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Thursday, February 3, 2011

DeRushaEats: Loss for The Biggest Loser, Victory 44 For Me

DeRushaEats: Loss for The Biggest Loser, Victory 44 For Me

Two blog entries for the price of one:

The Biggest Loser Twitter Controversy
By now you've probably read about Trainer Bob from TV's The Biggest Loser. Rick Nelson reports that Bob Harper was in Minneapolis two weeks ago, he tried to get a reservation at Bar La Grassa with two hours notice, and failed because they were already booked. He tried to do it through his American Express concierge service (nothing uncommon about that), and was denied.

Then Bob went to his 130,000 Twitter followers and complained: “OMG!! The manager at Bar Lagrasa in Minneapolis was SO RUDE to me. I wanted to have dinner there. Why are people so mean sometimes?”

The reaction has been obvious: Most people think Bob was a fool for whining, and Bar La Grassa was heroic for not inconveniencing their regular diners just to let a celeb in. And by "celeb," I mean a guy on The Biggest Loser.

But on Twitter, John Marino, who told me he was a former restaurant manager, said: "The restaurant missed an opportunity to accommodate a VIP as well as everyone else."

Interesting. Should VIPs get better treatment than the average Joe or Jane who tries to make a reservation? This is a provocative question, because if you have a true celebrity in your restaurant, you can attract some decent publicity. Note: I'm not talking about local news reporters who answer Good Questions on WCCO, I'm talking about real celebrities.

Does Bar La Grassa need that? Probably not. But a smart restaurant knows how to take care of VIPs without hurting regular customers. A smart VIP knows better than to be a whiner and a bully on Twitter.

I couldn't get a reservation for last Saturday night at In Season or at Cosmos. I thought it was great that these places were sold out, and certainly didn't try to call in a favor to get in. (I ended up at Bar La Grassa. It was outstanding.)

Victory 44 For Lunch
My wife and I went to Victory 44 for lunch yesterday and it was absolutely incredible. Paul was our chef and our server (you know how I feel about that concept from my blog on Travail).

I loved the whole thing. Paul was awesome—cooking our lunch, then coming out and describing the dishes in detail. This was made easier by the fact that there were only two tables in the restaurant at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday.


We ate a $6 sweet potato bisque that has such a silky, sweet, layered flavor—it was perfect. The $8 octopus & chorizo plate was my favorite—the octopus was so nice, with little dollops of red pepper puree and mango gelee. Just great.

And for $10, the best bargain dessert plate I've ever had. First a pre-dessert, with brownies and peanut butter cookies. Then the real dessert, a peanut butter/chocolate/brownie concoction, a bar with an awesome pistachio cookie, and a really fresh apple strudel.

I loved this place. I'll go back for dinner soon.

Posted on Thursday, February 3, 2011 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Feb 4, 2011 01:00 am
 Posted by  pH

VIPs *DO* get better treatment in restaurants - but the restaurant gets to decide who is VI. Usually it's the friendly foodie couple who is interested in the food and tips well. Rarely is it the Amex-carrying asshole that no one has heard of.

The yawning gap between Minneapolis and cities like New York or Chicago, decried by certain well-known chefs around town, can often work in our favor: diners will rarely be humiliated at a local restaurant because someone with a symmetrical smile wants their table. In cities where celebrity is viable currency - versus an amusing curiosity - the deck is stacked against the little people.

Feb 4, 2011 07:33 am
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

That's a brilliant point, PH. Perhaps because we don't have a large amount of "celebrities" in this town, the VIP is really the food enthusiast.

When people ask me if I get better treatment at restaurants because I'm on TV, or because I write here, I really think the answer is no. I do get better treatment, though -- because I frequent these restaurants.

Feb 4, 2011 10:45 am
 Posted by  CMS

"A smart VIP knows better than to be a whiner and a bully on Twitter." Well-said. This whole story makes Bob sound like a big baby!

Feb 4, 2011 01:32 pm
 Posted by  Elsa

While I'd like to think that we midwesterners are above the celebrity-worship of LA or wherever, I think we should keep in mind this is Bob Harper ("who?") we're talking about. I have a feeling that if say, Prince called up looking for a table, things might have been a little different.

However, I think you're right that restaurant workers absolutely learn who their good customers are - who's nice, who tips well, who knows their food, who's likely to post pictures of it online. And naturally they would cater to those people. Would they bump another reservation for them? That I don't know.

Good local publicity for BLG, though, and Bob the Trainer sounds like he's got a fifteen year old girl writing his tweets for him.

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