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Aaron Foley Dissects the 'Don’t-Complain-About-Detroit-Restaurant-Saviors' Complex

The writer takes on the culture surrounding how people talk about Detroit restaurants in his latest Belt Magazine column.

Punch Bowl Social.
Punch Bowl Social.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Detroit writer, author, and BLAC Magazine editor Aaron Foley isn't shy about critiquing the growing Detroit restaurant scene. In a column for Belt Magazine, Foley takes on the overarching culture of how Detroiters talk about new businesses, using Punch Bowl Social's most recent bout of bad press as a jumping off point.

In December, a black customer wrote a post on Facebook accusing a Punch Bowl Social bartender of making racist comments towards her cousin and coming out from behind the bar to verbally assault her. The complaint went viral as did Punch Bowl's somewhat tone deaf response to the claims. However, its commenter's reactions to the complaint that inspire Foley. "Here's the thing about Detroit restaurants: Complaints about them are seen as being ungrateful," he writes, noting that criticism of new businesses in Detroit is often met with the "don't-complain-about-Detroit-restaurant-saviors" defense that they bring jobs to the city or were willing to take a chance on Detroit.

The Detroit diners who raise issues about slow service or undercooked food are the bad guys, all of a sudden. They should just take their business to Birmingham. Ferndale. Chicago. New York! Anywhere but Detroit, because obviously a disagreement over a dirty fork means you hate Detroit and what this restaurant is trying to do for the city, which is now a food mecca, allegedly.

The issue of complaining becomes even more complex if the customer happens to be black, Foley says recounting times when he's felt ignored or condescended to about a menu item. "... Imagine if your complaints about restaurant service fell on deaf ears because your people are stereotyped as bad tippers with pissy attitudes," he continues.

This is the Detroit we're in right now. The Detroit where people don't want to see where the other party is coming from because that would mean upsetting the restaurant scene, upsetting progress, upsetting the mandate to say nice things about Detroit, upsetting this rose-colored faux-utopia where everything is getting better.

Foley isn't the only one to discuss what it's like critiquing Detroit restaurants. Metro Times' Michael Jackman and Detroit News restaurant critic Molly Abraham discussed why so many local restaurant reviews are overwhelmingly positive in an interview with WDET last August.

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