John Curtas is …

ELV at the Crossroads

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What’s that old joke? If you see the fork in the road, take it.

Well, loyal readers, Eating Las Vegas is at a crossroad.

Writing about restaurants seems more than a bit trivial in these troubled times.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool new stuff going on.

And a lot of old stuff continues to shine  — like the sides and steak yours truly had at CUT the other night:

One part of me wants to dive in and tell you all about the great meals I’ve had recently at:

Allegro

Chuchote Thai Bistro

Le Cirque

Cafe Breizh

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7th & Carson

The Black Sheep

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Hofbräuhaus (yes, the Hofbräuhaus)

Bazaar Meat

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The aforementioned CUT

Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads (yes, Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads)

Prosecco

Bardot Brasserie

MB Steak

Ferraro’s

Casa Don Juan (yes, that Casa Don Juan)

Chada Street…and…

Morel’s Steakhouse

…just to name a few.

But my heart is heavy, and the blogosphere ain’t what it used to be.

Tens of thousands of people used to want to read these restaurant reviews, now but a few thousand do. Facebook and Instagram turned everyone into a food blogger (this is not a bad thing), and in so doing, created a world where the audience is small for anything but mindless listicles, gossip and food porn.

My personal theory is that once camera phones got better, around 5 years ago, everyone could see decent pictures of what a restaurant’s food looked like. When that happened, reading about it became a chore for all but the most ardent foodies. In other words, blogs like this had a mass appeal right up until the masses could look at purty pictures to hit their low information threshold. Thus did clickbait like “Top 5 Tacos in Town!” and “David Chang’s Favorite Pizzas!” supplant actually learning about food.

Simple-mindedness is the rule these days, no matter the issue, no matter what the topic. The dumbing down of America extends to subjects as diverse as climate change to politics to sports. No one is diving deep; everything is visceral or the Cliff Notes version. Even the President of the United States.

Speaking of mindlessness, people are being murdered wholesale in our country, and not enough people care enough about that, either. Because you know, freedom. If that’s not enough to sober me right out of restaurant writing, nothing is.

No matter how you slice it, there’s nothing deep about food writing. Food writers, critics, journalists, nutritionists, etc., are all doing different forms of the same thing: imparting information (and opinion) to the public to help it eat better, tastier, healthier food. No rocket science in that. Precious little politics, too. But if you want to learn something, you have to pay attention. Just like in elementary school. And just like elementary school, most students would rather be told the right answer than figure it out for themselves.

Loyal readers, I have grown weary of helping you figure it out for yourselves.

About the only thing that keeps me writing these days is contemplating what is left of the Vegas food writing community should I retire. Years ago, I hoped that the free weeklies would morph into a true voice for our food and restaurant scene. All they’ve morphed into is a platform for b-list bars and restaurants, cocktail features, and barely-written “reviews.” I don’t blame the writers, I blame the editors. They know their audience can hardly read (or barely wants to), so on one level, you can’t blame them.

My previous co-author, Al Mancini, professes not to want to write about restaurants anymore, so the worthless rag he works for has him covering hot topics like “What blue cocktails are made without blue curaçao?” and other such drivel. (Memo to Al Mancini: the world isn’t interested in “cocktails of the week,” only the people pushing them are.)

Max Jacobson, god bless him, will never re-join the food writing ranks, and my other former co-authors (Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn) talented though they are, have neither the coin nor the time to immerse themselves in our foodie scene. Eater Las Vegas is a joke (it’s run by a pathetic woman who, when she’s sober, remembers that she lives in Des Moines, Iowa), and no other local blog is worth a shit. So bleak the landscape is.

And bleak I feel about it. I love writing, and I love going to great restaurants. Combining those two passions in this blog, six books, and 23 years of reviews for radio, TV, guidebooks, ‘zines, and  dozens of periodicals has been a match made in heaven for me. No one has ever covered the restaurants of Las Vegas like I have over the past two decades. No one else is even close. All the food writers in town put together aren’t even close. On average, I eat out more in a week than all of them do in a month.

Am I bragging? Sure I am, but it’s also true, and it’ll be a long time before any food writer comes close to what I’ve done. And I’m proud of it.

But while the body might be willing, the spirit is weak. Sometime next month the sixth edition of EATING LAS VEGAS The 52 Essential Restaurants will be published. Those 52 restaurants (yes, two more this year!) are all mine this time. No co-authors, no dueling reviews. You will get my complete, unvarnished look at the best this town has to offer, plus a snapshot or two about where we fail as a food and restaurant town.

These are the same things I’ve been trying to do on this web site since April 1, 2008, and in various forms since October 15, 1995, when I debuted on Nevada Public Radio. I don’t know if the book will continue after this edition, but I’m fairly certain this web site will post its last toothsome pick, or eviscerating pan, on its tenth anniversary, April 1, 2018.

Until then, bon appétit!

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20 Responses to ELV at the Crossroads

  • I hope you change your mind. After reading twice I am still not sure of the why you want to quit. Because the world is mess? That’s not a reason . We all need to keep doing what we do best and you do this well.

  • As Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”

  • I have extolled your writing and I have criticized it, but if it is gone, I will sorely miss it. I might selfishly try to encourage you to keep writing, but I understand what you’re going through and try as I might, I can’t blame you, even a little. What especially saddens me, though, as you point out, is that I don’t know where I can turn to get worthwhile news on what’s going on with the food scene in Las Vegas. Are you bragging when you point out how much you’ll be missed? Yes you are, but as you also point out, it’s true.

    I assume you’re going to still be eating out on occasion. What would it take to get you to post to this blog or tweet once a week just the list of names of the restaurants you’ve eaten at in the previous seven days that are worth a look? Pretty please? Could I tempt you with a pork souvlaki and giant beans at Elia?

  • Please keep going for those like me who truly appreciate your gastronomic bloviation. I’ll have the new edition of the book the earliest day Amazon ships it. I’m headed to LV this morning. Jaleo tonight and Bouchon tomorrow with more TBA. Thanks again so much for being a brave and hilarious titan in the raging, swirling sea of aggressive ignorance that is America today.

  • You really should reconsider. The mass amount of poor food writing out there is why your writing is so important.

  • I hope you change your mind. I’ve come to rely on your reviews and love the smart assery. Btw, I find The Endo Edible blog to be solid. Otherwise, you are correct, particularly regarding the horridness that is Eater. And thank you for speaking out on gun control.

  • The fact that most of the other food sites in/about Vegas are drivel is what should be pushing you! There is little I read for the Vegas scene outside of this blog. (Not to pad the ego, you don’t need it!) I think that, if anything, you should write more about the intricacies us little people of the burden do not understand – the finer points of eating finer food. If people want slop, they will read the PR “reviews” you find in the weeklies. People who want to understand and appreciate food more, will read this blog and find a new level of enjoying food. Do not stop. Keep on keepin’ on! Side Note: If 10K changed to 1K because of ignoramuses wanting to read 20-word reviews and/or lists, are you really that sad that those 9K left? It was that 1K you were always speaking to…

  • ELV responds: Thanks to all for the kind words. I’ll leave the Endo Edible blog to anyone who can decipher the atrocious prose, lack of punctuation, and his obsession with every doughnut on the planet. If going to a bakery and ordering fifteen “legit” pastries for lunch is your thing, have at it.

  • John,
    Please reconsider. You are the only person in town who knows what they are talking about, and says it eloquently. You are right about those ‘other sites’. Anyone can contribute. Less than 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of them know if something is deep fried compared to baked in an oven.

    WE NEED YOU.

    Thank you for all the wonderful times that you have helped us with our dining choices if we cannot convince you to continue.
    Tom

  • John,
    As someone who reads your articles on a weekly basis and as someone who is also a foodie like you I couldn’t agree more with everyone else in that WE NEED YOU! Please reconsider as I love your insight and your correct that nobody else comes close to putting in the time you do or having the knowledge and passion that you do. Besides I have enjoyed some friendly arguments with you in the past and also wanted to discuss with you the soon to be closed Payard Patisserie which is a huge mistake by Caesars Palace and also wanted to touch base with you on Vegas being the best steak town followed by New York which I disagree with. Chicago is the best which I can and will back up to you followed then by Las Vegas. Regardless I hope you keep doing this as I enjoy your articles and regard you as the best! Thanks, Ryan

  • Hard to add to what everyone else has written. Do I always agree with you? Nope. But I always appreciate your writing and insight. I’ve been in Vegas over 9 years, and no one comes close.

    With that said, if you feel that you’ve exhausted your ability. That you have nothing left to give, then walking away makes sense, to a certain degree.

    But if you think that you’ve still got it. That the writing isn’t a chore, I’d implore you to continue to give it a go. Those of us in search of good food writing (whether about good or bad food) will continue to truly appreciate it.

  • Say it ain’t so…..

  • Allow me to join the list of fans who sing your praise. Hopefully you were simply wallowing in self pity and needed a reminder that what you do is appreciated. Every restaurant that I have dined at in the last 9 years has been at your recommendation. You love to eat and you love to tell us about it… slow it down, write when you have the desire, don’t when you don’t, and when its no longer fun, stop. But rest assured you provide a service and will be missed when you’re gone

  • My father immigrated to this country from Spain. He served the USA during WW2 and later followed his dreams to become a chef and restaurant owner. I learned from an early age what was good food and the enjoyment of fine dining. By the time I was 8 my palate was accustomed to the likes of sweetbreads, foie gras, lamb kidneys and the best paella; One that rivals anything I have consumed in Las Vegas.

    My point……I have not read any worthwhile information or honest critiquing anywhere until I stumbled across your book Eating in Las Vegas. Although I manage only one visit a year to this fabulous city, your blog is my first read when planning our trip. There is nothing in restaurant reviews today that compares.
    Your honesty is sometimes “brash” but never out of line.

    We are very saddened by what happened to your city. I have visited nearly every year since leaving college in 1973 and I will be returning in a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine what you, and your fellow Las Vegans have endured.

    I know this is a selfish remark, but I hope, in time, you will return to share your knowledge and critique of Las Vegas dining. But, I understand if you decide to retire.

    Thank you for keeping us informed and entertained through the years.

  • There’s a market for the kind of restaurant reviews that you do, John. If your despair is because the masses keep places like Applebee’s alive and that there are no serious food writers in LV, you ought to try to monetize your site because you have no strong competitor on the scene. However, if your despair is because of the state of the world and you want to make societal change, well, good luck with that. You have hundreds of thousands of competitors already. I close by noting the fact that people who don’t pay close attention to politics have much greater rates of happiness than those who obsess about everything going on inside the DC Beltway.

  • Keep on writing fucko

  • ELV responds: Again, many thanks to all for the kind and thoughtful comments. I’m back from a week in Canada, and will endeavor not to disappoint you in the coming months.

  • As someone that remembers your appearances on channel 3 and KNPR in the day, have you considered YouTube? I know it initially sounds odd, and certainly it’s bad manners to extensively film inside a restaurant, but it seems like you could easily get with a phone camera the occasional beauty shot of food and clip of a fork cutting through a pastry that we’re all accustomed to.

    The downside of putting together videos is it is more work than simply opening up a word processor and writing, but it does get a lot of views and the advertisers to support it are found for you. I have seen a few Vegas food accounts on YouTube that have hit the threshold of “popular”, but they’re usually just frequent gamblers with many buffet comps running down the food trough criticizing everything. You could do a lot better.

    Just about everything that used to be written and blogged is moving into video, and I have to admit visiting my YouTube subscriptions more than my old RSS blog feeds is a millennial habit I’ve gotten into, and a Vegas restaurant channel would be great. Maybe because I’m already accustomed to it by restaurant critic programming on public television in other cities.

  • ELV responds: mike_ch makes many an interesting point. Indeed, I have considered video for some years now (going back to the early days of the blog 8-9 years ago). It would be fun to video meals with commentary, but what has always stopped me is the intrusion into the restaurant coupled with the extensive editing involved to make anything watchable. The intrusion I could finesse (especially with my reputation now), but the shooting and editing is far beyond my abilities. (What little video I shoot and post on social media is amateurish to say the least.) It’s not that I’m adverse to it, it’s just that it’s a skill set I don’t have, and no one’s offering to teach me. Thanks for the kind words.

  • What Kathy D said.

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