Bonus Content: Everyone wants to know what makes the critic tick. Here are Trey Popp’s answers to his own personal FAQ…
Are you really anonymous?
Yes. Fake names, dummy phone numbers, and no Facebook account. Even Eater.com, which delights in unmasking critics, remarked: “We looked and looked and couldn't find photos of the guy!”
With all the food blogs and review sites out there, does anonymity really matter any more?
Of course, if you want to know what a restaurant feels like to someone who’s not getting special treatment. It’s hard to know if a food blogger is being courted with free meals, and it’s even harder to know whether a Yelp reviewer is the restaurant owner’s wife, cousin, or arch-nemesis.
How long do you wait before trying a new restaurant?
Usually at least two weeks.
How many times will you eat there?
Two or three.
Does advertising in Philadelphia magazine influence what gets reviewed?
Never. I have no contact with ad salespeople, and have never been asked to review a place that I didn’t want to try of my own accord. Nor have my reviews been edited to reflect a rosier (or more critical) view than what I intended.
What’s the easiest way for a restaurant to score points with you?
Complementary fizzy water.
How would reviews change if you had to pay for meals out of your own pocket?
I would try less, become overly obsessed with prices, and likely shy away from the high-profile restaurants readers most want to know about. On the plus side, I’d probably get to know Chinatown a lot better.
What is your least favorite thing about being a reviewer?
Not being able to cultivate normal, face-to-face relationships with the people who make this city’s food scene so vibrant.
Are You Fat?
No soft drinks, minimal junk food, and basketball twice a week keeps my BMI just within the range of 'normal,' albeit barely.
Have you ever cooked professionally? Does that matter?
No. I’ve been a busser, a dishwasher, a valet, and a bottom-of-the-totem pole workhorse, but never cooked professionally. Neither have most people who eat at restaurants, so I don’t think it matters.
Do you cook at home? What sort of stuff? Are you any good?
All the time. I tend to go through phases—Persian one month, Italian another, Hunan a third—while keeping a steady rhythm of standbys that (along with a maddening quantity of ketchup) will keep my kids happy. More and more I judge myself on maximizing variety while minimizing waste.