Dear ELV,

Are there any rules for critiquing your friends as food critics?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a text, or phone call from someone telling me how wonderful some restaurant is, as in: “OMG, you have to try it…the food is AMAZING!” only to be sorely disappointed by another averageĀ  Italian or run-of-the-mill steakhouse. Do you have any advice for how to gauge people’s bad taste, and how to deal with their mindless hyperbole when they foist it upon you?


Fed Up With Friends

Dear FU,

First of all, you have to ask yourself: are my friends to the menu born, or are they part of the mindless restaurant rabble? An honest answer to this can be HARDER THAN YOU THINK. If they are part of the latter (most likely), hard decisions must be made. Should I stop talking to them altogether about restaurants? Feign interest? Humor them? Drop them as friends entirely? DON’T DISCOUNT THIS AS AN OPTION.

In ELV’s younger days, one or two bad restaurant recommendations would have entailed a week of sullen silence towards the offending friend, followed by a month of passive aggressive behavior — “Sure, I’ll meet you at Jose-Hymie’s Mexican Deli & Falafel Stand,” with no intention whatsoever of showing up — and finally, a thin grimace whenever they started bloviating about anything they ate. As we’ve matured, we’ve developed a system for editing out what our friends tell us about where we “have to go.” It is a COMPLEX MATRIX of information stored, based upon thousands of false leads, uninformed recommendations, and wasted time, money and calories all occurring because we were TOO POLITE to tell someone they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Keep in mind, the circle of ELV’s opinionated friends includes:

– Thousands of KNPR listeners (who’ve followed him since 1995);

– Dozens of doctors (who are never wrong);

– Hundreds of lawyers (who have the worst taste on the planet);

– Countless wine snobs (who wouldn’t know a good ma po doufu if it bit them on the ass); and,

– 47 women named Jennifer.

Decades in the making, our matrix involves how long we’ve known them, their travel history, cataloging their eating experiences, knowledge of their dining prejudices, how many times they’ve led us astray, and, most importantly, how annoyed we are with them at any given time. Eventually, you distill the whole formula down to a simple conclusion, followed by an even simpler statement: “THANKS for the information, ” said through a thin, weak smile….which is more like a grimace.

Insincerely yours,


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