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LTHForum's "Coalfire" Obsession

By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 17, 2007 3:00PM

2007_05_LTHSanta.gifCoalfire is a new New Haven-style pizza parlor on Grand owned by longtime Matchbox bartender J. Spillane and partner Bill Carroll (Unrelated, Matchbox has the best margarita in the city, hands down). Now, anyone who's eaten at Piece is familiar with New Haven-style pie. The twist with Coalfire is that the pizzas are baked in a coal-fired oven, hence the name.

The Reader's "Food Chain" blog has been keeping up on the Coalfire thread over at LTHForum these days, which prompted Chicagoist Prime to ask us if it reminded us of the "Check, Please" effect. The two are comparable on a basic level: a recommendation from one prompts others to visit the restaurant. But it stops there. We're not so certain if all viewers of "Check, Please" are foodies. Conversely, the forum members at LTH (and voyeurs like Chicagoist) are unabashed, passionate foodies, always on the lookout for the next hidden gem or new opening. While membership at LTHForum is in the thousands (and, judging from Spillane's comments on the Food Chain, they're coming out in droves to sample Coalfire's wares), is its reach and influence comparable to that of "Check, Please?"

We'd love to think so, but we're not sure. Because LTHForum caters specifically to culinary and dining enthusiasts, it can create an "echo chamber" effect akin to preaching to the choir over and over. As Alinea's Grant Achatz told us in our interview with him in March, he still recognizes LTHForum and similar sites as "the voice of the guest," but he feels that the dining sites are more often used as "microphones (for people) to hear themselves."

He has a point. Where we're concerned, while forums like Yelp and Menuism allow everyone to be a critic, LTHForum teaches it members - and by extension, its readers - how to be a critic. Although we have our reservations with the forum, we still find it to be one of the most invaluable resources for dining and culinary news in the city. And that Coalfire thread has gotten us stoked to check the place out for ourselves.