The Grub Scout reflects on 10 years, 500 eateries and one happy diner

A view of the Knoxville skyline at night, taken in October 2011.

Photo by Michael Patrick // Buy this photo

A view of the Knoxville skyline at night, taken in October 2011.

I’m doing something a little different this week. Instead of my usual restaurant review, my overlords at Knoxville.com have allowed me a moment of reflective self-indulgence, in which I am marking a milestone in my tenure as The Grub Scout. My next restaurant will be number 500.

Yessir, that’s a lot of after-dinner mints.

I’m a big fan of stats, so here are a few that illustrate what’s involved in reaching such a nice, round number. I visited my first restaurant in late July 2003, so it’s taken me just shy of 10 years to rack up these 500 eateries, which have been located not just in Knoxville but in eight surrounding East Tennessee counties.

During that time, I’ve actually written a total of 507 weekly columns (counting this one), including my annual year-end restaurant-favorites retrospectives. And except for a handful of cases where I had a really bad experience the first time around or where a restaurant has totally re-branded itself or changed its menu, I have not reviewed the same place twice.

On average, The Grub Spouse and I have spent about $40 per week for dinner, which puts us in the neighborhood of about $20,000 we’ve forked over for a decade’s worth of Grubbing. That then translates to about $4,000 in tips. (By the way, unless a server is outright rude to me, I tip 20 percent, regardless of service quality.)

Of course, The Spouse has accompanied me on most of these outings, although my trusty Excel spreadsheet (which I use to track all this nonsense) tells me I’ve dined alone 48 times since 2003. Sometimes we have brought friends with us, and often, either of the two Grub Sprouts has tagged along. Interestingly, now that they’re both out of the house, I’ve noticed that neither balks at the opportunity for a free meal with the ’rents.

By my reckoning, I’m certain that at least 125 of the 500 restaurants have closed, although I suspect the true number is a good bit higher. However, I am confident that my opinions have neither made nor broken any local restaurant. I’m sure that’s just the nature of the dining biz.

My intent over the years has never been to wield such influence anyway. I am not a restaurant critic or even a food critic, as the terms are generally understood. This column has always simply been one person’s perspective on a moment in time, to be given no more or no less weight than a friend’s firsthand recommendation. Over the years, I’m sure many have agreed with my opinions while many others have disagreed, based on their own personal experiences.

But in either case, I hope that if nothing else, my readers have at least been made aware of new restaurants and hidden gems in town and gotten a feel for the type of cuisine they serve. My random sampling of two items on a menu cannot serve as a comprehensive assessment of an eatery’s food, nor can the service I receive on a given day definitively convey what type of service you the readers will receive when you visit.

And in the interest of fairness, I tend to give restaurants the benefit of the doubt when coming up with scores. I understand that a less-than-attentive server may have been having an off night. Or perhaps we sampled an item that didn’t best represent a menu’s overall quality.

In fact, in 10 years, while I’ve only awarded a handful of five-star ratings for food or overall quality, I have also given out only a few two-star and no one-star ratings at all. I keep in mind that businesses’ reputations are at stake, plus I only put restaurants on my list that I suspect will be at least above average in quality and worthy of recommending to others.

Speaking of that handy-dandy Excel spreadsheet, restaurant number 500 is next on my to-do list. Where will it be? I hope you check back in with me next week to find out.

In closing, I’d like to thank Knoxville.com for giving me the best writing gig a person could have for the past 10 years. But most of all, I want to thank all of you who have graciously given The Grub Scout your time and attention. I appreciate it much. Happy dining to you all.

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Comments » 1

cobragolfer writes:

Thank you for all of your work. I enjoy reading your reviews and have checked out a few places because of them. Keep on Grubbin'!

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