Eaton Wright reviews restaurants in The Telegraphs Out & About section every Friday.
Eaton rates upscale cafés with fancy tablecloths and grades all the greasy spoons in the neighborhood. Eaton tells us if the bathrooms are clean, the waitress has an attitude and the music is all wrong. Eaton lets us know when the vegetables are overcooked, the pork chops are too greasy and the fries pass the crunch test.
Some folks think Eaton is a man. They write letters to the Telegraph addressed to Mr. Wright. Others assume Eaton is a woman, especially when the reviews mention pretty table settings and rave about all the chocolate on the menu.
Telegraph readers have probably Googled the name Eaton Wright. They might have looked under W in the phone book and searched for his/her profile on Facebook.
Eaton Wright is a pseudonym. Many of you picked up on that years ago, when Eatons byline began appearing in print. Others in the lunch line have been slow to the punch line.
I am one of the chosen few who knows if Eaton is male or female, skinny or fat, black or white, Republican or Democrat and has a reputation as a lousy or good tipper. Not that any of that matters when discussing the universal language of food.
(But if I told you Eatons real name, I might have to send you to the kitchen to wash the dishes.)
Eaton goes undercover -- sans the dark glasses -- for every restaurant review. Eaton is a stealth with an appetite, a member of the CIA (Culinary Intelligence Agency).
Eaton chews softly and carries a big fork. Dinner plans all over Middle Georgia are often made or changed based on four words:
What Would Eaton Eat?
He could be a member of your Sunday School class. Or she could be sitting at the next table when you go out for Mexican.
I have been allowed to tell you a few things about Eaton without being a whistle-blower.
Eaton grew up in Macon (not Eatonton) and, as a child, often had to be made to eat his/her vegetables.
I would try to hide my Brussels sprouts under the napkin, Eaton said, laughing.
Back in those days, families ate supper together almost every night. There was meat loaf on the table at least once a week, and it was considered a real treat whenever the family went to Shakeys Pizza.
In college, Eaton broadened every food horizon from Atlanta to Chicago. Eaton spent six months in Europe and has now traveled to some 30 countries.
Eaton has sampled smoked reindeer in Sweden, nibbled on monkey meat on a stick in Hong Kong and was served nero di seppia (squid ink) in Venice.
Anyone who has done all of that ought to be a decent judge of macaroni and cheese, Eatons spouse said.
Yes, Eaton is married with two children. Just call them the Eatonettes. Eaton takes them along to restaurants to bring more opinions to the table. They can only hope their cover isnt blown when the family orders four appetizers and top off the meal with milkshakes and multiple desserts.
So far, the secret identity has been safeguarded. Eaton appreciates that anonymity, but not to hide or dodge accountability.
I dont want to be recognized because I dont want any special treatment, Eaton said. I want to get what every customer gets.
In the past, The Telegraph has given staff writers an opportunity to write restaurant reviews. In an effort to provide consistency with the four-star rating system, Eaton went solo in August.
So Eaton is now a weekly fare. The Eatonettes never go hungry.
There are sensible standards. Sometimes a friend may tag along who is more familiar with a certain kind of food.
A restaurant has to be worthy of peoples hard-earned money, Eaton said. If the bathrooms are filthy, the kitchen is probably not very clean, either. But its not just about the food. Its about the service and the decor. I believe I am fair-minded. I always ask myself: Would the average person like this place?
If a restaurant performs poorly on Eatons watch, the policy is to make a return trip. Perhaps they were just having a bad night.
Still, there have been more than a few unhappy restaurant owners during the 11 years Eaton has been writing reviews. Eaton has had to develop thick, invisible skin to go along with an iron stomach.
Eaton loves finding hidden gems. There have been plenty of adventures -- and a few misadventures. The Eatonettes once showed up near closing time, and the lone waitress had to call someone to come back to the restaurant to cook the order. Those kinds of dives dont ring up many stars on the grading scale.
Still curious about The Telegraphs food correspondent and diner-in-residence?
Well, Eaton has a full-time job and can walk to work every day. Eaton plays the piano.
Eaton has a passion for Indian cuisine and other ethnic food. Eaton would like to see Macon get an Ethiopian restaurant.
Eaton does not like to cook.
The mysterious Eaton Wright remains a name without a face. It could be that lady at the sushi bar. Or that guy with a plate of ribs and the Eatonettes in tow.
You can always check for Brussels sprouts under the napkin.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.