NICHES: What It’s Like to be a Restaurant Reviewer

By Esther Allweiss Ingber

One of the more fun things I get to do in my freelancing career is write about restaurants for the Detroit Jewish News (DJN). My monthly feature, complete with headshot, is “Dining Around the D.”

So, how did I get this gig? Broadly speaking, I’m a Wayne State University journalism graduate who has a healthy appetite and excellent taste buds.

Earlier in my career, I wrote about restaurants as editor for two years of Where magazine, a weekly guide to Detroit. Between the years of 2003-2006, I freelanced as a restaurant writer for the Detroit News. My eventual collection of 99 articles appeared in the paper’s “Neighborhood News” weekly inserts in three counties.

In more recent history, a Jewish News copy editor recommended me in 2011 to the new editor of a DJN advertising section called “Red Thread.” I provided a monthly restaurant review until the section folded four years later, but I’ve continued to write for the “Nosh” section of the main paper with 55 stories to date.

Writing the Review
In addition to comments about the menu and particular dishes, I include details about the restaurant’s history, decor and the restaurateur’s and/or chef’s background. All in 550 words.

The restaurants I write about are usually my choice. With so many available, I don’t bother with a place I don’t like. Sometimes I’ll dine somewhere and later tell the restaurant I was there and now want to interview the owner or manager.

For research purposes, nothing’s better than going to a restaurant’s media opening. That offers an opportunity to try more menu items. Three stories that came together that way were Vinotecca in Birmingham, Prime 29 in West Bloomfield and Crave Ferndale in Ferndale.

My food allowance is sufficient for lunchtime only. If a good but expensive restaurant isn’t open at lunch, I’ll have to request a complimentary meal or can’t afford to write about the place. Ethically, since I am a freelancer and not staff, I will accept meals.

It’s helped when I’ve been the dinner guest of friends, which is how I came to write about the high-end Hyde Park Steakhouse in Birmingham and the late, and really great, Torino in Ferndale.

Favorite Restaurants
My favorite restaurant is often my latest discovery. It’s the one I have in the Jewish News this month or will be writing about next. I am currently enamored with Giovanni’s in Detroit and think I may never find a better Italian restaurant after the meal I had there in March. But then again, it’s hard to forget the wonderful Bacco Ristorante in Southfield or La Dolce Vita in Detroit.

Restaurants have different strengths, making them hard to compare. As a general rule, for American food, you can’t go wrong eating at a property in the Roberts Restaurants Group, such as Town Tavern in Royal Oak, Beverly Hills Grill in Southfield or Bill’s in Bloomfield Hills.

My favorites among the ethnic restaurants include Aroma Indian Restaurant in Farmington Hills, Howe’s Bayou for Cajun in Ferndale, Taste of Ethiopia in Southfield, Da Nang for Vietnamese and Noble Fish for sushi in Clawson. But don’t hold me to it!

2018-03-21T11:27:55+00:00 March 20, 2018|

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