As restaurants start to open for outside dining, I, as a food blogger, am obviously raring to go. However, the point of this blog exposes a bit of a conundrum I am facing. I created this website to review restaurants. Along the way, I have befriended many in the restaurant industry and saw this hobby-turned-non-paying-job as a chance to promote small businesses. I have never let this concern come in the way of a review. While most are overwhelmingly positive, I do maintain a sense of integrity and honesty by posting a negative review if need be. But in these turbulent times, a review posted to a large enough audience just might be able to make or break a struggling business, and there are more restaurants struggling than your social media feeds full of triumphant and hopeful posts will let on. This is not something I am ready to deal with. On top of that, restaurants who are trying outside dining for the first time will need at least a month to fully work out the kinks. By then, though, we may see another spike in Coronavirus cases. I am far from an alarmist, but part of me is thinking, “Enjoy it now, because we will probably be in lock-down again by September.” That aside, I am most likely going to continue to wait and see, at least for a couple of weeks.
There are a plethora of restaurants on my to-do list. The basis of this blog is to keep trying new places and add to my list of scores, but when I am finally out and about, I will want the familiar. I want to see the servers, hosts, and cooks that I am used to seeing, to check in with how they are doing, to dig into that special meal I’ve been dying for, and of course, to support the business which made me a customer in the first place. Will people want to keep reading about the same old places? Furthermore, if I am going to try new restaurants and end up having a negative experience, at what point will it be alright to say, “Yeah, this was not very good”? If I am only going to write about positive visits, then this blog, like so many of the local papers, journals, and magazines will become nothing more than an outlet for puff pieces. That is not journalism or food criticism— it is tacky clickbait.
While I have been busy with posts in the last few months regarding my own cooking, I have not reviewed/been to a new restaurant since April. This is the longest drought of my entire life, and not just in food blogging. During this time, I have come to realize much like everyone else, what I can and cannot live without. I am seeing what matters to me. Dining out is not as important as I thought it was. While I will always eat out and will always be a food nut, the focus of Eating New Jersey may turn to my own cooking and adventures rather than restaurant reviews. I have also noticed the abundance of extra money in my wallet since I stopped eating out (this is not a cheap hobby, and the money I make on advertising and link placement covers the domain costs and little else). The simple act of ordering takeout once a week, having a few drinks out on my newly beautifully adorned patio, and then heating up the food to eat with a good buzz is just as good as the nights at the bar (minus the atmosphere of some establishments which cannot be replaced). Maybe working through the pandemic instead of being shut-in has given me a perspective not based in stir-craziness. I am eager to eat out, not desperate.
So, this is not a farewell. This is not the end of the site. This is not the end of my restaurant reviews. But I did want to touch base with everyone and say the times might be changing. We will see how our situation in New Jersey progresses. No matter the direction we head, I hope you will stick with me.
Stay safe, be well, and eat something wonderful.