Have we reached a fork in the road for food criticism?
SAN FRANCISCO — Belmar Meat Market sits at the corner of Harrison and 24th streets in the Mission District, a historically Latino neighborhood that is fighting the relentless creep of gentrification. In the back of the market, there’s a small kitchen, where employees prepare and sell menudo, burritos and heavenly little tacos wrapped in freshly pressed and griddled tortillas.
[Jonathan Gold did more than critique the Los Angeles food scene. He defined it.]
Also known as La Gallinita, Belmar is a Mission institution, just the kind of place that the late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold would have devoted body and soul to explain to readers. But in his 32 years as restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Bauer never wrote about Belmar/La Gallinita. Bauer, in fact, didn’t write much about the taquerias, panaderias and other Latino shops that populate this area. He tended to focus on the upper reaches of the famed San Francisco dining scene, which has produced seven three-Michelin-star restaurants, two more than New York .
Two critics, two destination food cities, two dramatically different approaches to reviewing restaurants. By design and by cruel fate, both jobs are now open to a new generation. Bauer, 66, announced his retirement in July. Later that same month, Gold died suddenly, unexpectedly, from pancreatic cancer at age 57.