When it comes to bars and food and booze and all those things I want and love to enjoy but can’t exactly indulge in the way I would like to, I am definitely not in the lecturing phase. As I was last month, when I unloaded on a small group of right-wing restaurateurs who were clamoring to open on May 19. That self-serving premature initiative was led by Dave Andelman of Phantom Gourmet fame, who subsequently ran afoul of all people of good conscience as a result of several bigoted social media posts deriding actions against state violence. I didn’t write this column just to say, I told you so. But nevertheless, I told you so—not only about the Tantrum Gourmet, but also about states that opened restaurants too early.
Anybody with a decent bullshit radar has been on to Andelman for years, but around here, the idea of a show about food that’s more of a commercial than it is legitimate coverage is insulting to an outlet like DigBoston. I’m unsure of the nature of relationships between the Phantom Gourmet and its advertisers/feature subjects, but around here we never sold out. I am not exaggerating when I say that we are approached every single week by companies—some local, some national—that want to buy their way into our editorial, whether it’s a booze that some public relations dick wants us to rave about, or a skin cream brand that wants to place its sponsored content on our site with no disclaimer. But we don’t do it, because while we don’t have much, we do have the respect of many readers, and we understand that you expect more from us than to shamelessly prop awful nonsense for a paycheck. You deserve more, and we are better than that.
Are there exceptions? Gray areas? Of course there are, and we try to be as open about those as possible. For example, we often partner with venues and bars, and enthusiastically invite readers to join in the fun. But that’s what I wanted to address regarding this week’s issue. In several ways, it’s unlike any other food and entertainment special we have ever done.
Out of respect for a hospitality industry in which many establishments are bloody and on the ropes, we have toned down much of the snark and critical perspective that sometimes drip off these pages. Instead of telling you where to get the best cocktails and which overpriced joints to avoid, we instead focused on bright spots and the solutions that inventive people are bringing to the hospitality space, in Boston and all around the country. From restaurant owners fighting for permission to sell takeout cocktails, to initiatives that keep service industry workers safe and paid in these times, we believe that is where food and drink coverage should be right now.
As for whether it’s a good or bad idea to have indoor dining, or outdoor drinking areas, or any of these other difficult attempts to pull certain parts of the economy out of the gutter as soon as possible, what can I say? Frankly, it’s out of my hands at this point. From the looks of things in other states, generally speaking, the sooner places reopened, the worse off they wound up. Gov. Charlie Baker is no hero, but at least we waited longer than most others in many regards, and as a result have some respectable numbers to show for it.
All things considered, while Phantom Gourmet’s very existence and popularity offends me to my core, at this moment, I’m not above taking a page out of their playbook and cheerleading for businesses that need it.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.