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The LO Times Is Your Vital Dining Guide for NYC's Great (Yet Pricey) Comeback
Restaurant reviews, "best of" lists, and advice on where to save or splurge, all from Ryan Sutton, the former food critic at Eater and Bloomberg
Let’s go out to eat tonight.
I know, I know. The cost of dining out has skyrocketed — check out those $5 slices and $75 steaks. Rents keep going up too, squeezing us further as we grapple with high grocery prices and electric bills. Sure, the economy is resilient and the job market is strong, but layoffs in tech, media, finance, law and elsewhere have many of us worried about whether we’ll get that overdue raise, that nice fat bonus check (lucky you!), that confirmed start date, or heck, even that initial job interview.
Still, we deserve to enjoy life a little, even when it throws us a few curveballs. And this is one of the greatest food cities in the world. So let’s keep dining out and ordering in, and I’ll help you figure out where. As a laid-off food critic with nearly 18 years of experience, I know a thing or two about doling out precisely this kind of advice.
Trying to find some happiness when things get rocky is, quite frankly, something too many of us are familiar with these days. So, welcome, The LO Times, your guide to living and eating well during this tumultuous era of ups and downs — during these “Laid Off Times,” as I like to call them.
As some well-funded publications remain short-staffed on the reviews front — while our city’s pandemic-bruised restaurants roar back to life — this one-person outfit will try to pick up some of the slack.
It’s going to be delicious, fun, and just a little bit boozy. I’ll have quick takes on hot new dishes, early reports from the newest spots, and alerts on when your favorite dishes shoot up in price. I’ll also put out “best of” lists and city guides that feel more like a good mixtape than a generic medley regurgitated by food media’s corporate algorithm demons.
Sometimes, I’ll have a lot to say about the city and the economy. And sometimes, I’ll just tell you where to grab a good steak, empanada, pastrami sandwich, or taco.
I’ll frequently emphasize value, even when covering the city’s spendiest restaurants. And every now and then, I might share a story or two about the realities of getting by when you get the axe at work — a perpetual rite-of-passage in the life of anyone living (and working) in modern America.
This will be a place to relive the joy (or terror) of spending $50 (or $500!) on a single sushi dinner. It will be a site for understanding the people, places, and dishes that make us happy. It will be a hub for figuring out where to spend our time and money as everything gets more expensive — and as almost too many excellent restaurants open up.
Subscribe to The LO Times for full access to reviews, “best of” lists, and advice on where to save, splurge, or totally avoid!
I was a critic at Bloomberg News for over eight years, and an Eater critic for nearly nine
. Now, I just want to keep writing stories about our amazing hospitality industry and help us all enjoy the best city in the world until the rents go up yet again. (Spoiler, the rents will go up yet again, and I’ll still be here when they do).
Here’s a more detailed look at what’s in store. And by the way, a yearly subscription costs less than an excellent prime rib after tax and tip.
Detailed city guides, with specific advice on what to avoid
A “best of” column or neighborhood guide should not feel like anonymous AI-generated content or clickbait. It should feel like personal advice from someone who’s excited to put together a really good collection of tacos or vegan sandwiches, not too different from a playlist you’d compile for someone you’re crushing on. That’s what I want to do at The LO Times.
Lists should also be just a bit argumentative! Just as a review suggests what items to avoid at a restaurant, our guides will include venues you should be actively skipping when searching for the best steaks, jjajangmyeon, or cheung fun. Criticism by omission isn’t enough in a list; at some point, folks will want to know why they shouldn’t order the shrimp cocktail at *****, one of the city’s best steakhouses. I’ll tell you why quite soon.
No, journalists don’t become journalists to make listicles — there’s no dedicated Pulitzer for putting together your top 10 albums of the year — but lots of people depend on these guides to figure out where to eat. The key is to make them more enjoyable and useful; no one wants to read something that feels like movie blurbs on the Delta In-Flight entertainment hub (btw here’s one of my favorite lists as of late, courtesy of the good Grubstreet folks). If done right, a good list should act as a gateway of sorts into longer and more nuanced reads on criticism, culture, representation, and other massively important issues that, to many of us, are inextricable from the sensory enjoyment we get from the food itself.
Fun, flexible approaches to restaurant reviews
I’ll publish a steady diet of columns on restaurants both new and old to help you decide where you can spend your scarce (or abundant!) income. What will those reviews look like? It depends!
Sometimes, you’ll see multi-visit takes on popular new brasseries, panaderias, food courts, pop-ups, street vendors, and elsewhere — i.e. typical reviews. But sometimes, we don’t need to read a full write-up, maybe because everyone goes to a place for one or two really good things. In those instances, I’ll keep things shorter by focusing on a particular venue’s heralded burger, plov, or soba — or maybe I’ll outline how to ace a three-course meal there.
I’ll make a single visit to a new omakase spot or tasting menu venue and I’ll let you know whether it’s worth the dough. I’ll also pen regular columns on sandwiches (inspired by the work of my longtime colleague Robert Sietsema) and on some of the city’s top new meat dishes.
I’ll do regular roundups of the best things I ate, letting you know as bluntly as possible if you should really try a great slice of pepperoni pizza, a broccoli rabe sandwich, or a chorizo pupusa. You’ll also encounter year-end lists of the city’s best new restaurants. And if big developers take big swings with food, like at Moynihan Station or Hudson Yards, you can be sure I’ll continue to hold them to account.
This is all to say, and I’ve believed this for quite some time: A classic three-visit narrative review is just one of many tools in a critic’s larger and more interesting toolbox. It’s a device that one doesn’t need to deploy every single week.
No, Criticism doesn’t need to be central to every food media experience, and it certainly shouldn’t come at the expense of telling or highlighting other equally important stories. Still, it’s been tough to see certain full-time and freelance critic jobs disappear. As New York restaurants continue their comeback, diners deserve more honest, insightful, contextual, fact-checked reviews, not fewer critical takes. So I’m here to help fill in that gap.
You’ll also encounter my usual dose of commentary on culture, urban life, and politics, and occasional takes on what the other local critics and columnists are saying — Tammie Teclemariam, E. Alex Jung, Scott Lynch, Steve Cuozzo, Hannah Goldfield, Pete Wells, and Sietsema not to mention the growing class of brilliant culture critics and reporters — to make sure we’re all in conversation with one another.
Regular alerts on when the price of your favorite foods are going up
When the price of your favorite tasting menu or bowl of ramen goes up — and it always does — you’ll likely hear about it here first. I’ve been reporting on the price of food since before the Great Recession, and now that we’re coming off a period of historically high inflation, folks deserve to know when and why things are getting pricier — intel that restaurants don’t typically highlight in press releases. This was the subject of some of my most widely read columns at Eater (Check out my articles on the rising price of slice pizza, sushi omakases, and beer). So now, I’m bringing that style of informative service journalism to you at The LO Times.
And this is just the beginning! I have more than a few other cool ideas for coverage later in the summer and fall. Stay tuned!
For now, happy chomping and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss my first review. It drops sooner than you think.
p.s. The above pizza is from Sullivan Street Bakery, a chill cafe in Hell’s Kitchen where I do a lot of my writing! The pomodoro pizza is one of my favorite breakfast items, a layer of pulpy tomatoes over light, crisp flatbread. Pair it with coffee and please do appreciate the clean, elegant chomps!