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5 Things Not to Do If a Food Critic Is Eating at Your Restaurant

Please note: After speaking with the owners, it has become clear that Liberty Kitchen did not comp my first meal at the restaurant; they comped my dining companion's meal, which I erroneously assumed was my own meal being comped. Also note that chef Lance Fegen did not have anything to do with the naming of either BRC Gastropub or the Hawaiian MacCock burger; those names were were created by owner Lee Ellis.

In this week's cafe review of Liberty Kitchen, I had a difficult time pegging the restaurant and what it's trying to be. Oyster bar with killer burgers and cocktails? Upscale dinner destination? Casual lunching spot with confusing prices? I ended up drawing my own conclusions -- which you can read in the review -- but I think that perhaps one of the reasons I was so rattled the entire time is that I was spotted from my first visit.

Liberty Kitchen has had issues with critics from the day that it opened and posted a sign barring Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook. The ban ostensibly arose out of owner Lance Fegen's disagreement with something Cook once wrote about his previous restaurant, Glass Wall (which is now owned by ex-partner Shepherd Ross), as well as her review of his other establishment, BRC Gastropub.

The sign and the "ban" were a rather juvenile reaction, to say the least, but Fegen seems to have an adolescent mind-set in other areas, too: Naming BRC after a "big red cock" and one of Liberty Kitchen's burgers the "Hawaiian MacCock" immediately spring to mind as other examples.

However, if Fegen was in Liberty Kitchen the last two times I was there, I didn't spot him. That didn't stop me from being recognized by his other staff members, though.

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Katharine Shilcutt