A new eatery’s prices are so high, one restaurant reviewer needed to resort to crowdsourcing to buy a meal. 

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When restaurant reviewer Erik Torkellis couldn’t afford a new dining establishment’s exorbitant prices, he asked Kickstarter users to take him out to dinner.

Torkellis, who edits the Tribeca Citizen, would like to eat at Atera, a fancy new restaurant that just moved into the Tribeca neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. Not surprisingly, it costs an arm and a leg.

“$150 for a set menu with no a la carte options,” Torkellis told the Daily Dot. “Add on a $90 beverage pairing, which I want. That’s pretty vicious for a new restaurant.”

That’s $240 before the tip, and you can’t even substitute salad for fries. What’s worse is that nobody in the neighborhood has any idea what this place is like. It’s a tiny spot that fits 15 people, and the New York Times has yet to write its review. Even more mysterious: the head chef just moved to New York from Portland, Oregon. He’s a stranger in a strange land.

“It wasn’t like Jean Georges opened another restaurant and said, “I’m going to make it $150,” Torkellis said. “You’d know if it was worth it then.”

“After you’ve been to Compose, and it closes, and you’ve been to Brushstroke, and you’ve been to Jungsik, you start spending a lot of money on restaurants that you shouldn’t be going to. Those of us with fancy restaurant fatigue, it’s like, ‘God, another one? How do we know?’”

That’s where his Tribeca Citizen comes in. Founded in 2008 after Torkellis left his job as editor in chief of Budget Travel Magazine, the hyperlocal blog is an online hub to more than 20,000 Tribecans trying to figure out whether new businesses are worth their time, money, and attention. It’s an insider’s guide to every new club, shop, and restaurant that pops up in the trendy neighborhood.

Torkellis runs the site, a distinction that earns him the first word on nearly every new establishment to open its doors in town. Costly as it would be, he just had to get inside Atera’s doors.

The editor decided to get crafty. He turned to Kickstarter, where he opened up a campaign called Atera Restaurant Review and set out to raise $300 necessary to pay for a meal.

“I make so little money from Tribeca Citizen that it doesn’t make financial sense for me to eat at every new restaurant that opens,” he wrote on the campaign’s page. “I don’t take freebies—not that Atera has offered—so I’m asking you to help foot the bill.”

Easy, right? And awfully sly. So sly that Kickstarter initially took quick issue, rejecting the project on the grounds of frivolousness. Torkellis appealed the decision and won.

A few days later, 14 backers helped Torkellis raise the $300.

“For them to spend $10 or $20 is nothing,” he said. “They think of me as their pet.”

Money in hand, the burning question becomes “when can we read a review of this high-class, exclusive joint?”

To that question, Torkellis has no answer.

“They won’t even give me a table!” he said.

Kickstarter: Atera Restaurant Review

  • Location: New York City
  • Summary: A restaurant critic crowdfunds his trip to trendy new Tribeca restaurant Atera.
  • Goal: $300
  • Amount raised as of press time: $325
  • Days Left: 4
  • Best Buy: $10 backers get an autographed Atera matchbook.

Photo from Kickstarter

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