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Restaurants, like baseball teams, need time to work out the kinks

Thanksgiving sandwich at Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink.
Thanksgiving sandwich at Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink.
Mark Manger

People often ask why Westword's policy is to wait three months after a restaurant opens before going in for a review, rather than jumping in while the paint's still fresh. I'm sympathetic to the argument that if a restaurant is charging full price for food, it's fair game. But if fairness is the issue, is it really fair to pass judgment in the hectic opening days? Restaurants, like baseball franchises, need time to work out the kinks and gel as a team; there's a reason why spring training doesn't count along the path to the World Series.

See also:

- Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink: From bowling to burgers, there's a lot to like

- Tom's Urban 24: Is this upscale diner ready for prime time?

- Ace scores with action, drinks and decor; food is a tie game

Even veteran restaurateurs can't foresee what will happen after they throw the first pitch.For proof, look no further than Punch Bowl - Social Food & Drink, subject of this week's review.

Straight out of the gate, PBS beat owner Robert Thompson's projections by 100 percent. As a result, he says, "We were too busy to handle the size of our menu." More staff had to be hired; the menu had to be refocused. Labor-intensive dishes like spaghetti and meatballs were replaced with easier-to-execute fare, such as braised short ribs.

Thompson isn't alone in making changes several months in. Menus at Ace and Tom's Urban 24 were also tweaked several months after opening to address what was and wasn't working.

A good review should give you a realistic picture of what to expect in terms of food, service and ambience, so you can decide if it's a place you want to go. With so much under scrutiny and subject to change in the opening months, a review written too early simply wouldn't be fair -- not to chefs, not to readers.


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