Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Give-and-Take With 5 Napkin

In October, I wrote a 500-word review of 5 Napkin Burger, and followed it up with this shorter, 100-word review on Yelp:

5 Napkin Burger: 2 Stars
12/20/2008
Dark, a little noisy, nice booths. Confused menu. Great beer list.

More than half the menu is not burgers. Sushi? Really?

The Original burger ($14.95) has comte and caramelized onions, at once classy and classic. The shiny, eggy bun, like challah, was dynamite. Watch out for over-salted meat, a common problem across multiple burgers at my table. Fries are quite good.

Baked beans ($3.50) were great, but I think they were Bush's.

Beer menu is something to behold: U.S. microbrews make up more than half the list (about $6-$9) with a few choice Belgians thrown in for good measure.

Just this month, seven months after I had written the Yelp review, I recieved this personal message in my Yelp inbox:

Dear Jill,
My name is [removed], and I am a manager at 5 Napkin Burger. As a new option on Yelp, business owners are now allowed to respond to comments, so I wanted to take this opportunity to do so. I read your review of our restaurant, and am glad to hear that you enjoyed your burger. I also wanted to address some of your concerns after dining with us. As you mentioned, we also have designed our menu to contain a broad array of dishes that can appeal to everyone dining in your group. It may seem a little strange at first, but we feel it really helps us appeal to a wider audience. And, our sushi really is very good.

Regard the baked beans; I was glad to hear that you enjoyed them, and I want to assure you that all our baked beans are homemade in-house. Additionally, regarding the salting, it is a aspect that we do pay a lot of attention to, and are able to get it right most of the time.

We truly value your business, and would like to invite you to return for lunch or dinner for 2. I am confident you will have a more representative 5 Napkin experience. Please email myself or Robert at [email removed]. to let us know when you would like to join us, and we'll have a great table and gift card waiting for you.

Thanks,
[name removed]
5 Napkin Burger


And so, I replied:

Dear [manager],
Thank you for your offer. However, because I make it a point to review restaurants without bias, I must refuse.

I also thought it was odd that you extended this offer, seeing as my review on Yelp was not strongly negative. I had several positive comments, though my overall mark of 2 stars may have been the catalyst. I stand by my comment that the menu is totally confused. While I understand 5Napkin wants to cater to large parties with diverse tastes, that is quite frankly the approach of a restaurant that will never see more than 3 out of 5 stars. There is a need for those kinds of restaurants, sure, but they have very different goals from restaurants aiming to deliver a unique and amazing dining experience. The confused menu at 5Napkin and over-salting of meat brought that down to 2 stars.

I have also visited 5Napkin's sister restaurant, Nice Matin, and found that over-salting was just as prevalent there. I was with a large party of about 10 people, one of whom is a sommalier, and we were able to taste about 10 dishes in all between appetizers and mains. Four people had burgers; all were salty. Between the sommalier and me (I used to be a food editor, though I work professionally in other content now), we both agreed that over-seasoning was a major deterrent to our dining experience.

I am grateful that you are assessing feedback from serious eaters, and I wish you the best of luck.
Sincerely,
Jill Duffy

2 comments:

hreeves said...

Um, hello! I'll pretend to be Jill Duffy to have another burger there. They were so damn good. I must disagree ms duff. Though the sushi thing was so weird.

Darius Kazemi said...

I've received offers like that through Yelp, and I also make a point to turn them down, nice though they may be.

Interesting that you gave two stars for the review, it seems like most Yelpers given the same text would have rated it 3. (I do think you're in the right, review inflation on Yelp is pretty bad. It seems like everything is 4 stars.)

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