Still crushing Eater bugs, but in the meantime, Amanda Kludt started a thread in the new Eater forums about Personal Eater 38 lists. I posted mine, as did Robert Sietsema, Ryan Sutton, and more. Add yours immediately.
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.
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?!”)
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 Vox.com 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.
Eater’s new site launched this morning (at approximately 2:15am, should you happen to have been up). It’s a complete rethinking of Eater from the ground up — a fascinating process to go through given that I’ve been living with the brand for nine years and have a considerable amount of fondness for it, as well as a lot of intractable ideas about it too. Happily, this time around the editorial side was guided by Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt, while the Vox Product team brought its extraordinary experience building web brands to the table.
The process took seven months. The starting point: rethinking the brand’s visual identity. Eater has had two logos in its history. The original one is the one we launched with in 2005, conceived by BL and executed by yours truly in Photoshop to mimic restaurants too cool to print their full name on the awning:
(This logo is also where Eater’s house style of putting ~E~ around an E to signify Eater spawned from.)
In 2009, Curbed’s head of tech Eliot Shepard and Gawker graphics head extraordinaire Jim Cooke collaborated to create a real logo for Eater based on the typology in the R&L Restaurant sign that still hung above legendary Meatpacking District restaurant Florent. This time around, Ted Irvine, who oversees design for Vox Product, reached out to a handful of designers for new logo takes; we were open to a completely different approach if the right one presented itself.
I’m glad, though, that we opted to go with a refresh of the Eater logo — an approach pitched by Cory Schmitz, who did the logowork on Polygon for Vox as well. Cory took Jim and Eliot’s typeface and simplified it, preserving the essential lines, notably the unexpected drop in the A and the curves in the Es and A. (I’m sure there are fancy font geek names for these things, but I’m only an amateur font geek.)
Here’s the result:
I love it.
As the above makes clear, the design team also played around with illustrated food icons as part of the new design. Initially, I was very resistant to this idea, fearing the sort of cutesy/lazy fork-and-plate motifs that inform the look and feel of a bunch of Eater’s competitors. “If we’re going to do illustrations, we’re going to need them to be something more like a burning arm,” I joked. So Georgia Cowley, Kelsey Scherer and Dylan Lathrop (who did the illustrations) gave us a burning arm. It now adorns Eater’s homepage:
Less noticeable but equally brilliant is the work put in by that team crafting illustrated identities for each of Eater’s 26 city sites. Check out Dylan’s bats-with-breakfast-tacos look for Eater Austin, or the dog drinking a cold-pressed juice on Eater LA. I thought pulling off illustrations in a way that would fit Eater’s brand would never work — until Vox Product showed us that they did.
Love and thanks to the Vox design team. Burning Arm and Bats with Breakfast Tacos 4eva.
Speaking of the forthcoming Eater relaunch, I’ve been loving the throwback posts on Eater NY this week. Among the gems: BL’s 2007 investigation into the playing cards on the ceiling of Balthazar; David Chang’s 2007 reveal of the Momofuku Ko concept; and, from 2008, a classic Leventhal-Steele IMterview concerning the then-extant Meatpacking District restaurant Merkato 55. Sweet sweet Merkato 55.
Also it’s kind of fun to do these little linky-with-no-headline posts (at Curbed, we call them Quicklinks). In that spirit: Friday was Eater National editor Raphael Brion’s last day at Eater. Raphael is the creator and keeper of Eater’s Banned Words List, a document so valuable that in 2011, we had it insured. Raphael always swore that on his last day at Eater, he’d publish it. And so he did. The response to the list has been enjoyable to follow, even if all this does mean that we just lost our most valuable trade secret and it will kill me if Grub Street finally learns never to use the word toque.