Foodies Fight Critic

Foodies accused of ruining restaurants: Chronicle critic's burger whine sparks an online firestorm

Foodies accused of ruining restaurants: Chronicle whine sparks storm

Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Behold, the "massive" group who delayed Syd Kearney's burger in Houston's great critic foodie fight. The Woodlands/Spring area, Tx Foodie Club/Facebook
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Members of the group have posted over 150 comments about Kearney's article.  The Woodlands/Spring area, Tx Foodie Club/Facebook
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
They range from critical to complimentary. The Woodlands/Spring area, Tx Foodie Club/Facebook
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Owner Charlie Williams took responsibility for Kearney's poor experience.  The Woodlands/Spring area, Tx Foodie Club/Facebook
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot
Syd Kearney burger drama screen shot

"Are foodies loving restaurants to death," Houston Chronicle food writer Syd Kearney asks in a new blog post. What could prompt the veteran restaurant reporter to criticize a major component of her audience?

It seems that Kearney took the recommendations of the The Woodlands/ Spring area,Tx. Foodie Club, a 12,000-plus member Facebook group, and decided to try 5 Ate Cafe for lunch on Thursday. When she arrived, Kearney found that a group of 10 or so members of the club had pushed together a few tables in the small restaurant, which is located within a large rock climbing gym.

Kearney blames the group's size for a 50-minute wait for her burger. She writes that the burger was "stone cold" when it finally arrived and that it took another 10 minutes to receive ketchup.

 Many of the more than 150 comments question why Kearney didn't speak up about the wait or request another burger when it finally arrived cold. 

Needless to say, reaction within the group to Kearney's article has been strongly negative. Many of the more than 150 comments question why Kearney didn't speak up about the wait or request another burger when it finally arrived cold.

"If the reviewer had an issue with the temperature of the food she should have asked for a replacement meal or asked to come in and review the restaurant when they were not open for business," one commenter writes. 

Another disputed Kearney's depiction of the group as disruptive to the normal flow of 5 Ate's operations. "My point is, our group did not cause her food to be late or cold. We all received our food at different times depending on when it was ordered. I ate first and my gf beside me at last because she arrived 45 minutes after," a woman writes. 

Of course, Kearney has her defenders, too. "I still love and support the Houston Chronicle. She (Syd) was honest and shared her true experience which is what we all do, isn't it?"

Kearney has stayed out of the fray within the group but writes on her own Facebook page that she's been watching the drama unfold. "They're so hating on me on their group page. I didn't name the spot or them. I wouldn't do that. They outted the place themselves," she notes. While Kearney may defend the decision not to name the restaurant or the Facebook group, anyone with even a passing familiarity with the group — which again, has more than 12,000 members — would know immediately what restaurant she was referring to in her rant.

Credit 5 Ate owner Charlie Williams for taking responsibility for Kearney's subpar experience. "I am at fault. It's good to get kicked in the pants every so often," he writes. 

Is there a lesson here? Blogger Albert Nurick, whose Woodlands Area Foodies Facebook group has more than 4,600 members, thinks so. As he writes on Chronicle critic Alison Cook's page, "Weird article. Service suffers when small restaurants get busy? Stop the presses!"

Or alternatively, if it takes more than 30 minutes for a burger to show up, walk up to the counter and find out what's going on.

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