Restaurants: Hire a Publicist or If You Want to Get Into Food & Wine

The magazine's lazy new Philly travel feature is full of the usual suspects.


I’m finally getting around to reading Food & Wine‘s Philly food scene travel feature that’s in the November issue of the magazine (as Foobooz noted earlier this month). And I’m not the least bit impressed.

On Tuesday night, I met a friend for happy hour at Davio’s, where they do great (free) appetizers for the after work crowd. She whipped out her copy of the mag. In the six-page piece contained therein, F&W restaurant editor Kate Krader eats her way through our city, with “celebrity guide” and Philadelphia native Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who has relocated to New York. The expat “visits often,” notes Krader.

I’m all for positive national press for our awesome city and its awesome food scene, but Krader’s article is a lazy, missed opportunity to dig a little deeper. Oh, I’m not saying that the restaurants she features don’t deserve a visit. Many of them do, as I know from the great meals I’ve had at most of them.

Here are the restaurants included in the F&W feature:

Talula’s Garden
Pizzeria Vetri
Le Virtu
Talula’s Garden
Vernick Food and Drink
The Brig (Marc Vetri’s Navy Yard restaurant that won’t open until 2014)
Alla Spina

And then there’s a sidebar mentioning the restaurants that Krader wants to visit on her next trip here:

The Farm and Fisherman
Federal Donuts

Again, some great restaurants. But where are the hidden gems? Nearly all of the restaurants in the piece are represented by pricey publicists, who seem to have done their jobs well in this instance.

And for the two that don’t have a publicist on speed dial, well, Krader didn’t exactly have to search far and wide. Maybe she picked up the last installment of Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly, where those two restaurants were honored with two of the biggest awards: Vedge’s Rich Landau for Best Chef and Will’s Chris Kearse for Best New Chef.

“Magazines don’t pay my bills, local consumers do,” Kearse told me when I asked him if he employs a publicist. “I am not gonna pay a PR firm for national press when all I want to really do is take care of my customers.” (Bravo to him for that and for making the list without representation.)

If I were visiting Philadelphia, the Food & Wine list would make for a pretty decent start. But a savvy traveler doesn’t just want to visit places that have received the local tourism board’s seal of approval. They want to find the nooks, the crannies, the out-of-the-way spots that only those truly in the know know about.

“Did you actually expect more from Food & Wine?” one of my colleagues asked me when I expressed my dissatisfaction with the article. Yes, I guess I did.