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The Worst Denver Dining Gripes and Grievances of 2016

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The city's food writers and critics air their biggest pet peeves from the year that was.


This year, as is our tradition, we asked food writers and dining experts a few questions ranging from restaurant standbys, newcomers, best word to describe the year in dining, the best meal, the surprises of the year, and the headline predictions for next year. The time has come to turn to the biggest restaurant grievances. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

Q: What was the biggest restaurant grievance of 2016?

Andra Zeppelin, Eater Denver

The lack of social media decorum from some restaurateurs, bartenders, servers, and other members of the dining community. It is disappointing and tacky to see direct or passive aggressive attacks or just snarky comments about guests, colleagues, and food journalists or publications plastered on social media. Hospitality is a lifestyle, a way of being that roots itself in generosity, compassion, selflessness, grace in the way one behaves. If that grace ends when one clocks out, I question its genuineness and see it as a reflection of the establishment the person represents. I am uneasy about patronizing those places.

Laura Shunk, Westword contributor

The Denver industry needs to professionalize more -- I'd like to see restaurateurs collectively amp up their own ambitions and raise the bar, and I'd like to see the industry take itself more seriously in an effort to give hospitality professionals a real career path. This would take care of a lot of the service issues we're seeing now, it might help deal with the hiring woes we see all over town, and it would allow us to better foster the talent that leaves this town for the coasts. It might also mix up the kinds of restaurants we're seeing, which would be a huge bonus. Taking some responsibility here, I'd like to see the media move that professionalization along a little more forcefully.

And to quote my friends at Bread Bar, I'd like to see more restaurateurs focus just on being good rather than concept-y -- Denver sort of feels like a land grab right now. It's exciting, but there's a lot of mediocrity that comes alongside the rush.

Lauren Rapp, Westword contributor

Restaurant and bar land lines. It seems like more establishments are opening without a telephone, and it's pretty challenging to get accurate information about a place if you can't pick up a phone and call with specific questions. Plus, what happens if a potential guest has a make-or-break kind of question when determining where they're going to dine? Or what if a guest misplaces something important, but had to catch a flight before seizing the opportunity to return? What if someone needs to talk to a manager to sing praise or provide feedback? I know land lines are a thing of the past for individuals, but it seems like business owners would benefit by encouraging the good o'l phone call. Websites can't do it all.

Lori Midson, Denver Life Magazine Food Editor

Service in Denver continues to be an afterthought, as do desserts. And I’m fed up with restaurant websites that are full of errors — grammatical, spelling and otherwise. Come on, restaurateurs and chefs: It’s 2016. There’s no reason to have a website that reads like it was written by a third grader. And can you please make sure that the information is current and pertinent?

Callie Sumlin, 5280 Magazine assistant food editor

For me, it was the inevitable sameness across restaurant menus. The Brussels sprouts, octopus, crudo dishes, etc., that were everywhere. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed many of these items. But at times it felt uninspired or cursory.

Denise Mickelsen, 5280 Magazine food editor

Service, which is overly attentive or downright neglectful.

Gigi Sukin, Eater Contributor, CoBiz editor

Service isn't getting any better. There are the consistent standouts that get it right – but there are also a lot of piss poor attitudes in our dining scene.

Ruth Tobias, Zagat editor

For the past few years, I've bemoaned the lack of tapas bars. In 2017, we'll be getting a few of them, so I can finally shut up about that. Another key complaint I've discussed in various forums over the years, including Eater, is that Denver's wine game has long lagged far behind its beer and spirits game, with too many uninspired, interchangeable lists and too few servers getting the education they need to sell diners on lesser-known regions and varietals. Lately, that's been changing too—but we've still got a ways to go.

Rebecca Gart, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles food editor

Under-achievers…I so wanted to love Departure, but so far, the only thing I really enjoyed is the Departure wings. I’ll try again because I’ve heard from too many food experts that this place is the bomb. Waiting to be wowed.

Rebecca Treon, DiningOut editor

That Post Oak Hall is only open on Saturdays, and my favorite places don't deliver.

Adam Larkey, Eater Denver photographer

The overall lack of price point diversity in Denver. We need more non-chain options on the lower end of the price spectrum...more street food and opportunities for culinary start ups to flourish.

Rachel Greiman, Eater contributor and photographer

The "three dollar sign" price point. Meaning, everything that is just under a true fine dining experience. For some reason, restaurants that sit here tend to be underwhelming. There are so many amazing things to eat in this city for less than $15. And if I'm spending $22 on something OK, why not spent $30 on something mind-blowing? Either go big or go home.

Justin De La Rosa, freelance writer and Denver Post contributor

Yelp. I understand it is meant to give recommendations and a voice to guests, but many reviews set unrealistic or blind expectations from the restaurants who are honesty doing their best. As any writer knows, we approach things objectively and visit a place a few times before making a judgement. Chefs, bartenders and servers don't deserve the hot take treatment. Give everyone a chance or two.

Josh Dinar, DiningOut publisher

The grievance of over-abundance: too many great new things to keep track of and still visit the old favorites.The grievance of high rents: too many national chains opening in our high-profile downtown areas jeopardize the unique character of a place.

Grace Boyle, Eater Denver contributor

The closures of the Inventing Room and Z Cuisine.

Amanda Faison, freelance writer, former 5280 Magazine editor

Losing Patsy’s after 95 years was a heartbreaker. So much history and so many memories inside those walls. Meanwhile, the pushing out of the Inventing Room was a twist of the knife that underscores how cut-throat Denver’s dining scene has become.