For many years, Northeast Fremont burger bar Stanich’s was a neighborhood favourite, a no-frills sports activities bar racking up optimistic native press since opening in 1949. Final 12 months, its cheeseburger was named the most effective burger in America by Thrillist. Then the restaurant closed, seemingly for good. The publication’s burger critic, Kevin Alexander, took accountability earlier this month, claiming in a broadly mentioned piece that he “killed” the restaurant by giving it nationwide publicity.
However a Willamette Week story that dropped immediately revealed that Stanich’s is way from a helpless sufferer of an excessive amount of good press: Proprietor Steve Stanich has a documented historical past of abusive, manipulative, and petty therapy of each his staff and his relations, together with a home violence cost for strangling his now-ex-wife and a number of citations for violating probation.
“Alexander says he was unaware of Stanich’s authorized troubles,” the WWeek story studies. When reached for additional remark, Alexander advised Eater PDX that he was merely unaware of “the extent” of Stanich’s authorized issues. “I had heard of the 2014 concern” — Stanich was arrested in 2014 after choking his spouse — Alexander mentioned, “however not past that.” Alexander additionally mentioned that he has requested WWeek to concern a correction to that impact; arts and tradition editor Matthew Singer mentioned the publication is not going to concern a correction, as a substitute including a clarifying paragraph to the story.
Paradoxically, the extra delicate factors of Alexander’s piece final week — which didn’t supply a believable different purpose for the restaurant’s eventual closure — have solely grown sharper: When a publication presents acclaim and a focus to an unheralded restaurant or chef, how can it ensure that it’s doing so responsibly, each single time?
Stanich’s wins large, in keeping with Thrillist
In 2017, nationwide meals author Kevin Alexander determined to take a 12 months to considerably definitively discover the “greatest burger in America.” He traveled to 30 states, ate 330 burgers, and determined that Stanich’s cheeseburger was the most effective of the bunch. In his follow-up piece, Alexander says Stanich was delivered to tears in gratitude. He writes that Stanich advised him, “My mother and father are thanking you from the grave.”
The swarms of culinary vacationers arrived quickly afterward. In an Oregonian story that ran earlier this week, critic Michael Russell says the restaurant turned “clearly overwhelmed” after the Thrillist accolade went dwell, with lengthy waits for primary burgers and an exhausted, overworked waitstaff.
Stanich’s closes and blames the publication
Stanich’s closed in January 2018 after nearly 70 years in enterprise — and eight months after the Thrillist checklist went dwell — for a “deep cleansing.” On the time, Stanich advised the Oregonian that the overwhelming wave of enterprise made it laborious for workers to maintain up a normal of service and the area clear, so the restaurant would shut for a couple of weeks to get again to regular. Nearly a 12 months later, the restaurant continues to be closed, and Stanich nonetheless hasn’t set a re-opening date.
The 4,000+-word apology
Alexander’s idea as to why Stanich’s by no means reopened after its “cleansing”: He murdered it, and the “greatest burger” award was the weapon. Within the piece, Alexander makes use of the closure to grapple with the media’s position in inadvertently harming eating places it intends to champion.
“How do I do that higher? Is there a approach to have fun a spot with out the potential of destroying it?” he writes. “Or is that this simply what we at the moment are — a horde with a guidelines and a digicam telephone, intent on self-producing the destruction of something left that feels actual, one Instagram story at a time?” Alexander’s follow-up story acquired glowing reward on social media, he appeared on Nationwide Public Radio, and folks past the meals world, like celebrated statistician Nate Silver, mentioned the story publicly.
Alexander’s piece explicitly mentions that Stanich had some form of household concern that additionally contributed to the closure, in language that’s now clearly coded. “He requested me to not reveal the small print of that story, however I can say that there have been private issues, the kind of critical issues that may occur with any household,” Alexander writes. Thrillist and Alexander haven’t responded to additional requests for remark.
Stanich’s authorized hassle is revealed
What Alexander’s follow-up story not noted, in keeping with WWeek, are a collection of lawsuits and arrests. In 2010, Stanich sued a former worker for defamation after she and one other former worker filed a wage grievance with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Stanich was pressured to pay the worker’s authorized charges after the choose dismissed his proposed lawsuit.
4 years later, Stanich was arrested for home violence after strangling his spouse in entrance of his teenage son, a cost that was lowered to a misdemeanor after Stanich pled “no contest.” He went on probation, throughout which period he was alleged to abstain from alcohol and keep away from contact together with his spouse. Throughout his probation, Stanich violated his no-contact order and spent 10 days in jail. He was cited twice for consuming alcohol throughout his probation — in keeping with the official probation violation, Stanich used the identical excuse twice when stopped, saying he was leaving a wake, and that he had “‘two drinks’ in reminiscence of his buddy.”
Stanich and his spouse divorced in 2016, and after agreeing to present her the household house, assist funds, and custody of the household canine, in keeping with Willamette Week, he alleged she had “defrauded” him by claiming to have stage-four most cancers. (Her physician confirmed to Willamette Week that she was terminally in poor health.)
Stanich advised the alt-weekly that his home and authorized issues “had completely nothing to do” with shuttering the restaurant.
The backlash
Throughout the first 24 hours of the Willamette Week story going dwell, readers have already begun to query Alexander’s lacking reporting concerning Stanich’s authorized hassle. “That @Thrillist article all of us liked concerning the burger place stored a domestic-violence conviction off the report and handed it off as ‘critical issues that may occur in each household,’” Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell tweeted. “That’s egregious journalistic malpractice.”
Alexander isn’t the one journalist receiving criticism; native restaurateur and well-known satan’s advocate Nick Zukin known as out Willamette Week’s Matthew Singer, claiming the publication had no proper to publish Stanich’s personal enterprise. “If a restaurant says they shut for private causes is @wweek going to blast the small print of their house owners’ well being issues and divorce any more?” he tweeted. “@MarkZusman and @mpsinger ought to apologize and edit their article on Stanich’s.” The controversy concerning whether or not Willamette Week went too far in exposing Stanich’s private issues continues within the replies to the publication’s tweet, with reader Michelle Llaguno including, “I personally don’t need to frequent the institution of somebody convicted of spousal abuse.”
Total, nonetheless, the response on Twitter has primarily targeted on the general shock concerning Stanich himself. Within the phrases of Oregonian producer Samantha Swindler, “The sandwich man all of us felt sorry for choked his spouse & violated probation.”
Within the second Thrillist piece, Stanich advised Alexander that with out a chance to franchise or one other enterprise accomplice, Stanich’s is not going to reopen. Extra just lately although, Stanich advised Willamette Week that the restaurant would reopen in December with new workers. After 10 months closed and a number of other guarantees to reopen, Stanich’s future stays as unclear because it’s ever been.
• Did a Rave Evaluate Actually Shut Down Portland Burger Bar Stanich’s? Possibly It Was the Proprietor’s Authorized Troubles. [WW]• I Discovered the Finest Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It. [Thrillist]• Severely, Although, What’s Going On With Stanich’s? [EPDX]

Eater Portland

Join our e-newsletter.

By signing up, you conform to our Privateness Coverage and European customers conform to the info switch coverage.