Letter to the Editor: A response to Chicken Little’s review of Salt Fork Kitchen

Photo by Adam Burke
Orders up at Salt Fork Kitchen. — photo by Adam Burke

Dear Little Village,

I was surprised in issue#166 by the review of Salt Fork Kitchen. The review was strangely negative — at its core was a condemnation of SFK’s key product, the food. The article includes much praise, which ultimately felt back-handed or unclear (did the author like the omelet, or not like the omelet?). The restaurant received 7.5 out of 15 units of praise, well short of what I feel it deserves. The best score was for food, which I had the impression Chicken Little did not like. I think the review is careless.

I have been to Salt Fork Kitchen only several times, and while this grants me no authority on the restaurant, I am well familiar with the integrity of its two owners Jay and Eric. I will say that on my visits the food was consistently fresh and flavorful and the service apt and friendly. I hear that sentiment often in the community. Never have I thought of comparing the interior to a Wendy’s. I hope that the Little Village, when publishing a review of this nature, is visiting a business many times to gain a broad picture of it. The article gave me no impression that the author had visited SFK more than once, which would be entirely irresponsible. If repeated visits are impractical due to budget, then the nature of the review needs to change. You can’t publicly flog a business without sufficient critical data. You can’t generalize one experience. Therein lies many people’s frustration with online review sites.

I appreciate Little Village as a dependable source of thought and expression for Iowa City. I consistently find in it not only intelligence and wit, but also chutzpah. I don’t want the Little Village to be a milquetoast yes-man, acquiescent to the lowest common denominator. But, as I heard an LV editor say recently, one purpose of the LV is to ‘champion the little guy.’ If reviewers are given license to call out businesses they deem lacking, why not focus on one (of the many) that bores us with lowest common denominator mediocrity? I don’t want LV to play the shill or whitewash issues that could use fixing, but Salt Fork pushes the envelope in many ways. The author shares some of these qualities but unfortunately does not appear to work them into the final Chicken equation. Based on Chicken Little’s review, I would probably have made the mistake of not trying Salt Fork Kitchen.

David Wieseneck
Chef and Owner, The Motley Cow Cafe


  1. I was disappointed in the review also. I have only been to SFK once and I thought it had a cool vibe and was one of the better breakfast options in the Iowa City area. I enjoy the idea of simple but flavorful breakfast, with local produce.

  2. I make it to Salt Fork about as often as I read Little Village, a couple times a month. This review doesn’t change my mind about the great food and service at Salt Fork, but it does cause me to question other reviews I’ve read in LV.

  3. couldn’t say it any better myself David – thanks for taking the time to write this – i absolutely love salt fork kitchen and feel very lucky that a place like this exists in iowa.

  4. I find this letter to the editor to be odd, and a little disturbing. Chicken Little is a food reviewer. Food reviewers often work off small samples (and of course, inferences from small samples can be skewed). Nevertheless, they are entitled to their opinions about the places they review. Just because you think it deserves a better score, doesn’t mean that you get to override the reviewer’s opinion, or throw online review sites like Yelp under the bus.

    If I go into a restaurant and have an underwhelming experience, why should I go back? A restaurant should be aiming to satisfy its customers *every* time they walk through the door, to ensure repeat business. It seems like this letter to the editor is suggesting that loyalty to local trumps quality of product.

    That said, Salt Fork sounds really interesting, and I’ve been wanting to try it for some time. Regardless of the Chicken Little review, I still plan to.

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