by Hannah Sayle
Andy Wise recently took over the “Restaurant Scorecard” segment for Action News 5. But before Andy, restaurant visits were not always pleasant for the Channel 5 Scorecard crew. They were less than welcome in many area restaurants. Persona non grata. Not on the guest list. Don’t let the swinging kitchen doors hit you on the way out.
Which is why Andy and his crew added a positive element to the segment: a glowing review of worthy restaurants. Guided by viewer input, the "Restaurant Scorecard" highlights at least one successful area restaurant each week. Now, Andy gives us the good with the bad with the pink-slime ugly.
How long have you been a restaurant watchdog?
Not very long. I took over the “Scorecard” segment the first week of January this year, but it’s been a mainstay on Action News 5 for years.
Up until the point that I took it over, it’s been exclusively health inspection reports — you know, the pink slime in the freezer kind of thing. I mean, it’s still important to be a part of holding restaurants accountable, just like I hold scam artists and the government accountable. But we have so many great restaurants in town that we energized the segment to include the “Big Tip,” a restaurant or a chef recommended by our viewers by e-mail votes. We give our viewers a sense of ownership of the segment, honor those restaurants that do very well, and that’s really taken off.
What are your favorite restaurants in Memphis?
I live in Cordova so we tend to gravitate towards the restaurants in our area: Erling Jensen, which I’ve profiled on my show; the Belmont Grill in Germantown is one of my haunts, my watering hole; El Porton in Cordova, the managers out there are like family, we’ve even given them Christmas gifts; and for pizza, I’m a big Garibaldi’s guy because I love Mike Garibaldi as a local owner of a local restaurant. He’s such a part of this community.
So, what are your personal standards for a “good restaurant?” It sounds like community involvement is pretty important.
That’s true. I love a restaurant that really makes an effort to be a part of the community. Service — got to have good service. Its easy for me to get good service because of what I do, but I like sitting in a corner booth and watching a waiter or waitress treat some Joe Blow off the street like he or she is the king or queen or the mayor. You cannot beat that. It seems to be a lost art form in some places, and I don’t understand it.
Have you ever seen something during an inspection that was so repulsive it turned you off of that restaurant completely?
Wow. Gosh, I’m going back through my mind here. The rats at [a chain coffeeshop] in Germantown pretty much sealed the deal on me ever going there. It never ceases to amaze me how they still have very loyal customers who will eat breakfast there five days a week when they’ve got little critters running around. That was pretty repulsive. Beyond that, I haven’t seen something yet that’s almost made me throw up.
So you’ve developed sort of a thick skin doing this kind of work?
Yeah. And another thing about our business is we get a lot of e-mails from people who say “I found a Band-Aid on my burger” or “there’s a roach in my barbecue sandwich.” Well, you know, that may have happened, but there are people out there trying to make a buck off of someone else by faking such a thing. It’s something that people like me have to be very careful with.
Do you hold your kitchen at home to the same standards as the restaurants on your show?
Absolutely, absolutely. I’m the chef in my house. I’m a big grill cook. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do, so I do a lot of cooking at the house. My wife and I keep it spic and span — you could eat off our floors.