Eater’s Critics, Now in HD

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I’ll stop writing about Eater after this, promise. For a few days. But there’s one more thing I want to highlight. (Well, okay, two.)

One of the biggest changes to Eater in 2014 came last spring, long before yesterday’s relaunch. That was the hiring of Eater’s first-ever restaurant critics, the power trio of Robert Sietsema (late of the Village Voice), Ryan Sutton (who joined us from Bloomberg), and Bill Addison. They’ve each been filing stories for months now, but it’s in the redesigned reviews templates that debuted yesterday that their work truly shines. I’d go so far as to say that Eater’s review pages are the single most beautiful pages of their type on the whole damn internet. For proof, check out Sutton today on Keith McNally’s Cherche Midi, and Sietsema at a new Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown, Pho Vietnam 87. (For more: the Eater reviews homepage.)

Now, Bill Addison. Addison, who lives in Atlanta and previously worked as food critic for Atlanta Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, is the man we hired for the craziest job we’ve ever advertised for: a roving restaurant editor tasked with spending 40 weeks on the road this year eating everywhere and everything, then spending the last month of the year synthesizing it along with Eater’s editors into Eater’s first-ever National 38 list of the Best Restaurants in America. Eater calls his dispatches The Road to the 38.

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As great as the Road to the 38 has been, as part of Eater’s redesign the team upgraded all of Bill’s dispatches to the new templates, so now they’re available in all their glory. Among my favorites: his visit to Al Forno, my favorite restaurant from college in Providence, RI; a recent return to Alinea in Chicago; several make-you-want-to-go-now San Francisco reviews like Bar Tartine; and, last week, a journey to Portland, ME and the Maine coast. Check out all of Addison’s Road to the 38, and this interview the Chicago Tribune did with Bill to understand how in the world he’s pulling this job off. (Actual question: “How are you not dead?!”)

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When Eater’s National 38 debuts in December, it’ll be grouped into another new technology debuted with Eater’s relaunch: the Eater Mapstack. Readers of might recognize the concept from Vox’s cardstacks, which were developed by the team for persistent storytelling on major stories such as this cardstack on Isis. At Eater, mapstacks offer an easy way to scroll through lists like Eater’s Manhattan heatmap. Give ‘em a whirl.

  • harryh

    I hope that the National Eater 38 doesn’t turn into a list of the Best Restaurants. There are already plenty of sources for that. What’s always been great about Eater 38 was the “essential” label. Not necessarily the best, but instead somehow necessary or important.

    • Lock

      Excellent point. And something that we’ve exhaustively (though not definitively) discussed here. Main challenge is that “essential” is harder to grok on a national level than on a local one. But we are not aiming for yet another Best Restaurants list, to be clear.

      I’m honestly interested to see how we end up threading the needle. I suspect it may take us another year to nail it.

    • fredwilson

      such a great comment Harry. it’s not the best. it’s the most “Eater” whatever that means. if you read Eater, you know what it means.

    • Amanda Kludt

      It’s something that he is/we are absolutely grappling with, making it one of the hardest lists to put together. But the goal here is to make it ESSENTIAL, not best. If it were best, it would be all those high end tasting menu places.

      But, one thing that will be a bit of a departure from the local 38s is the inclusion of some pretty high priced places. We tend to keep the super high end restaurants off the 38s because they don’t feel “essential” within any given city. But there’s an argument to be made that on a national level Alinea IS essential. I think Blue Hill Stone Barns IS essential. But so is, potentially, the best bbq place in Lockhart and the best dim sum in SF.

      I think a bigger challenge than creating the inaugural list will be updating it. How much should can/should change? How many restaurants should be revisited? Etc. etc. etc.

  • Bridget Rynne

    Crazy excited for the mappyness, Lock. Crazy. Excited.