Thursday, April 28, 2005

R.W. Apple's Review Of The Closing Uglesich's Restaurant In New Orleans Is A Classic

R.W. Apple's writing in the New York Times is never better than when he is visiting an unusual, classic restaurant for a special meal.

One of his best efforts appeared in the NYT yesterday, April 27. And it was about a restaurant that won't be around much longer. Uglesich's, in what is almost a New Orleans slum, will be closing soon.

Apple's review of this restaurant, dating back to an illegal Croatian immigrant who opened it in 1924 and now operated by that immigrant's son and his wife was enough to make you want to make a special trip to New Orleans for the restaurant's closing days.

Unlike Galatoire's, Brennan's and others down in the French Quarter, this restaurant is not particularly expensive, it is not fancy, and it is open only for lunch.

But its oysters, its lump meat crab dishes, its po'boys, its sea trout, etc. are the standard by which much Louisiana food is judged. The lines for lunch start at 9 a.m.

And the same high standards can be found in Apple's food writing. Whenever one of these articles appears and I notice it, it is the first thing in the New York Times I read that day. And usually it puts all the articles in the paper in the shade.

Apple is not one of these restaurant critics who sneaks into the restaurant, wearing a false beard and no one knows who he is. No, his arrival is often set up well in advance, and he goes, as he did at Uglesich's, for a special meal where the proprietor has put on all his best efforts.

Apple does not appear at lousy restaurants. He only goes to the best, and the NYT sends him and his wife, Betsy, who is usually present, all over the world at its expense. It falls into the category of a public service of the first water.

And it's just as well in his senior years that Apple has moved toward more and more food and restaurant writing, because his political judgment is not as infallible and hasn't been for some time.

He doesn't seem to know his wars too well. In the Iraq war of 2003, Apple, like President George W. Bush, had it won for good in the first weeks. And in the Falklands war in 1982, he hazarded the guess that England would quit, before it went ahead to smash the Argentine Army and win the war.

But when it comes to food, Apple's judgment does seem infallible, and he writes so pungently, the reader almost invariably can only wish he or she were there.

At a time when the Tribune-owned cost-cutting L.A. Times seems to have cut back, as it has in so many areas, on its out-of-town restaurant writing, the New York Times is going at it full bore. That's one of the things that makes it a great newspaper and keeps its circulation (slowly) rising.

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