Another creative outlet...

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I'm not sure how my life as a contributor for Hobokeni all started.

I was living in town for about five years, and after I got my full time job there was one thing that I learned I could do now that I was making a decent salary: I never had to cook again.

I ate out every night, and sampled many restaurants all over town. Don't get me wrong, its not like I was eating filet mignon and cracked crab every night - it was simple fare. I would eat at places like Cafe Michelina, or Oddfellows, or Ted & Jo's. Or, on more special occasions I would treat myself to a bit more expensive restaurants, along with friends to review them, like City Bistro or Amanda's.

I have always enjoyed reading literature and writing stories or bad poetry. I also enjoyed eating out. Eating out. Writing stories. Hmmmmm. Maybe I am on to something...

I emailed the webmaster, offered my services and asked if they were interested; I just wanted a creative outlet. They offered to pay me for every review, but I declined being paid for my contributions.

To the consternation of my friends.

"How could you not accept money?? Are you nuts, its free money!!", they would tell me. It wasn't about money for me, as it may be for other writers I know. I was going to eat at these places anyhow - because like I said I would eat out every night. To simply sit down and write a blurb on the restaurant and a story behind it was quite simple. My goal in writing any of the reviews was to be guy a regular guy off the street trying some of the different places in town.

I always got a few emails from people who read my reviews and they basically disagreed with my opinion. The most interesting part is that many people don't realize a few facts about my reviews:

  • I never tell the restaurant they are being reviewed until after I ate there.
  • I never accept or expect a free meal, I always pay for my meal with my own money.
  • I eat at a restaurant at least twice before reviewing it, if not more.
  • I bring friends to review the restaurant, to get a consensus agreement on the food, atmosphere and service.

    To me the most important part of reviewing any establishment in town is the integrity of the interview. There was a review that I did a few years back for a restaurant that I will not name. Its still open in town, and at the time I reviewed it - the place was brand new. Lets call the restaurant "Phoenix".

    Phoenix wasn't bad. But then again it had a few flaws that I pointed out in the review. Here is an excerpt:

    We ordered appetizers, Brad ordered Cold Antipasto, which he found to be very disappointing. On the menu it reads: “Fresh homemade mozzarella, stuffed cherry peppers, regganio parmigiana cheese, roasted peppers & black olives. The menu should have said: “One slice of mozzarella, one stuffed cherry pepper, one slice of regganio parmigiana cheese, one roasted pepper & twenty olives”. He called it “lame”, while I call it highway robbery. Do not order the antipasto unless you really want an olive appetizer. For what Brad did get, he said “his four bites of food were enjoyable”. Nicole ordered a Tricolor Salad ($6.95), which lived up to its name. It had lettuce, a basic vinaigrette dressing and not much else to zest it up. I felt a bit more adventurous, and asked if they would change a homemade Gnocci with Pesto Sauce entree into an appetizer. They were nice enough to do that, and it was good, but nothing spectacular. The gnocci were somewhat tough, the pesto sauce (made from fresh basil, garlic and olive oil) was good, but again, a bit plain.

    My review went on to hit on 3 major problems I had with the restaurant: The disappointment we had with the appetizers, the cost of the entire meal, and the service was average. I gave Phoenix a rating of 5 out of 10, because I thought it was "average" at best. I put a few suggestions out there to fix their problems and posted the review.

    I did this because it was a fair and honest review. The owners read my review and flipped out.

    They emailed the webmasters and didn't want a review that critiqued their establishment online. They actually met with the webmasters of Hobokeni and talked to them in person about the review, and in the end the webmasters stood behind my assessment, and kept the review up.

    What happened? Gee, Phoenix revamped their menu, fixed up their place and altered their prices. A year later after a few renovations, they kept their same name and asked we would do another review of their restaurant. The webmasters offered me first rights to do another review, but I had them send someone else to get a fresh perspective.

    On an even more interesting side note was the night I met the owners of Phoenix. I was bartending when my friend "S.K." walked in with a very large italian looking guy (think Tony Soprano) and sit down at the bar. She introduces me, and we get to talking. I find out that he owns Phoenix and I have two choices:

  • Keep my yapper shut so that Tony Soprano doesn't get angry and snap me in half.
  • Throw caution to the wind and see if I can push this guys buttons.

    Of course I push the button!

    So I chime in with "Oh, you own Phoenix - I did a review for that on Hobokeni!"

    I think I heard something snap. Maybe it was my imagination when his skin tone became slightly redder. He looked at me square in the eyes and growled, "You are HIM! That review sucked, you were completely wrong, blah blah blah..."

    To backtrack, the time that me and Tony met each other was AFTER Phoenix did all of their changes and before Hobokeni sent a new reviewer. So I turn to him and said:

    "I stand by my review. I pointed out the shortcomings of Phoenix, and what did you guys do? You fixed it! So to sit there and say that my review was bullshit is just your own sour grapes. My review was spot on, and you know it."

    Rather than jumping into a rage Tony conceded and kept his cool. It was shortly after that that he contacted the webmasters to do a new review of the recently renovated Phoenix.

    I have a few reviews that I am planning in the future. One of them will be for River Spa, an extension of Club H facilities for members or the public. I'm a member of Club H, and they know I work for Hobokeni - they wanted me to do a write up of their place and offered to give me a free massage ($81 for Club H members, $90 for non-members). Again, I declined the free massage, but instead I paid for it. I explained that I would be happy to do a write up - as long as if I paid for any service. They agreed, but were more than willing to give me a freebie. To me, that is something that will affect the writing and I don't like to hear when other writers in town accept free meals or services for their writing - it really gets under my skin.

    I got that massage last night and it was wonderful. Its like an oil change for the soul - until after you get one you don't realize how much it was really needed! Now I gotta whip something up and get creative....

  • 1 Comment

    $90 for a massage? I hope it had a happy ending! ;)

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    This page contains a single entry by Furey published on November 3, 2004 9:36 AM.

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