Public service announcement, restaurateurs of the greater St. Louis area: Rumors are coming in that a fake Riverfront Times food critic is on the loose. She's out to wine, dine, opine -- but she ain't got no byline.
Here's how an e-mail from our tipster began: "i was wondering if anyone has ever asked about a lady that shows up at bars ( i have seen her a few times at diff restaurants/bars) and she tells everyone she is a writer for RFT, she has always been hammered/so drunk and loud, so rude."
At first, truthfully, our hearts dropped. Things get...rowdy from time to time in the company of RFT scribes. But as the e-mail went on, this incident sounded weirder and weirder.
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Our tipster says she first noticed the woman when she entered Billy's Roadside Bistro (1826 West Pearce Boulevard, Wentzville; 636-332-0556) because she already appeared to be drunk. The woman ordered a vodka and some food, then made it clear to the bartender and anyone in earshot that she was a food writer for RFT. She then apparently began dictating her forthcoming review out loud: Terrible atmosphere, crummy-looking crowd, the fact that she'd been sent "all the way out here."
"She just wouldn't stop," says our witness, a regular at Billy's (adding that it's "one of the best places I've been to").
F-ayle Greene picked at her food when it arrived before sending it back. The tipster says she ordered more, nibbled at it when it arrived, then told her server to send it over to the guys playing darts -- good enough for them, but not for her.
Fed up with her rudeness, the regular patron asked if she could see this so-called critic's business card. Things escalated from there.
"She got defensive. She called me a bitch and then she left," says our witness. "She could barely walk out of there." Owner Billy Gaynor was not working that night, but confirms that one of his staff called him, distraught that a food critic from RFT had come in, gotten into some kind of fight with two of his regular customers, and then left in a huff. At first, Gaynor feared his two-year-old bar and grill was about to get bitch-slapped by a negative review.
"I was tearing myself up," he says.
After some more thought, however, he too began to doubt the woman's authenticity. The weirdest part? The woman did not try to parlay her position into free grub -- she paid her $80 tab in cash.
"I guess somebody wanted to feel important," he says.
Though these things do tend to happen in culinary criticism from time to time -- a critic gone mad with power, a rogue freelancer trading five-finger discounts for two-thumbs-up reviews -- Gut Check checked: No one, neither a staffer nor freelancer, was sent to Billy's on an assignment.
As of now, we know little about this Anthony Bour-feign. Our tipster says that she's in her early-to-mid 50s, has disheveled hair and carries an iPhone in a white OtterBox case. St. Louis restaurant and bar owners, if you've been pushed around by Padma Lak-sham, give us a shout. We'd love to hear about it.