What we learned in DiningOUT’s first year (Published: 2009/March)

DiningOUT_header

It was just one year ago when the first “DiningOUT” column appeared in the March 21, 2008 edition of Baltimore GayLife and offered a review of “Dizzy Issie’s“.  (Who would have suspected that our review might have driven the owners to shut down not long after and only re-open months later after taking the precaution of renaming the place as “The Dizz” <Smile>)    We’ve learned and evolved a lot over this time.

Meeting deadlines every two weeks and coming up with just enough text to fit our half page column is an ongoing challenge and more difficult than we imagined.  When you’re trying to give a feel for what a restaurant is like, what’s on the menu, what you ordered and how you felt about it as well as providing essential basic facts, this allocated column space can feel very tight.  While we finally figured out that sixty total lines at a 12 point font in MicroSoft Word was just the right amount of text, it still takes a lot of effort for us to decide what thoughts and words actually make it into print.  Over time, we’ve gotten much better at this so our deadline dates aren’t as nerve wracking as they first were!

We’re very aware that our experience may not reflect your experience.  We do our best to accurately capture the gist of our dining experience (but feel that this is analogous to taking a snapshot photo of a friend that may or may not look much like them a month later).   There are many factors that complicate the reviewing process.  Our visit to the restaurant probably occurred at least a month before you see the review in print. Some restaurants are inconsistent from one night to the next (the “Owl Bar” stands out as an example of a place where food and service unpredictably swings back and forth between awesomely good and maddeningly awful).  Restaurant staffing is critical yet is always changing; what server we’re assigned or who’s staffing the kitchen that night makes a huge difference in our (and your!) perceptions. 

Early on, we realized that we needed a way to provide readers with access to all of our reviews and just not the one currently in print.   John created and maintains a web page to meet that need. Over time, we’ve taken advantage of the web page to enhance reviews by adding comments about follow-up visits to the restaurants that we’ve reported on or add additional material that didn’t make into the final print version.  On the website, you’ll also find a number of future reviews that haven’t made it into print yet.  If you enjoy our reviews, we think it will  be worth your time to check out our web page: http://home.comcast.net/~gaylife_diningout .

Amazingly, we had been writing DiningOUT for 8 months before we finally had a serious talk about what we felt made a restaurant excellent.  We quickly agreed that food and service quality as well as atmosphere/surroundings were obvious criteria.  “Value” – whether we felt that what we paid for what we had was worth it – is important to us (and very different from how cheap or expensive a restaurant can be). We agreed that the ability to provide a consistent dining experience from one visit to the next was also critical.  We decided to give a “Thumbs Up!” designation for restaurants that strike us as excellent based on these criteria. We’ve taken advantage of absence of online space constraints to add our take on these criteria to the reviews on our web site. To date, only 10 of the 26 restaurants that we’ve reviewed in the past year have rated this distinction (You can find which restaurants earned the “Thumbs Up!”  on our web page…)  

Over the past year, we’ve received only one email at our email address.  A friend recently reassured us that people only take the time to write about what they dislike or strongly disagree with.  Maybe – but more feedback from you would be a good thing!   Let us know if you read our reviews and find them useful.  We’d also like to hear about your dining out experiences and, if we get some feedback, maybe we’ll add the feedback to our online website.   In any case, it’s been an interesting year in the life of the GayLife DiningOUT restaurant reviewers.  Stay well, enjoy some good food, and say hello now & then!

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