Ryan DuVall tries to keep his identity hidden, which is probably wise.
As the columnist behind Dining Out in the Sunday Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, he’s in a position to make some people mad – especially chefs and restaurant owners.
“I don’t want to put anybody out of business,” he says. “But sometimes you just know that a place is doomed.”
Of course, the flip side is true, too. High praise from DuVall can lead to steady customers.
“Sometimes when I drive into work on Sunday,” he explains, “if I veer past a little place (he reviewed that day) and see a line out there… that makes you feel good. It restores your faith in journalism.”
WANE 15 visited Soul Pig BBQ in Decatur when they first opened after receiving a nice four out of five star review.
While too early in the day to be packed, half the people told us they were there because they had read about it in the newspaper.
“You definitely see an influx of business right off the bat,” said Soul Pig owner Mark Graves. “They definitely don’t waste any time getting down here to try it out.”
DuVall took over the column after Sandy Thorn Clark left the paper in the mid 2000’s.
He emphasizes that he writes his opinion and not everyone will agree.
“When I tell you something is terrible, I’m telling you ‘I think it’s terrible.’ Do I think you’re gonna think it’s terrible? Maybe, maybe not. I just I think I’ve eaten enough French onion soup to know a good French onion soup.”
Readers seem to agree.
A quick look at the Journal Gazette website on most Sundays shows DuVall’s column as the most-read.
“I always look at my column as maybe it will trigger something with them that this, this is something (they) need to improve on. Regardless of how many handful of places might close after I review it, I’m doing a lot more good, especially for locally owned businesses and the small businessman here.”