Letters From the Issue of January 22, 2009

Editor's note: Gail Shepherd's recent review of Smith & Jones ("What's in a Name?" January 8) sparked a round of heated discussion on our website. Fans of the restaurant's executive chef, Johnny Vinczencz, accused Shepherd of panning a star, while some said we were right to say Johnny V's new place doesn't live up to his famous name.

Johnny V fan from Fort Lauderdale wrote:

You seemed to have missed the point of what a food reviewer's job is. Besides throwing out your obvious ignorance about food and helping to demoralize a man's reputation, how much did you actually talk about food? Your expectations are set too high for a restaurant with nothing over $20 on the menu.

Your whole article is based on your dislike of the décor and what Johnny has done in the past. You didn't like or dislike the service or the food; you only had a totally negative attitude about your experience, which doesn't really sound like it's Johnny's fault but your own. You should try it again, because you really slaughtered a good restaurant with good food, a good atmosphere, good service, and good prices.

FTL Resident wrote:

You are spot-on. I have long been a fan of Johnny V, but this venture is way off the mark. Subpar ingredients, lacking in flavor. As for the commenter before me stating basically "It's a $20 restaurant, whaddaya want?" Well, if you can't do it right, don't do it at all. McDonald's, BK, Chili's, Applebee's, etc., is under $20 a meal too, and his stuff should be better.

Hopefully the feedback here will give him a head's-up and he'll fix it. I'd love to see him succeed, but really I'd love affordable, imaginative, delicious food in my neighborhood.

Friend of Las Olas wrote:

In case you haven't noticed, Las Olas Boulevard is not what it was a year ago, let alone five years ago. This country is not what it was a year ago, let alone five years ago. Here comes Johnny V with his talent and his heart into bringing something new to the "lower-rent end of the street" that might actually become the new neighborhood spot. Affordable comfort food is what he promised, and that is what he has delivered. Have you even considered that the people in the community who live and work off Las Olas cannot even afford to eat on this block due to the economy? They have taken their business elsewhere. And here is a chance to bring them back home with a lighthearted, down-to-Earth menu, set in a simple and comforting atmosphere to allow those of us who love this community dearly to come out, support, socialize, and start to rebuild where Las Olas has lost its luster. I am disgusted and disappointed by your blatant attack, and I really hope you do not consider yourself a supporter of this community.

Thom Debord wrote:

Ms. Shepherd's story was perfectly acceptable. Part of a critic's job is to place the object of his or her critique in a context, and Shepherd's discussion of Johnny's past does just that.

The point isn't that "comfort food is bad." The point is that this comfort food is bad. You can execute something simply and cheaply with flair and imagination, but Smith & Jones does not. Neither does YOLO up the street. Those who know Las Olas will remember when the street last boasted genuinely good comfort food: that was at the Chemist Shop, which closed around 1998. It didn't look chic, but it tasted heavenly, which is a precise reversal of the priorities of these nü-Philistine eateries.

And, by the way: There is still that little place in Riverfront, Palm Grill, where you can get $4 lunches. Good place! Unpretentious. Not like Smith & Jones and YOLO.

CJ wrote:

I can appreciate the writer's intense review of Smith & Jones. However, look at the whole picture — all the restaurants are closing up on Las Olas. Thank God we have Johnny as a leader and visionary! Give him a break!

Diane from Boynton Beach wrote:

I am really very surprised by the review by Gail Shepherd, because I love Smith & Jones and can't imagine how such great food and good prices were so totally lost on her.

I have patronized the restaurant a number of times and am becoming a regular, even though I have to drive down from Palm Beach County. I learned about it a week or so after it opened, when a friend of mind, a notoriously picky eater, told me that I had to try it. Like everyone in this economy, I have to watch my pennies, but despite the hour drive, I go often. The food is scrumptious and affordable, and they have great bands there on weekends. On one occasion, Chef Johnny came out and talked to my fiancé and me.

I only hope that Shepherd's article doesn't discourage other people from trying it out for themselves. With all of the recent closings on Las Olas Boulevard, it's nice to have an inexpensive, hip, little place to go to for a good meal and some really smokin' rock 'n' roll. For my own selfish reasons, I hope it will be around for a while.

 
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