Brian McManus used to write about food and music for the Houston Press. And just about every time he wrote something for us, he got a reaction. Once, he received a bouquet of black roses, wrapped up with a package of assorted fried foods. It was from the people at Montrose Diner, who didn't take kindly to him calling their appetizer platter a "fried crap basket." (Just go read the review. It's full of gems like this one about some soggy green beans: "The Jolly Green Giant's fingernail clippings would be more appetizing.") It wasn't long after that review was published that the diner shut down.
Then he moved to Philadelphia and became music editor of Philadelphia Weekly, occasionally writing about food, too. Sent to cover Hot Potato Café in Philadelphia's Fishtown, he published a reputation-demolishing review of the place called "Spuddy Hell." He hated Hot Potato's potato soup, and he had this to say about the green beans there: "And those poor green beans. No cook worth his associate's degree would serve such a godawful, burnt and impotent pile of non-nutrients to another human."
That review apparently caught the attention of Kitchen Nightmares' Gordon Ramsay, who decided to do an episode on Hot Potato. "I'm here in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, to check out a restaurant that isn't getting much love from anybody," he says on the show, going on to mention Brian's review. After tasting the food at the restaurant, which is run by three aunts and their niece, Ramsay has this to say: "God bless that critic. 'Spuddy Hell' right now was being very kind. The food is dreadful."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Ramsay helps the women revamp the kitchen, the menu and the restaurant itself. Then, before opening night, he informs them, "Here's the bombshell. The man that destroyed the reputation of Hot Potato Café, Mr. Spuddy Hell himself, is back. The Philly Weekly's food critic - he's back in here tonight. It doesn't get any more serious than this."
As Brian sits down to eat with his wife, all eyes are on their table. He tries the soup again, declares it "potato-rific," and eventually writes another review of Hot Potato, this time positive.
We're happy the ladies of Hot Potato Café got it together. But we're also glad there will always be restaurants that suck, because even if we don't like eating fried crap baskets or impotent piles of non-nutrients, we do enjoy reading about them.