A few weeks back, I penned a review of Cantina Laredo that received an unusual amount of feedback. The funny thing about the responses was that some of them said I was too harsh on the Gulch's shiny new Mexican chain--with its high-dollar margaritas and tableside guacamole--while others complained that I had effectively given a bye to an insipid and overpriced interpretation of Tex-Mex.
Therein lies a crystalline critic's dilemma: The food was good, fresh, plentiful. In and of itself, I enjoyed it. But was it a groundbreaking spin on--or even a faithful interpretation of--the indigenous food of our Southern neighbor? Not so much.
So how should it be judged? Against a standard of what it is, or against a standard of what it could be?
It's safe to say I'll continue to wrestle with that question, and I appreciate the opinions of Scene readers who feel strongly about my reviews. Please keep them coming.
In the case of the Cantina Laredo review, I actually felt like I had been a little harsh. I haven't checked, but I'm guessing management didn't exactly laminate and post my review, which predicted that Cantina was "not going to change the way you think of Mexican food, except maybe how much you think it costs," and likened a grilled steak to a "small steel-belted radial." But such criticisms weren't enough for some people, including one reader who rebutted that Cantina Laredo was "a pseudo-Mexican take on Shoney's where you feel like you should wear better clothes."
Perhaps the disconnect between what I wrote and what I thought I wrote about Cantina Laredo could be summed up in this characteristically hilarious article from The Onion, in which the kid-gloved reviewer is--at least in his own mind--one bad mo'fo on a warpath of gastronomic ass-reamings.
Something to aspire to...