Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spitz - Home of the Doner Kebab (Little Tokyo)

I found this storefront today in Little Tokyo. Back when I was living in Big Tokyo, I used to buy doner kebab all the time from these Middle Eastern dudes selling them from makeshift stands throughout town. They slice the meat from a rotating spit and stuff it in a pita with lettuce and onions. It was a very cost-efficient meal, especially for the starving student that I was. So this was today's cool discovery.

But what struck me more than the new storefront was the fact that they adorned it with this oddity:

No disrespect to Conchita 666, Elizabeth P and the other random dude they quoted, but how can a place toot its own horn with praises by people with as much credibility as Joe Schmo? Granted, if I found my name on that banner in place of a big-name critic I'd be glowing right now. But I'd still expect a heavy load of flogging to come my way. After all, who am I but a person who knows how to upload photos and text on the internet?

The fine line between us (bloggers, Yelpers, etc) and them (the salaried critic) is that the latter is bound by journalism code of ethic. For example, if you're invited to a restaurant offering free food and drinks, you do not return to your writing tablet with rave reviews. Of course you had a splendid time. That was the point. The entire event was a bribe; a temporary bias in favor of the restaurant. If you must do a write-up, at least disclose the nature of the event. In other words, state that it was a big freebie extravaganza.

As for us, we have no prescribed code of ethic. To each his own.

Mind you, food bloggers have risen to rock star status these past couple years and it's neat being part of it. Just last week at 8 oz. Burger, I noticed the manager was unusually attentive to Mikey and me. My fat Canon was sitting on the table and the manager offered to take a picture. I mumbled under my breathe, almost apologetically, that I was a blogger, and he responded with a smile that said, "No shit, Sherlock." (Mental note: Be more discreet.) He then offered us not one, but TWO saucers of homemade ketchup. (Score~!)

As responsible food blogging citizens (Yelpers included), I think it's important to be aware of these biases before we generously unload our self-righteous opinions, whether good or bad, onto the universe. But until that awareness comes; until a bloggers' code of ethic emerges, I don't think most of us are worthy of our words being placed on a nice, silky banner. Frankly, it's a little embarrassing.

That said, I look forward to eating doner kebab. Incognito.
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L'aura L said...

Hey, there's a Spitz in Little Tokyo now! I've been meaning to try out the Eagle Rock one for awhile. One of these days...

As for what you said about the blogger/Yelper code of ethics, I agree. I write and take pictures for fun and don't receive freebies. If the day comes when I eventually do get offered something on the house, I'm all for full disclosure.

Bill said...

I'm glad you feel the way you do I think being incognito is the best way to go to accomplish your "job". Thanks!

Pirikara said...

Thanks Bill. The only question is, though, how does one take decent photos without being seen? I suppose I could cut a hole through my purse. =P

Bill said...

LOL what ever it take to be objective. I assume, well for me I like the blogger to be honest and to the point no point to sugar coat it. If it sucks it sucks if its great its great....etc.

Natty said...

Very interesting! It's funny, I don't worry so much about the glowing reviews as the mean ones. I was friends with a play critic and we would go to these plays together. 90% of what we saw was AWFUL. Really, really terrible. And she wouldn't write about it because they were small theaters and one bad review would kill them, dead. I've kind of applied that to my blog. I'm reluctant to write a bad review UNLESS it's a big boy that can take it (ie, I had a mediocre meal at Bouchon and felt like I really needed to write about it when I got home.)

We've been spotted as bloggers in the past and it's funny because they don't quite know what to do with you. They don't want to VIP you because there are a million bloggers-- who knows if you've got some blog that only gets two visits a day. But they can't ignore you. I've gotten to have some kitchen tours and long chats with managers. I just think it's a lot of fun, part of the fun of blogging about food.

Great topic!

Pirikara said...

Hi Natty~!
Yeah, I agree. More than anything, it's the mean reviews that bloggers need to consider before posting cause it could really do harm to others. "With great power comes great responsibility..." =P

Rich Alossi said...

I'm a little late to the game, but I agree with you. I've been running a Downtown-based blog for a while -- and we occasionally get freebies, which we always point out.

I try to discourage our contributors from writing about those visits because obviously, if we give a glowing review and others go based on that, they won't be getting the same meal.

It's best to just let the PR/marketing person/owner/manager know your policy beforehand. I'd hate for them to have expectations for a review after going through the trouble.

And to the question of "when do you take photos?" My answer is right after you get your food. Once you've got your food, it's game over for them.

They can see you taking photos and decide to be a little more attentive with the service, ensuring you've got your glass full ... but the food ain't changing.

Trisha said...

On the one hand, I agree with one mean review could be the final nail in a struggling restaurant's coffin, so be careful. But I also think that when shit sucks, shit sucks, no two ways about it. I think it's most important to be honest as a writer/blogger. That's what people come to blogs for.

Plus, if a place gets enough bad reviews, maybe they'll get smart and fix what people are complaining about and make themselves a better place.