WNY food criticism—does it exist?
I write restaurant reviews for the Buffalo Spree, (not as often as I could or should, but that's another story), and always strive to be as thorough and fair as I can possibly be. I don't follow 11 of the guidelines Buffalo Chow mentioned in its final post, but if reservations need to be made for a restaurant I'm going to review, they go in under a fake name, and I take notes as subtly as I can on my iPhone. While I have veritably trashed a couple of very deserving places—both now gone for good reason—what I try to do is paint a picture for readers about the overall experience.
For me, going out to a nice place can be an endeavor. It means hiring a babysitter on top of the cost of the meal, so there's always a premium paid for any such outing. (We often take the kids—they're well enough behaved for us to get away with it.) So, if you're dropping anything north of $100 plus babysitter for a nice dinner out, you want to get what you pay for. I try to tell you what the food is like, what sort of stuff they have, whether the service was polite and quick, and whether it's worth your time and effort. In the 7 years I've written these reviews, I've noticed that the quality of food and service have improved exponentially locally. Really—it's night and day.
As far as restaurant reviews are concerned, there aren't a lot of people doing them locally. The late Buffalo Chow, Nelson Starr, Buffalo Rising, Artvoice, the Buffalo News, Spree, and that's about it.
Andrew Galarneau (formerly of Buffalo Buffet and One Big Kitchen) of the Buffalo News is a foodie's foodie. A serious journalist who loves food and its creation. So why on earth is Janice Okun still reviewing restaurants for the News? It's become a joke to read her meat 'n potatoes "reviews." Take, for instance, this review of Dug's Dive. Go ahead. Read the whole thing.
On Facebook, Buffalo Chow writer Jeremy Horwitz posted the following images (above and below) of Dug's Dive menu as "Revealed: How the Buffalo News reviews restaurants!" Compare to Okun's review (linked above the image)
It's spot on.