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Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 14th and Q Streets - Black Pearls Gawn Wild

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#1 DrPepper

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 02:31 PM

Jeff Black here. My new Restaurant is now open. Downstairs is a Gulf Coast inspired Oyster Bar (Pearl Dive), upstairs we have bocce ball and a bar named Black Jack. Let me know what you think. JB



#2 chiefdc

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 09:59 AM

Last night myself and 3 others (of varying ages and stages) ate a very nice meal at Pearl Dive. After hearing about the "ticketing" system for waiting for a table (basically, the same as you'd see at a deli or DMV), I was skeptical. But it's actually a good concept because they have the "now serving" signs all over both Pearl Dive (downstairs) and Black Jack (upstairs), which allows you to wander a bit without loitering by the host stand. At 7:30 pm, we were quoted a 20-40 minute wait. We opted to check out the upstairs bar while grabbing a drink, and try our hand at bocce. The bar service upstairs was confused and very slow (as you can imagine on an opening night) but pleasant. After about 20 minutes, the "now serving" number jumped from 86, where it had been the whole time, to 92, seemingly skipping everyone in between. We ran downstairs to make sure that we hadn't been skipped, and thankfully we hadn't, and we were eated immediately (was it a glitch?). I am guessing that depending on your party size, you will be served before or after those who may have gotten there before you. They should explain this, however, so people don't freak out at the thought of missing their table after a lengthy wait.

Once we sat down, the host took our drink orders graciously before the waiter arrived, which was nice. My party ordered appetizers that everyone seemed to enjoy- bacon wrapped oysters, half-dozen raw oysters, and mushroom soup. The server also arrived with a generous basket of jalapeno (?) corn muffins and rolls (which were delicious). For entrees, we ordered the classic Black's mussels (great as always); Rockfish over mussels, tomatoes, and chorizo; crawfish etouffee; and wood-grilled redfish over grits. Everyone really enjoyed the entrees. This is a great neighborhood joint that tries hard and largely delivers on the promise of being a good, moderately priced seafood joint. Next I'd like to try some of the items on the bar menu upstairs, which has some tasty-sounding sandwiches and other unique dishes that you don't see anywhere else.

I will say that the staff was really on edge and nervous- understandly so, it being opening night. Hopefully they'll all find their groove as they become familiar with the menus and drink lists.

#3 The Hersch

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 10:14 AM

What kind of prices do they charge at this place? Specifically for raw oysters?

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#4 DonRocks

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 11:25 AM

What kind of prices do they charge at this place? Specifically for raw oysters?

I was at Pearl Dive last night, and they were charging $2.00 or $2.50 (premiums). It's a very cool place, and I highly recommend the grilled oysters (which were $9 for 3 and worth the upcharge - none of the "raw oyster flavor" was lost in the grilling).

Note also: Black Jack is a completely separate entity, and the only menu item that transfers between the two will be the raw oysters, i.e., it will get its own thread.

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#5 Arlene Ivana

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 04:11 PM

The boy and I stopped by the restaurant last Saturday while wandering around for a place to supper and when we saw that they were serving people we bounded across the street to get a table. I thought the C.E.B.L.T ($13? 16?) and crawfish etouffe ($22) were outstanding, and we give equal props to the jalapeno cornbread and biscuits served before the meal. The C.E.B.L.T is surprisingly light for something stuffed with fried catfish, fried egg, and bacon, and the etouffe was smokey, belly-warming and studded with generous chunks of crawfish. I was pleased with the portion sizes and the service, and I'm feeling properly contrite for not paying closer attention to the oyster bar and alcohol offerings because I imagine those items were selected with as much thought as was given to the food. Unless the quality and service goes vastly downhill, it will be a 2 hour wait kinda place within weeks (days? right now?).

#6 zoramargolis

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 10:20 AM

Nice to see that Danny Wells is back in DC in the Black Restaurant Group fold. He was at BlackSalt when it opened, was Executive chef when Joey moved to management and then Danny went to New York for a while. He's a good guy and a top-notch chef.

#7 qwertyy

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 06:43 PM

Pearl Dive is open for lunch during the week only on Fridays. I'm not sure if folks don't know that or if lunch traffic just isn't that big in the neighborhood, but it wasn't more than half full during our 90ish minutes there.

The service was terrific. We had one main waitress, but everyone kind of pitched in whenever they spotted a need. She happily offered my mom a fried oyster plate, despite the fact that it's not on the lunch menu, since mom had a crazy craving for fried oysters on their own, not in a po boy. (She deemed the oysters a mix of good to great, with some having more yummy "burst" than others.) The CEBLT is SO good, but with one flaw: it's too damn big. Two filets of (beautifully fried) catfish are layered on the reasonably short bun, which not only makes it nearly impossible to eat (especially after the egg breaks and all that slippery yolky goodness oozes out), but too much fish and breading throw off the balance and makes it overly salty. I took one of the filets off and voila, problem solved. The fries are great, and the Guinness is spot-on.

#8 jandres374

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Posted 15 December 2011 - 10:17 PM

Went last Saturday and ended up with the chefs table in the kitchen, definitely quieter and more entertaining. Go here now and immediately order the fried chicken, hand down the best in the DMV. Also sampled the fresh oysters, étouffée, rockfish and shrimp and grits. They are turning out some great stuff here right now.

#9 rockcreek

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Posted 15 December 2011 - 11:15 PM

We went two Saturday ago. LOVED the oysters; they are flat-out the best I've had in the city. (I mean, I like baked and Rockefeller too, but that would seem like a misappropriation of such a fresh bivalve.)

The seafood gumbo has quite a kick to it, and a lot of okra (which I love), ditto the crawfish etouffee. I am no N'awlins specialist, but they both felt filling without being heavy, and the essence of the sea was right there. Even in a roux, seafood dishes should taste like seafood, right?

Took an hour to get a table, but a) that's the deal at 7:30 on Saturday, and B) you got to love cocktails in big brass mugs. Multiple ones, even.

Nice work, Chef. Thanks for the meal.

I would gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today.


#10 sheldman

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 01:37 PM

Pearl Dive is open for lunch during the week only on Fridays. I'm not sure if folks don't know that or if lunch traffic just isn't that big in the neighborhood, but it wasn't more than half full during our 90ish minutes there.
...

The CEBLT is SO good, but with one flaw: it's too damn big. ...


I was surprised to find that lunch today wasn't crowded - even with the newly online Post review.

The CEBLT (fried catfish, egg, really good bacon, l & t) poorboy really is delicious, among the best things I have eaten in a very long time. Every component is cooked perfectly, and they go well together. But I must be a pig, because my thought upon seeing it (and even after finishing it) was "This awesome sandwich would be even more awesome if it were actually the size of a proper poorboy." Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.

#11 marketfan

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 09:03 PM

Three of us had 4 dfferent Washington State oysters Wed night and a split a one pound bowl of mussels. Superb.I have had oysters here 4 or 5 times. I recently compared to my old fave, Hank's. These are definitely better.

#12 darkstar965

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 02:29 PM

Not a ton to add to the above so will keep this one shorter. As a poster who often runs long, I can hear the applause as I type :D

At lunch yesterday, a friend and I had the CEBLT and agree it's a pretty damn outstanding sandwich in every respect with the catfish, artisan bacon and egg in the starring roles. Likewise the crawfish etoufee though it was more than my friend could finish. Fries that put another stake in the coffin of the belief that it's too difficult or cost prohibitive for restaurants to hand-cut fries. Pearl Dive does. And they're great; shoestring, golden crispy w/ good salt, excellent.

A starter of malpeques, kumamotos and naked roy's were as fresh, delicious and perfectly chilled as any fresh oysters I've had in the region. The dipping sauces, like much in the Black empire, include just a bit more surprise executed just a bit better than so many others: traditional cocktail, mignonette and a less-typical but tasty green, herbaceous vinegar-based sauce called "dive juice." It will be tough for me to go here without getting oysters every time. And, how to justify trying any grilled or fried when the raw are this good? Feels a bit blasphemous like cooking a perfect heirloom tomato at the height of tomato season in Aug or Sept. Good dilemmas.

My only concern with Pearl Dive is being able to access it as its popularity, already high, grows. With TS's 2.5 star review now out and the word spreading quickly, it's going to be tough to score dinner tables here. Would love to see them extend lunch service to five-days-a-week from just Fridays as it is now.

And, very cool that Pearl Dive's manager is Kelly, formerly one of our favorite servers at Palena who made it here by way of Addies.

I really think the Blacks have to be the best of the many local 3-7 location operators. All of their places seem to maintain unique positions, wonderful food and consistently genuine, friendly and effective service over sustained periods of time. I've never met them but have to think they're a super example of the idea of management really mattering. It's not enough to be a great chef or have innovative food ideas. You have to be able to hire, inspire, retain, motivate and manage the business (with all that implies) along with great food to survive and thrive. Easier said than done as so many restaurant failures make clear. The Blacks have cracked an incredibly tough code. Really admirable and DC's food scene is so much better for it IMHO.

#13 Alliumentalist

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 02:47 AM

Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.


i heard the Florabama burned down, anyway ...

#14 qwertyy

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 03:00 AM

But I must be a pig, because my thought upon seeing it (and even after finishing it) was "This awesome sandwich would be even more awesome if it were actually the size of a proper poorboy." Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.

You're right. I didn't explain that clearly. I was surprised that it was only a half sandwich, but it was too tall, vertically--impossible to take a bite without serious smooshing, then the yolk and sauce kill its structural integrity, making it really difficult to eat. If they were to put the second catfish fillet on another half bun, it'd be a damn near perfect sandwich. You're not a pig. :D

#15 DonRocks

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 12:52 PM

Jeff Black here. My new Restaurant is now open. Downstairs is a Gulf Coast inspired Oyster Bar ( Pearl Dive), upstairs we have bocce ball and a bar named Black Jack. Let me know what you think. JB


(Sounds like you're doing something right) :)

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#16 darkstar965

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 01:36 PM

(Sounds like you're doing something right) :)


Rocks isn't kidding. Went again today for brunch because...well, you know...we REALLY love good oysters and...well...no, normally don't go to the same place twice in 72 hours but...enough explanation maybe.

Anyway, a few more observations gleaned:

- as expected, getting tables here will be tough going forward. we arrived right at 11, brunch start time, and were maybe the 3rd or 4th party seated. By 11:45, every table was full, the bar was packed and there was a line at least out to...if not out and on...the sidewalk

- today, despite being seriously tempted by "angels on horseback," we started with a dozen raw to share. 3 kegotanks since we have a friend who's a small scale operator on the Cheseapeake with the same variety so we know the flavor profile when straight from the water. 3 blue points just to compare something commonly found elsewhere. and 6 naked roys, an oyster I've always liked but don't usually see elsewhere in town. PD is consistent. All the oysters were extremely fresh and tasted exactly as they should. Naked Roys were the winner hands down for us but that's a matter of personal taste. A little less brine than the kegotanks. Much more complex flavor profile than blue points.

- the "dive sauce" is made with cilantro and jalpeno. my +1 doesn't do cilantro. I love the stuff. This is a great sauce to go with cocktail, mizu or mignonette however preferred

- my +1 ordered the hangar steak with eggs and bernaise. This is nothing special and a bit undersized relative to the price and what it should be. Same as many other spots quality/taste wise. Not as good as some others. But, hey, this is an oyster/seafood place so kind of silly ordering this anyway.

- I got the fried chicken and, cutting to the chase on this, can just say while I think I'd give a slight edge to the chicken Gillian Clark was pan frying at G-spot months ago, g-spot no longer exists and jandres374 is probably right:

...immediately order the fried chicken, hand down the best in the DMV.


IMO, the reason why this chicken rocks is about a) quality of the chicken, B) lightness and delicate crispiness of the breading which falls from the cooked bird maybe a tad too easily and c) great flavor in the crispy exterior and bird. Mine could have been left in the skillet another 30 secs or minute; a bit too red at center of the large breast portion. But, that's a nit and this is some great fried chicken. And, a huge portion with breast, thigh and leg, excellent slaw, surprisingly good kale with bacon and some potatoes we skipped.

Really wanted to try the donuts but it was just too much to order with the stuff above. Donuts are only sold as a portion of three and were described as pretty full sized. I'd love to hear what someone else who really appreciates donuts thinks about those. My standard is still Tabard.

Finally, for kicks if you're an oyster lunatic like me, open up the wooden box on every table. It contains a deck of cards with pearl dive/blackjack logo on one side with very cool oyster tidbits (historical, artistic, fashion, scientific, etc) on each card in Q&A format. One of the cards has a true/false: "Oysters are bad for cholesterol" with answer: "false." So, it's okay, and order away! Perfect for the oyster geek on your shopping list.

Prices and value meter (vm) as follows:

- 6 "premium" oysters at $2.50 each
- 6 "boutique" oysters at $2.00 each
vm: good. absolutely fairly priced given the quality and freshness. happy hour specials at a buck an oyster make for a great value on weekdays.

- hangar steak & eggs w/ bernaise: $15
vm: just okay since meh on the dish

- "fried chicken dinner" with all the sides mentioned above (a big plate): $19
vm: excellent!

#17 porcupine

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 08:29 AM

I've been wanting to write about Pearl Dive since we went a few weeks ago, but haven't been inspired, which is more a comment on my (lack of) ability to write than on the restaurant. I think if we'd suddenly been teleported there we would have immediately known it for a Jeff Black place. And that's a compliment, as we're big fans of Black's restaurants. As for the food, well, the fried chicken is every bit as good as everyone is saying, and the accompanying sides were great, too. And so were the desserts. MrP quite liked his fried shrimp, too. There's more here than oysters to be excited about.

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#18 Lori Gardner

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Posted 25 December 2011 - 01:03 PM

We went to Pearl Dive Oyster Palace last night. Going early on Christmas Eve was the perfect time to go - no wait at all. Neither my husband nor I eat oysters, but there seemed to be enough diversity on the menu to satisfy us. I started with the barbecued shrimp. They were fantastic. Nice-sized shrimp, perfectly cooked, and a kicking spice rub and sauce. I would come back again just for these. I had the fried chicken as an entree and I agree with previous assessments. It is moist, tender chicken with a delicately crispy skin. Delicious. I couldn't finish a fraction of it. I had some for lunch today and there is still more to go. My husband had redfish. He loved the crispy flavorful skin on the fish. Looks like they really know how to keep things crisp at Pearl Dive.
A friend asked me today why we would go there when we don't eat oysters. We didn't feel like we missed anything and there's lots more to recommend (great drinks and a killer eggnog pie). We'll be back.

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#19 dcandohio

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 09:30 AM

Taking advantage of a vacation day, we arrived to Pearl Dive just after 4 p.m. for happy hour oysters. They were Virginia oysters, cleanly shucked, served on a tray of ice with a standard cocktail sauce and a zippy Mignionette (Spelling?). They were delicious. Super fresh, tasting of an ocean breeze. By 5:00, the bar was slammed, with everyone ordering oysters. Too bad the bar area is so small. It is hard to eat oysters if you have to stand up with drink in hand.

We didn't stay for dinner, but if this place does nothing more than drinks and oysters it would be a winner. $12 for a great presentation of superb oysters is a deal!

Shut up and pour another glass of wine, please.


#20 MTPeter

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 11:09 AM

Regretfully unimpressed by Pearl Dive. Place is beautiful but service deeply lacking, overall vibe is careless. An impressive row of gins on the shelf is apparently for decoration only as my bartender had absolutely no idea how to make a martini (painfully warm)... truly confounding! As for the oysters 5 out of 6 were absolutely perfect- very fresh. Dive juice is great. 6th oyster was discolored and lifeless, probably fine to eat but not one I'd serve to a guest. Save the ugly ones for the po' boy. Which I didn't get, because grouchy from bad service gave up after oysters. Definitely a meh of an experience. Pity, I really do like Black's other stuff- especially the fish market...

#21 darkstar965

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 02:37 PM

Regretfully unimpressed by Pearl Dive. Place is beautiful but service deeply lacking, overall vibe is careless. An impressive row of gins on the shelf is apparently for decoration only as my bartender had absolutely no idea how to make a martini (painfully warm)... truly confounding! As for the oysters 5 out of 6 were absolutely perfect- very fresh. Dive juice is great. 6th oyster was discolored and lifeless, probably fine to eat but not one I'd serve to a guest. Save the ugly ones for the po' boy. Which I didn't get, because grouchy from bad service gave up after oysters. Definitely a meh of an experience. Pity, I really do like Black's other stuff- especially the fish market...


Wow, really interesting but totally cool inasmuch as all views have a place here. When you go a place regularly, as I've been doing with Pearl Dive, it doesn't make sense to keep posting reports unless there's something new to say. Suffice to say here though, having been there now about 5 times for dinner, lunch, brunch and happy hour, I haven't had a bad oyster or meal yet. And everyone I've brought there (maybe 10 or 12 people in total) felt the same.

On the specifics of your experience, two reactions. First, on service, it's been generally fine for us but this isn't the standout quality of Pearl Dive. It's moderately priced and, with that comes a more moderate (and probably less consistent) level of service than one might get at a BlackSalt, Palena, CityZen or whatever. Second, while 5 of 6 oysters being perfect is very good, I've never had a bad oyster there of maybe 10 dozen or so I've had. Surely, if you'd called for a manager, they'd have replaced the bad oyster instantly, perhaps even with an extra one to compensate.

But, none of that means they won't get it wrong at times or that someone else can't have a very different experience. Consistency is probably the toughest thing to achieve for any restaurant. All that said, MTPeter, maybe worth giving it another shot using whatever input from different folks on this thread you find credible. It's overwhelmingly positive but that doesn't mean it's all right. If there are any problems, give the place a chance to rectify them, calling for a manager if the waitperson isn't getting it done. Only fair.

* Disclosure: I have no vested interest in Pearl Dive, any Black Restaurant and have never met the owners. My views on Pearl Dive are as with any restaurant: based on what I've experienced and, in this case, it's a new place I'm just very excited about based on what's coming out of their kitchen and the value they offer.

#22 Night Owl

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:09 PM

It's moderately priced and, with that comes a more moderate (and probably less consistent) level of service than one might get at a BlackSalt, Palena, CityZen or whatever.


Was there for dinner this past Friday (my second time only) and had the oddest service mishap. My daughter ordered the oyster po'boy and they brought her a shrimp po'boy... Might be a common mistake at any similar restaurant except there's no such thing as a shrimp po'boy on Pearl Dive's menu (which the waitress also noted after the fact).

That said, the food itself was great. The (correct) po'boy was very tasty, oysters superb. I had the CEBLT po'boy, which was decadent, but honestly in a do-over I'd go for the oyster po'boy instead. To start, we had the braised pork cheeks appetizer -- it is a must-try. The cheeks were perfectly cooked, meltingly tender, the sauce so packed with rich flavor and depth I wanted to lick the plate.

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#23 New Foodie

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 05:47 PM

Met a couple friends for a late lunch at Pearl Dive today. We arrived around 2pm and grabbed a drink at the bar since it was pretty crowded, although we were seated within 10 min or so. The biggest negative of the meal was at this point when a waiter greeted us as we sat and brought us water, but then no one came by our table for the next 20-25 min except for one of table runners coming by one time to refill our water. Luckily we hadn't seen these friends in a while so we were fine chatting for a bit, but it got pretty ridiculous. I finally waved down a manger (who had walked by our table more than a few times), but it was still probably another 4-5 min before the waitress finally came to take our order. From here everything was pretty good (although I was a bit annoyed with the lack of apology for the long wait).

I ordered the C.E.B.L.T. Po-Boy ($11 Fried Catfish, Farm Egg, Benton’s Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato), which despite listing it on the website does not include fries. You have to pay an extra $3 for fries, salad, or chips on the side. The ingredients are obviously top quality, but the sandwich itself was a little on the small side (maybe 5 inches max, if that). The egg made it messy, but the bacon was crispy and delicious. I think it would've also helped to have a little remoulade or aioli or something as well. I thought the fries were excellent (crisp with a good saltiness), but also think they should come with the sandwich. I really enjoyed them with the cajun/spicy seasoning that's on the table.

My +1 had the Green Chile Cheeseburger ($11 Roasted Green Chilies, Pepper Jack Cheese, Bacon, Cayenne Aioli) with fries. This is actually two patties and is a pretty significant burger. I only had a small bite, but liked the taste of the chilies with everything else. The other two at our table had Pulled B.B.Q. Chicken Sandwich ($9) and Gulf Shrimp Gumbo ($19). I didn't try either, but they looked good and both plates were clean at the end of the meal.

I had heard enough about the pie that we decided to split a piece of Pumpkin Streusel Pie ($6 / a la mode $8 Spiced Pumpkin Filling, Pecan Streusel Topping) with cinnamon ice cream (other choices were vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan). We all though this was really good. A bit different from a normal pumpkin pie with the streusel on top and the cinnamon ice cream complimented it nicely.

All in all I really like the decor and the space and all our food was good, but I was a bit turned off with the service. I actually already have plans to come back with some girlfriends this week for dinner so I'm looking forward to giving it another shot and trying out some entrees.

-Jenny

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. ~Jim Davis, Garfield"


#24 CajunJason

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 10:56 AM

no one came by our table for the next 20-25 min except for one of table runners coming by one time to refill our water. Luckily we hadn't seen these friends in a while so we were fine chatting for a bit, but it got pretty ridiculous. I finally waved down a manger (who had walked by our table more than a few times), but it was still probably another 4-5 min before the waitress finally came


The exact same thing happened to me a few weeks back. I walked out. As a restaurant manager, if a guest stands up from a table and approaches you near the kitchen with an issue, it's probably best to resolve that issue immediately. Immediately. Especially after having waited for 20+ minutes. But alas, the manager seemed not to care and I felt totally ignored.

The food and aesthetics and Pearl Dive are wonderful. But my last experience left me with the feeling that Pearl Dive didn't really care about my business, because the know they'll have an hour wait for dinner every night.
"vodka rhymes with lotsa, bourbon rhymes with hurtin'- these are things i'm gonna feel, this much i know is certain." -Butch Walker

#25 New Foodie

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 11:24 AM

So I was back at Pearl Dive last night to give dinner a shot. My 3 friends and I met at the bar before our 6:30 "reservations" (one friend lives a block away, and Pearl Dive will let neighborhood residents reserve seats before 6:30pm). Oddly, Black Jack didn't open until 6pm, so when I arrived at 5:45, the Pearl Dive bar was slammed. I thought it a bit odd that such a popular place wouldn't open until that late, but whatever. I had a glass of the half price wine downstairs (the white was a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc for $5), and then a glass of the half price prosecco ($4.50) when we went upstairs for a drink to check out the space.

Once it was time to be seated the restaurant was packed. After being seated we had to wait a bit for our waiter to come by, but not nearly as long as I waited on Saturday, thankfully. He wasn't the most attentive, but he was friendly and helpful with menu suggestions. The bread basket (first one is free...after that $3) included some yummy homemade rolls. The jalapeno cornbread was a little dry for my taste, and I though the basket would've been improved if it came with butter.

The four of us shared two appetizers, the Cornmeal Crusted Chesapeake Oysters ($9 - Andouille Sausage- Sweet Potato Hash) and the Angels on Horseback ($9 - Grilled-Bacon Wrapped Oysters, Vin Blanc, Vinegar Reduction). I am not usually an oyster fan (have never been able to get into them raw on the half shell), but I very much liked both of these preparations. Each order came with 4 oysters, which was great for sharing among our table. The cornmeal crust was nice and cruncy, and the sauce underneath had a great kick. The bacon wrapped version had a wonderful smoky grill flavor. I'd recommend both of these to oyster lovers and skeptics alike.

Two of my friends had Seafood Gumbo ($22 - Oyster, Shrimp and Local Crab), and the bite I had was quite spicy. It was also a fairly large serving that neither of them were able to finish. The friend with the Crawfish Etouffee ($19 - Louisiana Crawfish, Buttered Rice, Garlic Bread) seemed pleased with her dish as well. It was funny to me how similar the gumbo and etouffee looked when brought out, but they were certainly very different tasting.

On the recommendation of a friend, I had Que Sueno de los Gatos “What Cats Dream Of” ($22 - Pearl Dive Seafood Stew; Shrimp, Redfish, Squid, Mussels, Saffron Milk). I loved the name, but wasn't as enamored of the dish itself. There was certainly plenty of high-quality seafood in the stew, along with some spinach, but I just wanted something more. For me it was missing some spice or extra flavor. After tasting the gumbo I was left wishing I had ordered that instead.

After drinks, apps, and entrees, we were unfortunately too full for pie, but next time I will save room since I really enjoyed it on my first trip.

All in all, the service was somewhat redeemed for me on this trip, and I liked the food once again, but I can't seem myself waiting an hour plus for a table here. If I can come back with a neighborhood resident, or on the early side, I'd definitely do that though.

-Jenny

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. ~Jim Davis, Garfield"


#26 MC Horoscope

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:11 PM

I think I am going to wait a bit for Louisiana crawfish. It's not in season yet, or the season's just beginning. I wonder if these are frozen. They don't freeze well, in my experience.

But the gumbo sounds interesting, maybe a bit busy and thick if it resembles the etouffée. To me it should be more like a soup than a stew, I don't care what Wikipedia says about gumbo. The very first picture of gumbo on the 'pedia page looks gross, imo.

#27 DPop

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 04:54 PM

CEBLT and fried chicken were outstanding but both extremely heavy. I'm not a huge raw oyster fan but the ones we had the other night were so good that I would go back just for them.

#28 darkstar965

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 11:53 PM

Brunch here today. Service was very good for us. Oysters, as always, excellent. Naked roys great and some local kegotanks better than ever; maybe the time of year. My first trial of the mussels which, in agreement with my +1, may be some of the best in the city. Liked the gulf shrimp gumbo but not as much as the CEBLT and fried chicken of prior visits. Did like that the gumbo is a tasty and manageable portion relative to the crawfish etoufee which, while very good, is a way-too-huge portion for most anyone to finish. As always, the place was packed.

#29 DonRocks

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 11:57 PM

As always, the place was packed.


Wait a minute ... I thought West End Bistro was the hottest restaurant in town ... ?!

(I honestly wonder how many readers of this website even know what that restaurant is.)

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#30 darkstar965

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 12:07 AM

Wait a minute ... I thought West End Bistro was the hottest restaurant in town ... ?!

(I honestly wonder how many readers of this website even know what that restaurant is.)


I do. Went once or twice. But can't remember much about it other than thinking expanding an empire to different cities is an extremely difficult thing to do well for places whose reputations were made by one ridiculously talented chef.

#31 NovaLawyer

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 07:43 AM

Stopped by here yesterday to grab a bite of lunch, preferably consisting of a few succulent bivalves.

Normally this is the place where I would insert my comments on the food, but unfortunately the service was so abominably rotten that I never got any food. I also did not get any drinks. I also did not get even an acknowledgement of my existence by the service staff, who apparently had other things to do for the 15 minutes I sat at a booth and waited. And waited. And waited.

I did, however, get a look at what other people were eating and drinking. It didn't look anything special.

The room is loud, and not very appealing.

I will not give them a second chance to make a first impression. There are too many other places in town that value my patronage and want me to be a customer. This place did not want me to dine there, and I will not disappoint their future expectations of me.

#32 qwertyy

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 08:54 AM

Stopped by here yesterday to grab a bite of lunch, preferably consisting of a few succulent bivalves.

Normally this is the place where I would insert my comments on the food, but unfortunately the service was so abominably rotten that I never got any food. I also did not get any drinks. I also did not get even an acknowledgement of my existence by the service staff, who apparently had other things to do for the 15 minutes I sat at a booth and waited. And waited. And waited.

I did, however, get a look at what other people were eating and drinking. It didn't look anything special.

The room is loud, and not very appealing.

I will not give them a second chance to make a first impression. There are too many other places in town that value my patronage and want me to be a customer. This place did not want me to dine there, and I will not disappoint their future expectations of me.


Wow. Did you talk to a manager? Not that this would have necessarily accomplished anything--the experience was pretty well ruined by that point--but I'd be REALLY interested to hear what s/he had to say to account.

#33 dcandohio

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 09:11 AM

We stopped into the bar for happy hour and oysters on Friday. It was pretty busy, and the bar staff seemed to be working really hard to keep up. We noticed that waits for drinks were increasing as we cashed out. The dining room had not opened yet and so I can't comment on service in the seating area. This place does get slammed, and I wonder if they have enough staff for the busy times?

Shut up and pour another glass of wine, please.


#34 CajunJason

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 01:56 PM

Wow. Did you talk to a manager? Not that this would have necessarily accomplished anything--the experience was pretty well ruined by that point--but I'd be REALLY interested to hear what s/he had to say to account.


When the exact same thing happened to me (and to 2 separate friends of mine of different occasions) I got up and found the manager. He did nothing and I left.

This is the single worst service experience I have ever encountered at any restaurant. I say this with no exaggeration. I sometimes have a tendency to be snarky in an attempt to be funny or to emphasize a point, but I type the honest truth here today.
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#35 DPop

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 04:56 PM

I don't know what it is, but the service is extremely spotty here. The cooking is also what I would describe as uneven. We had very good service for the first time on Sunday night, but other than the raw oysters (both from Virginia were incredible) I left disappointed with the food. The CEBLT was revelatory the first time I had it here last year. On Sunday, it was so poorly executed that I don't see myself ordering it again. My wife's bass was clean and well plated, but somehow overcooked, which was such a shame because it was a nice (if a bit small) piece of fish. Everything was oversalted, which I don't think I've said more than 5 times in my life when describing food as I love the stuff. My fries were inedible after a while, though, it was just overwhelming

Part of me has to believe that since they are pretty much packed from open to close no matter what night, it is very challenging for them to be clicking on all cylinders, especially in the middle of the dinner rush. I always have a good time here, I like the bar upstairs, it's always a good looking crowd, and the food when it's on is nice. I think you just have to temper expectations a bit and realize that you are probably not going to have the experience that you had in the first few months it was open.

#36 DonRocks

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:02 PM

Jeff Black here. My new Restaurant is now open. Downstairs is a Gulf Coast inspired Oyster Bar (Pearl Dive), upstairs we have bocce ball and a bar named Black Jack. Let me know what you think. JB


[Jeff, Don Rockwell here. I just read on Tim Carman's blog that you're upset with a post on donrockwell.com. Quoting Tim:

Black acknowledges that some recent posts on Yelp and DonRockwell.com set his teeth on edge. He singled out comment by a Rockwellian, who dissed the food at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace without tasting one bite


I assume that you're referring to this post written on May 29th. You are absolutely correct that this post falls far beneath the standards that I maintain on this website, especially given that the member posted under a pseudonym. I distinctly remember seeing the post that day, raised a very skeptical eyebrow, but then saw two questions subsequently raised by other members and decided, at the time, to let the conversation flow. Two posts later that day - ironically, one by an industry insider (25-30% of our members are industry insiders) - were written by members whom I have met personally and know to be reasonable, and they seemed to indicate that there might be a pattern of service issues. I again decided, perhaps incorrectly at this point, to let the conversation flow.

(Also ironically, as I'm typing this, I *just this minute* got a text message from a recently displaced restaurant manager, thanking me for setting her up with an interview tomorrow at a restaurant I know to be hiring.)

As things stand, the post in question - especially now that it has been pointed out to me - is unacceptable. You are absolutely correct to be angry about it, and I apologize for not doing a more thorough job of following up with moderation - I alone take responsibility for this, and it's my reputation that is taking a hit. I would delete the post right now had it not just been placed under a spotlight.

In the future, all I would ask is that if you have a problem, you please ask to speak with a manager *while it's happening*. Sometimes, our moderators (in this case, me) overlook things, and unfortunately, this is one of those times. I would have very much liked to correct this problem before having read about it on the internet.

That said, I do hope you'll give donrockwell.com another chance in the future. We value your membership very much, and want to make sure you're happy here. Give me a shout the next time you're online, and I'll make sure you're taken care of.

Best regards,
Don Rockwell]

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#37 Waitman

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:59 PM

Aside from the gratuitous observation that the food "didn't look like anything special," NovaLawyer's post looks completely legitmate to me. He came, he saw, he left, he posted. It's unfortunate that Chef Black didn't care for the comment about the food, but the thrust of the post was about the service, and that concern remains unaddressed.

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.

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#38 synaesthesia

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:02 PM

Aside from the gratuitous observation that the food "didn't look like anything special," NovaLawyer's post looks completely legitmate to me. He came, he saw, he left, he posted. It's unfortunate that Chef Black didn't care for the comment about the food, but the thrust of the post was about the service, and that concern remains unaddressed.

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


+1 This is a discussion board, not a blog, despite assertions otherwise. There is a strong distinction between those things. Generally speaking conversations happen, not hit and runs.
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#39 DrXmus

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:14 PM

I don't think I've thought this before, but I agree with Waitman. NovaLawyer's post seemed legit and valid to me. Sure (s)he didn't talk about the food, but he didn't get any. This is, after all, mostly the purpose of a restaurant, right...to serve customers food. I'm sure Chef Black is upset, but why be upset with the customer who got screwed? If this is misdirected frustration at his managers and servers, then so be it, but apologize and admit your "teeth on edge" wasn't really with DonRockwell.com or the poster.

Should NovaLawyer have contacted someone with the ability to change the way his lunch was going? Absolutely. Regardless, at this time on this day with this customer, the restaurant failed and should be faulted.

I look forward to enjoying Chef Black's new venture in Merrifield, hopefully very often, but if I sit for 15 minutes and don't get any service, I'll be seriously disappointed with the restaurant as a whole. Fair? Maybe not, but that's the business (and very similar to my own, so I understand that off-moments happen and may falsely color an entire relationship.)

Oh, and aren't 95% of us using pseudonyms? Is this irresponsible on our part? I'm not trying to be snarky, but this is a legitimate question. Should DR.com go to a real name format if we're going to get knocked for not using one?

Sandy

P.S. After reading the complaint again, I can see how Chef Black is upset that the poster said the "food didn't look like anything special." That does seem petty and arbitrary. I'll stand by the rest of my post, though.

Edited by DrXmus, 25 June 2012 - 10:17 PM.

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#40 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:56 PM

The D.C. blogger world may have bristled over Black’s comments, but the restaurateur says the chef community celebrated him. Black says the wild applause for his Rammy award was not for the honor itself. It was for his speech. They were releasing their own pent-up anger over years of ignorance spewed forth on social networking sites and boards.


Sadly, I've also read a bunch of ludicrous posts on Facebook by restaurant insiders and their "friends." There are assholes in every industry. There're asshole bloggers and asshole restaurant workers - and they all use social networking sites and boards. If Mr. Black is really referring to NovaLawyer's post, I would like to see him explain why NovaLawyer's post isn't legit. I've left a restaurant in the past if I wasn't being served, or not even being seated if I have a reservation. The last thing I want to do after wasting 15 minutes is to waste more time addressing the issue with the restaurant.

#41 Pat

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 06:32 AM

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


Yes.

#42 mdt

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 07:37 AM

Aside from the gratuitous observation that the food "didn't look like anything special," NovaLawyer's post looks completely legitmate to me. He came, he saw, he left, he posted. It's unfortunate that Chef Black didn't care for the comment about the food, but the thrust of the post was about the service, and that concern remains unaddressed.

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


Amen!

Is this the issue that was brought up at the RAMMY's that RJ commented on on Facebook? These high profile chef's certainly have no problem with social media when the anonymous shills posters are heaping praise.

#43 NovaLawyer

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:01 AM

Mr. Black wants to shoot the messenger. My May 29th post pointed out the abominable service I received (or perhaps more precisely, "didn't receive") on my visit to his Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. And my observation of the burnt BBQ platters sitting half-uneaten at the neighboring table - well, those plates not look to me like anything special. Instead of remedying the service problem that apparently has affected more than just me - it has affected multiple posters - he goes on a rant.

Mr. Black, you've just given me a reason to avoid all your restaurants - the last thing I want to do is give my customer money to an owner who acts like an ingrate towards would-be customers offering honest feedback. That said, I've never had a bad meal at Black Salt, but it's been a long while since I was in and it will be around the time that hell freezes over that I try it again. Compare your social media approach with Michael Landrum, who took my criticism of his flagship here with grace and gave me a reason to give them another shot.

My first job was in the restaurant industry. I probably washed more dishes before I was 18 than you've washed in your entire life, Mr. Black. Good luck remedying your service problem at Pearl Dive. And sorry you have a problem with criticism - I'm going to post the good, the bad, and the ugly of my dining experiences.

#44 Pete

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 09:03 AM

As things stand, the post in question - especially now that it has been pointed out to me - is unacceptable. You are absolutely correct to be angry about it, and I apologize for not doing a more thorough job of following up with moderation - I alone take responsibility for this, and it's my reputation that is taking a hit. I would delete the post right now had it not just been placed under a spotlight.]

Aside from the gratuitous observation that the food "didn't look like anything special," NovaLawyer's post looks completely legitmate to me. He came, he saw, he left, he posted. It's unfortunate that Chef Black didn't care for the comment about the food, but the thrust of the post was about the service, and that concern remains unaddressed.

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


I agree completely with Waitman on this. There are 5 words out of a 167 word post that could be questionable, but to characterize the posting as "unacceptable" is a bit much. NovaLawyer's post read as legit to me. Given some of the other posts around that time, it appears as if there were valid service issues here. Don - there was no need to apologize for NovaLawyer's post. It is both the positive and negative feedback from the board members that make this website special.

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#45 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 09:22 AM

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


I don't think you need to defend a NovaLawyer, but without proof that he's lying, you shouldn't sell him out to appease a restaurant owner.

#46 Genevieve

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 09:25 AM

In the future, all I would ask is that if you have a problem, you please ask to speak with a manager *while it's happening*. Sometimes, our moderators (in this case, me) overlook things, and unfortunately, this is one of those times. I would have very much liked to correct this problem before having read about it on the internet.

That said, I do hope you'll give donrockwell.com another chance in the future. We value your membership very much, and want to make sure you're happy here. Give me a shout the next time you're online, and I'll make sure you're taken care of.

Best regards,
Don Rockwell]


Given the ending of Don's post, I read it as somewhat of a joking response, an example of the kind of thorough apology a restauranteur should make when someone has a complaint of a serious service issue (as Novalawyer did) or serious food issue. "I would have very much liked to correct this problem before having read about it on the internet." sounded like what restauranteurs have said when someone has posted about a major service or food issue they had but didn't contact a manager at the time to have the problem corrected, so I thought Don was doing an example of the gentler response Mr. Black could have given.

#47 mr food

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 10:29 AM

agree with using real names. Comments tend to be more responsible when your name is on a post. I've been using my name in my signature for several years here with no issues.

Jay Winton


#48 Keithstg

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 10:43 AM

Aside from the gratuitous observation that the food "didn't look like anything special," NovaLawyer's post looks completely legitmate to me. He came, he saw, he left, he posted. It's unfortunate that Chef Black didn't care for the comment about the food, but the thrust of the post was about the service, and that concern remains unaddressed.

There is value in getting members' backs, even when they disagree with a famous chef.


Just seeing this, but +100. Also, regarding real names, I think it would be an asset. The wine board I frequent is a real names only board (berserkers), and things seem to run smoothly.

#49 B.A.R.

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:18 AM

Anonymous (or named) crticisms on the internet sting. But if you want to swim in the big internet pool of using PR firms for guerilla marketing, tweets, facebook campaigns, etc etc etc, you have to take the good with the bad.

No industry is immune to online criticism. Hell, for a brief period of time I was at war with Electrolux over my refrigerator and licensed the domain www.electroluxsucks.com .There are entire cottage industries popping up to help you "manage" your online reputation. Restaurants are never perfect night in and night out, so it should come as no surprise that those imperfections will find the light of day on the internet.

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Sometimes, I try to disassociate myself from my own opinions.


#50 sandynva

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:21 AM

ditto.

To be frank (which, per below, might not be appreciated here anymore), i was really dissapointed by Don's comments that "this post falls far beneath the standards that I maintain on this website, especially given that the member posted under a pseudonym. As things stand, the post in question - especially now that it has been pointed out to me - is unacceptable."

I see absolutely nothing wrong with any of the post, except possibly the side comment about the food. He went to a restaurant, was treated poorly, and honestly reported on his experience. And then, the moderator of the board attacks the poster who dared to be honest, not the restaurant that had the bad service. Am i the only one who worries about what this means for the integrity and value of this forum? is this forum only for those wishing to post adulatory comments, particularly relating to chefs who may be vocal or participants?

With respect to pseudonyms, i understand that others are wary of them. however 1) i think it's unfair to criticize others for using them when the board itself continues to allow this to be an option and 2) i hope that the people who criticize those of us who use pseudonyms realize that not all of us do so out of a desire to be able to anonymously snipe at others. some people have professional reasons for not wanting to have their real names out there, especially in this age where future employers google everyone (true story-i've seen the blogs and facebook pages of job applicants scrutinized in detail, and sometimes mocked). Others are just more private individuals, and i don't think its fair to discount the opinions of these people just because they post under pseudonyms.





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