Introducing the Carolina Dine Around

There's a lot to digest

By Robert F. Moss

In the early months of any publication, format and approaches evolve quickly as editors try out different types of stories and see what gets the best response from readers. One of the things I’ve been wrestling with lately is how to best handle what you might call “food news”—restaurant openings and closing, chef changes, special events, new and interesting product launches or menu changes.

On the one hand, we think it’s important to keep readers abreast of new developments on the dining scene in the Carolinas. On the other, there are so many other sources out there for food and beverage news. In fact, it often seems that news items—especially news lightly rewritten from press releases—is about the only food and beverage content left in the Carolinas these days, supplanting more in-depth profiles and features, restaurant reviews, and any sort of long-form historical and trend articles (“think pieces,” we once called them.)

The response from readers in the first few months has convinced me that our original hypothesis was right and that a small but passionate segment of diners are eager to read pieces that get beneath the surface and talk about context, trends, and history—reporting on the design of oyster bars, for instance, or the rise of Latin American restaurants in the Triangle or the historical reasons that South Carolina liquor stores have red dots on their signs. Shorter, more newsy pieces have consistently gotten the least pickup from readers, whether in terms of total page views or in comments and interaction on our social media channels.

And that’s not surprising. When everyone else is running the same news story, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. The rise of social media has added a new wrinkle, for restaurateurs and their publicists now have plenty of channels for connecting directly with diners and sharing news and updates to thousands of potential customers (often tens of thousands) at a time.

For diners in the Carolinas, though, there are a few downsides to this ready abundance of news. With so many sources flashing out snippets of information via so many different channels—and with the messages filtered by those confounded platform algorithms—it’s easy to miss the signal amid the noise. It’s also hard to take those scrambled little pieces, arrange them in patterns, and make sense of the bigger picture.

And that’s why we launched the Carolina Dine Around last Friday. It’s a weekly roundup that aims to pull together the most important food and beverage news of the week in a single place and wrap it in a little commentary on how the pieces fit together and what they might suggest about larger currents and trends. And, we try to present it all with a little splash and verve, by which I mean bad puns and snarky asides.

The first round-up was a lot of fun to pull together, and I think it’s more in line with the larger goal of the Southeastern Dispatch than running short individual news pieces. Our next Carolina Dine Around will post on Friday, and we’ll include a link to it in the next Dispatch Plus newsletter in case you miss it.

Thanks again for being a Southeastern Dispatch subscriber, and if you like the new Carolina Dine Around column (or any of the other in-depth, contextual pieces we run), please pass it along to others via social media, email, or whatever form you prefer so more diners in the Carolinas can enjoy it, too.

This feature is available to subscribers only.

About the Author

Robert F. Moss

Robert F. Moss is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living magazine, Restaurant Critic for the Post & Courier, and the author of numerous books on Southern food and drink, including The Lost Southern Chefs, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, and Barbecue Lovers: The Carolinas. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.