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A whiny review of Thomas Street Bistro , a new, pint-sized Capitol Hill eatery, disappeared from The Stranger’s Web site shortly after it was published

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Stranger Eats Its Words

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A whiny review of Thomas Street Bistro, a new, pint-sized Capitol Hill eatery, disappeared from The Stranger’s Web site shortly after it was published in the Jan. 3 print edition.

A cached version of the article, “No Exit," now comes up on a Google search, but the URL at the top of the page directs you to a blank Stranger Web page that says: “We’re sorry! The page you're looking for does not seem to exist…." When searching on the Stranger site, the same result occurs.

Even more mysteriously, the restaurant--which writer Chris McCann dubbed “sad," calling the food “depressing," and saying it “reminded him of our very limited capacity for transcendence"--then started running quarter-page ads in the very paper that had panned it two weeks before.

Thomas Street Bistro co-owner Adam Freeman says The Stranger agreed to give him “a deal" on advertising--and immediately yank the story from the site--after he complained about the review. Freeman had previously run ads in the paper. (He has also been an advertiser in Seattle Weekly.)

No explanation was given to readers or published in The Stranger. Today, two hours after the Weekly contacted Stranger publisher Tim Keck, asking to discuss the matter, an explanation from editor Christopher Frizzelle went up on the Stranger’s blog. It said, “Two weeks ago we pulled the review from our web archive because our timing was off." McCann’s piece went “against our editorial policy of waiting at least three months before doing a formal review of a new restaurant," Frizzelle wrote.

Added Keck in an interview: “We don’t feel like it was a fair review." Though Keck confirms the restaurant was given free advertising, he says it was not part of any deal or “quid pro quo" to quiet the angry owner. He says there were “production errors" in previous ads the bistro had run in his paper.

Freeman, who immigrated to the United States 10 years ago, opened Thomas Street Bistro on Thanksgiving. He says the reviewer came calling a few weeks later and brought a baby to the restaurant, which, with about eight tables, is smaller than most living rooms. Freelance writer McCann confirms this, adding: “Honestly I tried to make the review as fair as I could." He says he, too, was never told that the story had been pulled or given an explanation.

“Taking something down is very unusual, especially if there’s no note of it at all," says Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, the leading think tank for journalists. “This is outside the pale of how you would normally handle a mistake."

UPDATE: Further research indicates that the Stranger’s 3-month “policy” is either newly invented or a complete fiction. The paper recently reviewed restaurants such as Txori, Joule, and Chiso Kappo (also faulted for lack of "transcendence") well before any of those had been open for three months. Those reviews have yet to be pulled from the Stranger’s Web site.

Here, for instance, is the Stranger's reviewer on Joule: "People are surprised to find out that, as someone who makes a living writing about restaurants, I'm ambivalent about reviewing new ones..." Yada, yada, more about me, etc. etc...."But then there are places like Joule in Wallingford -- open for just over a month -- a restaurant about which I have been unable to contain my excitement."

UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the "unfair review" that was taken down because it violated Stranger "editorial policy" was reposted on the Stranger site. Things are a little in flux over there.

 
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