How to Read a Restaurant Review: 7 Food Writer Euphemisms Deciphered

Critics deploy these terms and phrases all the time—here's what they really mean.

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Food writing can be difficult when you're trying to keep things fresh and interesting. We know, because we try to do it a lot, with varying degrees of success. How many ways can one person say that a gin and tonic is refreshing, or that a bowl of ramen is rich and comforting?

There are some writers in the game that have an uncanny ability to capture an experience better than if you had been there yourself. From their descriptions of meals, to their remembrances of food from childhood, their words manage to be both moving and informative. Still, even the most creative wordsmiths run out of ways to convey just how banging the piri-piri shrimp was.

Even more difficult than just describing food is figuring out how to review a restaurant without sounding like a complete jackass. When you're getting paid to eat and then critique others on their craft, things get a little touchy. It's no wonder that euphemisms and cliches are repeated again and again in food writing.

Here are seven examples of food writing code words that are as ridiculous as they are difficult to avoid. Just as the word quaint should set off fire alarms when you see it in a Craigslist apartment listing (hint: it means tiny), these terms and phrases should be your cue to read between the lines a bit when you read them in a review.

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