It always seems to take the Midwest a bit to catch up with the coasts. In San Francisco they had their first Yelp-related smackdown with criminal charges in November. Last week the New York Times published a story about chefs taking to Twitter to air grievances about suppliers, customers, employees, employers, critics and each other.
Always lagging, it took four days before St. Louis joined the new trend. When we finally got our social-media food fight, it came with a heaping helping of typical Midwestern civility and politeness.
The short version: Local gastronome and Gut Check freelance contributor Andrew Mark Veety commenced a project on his personal blog called The Church of Burger. The modus operandi: One Sunday a month, Veety and other local epicures visit a restaurant, voted on by readers of the blog, in search of St. Louis' best burger.
The February visit did not go well.
Several of the sixteen worshipers took to Twitter afterward to exchange jibes about the experience.
Under his Twitter handle, @amveats, Veety posted, "To all the folks who voted for Sub Zero @stlbites would like to have a word with you," followed by, "Who else feels a bit of food poison from the church of burger? #justasking #noreally"
The day passed and the topic waned, as is the nature of Twitter and its rapidfire bursts of communication....
Until that night, when Pi pizzeria owner Chris Sommers revived the conversation under Pi's Twitter account (@pistl): "Can't believe some local 'foodies' are ripping to shit a local establishment like I'm reading tonight. Uncool. Irresponsible."
"Guys, everyone's entitled to opinion, but just be nice. People work there, feed children from tips there. Think before you tweet."
Burge begged to differ: "The idea that a 'foodie' should judge only the effort of a business and not their product is ludicrous."
Jeff Stettner, proprietor of 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar, jumped in behind Sommers: "Did anybody send food back or ask to reorder? A place cannot know it is disappointing at the time if all are mum. #petpeeve"
Burge countered that returning sixteen unsatisfactory burgers was unreasonable.
Stettner replied, "I would rather open 30 bottles of wine to satisfy a customer than learn about frustration on the Internet when I can do nothing."
In the end all parties resolved the debate with a level of civility that negates the image of Internet conflicts as anonymous mud-slinging brawls -- possibly because all parties are acquainted and at some point have to face one another without the buffer of the Internet.
Or maybe they're just decent people and skilled communicators. By the end they joked that they would duke it out then hug it out at 33 Wine's Dorm Room Dinner that evening.
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