Food News: Southland Whiskey Kitchen Debate

You may have read the review of Southland Whiskey Kitchen in the Oregonian last week. Critic Michael Russell was not impressed, giving it one of the lowest scores I’ve seen in that newspaper – a D (I can only remember this happening once before, in a review by Roger Porter for Pinocchio a now closed Italian restaurant on the South Park blocks). The O review was followed a few days later by a another take by in the Portland Mercury by Chris Onstad, which wasn’t exactly glowing, but not nearly as bad as Russell’s take.

Some classic lines from the Oregonian review:

Mess-hall macaroni, boiled to shreds, was mixed with clumpy orange cheese. Lifeless gumbo hid shrimp and crawfish, squeaky andouille sausage and post-al-dente rice. Smoked ribs, cool and mealy, were served with two towers of panko-fried onion rings that accomplished the not-insignificant feat of being both overcooked (batter) and raw (onion) at the same time.

…any flavor once held by the pork shoulder was overwhelmed by a vile jalapeño cheese spread.

The review ends by strongly hinting you’d be better off by going to Smokehouse 21 which is up the street.

In the Portland Mercury review, Onstad ends by saying,

“Southland Whiskey Kitchen is a reliable source of fairly priced, accessible, archetypal Southern fare that satisfies but—with a few exceptions—does not wow. It is a place to enjoy good whiskey in a flawlessly attractive, upscale-casual setting, but not for those seeking food with a distinct personality.”

Not exactly glowing, but not particularly scathing either.

Folks are wondering how this could happen, but I have no problem believing they are both right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a glowing review of a restaurant based on my normal three separate meals, and then gone back a month later to be served mostly lousy food. Obviously I hate it when this happens: I end up looking like a schmuck.

Let’s face it, rare is the restaurant where every dish is good; ordering blind can be a crap-shoot.  Sometimes you happen to get lucky, most of the time you don’t. These days I don’t believe most reviewers have as many meals at each restaurant as they did back in the halcyon days of hefty income from large classified ad sections, and most of the time it shows. I recently had a friend comment about a local review, saying “It reads like they only went to the restaurant one time.” Sadly, he’s probably right.

So there it is; it may be possible to go to the Southland Whiskey Kitchen and have a bad meal, or, depending on the things you order, a unmemorable meal. However, I have a question for both of them: why the heck did you review it in the first place?!

It’s owned by Casa Del Matador chain, establishments which are not exactly known for anything except a good drinking scene populated by young singles. With all the restaurants in town, you pick that one? Who cares?

Your thoughts are welcome

    • says

      Seriously! Why not Raven & Rose or some other place that most of us probably aren’t that inclined to try unless we hear enough good things? I’d rather have heard nothing about Southland and had no reason to even think about it unless I was walking by on 23rd, which there isn’t much reason to do in that particular stretch of the street.

  1. johne says

    The Oregonian constantly over rates restaurants. They go for weeks not giving anyone anything less than a B (3 stars). Ridiculous.

    • says

      I think they used to, but not as much anymore. I heard that in the old days the review score was set by the editors, not the reviewer. For a long time that made them the laughing stock of many readers. Maybe they’ve gotten smarter.

  2. Kathy M. says

    From personal experiences I can concur with both of the reviews noted above. I live in the 23rd neighborhood and looked forward to trying a new restaurant close to home. My first visit within one week of Southland’s opening was really nothing to write home about. Just basic barbecue that could be found at any national barbecue chain. I went back three weeks ago looking for a good whiskey bev and decided to order ribs. They arrived ice cold… Could it be that the kitchen had the back door wide open and it was around 35 degrees outside? I told my server and she said she’d let the manager know. No table side visit from the manager, they just didn’t seem to give a damn. Well, I don’t give a damn and won’t be back. The dreary, non-descript, cold food will bring this place down. Unfortunate given the money and energy that went into creating the space. Oh well, the restaurant owners know what they are doing, I am just the consumer. A consumer going elsewhere with my money…

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