Should Critics Care About a Restaurant’s Matchbooks?

Forget about the food — how's the logo?
Forget about the food — how’s the logo?

The new issue of Metropolis boasts some truly gorgeous shots of the kitchens of wd-50 (complete with skylight), Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Alinea, and Chez Panisse. But what really caught our attention was a polemic from graphic designer Steven Heller asking why restaurant critics generally overlook the graphic design of, for instance, a restaurant’s logo, sign, menu, and business card — as was the case when Amanda Hesser reviewed Spice Market.

Somewhere she could have tipped her hat to graphic design and observed how the emblematic color palette is further echoed in the coarse brown fabric covering the hefty lunch/dinner menu while a similar orange fabric on the dessert menu contrasts nicely with the logo’s brown. The only problem with the orange is it retains dirt like cat hair on an old couch, which is less than appetizing. But since the waitstaff, in their orange pajamas (particularly the waitresses’ backless outfits), are so graphically color-coded that they add to the total immersion—and certainly took my mind off the grimy dessert menu. Didn’t Hesser see the soot?

Um, okaaaay. As matchbook collectors, we share Heller’s appreciation for graphic design — we even have a Cha Cha’s sticker and Gray’s Papaya button on our fridge — but this might be taking it a bit far. Critics can only fit so much into a review; otherwise, they’d talk about stuff like, say, the restrooms

Missing Component [Metropolis Mag]
Necessary Ingredients [Metropolis Mag]

Should Critics Care About a Restaurant’s Matchbooks?