I met two people on The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train. They were nice. I was tired of lying.
"I'm a restaurant critic," I said, when pressed for details about my work.
(He works for Boeing, she's a stay-at-home missionary. There wasn't a waiter in sight when I said it.)
With the couple under the impression that I worked for Haliburton, I had spent the Renton-to-Woodinville half of the trip mostly listening to them talk about disappointing food and views.
(About the food: stale rolls, wilted lettuce, gristly prime rib. About the views: some lovely views of Lake Washington and Chateau Ste. Michelle, but lots of old tires and industrial walls of graffiti.)
It was just before dessert on our return trip. The stop at the Columbia Winery seemed brief, and I regretted not following another couple across the road to the Hollywood Tavern for Redhooks and pull-tabs. Back on board, I could no longer stomach lying to the nice people with whom I had broken stale bread.
"Do you ever review bad restaurants?" the woman asked.
"I'd be out of a job if I didn't," I said.
"Do you ever go easy on bad restaurants?"
"You mean give zero-star restaurants one star? Hey, I still gotta live in this town."
Then she goes, "Do you feel responsible for bad restaurants?"
My answer was swift and sure:
"People's livelihoods are involved," I said.
The missionary, her husband and I ordered apple crisp desserts. Mine had sloshed across my plate and wasn't very crisp. My dinner train companions made me feel better about a bad meal.
"It's not your fault if restaurants serve bad food," she said. "They owe it to customers, not you."
I woke up this morning and read an "amen" to that. It came from rivitman, a Tacoma chef and regular blogger here at Ed's Diner. Rivitman commented on Winfield's closure and the statement from the building's owner that the restaurant failed because the public failed to support it:
The customer does not exist to prop up ANY business. ... Tacoma is oversaturated with eating establishments. There are more seats that rear ends to put in them. So if you are not a real operator, you had best steer clear. ... there are going to be another couple of rapid open/closes in the next year or so.
Beginning Aug. 3, The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train will take off from a new station, Freighthouse Square, making dinner runs from Tacoma to Eatonville. On Aug. 10, I promise to tell you, as truthfully as I can, about the food and the views.