Brian McManus Sheds Not a Single Tear: RIP Hot Potato Cafe

By Brian McManus

File Under Not So Potato-riffic: Fishtown’s Hot Potato Café is no more.

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Or under “Well, That Was Only A Matter of Time.” We saw the signs of this as far back as early June, when we sat outside a extremely packed Krafttwork next door and noted that not one person went in or out a very open-for-business Hot Potato Café all night. That is, until the owners locked up around 8 p.m. It was a Saturday night. Not a good sign.

Shortly after, via Phoodie.info, we heard the news that the space was up for sale on Craigslist. Now, it’s official, Hot Potato Café has turned off the lights, disconnected the phone and its owners have moved on.

Of course, we have some history with the BYOB. It was our review, “Spuddy Hell,” written in the summer of 2007, that the owners held partly responsible for never being able to get a toehold in the neighborhood. Later, friends of the restaurant anonymously nominated it for Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and the Michelin starred chef came to town, exposing for the world what anyone who’d eaten at the joint already knew: that it was run by a family well in over their heads, people who had no business operating, as Gordon would say, a “rest-runt.” They served him month old frozen potato skins without any potato in them, and several other abysmal dishes.

Ramsay attempted to turn the place around. And he did…for a night. The night he was there truly was great. There was an energy about the room. The wait staff weren’t slouching through an embarrassing evening serving food they weren’t proud of. People were smiling, laughing, enjoying themselves. Gordo bounded around the room attending to guest. Lights, camera, action.

Then the lights faded. Danielle—a relative of the family who came away the star of the Kitchen Nightmares episode—quit. We started getting emails that the quality had fallen off again. Things went back to the way they were. Which is to say “bad.”

RIP Hot Potato Café. We can’t really say we’ll miss you, but we are sad it didn’t work out.

36 Responses to “ Brian McManus Sheds Not a Single Tear: RIP Hot Potato Cafe ”

  1. Ryan says:

    More unwarranted hatred and vile attitude from the Philly Weekly. This is why intellectuals read the City Paper.

  2. Sean says:

    @Ryan

    Hatred? How?

    You, sir, sound like a moron.

  3. Andrew says:

    Some of us saw this coming a clean potato field mile away. No pity for people like this that start up a business with no experience or research. What is it about the food service industry that makes people think they can just “wing it”? This is why most restaurants fail within 3 years.

  4. Tim Spears says:

    “This is why intellectuals read the City Paper.”

    I’m in tears over here. Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  5. Jessica says:

    He’s kind of right, the Weekly’s consistent nastiness really makes the City Paper look like the smarter option. In the last year I’ve seen articles about ‘the worst local bands in Philly,’ police demonization, and now this “shed not a tear” elitism. Don’t you guys do anything but shit on everything that comes your way?

  6. @Jessica

    As music editor here at Philadelphia Weekly I can say we’ve never, ever run a story about “ten worst local bands.” Perhaps you’re thinking of this?

    http://www.philebrity.com/2006/12/04/local-band-rifle-nice-breaks-up-sends-worst-band-in-philly-stats-into-a-tizzy/

    I don’t remember any story we’ve done demonizing the police force either.

  7. rick may says:

    Mr. Mcmanus,

    If you are a music editor what are you doing rating a restaurants food? Are you just in this to make another hard working American go on unemployment? I welcome you to my restaurant in North Idaho, if you have the nerve sir. In the meantime keep your mouth shut about things you have no idea about. Doesn’t Philadelphia have a symphony you can go critique?

    Rick May
    Executive Chef

  8. OldSeaDog says:

    I’m glad it’s closed! It smelled bad and we saw bugs and chigger’s on the seats. Hope they settled their bills. Sometimes you’ll always find a bad potatoe in the bunch…and this one was indeed rotten. Good luck…though!

  9. Lynn Kelly says:

    Brian,
    Don you know what happened to Danielle. She seemed to really enjoying cooking, did she stay in that industry. and what did they do to her to make her quit!!
    My husband and I were routing for her and the wait staff!!
    But those women did not deserve a restaurant, they did not have a clue!!

  10. J Moore says:

    I agree Lynn. What did happen to Danielle? She worked her butt off in that episode. (Did you see her complain once? I didn’t.) She was probably underappreciated and realized she could be more than what opportunities were available to her working at the “Potato.” (Plus a workplace rarely doesn’t become bitter while working with family.) But, that said, I hope them all the best.

  11. Craig says:

    I heard Danielle is starting a career in the porn industry. That’s where the money is these days.

  12. Flossem says:

    I’m not surprised it’s closed and that she quit. She said that the experience turned her career goals around ‘360 degrees’. 360 degrees points you in the same direction. I just hope she is happy in whatever career she has chosen. She appeared to be put in a position of singlehandedly carrying that restaurant. That’s a daunting challenge for an experienced chef, and way too much to ask of someone literally taken off the street.

    If the reviewer knew of the dynamics of the restaurant, giving it a review was just cruel. Places like that tend to disappear on their own. Kicking such an easy target when it’s obvious that it’s not destined for a long stay in business was just disgusting. Shame on you… Kicking people when they are down isn’t honorable. It’s cruel…

  13. Flossem says:

    Porn business or politics. There isn’t any difference…

  14. J Moore says:

    Porn and politics…. Well this conversation officially went in a direction that I didn’t see coming. *uuhh* Usually I have a sense of humor about things. And by all means add all the topics to this conversation to which may or may not have anything to do with it. (Such groundbreaking topics as the the likes of : Guns, Drugs, men who wear womans panties (me included)-not really, the economy, the pros and cons of ritualistic circumcisions of babies while family watches. Bunions, the doctors that treat the bunions, the families of the doctors that treat a persons bunions.) BUT… I am so tired of people purposely dumbing down a conversation out of a need for attention because they were the kid in school that sat alone during lunch. (It’s not our fault Sal didn’t want to sit next to you and traded up to sit next to the more popular kid, OK?) -PORN… Really?? Man I wish you would jump into a pool of razor blades while naked. DUHH… “I heard she’s in the porn industry… duhuh duhuh duhuh.” Thanks for throwing that out there Einstein. I’m probably just in a bad mood and I know that you are just trying to be funny, but it seems like there is one of YOU everywhere. -Sorry.

  15. scott says:

    These reviewers must be miserable in their lives. Fucking pricks.

  16. BoBo says:

    I’m just now (July 10, 2011) watching the Kitchen Nightmares episode about Hot Potato Cafe. When Brian the reviewer walked into the restaurant for the second review, on the big night, he looked so pompous and arrogant. Had I been the managers of that restaurant, that struggling little restaurant, I would have told him to hit the road Jack. What a dismal life you must lead, Brian, to go around destroying people like that. Shame on you.

  17. Montgomery Burns says:

    i do not enjoy the music of pony pants

  18. Yeah, saw the Kitchen Nightmare episode. Agree with Bobo. Brian looked really like a person with his head stuck up his ass. I was right, he sounds like a moron.

    I like a harsh review when the object of the review is a arrogant bloke. But when it’s about enthusiastic good people, it’s just plain sad. It shows that the reviewer is a complete dick.

  19. Bs police says:

    Critics, critics. They really do suck. What gives this ahole the right to kill a business. Time are tough and everyone is trying to make a living. Regardless if they did a good job, or the restaurant sucked. They tried which is more than i can say about most of us. Running and owning a restaurant seems like an impossible task in todays market. But as I have learned from my time on this planet, critics are just angry little people. So, everyone..DONT GET DISCOURAGED!!! Follow your dreams. If every business closed, Mr Macmanus wouldn’t have anything to write about. For my sake atleast he isnt a the real enemy..”Music critic”..

  20. rs says:

    danielle seems like a lesbian. is she? not saying to be rude. just curious

  21. rs says:

    Plus, critics are stupid. I never listen to them. I listen to reviews of the public (i.e. Yelp).

  22. Red says:

    Brian McManus:

    After reading all this feedback to your article and hearing about your original review on the Hot Potato Cafe, I do have to agree with the folks that think your articles could benefit from an “attitude adjustment”.

    I think as an experienced writer you should be able to have no problem with stating your point without the insults and the puns. You could make things interesting without the unnecessary drama. Above all you could do things with a little more class.

    This is your community that you write about…and its people are your readers. You have a responsibility in your position to be professional. Otherwise you reduce yourself from a professional food critic to a regular yelp blogger.

  23. Rachel tabag says:

    Just got done watching the ( K N) and I must say that things were looking bright for that cafe, but when you get a bad review then slip just a little you know your in for a lashing… It’s to bad those women didn’t take what Gordan did or them and run with it, never letting anything slip passed them. O well it’s over and done with now.. Good luck to all those people that lost there jobs..

  24. Junkateria says:

    Bonzai,

  25. Junkateria says:

    Bonzai,
    Perhaps you should not cast the first stone. You failed to capitalize the first letter of your second sentence. Does this make you incompetent? For some reason in the middle of my typing my computer said I had already written my post once and posted it without my blessing. So, now I have an empty comment just floating around above this one for no reason. Does this make me incompetent or just human?

  26. John Vanderaerden says:

    I do own a restaurant in South Florida, if you Danielle read this sometime, i have a open position for you in my kitchen or the restaurant floor, young enthusiatic people like you is what i need in my business and i am willing to pay a nice salarie to somebody like you.

  27. Stevie Nichts says:

    I don’t know Brian McManus and have never read the paper he works for, but I *do* know what it’s like to work for a small paper. So I shall say just this: you people crapping on him are small, petty fools who probably couldn’t do ONE of his jobs at that paper.

    I laugh at those who critique the critic. What makes YOU qualified to be a critic, fools? That you can string together a sentence and sling insults? If you think you have what it takes, stop beating off in the comments section, be the critic, and show us that you’re better. (I’m looking at you, “red.”)

  28. Cory says:

    Stevie,

    I don’t know what you do or did for your newspaper, but it seems like you have a stick up your ass. If you hate your job, or have such a hard time at work why don’t you choose a different career, maybe you won’t be so angry.

    Critics open themselves up to the public, just the same as the people they critique. If we, your consumers, don’t like your persona and the way you conduct business we are free to state why, otherwise their wouldn’t be a comment section or the first amendment. You would think a small-time newspaper would be glad to hear back from the community.

    And on another note. What qualifies ANYONE to be a food critique over anyone else? We all eat food and I’m sure most of us can tell good from bad. That’s what we need, not someone to be “sling insults” or be rude about it like Brian McManus. These are real people that he is talking about and they deserve the same respect that he or you would like.

  29. ShezAnEnigma says:

    I am watching Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix. Never really interested before. I want to say a few things, one – I would really like to know what Danielle is doing now too. That is how I got to this forum. I googled “What happened to Danielle from the Hot Potato Cafe on Kitchen Nightmares?”

    I am actually very sorry to hear it closed. I feel the concept of their eatery was unique and could have been great.

    I do think that maybe the original critique was a little mean spirited. Only because it was a new restaurant. They didn’t get a chance to build their reputation or their staff morale before it was cut down.

    As for the ‘Don’t critique the critic’ comment, why not? I personally do not know his qualifications, but I do know tact. I know that if I had job that realistically could affect other peoples lives with my words, well – I would be very tactful and always offer a little encouragement in my critique. If it’s bad, it’s bad – but you can convey it without being a jackass. I also do not know what kind of person Brian is in real life – but I agree his overall aura on the show appearance was a bit arrogant.

    As for him also being the music critic, again, I don’t know his qualifications, but we cant say he isn’t qualified for critiquing everything. Can you eat? Do You taste? Do you listen to music? That’s all the qualifications that you need to be a critic of those subjects at a small weekly paper.

  30. dawangprod says:

    I also feel bad for Danielle. But I was wondering if anyone else caught the irony that the critic’s name contains the word “anus”? Perhaps he could become a DJ with the moniker: DJ McM Anus… LOL

  31. Gill says:

    Um RS, just wondering are you a heterosexual? Quiet frankly, Danielle’s sexuality is her own business! Not yours, mine or anyone else’s!

    That said sad that they ended up closing down anyway, I would have thought that some one like Ramsay might have offered her an apprenticeship – she has talent!

  32. anonymous says:

    Brian McManus: your name will always have “anus” in it. Maybe that’s why you are so full of sh t

  33. Jorge says:

    And still no news from Danielle.

    And about Mr. McManus as a critic, well, I don’t know if you need special education or qualifications to be a critic. All I think is his opinion about something. And it is on people to believe him or not. As long as a critic remains objective, his voice will be heard. So don’t go hard on him because he has an opinion.

    I might agree or not with someone, but always try to respect him or her.

    Be cool!!!

  34. tee says:

    Ur a freaking a$$, you’re back tracking apparently you’re trying to save ur rep, which amounts to nothing outside of PA. Danielle was awesome, and if you could and should give props @ least acknowledge that. Ur a total doofus. Fat and obviously eating more than you should, as it is free food. Gfy

  35. jgm says:

    “Potato-riffic”? As Ramsay said on another show (or two), “Sick bag, please.”

  36. I think that providing quality services is the only possible way to succeed. Ignoring the customers’ concerns is a sure fire way to fail. That’s I don’t even feel sorry for the enterprises that close after not doing their job good enough.

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