February’s Church of Burger: Controversy! Ensues!

The Church of Burger’s second outing was, sadly, not as spiritual as its first. On a rainy, cold Sunday, we were the first patrons of the day at the Central West End’s SubZero Vodka Bar. It’s a (duh) vodka bar that also serves sushi and burgers which you can top with a extremely wide variety of toppings. I inferred that this is their “thing”: highly customized burgers, like Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar.

I’ll be brief about the food: my burger was ordered medium rare, and was delivered medium. While it looked beautiful and was of an acceptable thickness, my cheddar-topped patty lacked any noticeable salt and was pretty dry. The bun, too, was dry, and crumbled midway through the meal. I wonder how it would have fared if I had a specialty burger with lots of toppings? Fries were actually salted, but somewhat limp. Service was friendly and relatively competent, although we had a few long waits for things like the check, expected for a larger party.

But I’d rather not talk about a forgettable burger from a place I’ll probably never visit again. What I’d rather talk about is the Twitter throwdown that happened not long after Church of Burger. To make a long story short, fellow COB members Bill and Andrew both tweeted about the lackluster burger, and Chris Sommers, owner of Pi, took issue with that.This set off a maelstrom of tweets. Salient points:

The founder of COB weighs in.

You can click on any of the screencaps above to see that person’s particular feed and what they were saying in regards to this on Sunday and Monday.

Here’s where I stand: to me, if a restaurant touts itself as being a destination for a certain dish, say, a burger in this case, and we order 15, and none are good, let alone great, I’m going to tell people that. I’m unemployed, and I paid $20 for a Fat Tire and a subpar burger. That’s not acceptable. I’m not giving them a second chance because I’m not a critic and I can’t expense report a repeat visit. Yes, restaurants have off nights. All restaurants. Mistakes happen. But when I eat out, why would I take a risk with a restaurant who has burned me before when I know I can get higher-quality consistency elsewhere? Why would I go back to SubZero for a burger when I know I can get a properly cooked and seasoned burger at O’Connell’s, or Newstead, or Dressel’s, or any number of other establishments? As a diner, I owe SubZero nothing.

The rise of social media has given the average diner a venue to amplify their opinions, informed or not. Some in the industry don’t like that because it empowers diners. I don’t feel that I have an obligation, particularly on Twitter, of all places, to be less than upfront with my opinions. If anything, I’m going to be brutally honest. I think I’m more informed than the average diner, but if you think I’m full of shit, or if you aren’t interested in my opinion, you don’t have to follow me or read my words. If my F-list blog/Twitter is threatening your business, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. If you respect my opinion, you will consider my words. If you think I’m a poser hack, then you’ll dismiss them.

If you, as a restaurateur, or chef, or server, or manager, are feeling “bullied” or treated unfairly by the internet, maybe you should look at what you’re trying to do and ask yourself if you’re doing it well. Diners are not responsible for protecting the reputation of a restaurant. RESTAURANTS do that by putting out a good product.

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