This afternoon, the Instagram message rolled in around 2 p.m.: Michalene Busico, the dining critic at the Dallas Morning News, was quitting her position to begin as editor in chief—starting in the new year—for PaperCity magazine. She began at the DMN in July 2018, replacing Leslie Brenner, who had moved on 10 months before.
It’s an interesting time. This is a time when our city has never been more interested in expanding its dining scene, nor has it ever been busier reinventing itself and forging into new territory.
As I wrote in two features that just hit the stands and the web, about how Dallas’s dining scene got so exciting, a new generation of chefs, farmers, and ranchers has ushered the city out of the culinary dark ages and into the light. The best restaurants of the year—from my list—include a noodle shop in Old East Dallas, a Japanese izakaya in Oak Cliff, a café on a farm in South Dallas, molecular gastronomy in a 16-seat tasting-menu room.
It’s been a remarkable 2019. The dust settled and we were eating unbelievable tacos and artful bowls featuring fermented ground pork or kaffir lime. Not to mention the influx of outsiders, moving for jobs, who kept pushing the dining scene forward. And let us not forget it was a year in which we were named Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appétit.
So, if there were ever a time to take stock of the shifts in the dining scene in Dallas, that time is now. Nor is this something lost on Busico.
Brenner, who worked with Busico at the Los Angeles Times, concurs, however, that Busico’s heart is in editing.
“I think she’s done an amazing job as a critic,” Brenner says. “I love reading her reviews.” But, like others in our business who have shifted positions, Busico missed editing. To write reviews, to be the voice and the boots on the ground, is one thing—to mastermind sections in another. One is (and to this I can attest), solitary and, quite literally, all-consuming; the other collaborative.
“I know her as an editor. She hired me at the LA Times and I reported to her for years,” Brenner says. She cites her as a leader with vision.
The editor role is, Busico notes in her Instagram post, “a role that will let me get back to another part of the business I love—editing—and shape an entire publication focused on art, fashion, culture, home, food” for PaperCity. Which, she points out, has a new digital editor and publisher and new edition in Fort Worth.
“It’s a wonderful place to be a critic,” she noted later over the phone. “For all the reasons that it’s a great time to be a critic here, it’s also a great time to be running a magazine here,” Busico notes. “And the chance to cover the city across a full scope of subjects” appeals.
“As an editor, it’s all about collaboration, and figuring out how to tell a story visually, and how you’re going to structure the story.”
“I’m grateful to be a part of an expansive moment like this,” Busico wrote on Instagram, and then elaborated over the phone: “I felt like every slice of the dining scene here, in the short time that I was writing about it, got better and better. Across the board, there was a kind of momentum that was building here. [It was wonderful] to see things bubbling up places that we’ve all been writing about and praising. And even starting the next generation of restaurant. We’re seeing the city find its voice in an area where it hasn’t. It’s becoming stronger and clearer and in really a short amount of time.
Ultimately? “It’s a great city for restaurants, but there’s more to Dallas than food and restaurants.”
Now on to seeing who will take the reins as third dining critic in the ninth most populous city in America that—as of today—has two.