’s different over here, and does anybody care?