Is This The Worst New York Times Piece on Chicago’s Scene Ever?

Roof at the Wit, center of all life in Chicago.
Roof at the Wit, center of all life in Chicago. Photo: courtesy The Wit

There is competition, to be sure. Like the New York Times piece that inexplicably identified Martial Noguier (Bistronomic) as the owner of Owen & Engine, a restaurant which he has about as much to do with as he does, oh, Batman The Ride at Six Flags Great America. Or the one that called the Magnificent Mile the Miracle Mile (which is, of course, in Los Angeles), and completely bungled distances that they could have fact-checked in two seconds on Mapquest. (Thanks to this old Reader blogpost for preserving these for future generations.) There’s nothing so factually farblonjet in Friday’s piece Single in Chicago, by a young woman named Stephanie Rosenbloom. But as an examination of Chicago’s unique character, as conducted from a couple of expensive bars within walking distance of the Wrigley Building, it produced collective groans on Twitter and elsewhere as the idea sunk in that someone had been paid by the most famous newspaper in the world for this.

A single paragraph will suffice:

Opened in 2009, theWit bills itself as a splashy party stop amid the downtown bustle — advertisements for Roof show women in bikinis and stilettos, and bare-chested men brandishing Super Soaker water guns — precisely the kind of place I typically avoid. But my curiosity about this much-ballyhooed club won out. And you can’t beat the location. Sure, I could have stayed in the tony Gold Coast amid lavish town houses, or in artsy Wicker Park with its laid-back bars, or in another of the city’s dozens of neighborhoods. But since this was my first visit I chose the Loop, a constellation of theater, night life and shopping in the heart of Chicago, near Millennium Park, the Art Institute and public transportation.

Rosenbloom’s mastery of familiar forms is impressive— she segues effortlessly from the Yelpian self-absorption of “this looked like the kind of place I would never go to, but I went anyway” to the Fodor’s-like catalogue of thuddingly obvious tourist landmarks. But can one say that she has truly found insight into our unique midwestern character with observations like these:

There was rain. There was wind.

It even has white sandy beaches beneath all those skyscrapers.

One begins to suspect a book report from third grade on which the piece is built. Then there are the piercing insights of this conversation with a local:

“Are you visiting from New York?” he asked.

I nodded.

“It’s the Midwest,” he said. “Welcome.”

We often find that New Yorkers are so disoriented by our rooftop bars that it is helpful to remind them of the general region of the country they’re in (“Here’s your saketini, and you’re in the Great Lakes tectonic zone”).

Okay, we could keep this up all day, but we’d rather report on the general reaction from Chicago media types, like Scott Smith of Chicago magazine, who tweeted:

Please, NYT, stop writing about Chicago dining and nightlife. You keep embarrassing yourself.

Or Sam Worley at the Reader:

Rosenbloom also applies the special kind of breathy prose that I’m beginning to believe is the Times’s style for writing about the midwest. Consider the first sentence: “It’s hard to decide, while sipping a citrine cocktail called Sex on the Roof, what to gawk at first: the go-go dancers in crimson panties or the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Willis Tower, soaring like a giant glass beanstalk just beyond the windows.”

Somehow we bet a beanstalk wasn’t the first simile for a tall building that occurred to someone drinking a Sex on the Roof. Caroline O’Donovan at Chicagoist notes the city that Rosenbloom couldn’t see from her rooftop lounge:

It’s true that Chicago is more relaxed than New York; it’s one of the things I love about living here. But to gaze down from the top floor of the Wit on this obscenely segregated metropolis with a sky-rocketing crime rate and gush about our “unnerving” geniality is borderline offensive.

Still, the reaction wasn’t all negative. Steve Dolinsky came to the piece’s praise, tweeting:

NYTimes: Single in Chicago - Usually, Times writers get Chi wrong. Not this time. Well done, especially for singles.

Whoops, that was actually sarcastic too. Oh well, one local figure whose restaurant earned a mention thought it was an excellent piece. Billy Dec:

“Awesome mentions/photos of @RockitChicago in todays @NYtimes! So proud!” via @magenrice
Is This The Worst New York Times Piece on Chicago’s Scene Ever?