Monday, April 4, 2011

The Other Side of the Story-A Trip Down Route 9

By now, most people who are reading this post are well aware of the recent issue involving the restaurant Route 9 and the Miami New Times so I'm not going to regurgitate all of it here.  For those unfamiliar with the issue, you can catch up by reviewing respected Miami food blogger, Frodnesor's detailed post over at Food for Thought. I'm also linking the review written by Lee Klein  that started all of this as well as a blog post from New Times Editor in Chief, Chuck Strouse.  On Sunday, Short Order (New Times food blog) posted a response/update from Mr. Klein.  For completeness sake, I'm also linking the Miami Herald review. 

I have no dog in this fight (not an investor in Route 9 and don't know the Goldberg's) and I'm certainly not taking sides on the issue.  As a matter of fact, I'm actually a fan of Lee and his reviews and I've looked forward to reading them on a weekly basis since he started writing for the New Times.  That being said, I don't think it is fair that the Goldberg's have no way to defend themselves outside of  measly 140 character tweets on Twitter or in the comment section of the online review.  Meanwhile, the New Times gets to circulate a now admittedly poor and irresponsible piece of journalism county wide in their print edition plus post it online via their website along with responses from Strouse and Klein.

I do not have an issue with a critic writing a glowing review after only one visit because the public isn't stupid and if the establishment isn't up to snuff they will figure it out.  However, it is unfair and unprofessional for a critic to write a negative review after one dining experience because people may never go as a result of that review.  I am not saying that is the case here just voicing my opinion on an important issue.   

It should be noted that as of this posting I have not dined at Route 9 so I have no opinion on the quality of food being served there but look forward to visiting soon and promise to honestly report back on the experience.

There are obviously two sides to every story and Route 9 (and all restaurants for that matter) unfortunately has no legitimate vehicle to respond to the alleged mistreatment they received from the New Times. Of course, I do not have anything close to the following of New Times or Short Order but this little blog isn't scarred of bullies and it doesn't appear that the Goldberg's are either. The issue between Route 9 and the New Times isn't about a bad review, never was. They could have spent their time bragging about the three star review they received from respected and James Beard nominating Miami Herald critic, Victoria Pesce Elliott that same day.(linked above)  The last time I checked the Herald had a few more readers than the New Times.  But no, the Goldberg's and Jeremy in particular weren't content with the Herald review and wanted demanded answers from the New Times.  So, this is about the alleged and apparently admitted hack job that was done to an upstart restaurant in our community.  People need to understand that the Goldberg's livelihood is on the line here as is their staffs and the families they support.

I may be unable to render an opinion on the food but I can provide a forum for the Goldberg's to share their side of the story.  Thus, I have obtained their version of what transpired and it is posted here unedited for your review.


What you are about to read are heartfelt sentiments and legitimate frustrations experienced directly by Paola and Jeremy Goldberg.  We do not contract with a large PR firm, an editor, or any consultants.

First, we believe that the issues regarding Lee Klein’s article have absolutely nothing to do with the New Times as an entity.  Over the past 8 years since we have been living in Miami, we have had the luxury of meeting, spending time with, and working alongside numerous NT staff and independent contributors, and we have had nothing but great things to say about them and their publication until this past week.  The issues we have are related entirely to one particular writer, Mr. Lee Klein, and his editor, Chuck Strouse.

As many of you who are reading this already know, there has been a flurry of activity on various blogs, Twitter accounts, and other social networking sites about Mr. Klein’s original review of Route 9 on March 31, 2011.  Shortly after the original article’s release, we called Mr. Klein’s editor at the New Times, Mr. Strouse, and we had an extended conversation with him several hours later.  After having heard of the numerous mistakes and outright transgressions committed by Mr. Klein, Mr. Strouse assured us that he would not only pull the original article, but would also issue a public apology with corrections the following week.  In Mr. Strouse’s description to us, he said that he “had not yelled that loud at anyone in the past 13 years,” referring to his verbal treatment of Mr. Klein.  This act and his assurances that he was committed to righting the previous wrongs prompted us to tweet that he (Mr. Strouse) was “a stand-up guy.”  You might be asking, “what could have possibly come to light that would prompt an editor to reverse course and berate one of his food reviewers, particularly one who is as prolific and recognizable as Mr. Lee Klein?”

Well, it came to our attention that Mr. Klein’s review was based on a single meal which he ate with another Miami area chef, Klime Kovaceski, who is set to open a new restaurant in the area in the near future.  In fact, we had undeniable, physical evidence that the meal described in Mr. Klein’s article was the same meal that Klime Kovaceski attended.[1] As of this writing, both Mr. Klein and Chef Kovaceski have publicly stated that they ate their meal together at Route 9.  

Let’s, for the moment, assume that Mr. Klein did dine at Route 9 with Klime Kovaceski.  What would be the problem?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand the relationship between these men.  For this information, I will cite the balanced and thorough blog,, as we don’t have the time to do our own, in-depth, investigative reporting (we’re too busy running a new restaurant!):  
We now know that Lee Klein and Chef Kovaceski are "old friends," and are close enough that they "once" had plans to write a book together (the cached version of Kovaceski's website referred to those plans as recently as a couple weeks ago).  Klein has already done two posts on Kovaceski's new restaurant on the New Times Short Order blog: a puffy preview piece back in February, and just a few days ago, a "First Look" promising even more posts next week.

    The significance of the relationship between Mr. Klein and Chef Kovaceski cannot be overstated.  The personal (and perhaps, financial) reasons for which Mr. Klein would want to see Chef Kovaceski’s restaurant succeed are obvious, and it is equally obvious that the arrival of another, hot “New Kid on the Block” (i.e. Route 9) could adversely affect Kovaceski’s new restaurant.

    The term for this is Conflict of Interest.  In the words of Professor Louis W. Hodges, Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism, Emeritus, at Washington and Lee University, “a conflict of interest in journalism exists when a journalist's commitment to serve audience interests is weakened, or risks being so, by the journalist's (or her news organization's) competing commitments and interests.” [2] Note that the definition includes situations in which there is risk of a journalist’s acting in a way that weakens the audience’s interests due to his/her own competing interests.

    So, Mr. Klein, in your most recent publication on the topic on Sunday, April 3, 2011, when you arrogantly and dismissively remark, “there was no conflict of interest,” we cringe that you utter these words without understanding their meaning.  We despise your snarky narcissism.  And we doubt your integrity.  Shame on you, Mr. Klein.

    And, Mr. Strouse, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you and your role in the past week’s events.  It was your inability to properly hold Mr. Klein accountable for his egregious “mistakes” and conflict of interest that led to this debacle in the first place.  You lied to us and you patronized us by not following through on the changes you guaranteed.  Your edited version of the article is still riddled with mistakes including discussing items that never existed on our menu.  Furthermore, your rationalization that there is no conflict of interest because Chef Kovaceski’s upcoming restaurant is 20 minutes away is a blatantly transparent cover-up, and this is condescending to your readership at large.[3]  So shame on you, too, Mr. Strouse.

    It was important that we got all of that off our chest.  But, at the same time, we don’t want this piece to be all piss and vinegar.  While we’ve experienced our share of disappointment and outrage this past week, we’ve also heard some very wonderful and sincere words from Victoria Pesce Elliott at the Miami Herald who gave us 3 stars.  We have been encouraged and inspired by the kind words of our regular customers, and we remain THRILLED to have the opportunity to provide heartwarming, interesting food in a relaxed environment in Coral Gables.  We are listening to every piece of criticism (including Twitter, message boards, blogs, and the more formal food reviews), and we are constantly changing our offerings and culinary design based on the feedback we receive.  The restaurant is just 2 months old and is steadily evolving.  For anyone out there reading who has followed this back-and-forth and who is wondering who or what to believe, we invite you to experience Route 9 for yourself to form your own opinion.  We welcome all new patrons, all of our regulars, and all TRUSTWORTHY food reviewers out there.

 [1] As an aside, it should be mentioned that substantial, lingering doubts remain that Mr. Klein EVER ate a meal at Route 9.  Our owners and our waitstaff vividly recall the table where Mr. Kovaceski dined, and there was one female (another employee at Kovaceski’s new restaurant) and another gentleman who never returned to our establishment. This fact, along with observations made regarding inconsistencies in the writing style between Mr. Klein’s prior reviews and the current one appear on the well-researched blog,  Of course, if it is the case that Mr. Klein never set foot in the restaurant, then it would make sense that he made as many uncharacteristic mistakes as he did.

[3]As a simple example, any patrons who live anywhere between these 2 restaurants, on any given night, may debate which one to dine at.

I encourage everyone to continue reading Mr. Klein's work as I'm confident he will learn from this issue.  Hopefully, the editorial staff will as well.  I also encourage everyone, myself included, to pay a visit to Route 9 and go with an open mind.

Life is short, eat well and eat often.


Love to Eat said...

Great that this couple has finally been able to speak up. Thanks, Chowfather. And great response, Route 9..way to stick up for yourselves without coming off wrong

Anonymous said...

Guy sounds like a total douchebag

Benjamin said...

Good for the owners of Route 9!! That Media Ethics article they cited by the journalism professor nails that rat, Lee Klein, to a T.

Dave said...

I agree, Benjamin..don't know if klein is a rat, but he definitely messed up. Strouse should have, and still should, do something to fix this.

Anonymous said...

"The personal (and perhaps, financial) reasons for which Mr. Klein would want to see Chef Kovaceski’s restaurant succeed are obvious"

this sentence alone shreds all credibility the goldbergs have in my opinion. if you have proof that klein is either taking money or somehow invested financially in trio, then speak up and prove it. Otherwise leave these little quips out. The response wants to come off as above the fray of what is happening, but it sounds more like a rant from somebody who simply didnt get their way. There were factual errors in the article. everyone, even klein, has admitted that. I think it would be in the best interest of route 9 to simply realize that this little fracas has given them untold amounts of publicity that they never would have gotten from another reviewer. At this point, you should be thanking klein for handing in shoddy work. move on route 9. keep dragging this out and you will look worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

Haha, you used footnotes.

Spike Bourdain said...

I trust that Mr. Goldberg who is running the front of the house, remembers every face that has walked through his doors especially the repeats. If Klein dines in disguise, that's cool but I doubt it b/c he hasn't mentioned that and that would be the first thing I said if I was called out like this. I trust that he dined there on one occasion with Klimer and the underage latino boys but doubt there were two visits which is a travesty. It's also ridiculous that the local media is printing reviews of restaurants in their infantile stages. I get it if it's a Starr or Chodorow production but first timers in their 20's? c'mon. DONDE ESTA el Jefe del Editor??? That's who really is to blame. Not Milli and Vanilli oops I mean Klein and Kleim. Listen, this is what is clear. Lil' Lee went one time and was unimpressed and probably a tad jealous that he can't cook and is stuck writing for an unedited dish rag while fellow CIA grads are doing it in the Cuba Norte a/k/a The Gables. He mailed the review in and figured no one would notice except Miami food royalty, Frod and Chowdaddy. But figured they would only glance over a review of Route 12 or 6 or 2. Bottom line, he went 1x, hated the food, hated that Jeremy was younger and taller and wrote his review on his iPad while dropping a deuce. Chucky rubber stamped it cause he is a lazy double douche and this shit blew up on em. As usual, they underestimated King Frod and Prince Chowfather. Omega psi phi in the mutha fuckin house bitches so steppppp the fuck offf!!!

Klime = Slime said...

I wish the previous poster would have come out from anonymity. Just like Anthony and Ruth Bourdain, I love you too.

Klein is a douche for writing this article.

Strouse is a double douche for allowing this article.

Klime is the biggest douche for being in the restaurant business and still being a part of this.

Anonymous said...

Funny how nobody seems to care that the Herald also reviewed this restaurant in its "infantile stages." If it's positive then all is well.

Anonymous said...

Well said Chowfather and Route 9

Clemenza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ergagit said...

As a customer, I have the right to critucize or, praise the restaurant after one visit as long as I pay my money,whether I am a critic or not.Any restaurant who charges should be ready day one for any comment a paying customer wants to make.

What? said...

Obviously you have the right to criticize. The question is whether or not you are being a malicious dick while doing so.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of horse SHIT!

This is Great said...

I wish I was in town when all of this was going on. Anyway, a few weeks later, and I am so intrigued. I have always doubted the credibility of Lee Klein (and a few other people at New Times). Somehow, I rarely agree with his articles, and this is not the first time I have seen him discuss incorrect facts. It sounds like it is just the first time that somebody stuck up to him. Good for you, Route 9 (we hear your place is great from many different friends)