They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when large chains start boasting about their “hand-selected craft beers” and “bespoke artisan charcuterie,” you know a shark has been jumped. “Craft” knockoffs heading up a not-very-distinctive beer program, so-called “tapa” menus that charge a lot yet deliver very little, and calling any place with bacon and copper-mugged Moscow Mules on the menu a “gastropub”—these are the things that make a food writer want to go on a hunger strike. Here are just a few the most egregious vernacular offenses we see on an all-too-regular basis, words that, thanks to an unscrupulous few, have entirely lost their meanings. Our point: Don’t use them unless you can really back them up.
TAPA: A small, savory, (usually) complimentary bite or two to accompany your drink. Not a $25 skillet of oxtail mac and cheese.
BISTRO: A small restaurant, moderately priced and serving modest meals. Probably not a white-linen experience. Definitely not a yawning, cavernous 300-seater. With private dining rooms. And a DJ.
GASTROPUB: Untrue to its name, this should be reserved for a laid-back pub that puts its exceptional beer program first, and satisfying edible accompaniments second. A Heineken and $45 steak frites? Sorry, that won’t cut the whole-grain mustard here.
BESPOKE: Stop it.
ARTISANAL: Indicates a degree of traditional handiwork and accomplished craftsmanship. Not everything on your charcuterie board is created equal.
MIXOLOGIST: Since the mid-1800s, an indication of cocktail prowess. It isn’t synonymous with “bartender,” and it definitely isn’t the new guy who can’t even execute a hand-shaken daiquiri.
ELEVATED: Superfluous publicity speak intended to indicate that something lowbrow has been rendered highbrow, the price elevated accordingly.
SPEAKEASY: Unless you actually turn people away, probably not. But definitely not if there’s a sign outside that says “Bar.”
NEXT-LEVEL: See “Elevated.”
CRAFT: Danger! Danger! This is the granddaddy of all senselessly overused and abused words. With regard to beer, there are actual brewing volume distinctions in play here. And no, Blue Moon does not meet them. Do your homework before you throw down the C-word. And don’t even get us started on “craft” whiskey.