Baehr: Little Fox and the Review That Never Happened

In retrospect, I wonder if I knew deep down that this was the end. Sitting in Little Fox’s dining room the evening of March 14, 2020, I think everyone in that packed house had the same inkling. The room had what must have been the feeling in the salons onboard the Titanic, where music played as the water flooded the steam room: We understood we were about to meet our doom, yet we hadn’t fully come to terms with it.

That night, I’d gathered with three friends for what was to be a typical review dinner. We showed up for our reservation and settled into our seats, prepared to methodically approach the meal, as is usual for a restaurant review, and strategizing who would order what appetizer, salad, dinner and dessert. What wasn’t typical was how we looked over our shoulders with suspicion at anyone who so much as cleared their throat. Deep down, we knew we shouldn’t be dining out. Northern Italy was a hellscape; New York City wasn’t far behind, and as the numbers of COVID-19 cases began to rise in St. Louis, we could feel that life as we knew it was about to change. So we drank. A lot. And ate. A lot. And as we stumbled out of the restaurant into our Lyfts, I looked over my shoulder at Little Fox’s storefront, taking in its warm glow and absorbing the energy of the numerous patrons in various states of merriment, searing that moment in time into my memory because I knew I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

click to enlarge With food like this, it's no wonder we were so eager to tell you about this place. - MABEL SUEN

  • With food like this, it’s no wonder we were so eager to tell you about this place.

What I didn’t fully grasp was what that meant for my job as a dining critic. For seven years, I’d been reviewing restaurants for the RFT, assuming that train would keep running indefinitely. However, while reviewing my notes the Monday following that visit to Little Fox, I felt the need to pull the emergency cord. After texting some colleagues about the issue I emailed my editor, informing her of my discomfort in filing a review and asking for her advice. When I didn’t hear back from her right away, I was concerned, because she was always so prompt in her replies. The next morning, I found out what the issue was: She had been furloughed. And so had I.