Whenever restaurant critics stray beyond city limits, they hear from readers who consider the field trip an insult to the municipal dining scene. Former Dallas Morning News critic Bill Addison recalls the angry e-mails which would populate his inbox every time he dared to review a restaurant in Fort Worth (a city that's exactly the same distance from Dallas as Seattle is from Tacoma, but it's home to a few of the state's leading chefs), and the Atlanta Journal Constitution's dining critic incited an online catfight when he announced he was looking to hire a blogger familiar with the far side of Interstate 285.
Closer to home, when I reviewed Afghan Cuisine & Banquet Hall in Federal Way, an online commenter wrote, "This is the SEATTLE Weekly not the Federal Way Strip Mall Circular, right?" - and received three "likes" for saying so.
As a bike commuter, I understand it's not always easy for some readers to reach restaurants outside of Seattle proper. If I hadn't scored a ride, I would have had the choice of pedaling to Pimienta or spending an hour-and-a-half on buses. And even eaters who are equipped with cars have to contend with high gas prices. But the Weekly's distributed from Everett to Tacoma, so for plenty of readers, Federal Way isn't the epitome of inconvenience.
More importantly, the area's home to lots of interesting restaurants, including Pimienta Bistro, Afghan Cuisine & Banquet Hall and countless Korean joints. While I wouldn't necessarily venture outside of Seattle for food that can be found here, the city certainly doesn't have the lock on every kind of cuisine.
When I'm assembling my review budget, Seattle restaurants almost always take priority over restaurants located elsewhere. Our mission is to cover the city, and that means critically assessing its restaurants. But when a restaurant such as Pimienta Bistro is situated within a 30-mile radius (a line that's sometimes stretched even further for a remarkable restaurant), it would be foolish to ignore it. What matters most are interesting, inspiring dining experiences - not the zip codes of the kitchens which create them.