Like most of you, I read a lot of different voices writing about food. Frankly, most people out there seem to be trying to out-do one another with their erudite prose describing their dinners in a way that makes sure none of us know what they’re talking about.
Bill Roehl is not one of those writers. He blogs about food largely in the South Metro. I know very little about that area, living in Maple Grove, and when I did my breakfast roundup for Minnesota Monthly, Bill steered me to Junior’s Cafe, a really wonderful diner.
Bill writes at LazyLightning.org, and was nice enough to answer a couple questions for me:
How did you get started writing about dining?
I just sorta fell into it as there was no thought process behind it other than saying, “here’s what we did today and here’s where we ate.” People started searching Google for restaurants and found my site. I figured if they were looking and ending up at my site, I might as well continue to write about them. Who doesn’t want people to read their website?
What do you think is wrong about a lot of the food writing that’s out there?
If you’re talking about traditional food reviews, well, I don’t think that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with them. They are just one piece of a much different whole than existed even five years ago. If you’re talking about blogs, anonymous comments, and/or reviewing sites like Urbanspoon and their users, well, I have covered my issues with them extensively on my site.
You’ve had very different reactions from people who work at or own the restaurants you’ve skewered. Any favorite moments?
Being told I was a thief when I wanted payment for use of one of my photos on a local pizza place. Having one restaurant owner threaten legal action because he didn’t understand the differences between libel, slander, and opinion. And then the long and hilarious thread of comments about one recently opened Italian restaurant in Lakeville which was fed by family and friends of the owners.
It’s amazing to me that you’re a guy with a website, and the restaurants recognize that you can drive traffic to their places—they send you stuff now, right? How are you handling that?
I have received offers to eat at a variety of different restaurants during their opening evenings (“family and friends nights”) and have also been provided with gift certificates to give away via the website/social media. As far as “handling” it, I simply note how I came across the meal at the place and then go on to write it up like I always would have. I can promise you—and one fairly new Lakeville seafood restaurant will agree—that free food does not always equate to a good review from me.