Hubcap Grill's Ricky Craig on Twitter Outbursts and Axl Rose Rants

Categories: Burger Break

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Photo by Tam Vo
Ricky Craig delivered a one-two punch on Twitter after a reviewer called his burgers bland.
This past Tuesday around 10 p.m., anyone who follows Hubcap Grill owner Ricky Craig on Twitter could tell that he was having a bad night. Craig is well-known for voicing his opinions -- often stridently -- on Twitter, but Tuesday was different.

"Ewan MacDonald get out of Houston and GO BACK TO DALLAS YOU FUCKER," Craig lashed out. His Twitter stream was soon backfilled with more of the same: "Hey Ewan MacDonald from 'A Hamburger Today' YOU HAVE POOR/ NO TASTE BUDS. FUCK YOU & YOUR BLOG U WANNA BE FOOD CRITIC. BITCH."

The rant was directed at Dallas-based A Hamburger Today writer Ewan Macdonald, whose review of Craig's burger joint was less than glowing. "Hubcap Grill Can't Quite Match the Hype," read the headline.

But the review itself was otherwise benign -- no A.A. Gill-level screeds nor comparisons of its food to nasty, brackish sea water. The worst part of the review singled out Hubcap Grill's patties as "simply bland." Macdonald even concluded his review on a positive note.

"Still, the thousands of happy customers and the legion positive reviews from publications large and small can't all be wrong," he wrote. "There must be something more to the Hubcap Grill. For this reason I plan on trying it again at some point in the future..."

By Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours later, Ricky Craig's Twitter fit had gone viral. "Houston Chef Bites Back on Twitter Against Blog Review," read the Eater headline. At the Atlantic, the headline was even more forceful: "Houston Chef Taunts Critic to Come to His Restaurant and Fight Him."

Craig's Twitter followers were divided into two camps: those who supported his refusal to back down after what was perceived as a negative review, and those who were aghast at his behavior -- especially the profanity.

"I did go a little overboard with the language," Craig admitted yesterday afternoon. But with characteristic pugnacity, he still refuses to back down. "I'm not apologizing -- it's done and over with."

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Photo by Dawn McGee
Although it makes some of the best burgers in town, Hubcap Grill's downtown location is small and cramped, which can often lead to grumpy customers and a grumpy Craig.
"I work long hours," said a tired-sounding Craig by phone. He was taking an hour break at home between shifts to do laundry. "If I don't take an hour off from the restaurant each week, I won't have anything to wear," he laughed. Part of the reason for his rant, he explained, was simply exhaustion -- physical exhaustion at working both Hubcap Grill locations six days a week as well as the kind of Internet-spurred exhaustion that inspired him to throw a recent anti-Yelp party.

"[Macdonald] got me on a bad night when I'm tired and I've worked 14, 15 hours. Am I sorry I used that language? No. Did it get out of hand? Yes."

Craig acknowledges the fact that people have begun to call him the Burger Nazi and the fact that he's becoming notorious for his often-grumpy demeanor and screeds against sites like Yelp, which belies a kinder side that people rarely see.

"There's always two sides to every coin," he said, referencing his plans to host a Duck Fallas party in response to Macdonald's review, a party which is being planned after Craig's successful Yuck Felp party this past weekend that featured live music and eight kegs of beer bought from local microbreweries. While ostensibly an anti-Yelp party, it had ended up focusing -- ironically -- on hospitality. "This whole 'fuck Dallas' party thing... I'm not really going to talk about 'fuck Dallas.' I'm not that bad of a guy."

"Who supplies a band and free beer in Houston? I paid $5,000 out of my own pocket for that Yelp party. People don't see that," Craig said.

What they do see is Craig's bad behavior on Twitter, behavior that's a turn-off to many customers.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Hubcap's muffaletta burger is a fan favorite.
"It is pretty lame that any Houston establishment thinks it is beyond criticism," wrote local blogger Tom Gutting on Twitter in response to Craig's outbursts. "Embrace challenge. Get better. You're not beyond reproach."

"I moved from Dallas three years ago and I love Hubcap. If there's a DuckFallas party you've seen me for the last time," wrote Joel Hatton. "Also, not sure why you'd want to alienate a lot of your native Dallas fans just because of some idiot without taste buds."

But Craig is unbowed by the criticisms. "When you're out in the public and the media, the more you're going to be attacked," he said. "I'm supposed to just sit there and keep taking criticism and swallow it? Eventually, after a while, you just snap."

As to those who claim Craig's outburst was a negative reflection on Houston, his answer was simple: "I never was representing Houston in the first place."

But he's mindful of the fact that "in the long run it can affect your business." After his initial rant last night, Craig says, he "gained 100 followers in 30 minutes. I lost a lot of followers but I also gained a lot of followers." And those are the followers -- and customers -- who continue to form Hubcap Grill's rabid fan base.

"Come on, people. Let @Hubcap_Grill blow off a little steam," wrote Hubcap fan Eric Sandler. "Works his ass off six days a week to bring us delicious burgers." It's exactly these kinds of vociferous antics -- not just his burgers -- that keep Craig's fans coming back for more, and he knows it.

"I rant just like Axl Rose does," Craig laughed. "I got my rant out. I woke up this morning and said I feel better." He plans to stay off Twitter as much as possible, too: "I am gonna get my thick skin and learn how to bite my tongue and ignore it from now on."

As for Macdonald, Craig still seems wounded, possessed of that thin skin which so many others -- his parents included -- have chided him for: "If he does call, I don't have nothing to say to him."



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Location Info

Hubcap Grill

1111 Prairie St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Hubcap Grill

1133 W. 19th, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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77 comments
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Jcm4
Jcm4

Why does Houston have such an inferiority complex about Dallas? I'm a Dallas native and no one ever spoke badly about Houston when I lived there. 

Webtronics
Webtronics

A fool and his money are soon parted. 

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

To be fair to Ricky Craig, I went yesterday to try it and pretty much agreed with the critic's points, although I mentioned that he should have tried one of the specialty burgers, and said the burgers could use more seasoning.  He twittered back very professionally and said he'd get on it.  We all have our blow ups, and I think that was all this was.  I've lost my temper before, too.  Believe me.

trizza nizza
trizza nizza

look, we all agree the owner of Hubacp is an a-hole, but on the flipside, why are YOU an authority that he should trust to judge the seasoning of his burgers. because you're some fat ass who lives with his mom and comments on blogs all day?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 Damn.  It's always the pretty ones that figure me out.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Damn my head hurts after making it this far down in the comment listings.  Say what you will about the man but he sure knows how to get his business in the spotlight.

Normally one has to make a sex tape to get this kind of coverage.TA

MadMac
MadMac

When Lomax does an article on the Ricky Craig/Bruce Molzan s3x tape, I'm holding you responsible, TA.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

 Naw, I don't see that happening, Mac. First off Ricky would alienate everyone for not recognizing how well he performed in the tape and Molzan would promise to pay the photographer then not follow through.TA

anonymous
anonymous

Grow up jerk....you're not doing  yourself any favors whatsoever.  And if you think that this is a way to run a business....well, keep on keepin' on.  It's offensive and more power to you.

Getoverit
Getoverit

All of a sudden, the Press and its readers are OFFENDED by the F word???  Are you kidding me?  The F word is in half the blog posts here!  Move over to Hair Balls and it goes far and beyond the F word!  Aaaargh!  One thing that I hate is insincerity and false modesty when it suits you!

GetIt
GetIt

Who was offended by the F word?

That's like saying a robbery victim was offended by the handgun used to commit the crime.

Like handguns, words are things. They don't offend until they are used in some offensive way, like if I were to say you're fucking obtuse. Maybe that's what readers here, almost universally, objected to.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I don't think anyone here - myself included - was offended by the use of the F word. Please give the post a read again.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

Ricky gives a damn about what he does, and as happens with many creative people, that passion doesn't come with an on/off switch.  Sure, he could be more diplomatic, but I'd not trade one Ricky Craig for a dozen chain restaurant "social media experts" spouting sanitized PR drivel into the Twitterverse.

SHUT UP & EAT!!!
SHUT UP & EAT!!!

Losing one's shit at honest criticism is not the hallmark of a 'creative'.

It's psychotic behavior that is the result of being told how special and perfect you are your whole life, then suddenly, as an adult, having to confront the fact that you're neither special nor perfect. It's exactly like when a 4-year-old has a tantrum because they are told "no." The fact that emotionally stunted adults have begun to behave this way is an unfortunate by-product of our modern society, and IMO is a growing problem.

VonHaupstadt
VonHaupstadt

 @TonyVallone 

"From sashimi to souffle, Tony's is Houston's most innovative restaurant and has over 1,000 wines to choose from."

No sanitized PR drivel there; just the modest thoughts of a master artist!

Doc
Doc

I like Ricky a lot and Hubcap Burgers are some of the best in Houston, but Jesus Christ, dude. That critic was just doing his job. I can see getting pissed off at a mean-spirited or unfair review, but the MacDonald guy was totally civil and fair. I disagree with him, but he has a right to his freaking opinion. If Ricky's schedule is causing him to go nuclear at the drop of a hat, then maybe he should scale it back a little. I'd much rather have 5-6 fewer hours of Hubcap per week than not have it at all because Ricky's heart has exploded.

Charcharodon
Charcharodon

Ricky sounds like he can't handle criticism.  He should write for this blog, he'd fit right in.

Corey
Corey

Anyone truly offended by a glorified text message, has really thin skin, and or a fragile ego. And calling out people as dishonest, when it's wholly out of context also smacks of extremist.

Cheflambo
Cheflambo

Why do people give Twitter such power and credence?  Its written on the wind.  To take it all so seriously is just middle-school myopia.

Using juvenile profanity in the name of one's own business is a gross display of immaturity.  What's going to happen to the poor schmuck who goes to Hubcap and tweets something negative about them?  Is Ricky going to kick them out, a la Down House's little tantrum a few months ago? 

PalimsestProd
PalimsestProd

Some restaurants base their entire marketing communications effort on Twitter and Facebook. To these misguided souls, then, being 'slammed' on one of those two social media gives it an outsized relevance.

Nate
Nate

Jeez, so he said fuck.  A wise man once said, if you cant say fuck, you can't say fuck the government.

 

His burgers are great, his restaurants are neat.  So he is passionate on Twitter.  So be it.  I don't really know Ricky, but he has always been nice to me, IN PERSON.

 

As for the people boycotting because Ricky doesn't say yes ma'am, right away ma'am, then that's better for us that like his food.  Lines are too long right now. 

 

I love the people that think they are doing Hubcap a favor by gracing them with their presence.  Or announcing they are going to not go there now (looking at you, Kymberlie).  Is that like telling someone you are going to unfollow them on Twitter?  Are you that petty?

MadMac
MadMac

Nate your argument works on absolute every level. I mean what does this silly woman expect? Right? It's not like Kym is a paying customer or... oops.

Kymberlie R. McGuire
Kymberlie R. McGuire

It's not about being petty.  And it's not about him saying fuck in a Tweet. My own Twitter stream has that word quite a bit in it. But it is about treating people with respect.  I don't mean that you have to kowtow to people, but common human decency isn't asking too much.

As someone that was going to try his food again but found his behaviour bullying and distasteful (if you'll pardon the pun), it's worth mentioning - to him and others - why I won't be going there.  As people mentioned, it's an opportunity to try and turn a negative into a positive.  If it wasn't a place that I didn't plan on visiting, I probably wouldn't have any paid any attention.

I do customer management for a living and if I treated people that had bad things to say about our product like this, then they would have every right to tell people that we have shitty customer service and spend their money elsewhere.  Like it or not, this is a reflection of you and your business and when you treat people this way.  To me that means rewarding places that aren't bullies with my business and staying away from places like this that are.

Nate
Nate

Oh please.  You say his burgers aren't that impressive, but you were willing to give him another try, and now you wont be going back because he is a "bully" and you didn't care for his burger in the first place.  Calling him a bully doesn't make it so.  That is not constructive criticism, "turning a negative into a positive".  That is just petty behavior (just like Ricky's response).

The customer isnt always right, and not everyone is going to be happy with you, no matter what.  What's funny is that Ricky agrees with your "spend their money elsewhere" with his "GOOD! Go to jack n box where u belong".

"Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

Kymberlie R. McGuire
Kymberlie R. McGuire

I absolutely was willing to give him another try because so many of my friends do like his burgers.  There can always be an off day where the food isn't up to snuff, so going back would have been a good way to verify this.

I'm fine with being a customer elsewhere and Ricky not being heartbroken over losing my business.  However, this type of behaviour means that I'll let my friends know how he treats people so that they can make their own decisions on if they want to continue going there.

Pm
Pm

I've never had this guy's burgers, but, in every picture that I have seen, he dresses like he's "from Dallas," or at least like he is heading to the worst of Wash Ave after Hubcap Grill closes.  Just sayin'.

Ashleyelainestewart
Ashleyelainestewart

I went there once and thought the fries were great... The burger was greasy with no flavor. I agree with the reviewer. I was going to go back because I love the set up at the Heights location, but I'd rather give my money to someone who deserves it (Justin @ Bernie's Burger Bus). I wish everyone would stop eating at Hubcap and maybe he will get off of his high horse and listen to his customers. Bad burgers + bad attitude not a recipe for success!

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

For those of you so mortally offended by Ricky's tweets, please just get over your bad selves. There are so many more inportant things to worry about. Fine, go somewhere else for your damn burger. I'll go to Hubcap.

There is some undercurrent here that may lead one to believe that Ricky blasts off at actual customers at his restaurants. I'm not aware of that ever happening (but if it has they deserved it).

For Mr. Hatton and any others offended by #DuckFallas, you are aware that there exists a certain rivalry between our two cities are you not? That phrase is featured on one of our flags home Sundays in the Reliant Stadium parking lot. We "HATE" Dallas. Again, please get over your bad selves.

MadMac
MadMac

"I'm not aware of that ever happening (but if it has they deserved it)."

Compelling.

Doc
Doc

More important things? Sure, but gosh, I can only fret and wring my hands over the troubles in Afghanistan and Uganda for so many hours in the day. After a while, I like to worry about something more relevant to me, for example, the behavior of a local restaurant owner whose restaurant I frequent and regularly recommend to people, and the fallout from his tantrum, which indirectly involves many people I know.

Pm
Pm

BTW, I am a lifelong Houstonian, and, for the record, I don't hate Dallas.  I just don't give a shit about it.  There is plenty to appreciate in Houston without having to view it in contradistinction to Dallas or anywhere else in the country. 

OldPete
OldPete

Mike, you write:

"There is some undercurrent here that may lead one to believe that Ricky blasts off at actual customers at his restaurants. I'm not aware of that ever happening (but if it has they deserved it)."

So if something happens that you're completely unaware of, you're still entirely certain that Ricky was right and the customer was wrong?  Man, how does that work.

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

Yes, I'm pretty much entirely certain. Unless the customer found a dead toad between his burger buns. That would be the restaurant's fault.

FlaubertT
FlaubertT

 "pretty much entirely certain" ---you would make a fun witness

Graham Chapman
Graham Chapman

 Well if we took the bones out it wouldn't be crunchy, would it?

BD
BD

Why do you think there's a difference between blasting off on actual customers at the his restaurants versus on Twitter?Not trying to be argumentative... I'm genuinely curious.

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

There's quite a difference, for example, in me replying to your post here on the HP comment section and me being next to you screaming in your ear.

BD
BD

And with that, I'm realizing I'm way off-topic now. This is totally the wrong forum for this discussion... So my apologies and I'll just leave it at that...

BD
BD

First, something I neglected from your earlier reply: if he had good-naturedly thanked the reviewer for his input as he did to you (in person or on Twitter), none of this would have been an issue...

And to this: He didn't simply respond to the reviewer. His response was the Twitter-equivalent of screaming. Of course a Twitter-equivalent isn't the same at all, and I never said it was. But I still don't get WHY you think it's not the same, you just say it clearly isn't. I personally think that ideally people shouldn't be saying things online that they wouldn't say in person just because of the virtual anonymity or invisibility. Which is not to say I always adhere to that, but why do you think that doing from behind a computer or smartphone makes it ok?

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

"Why do you think there's a difference between blasting off on actual customers at the his restaurants versus on Twitter?"Because blasting off (screaming) at a live body in front of you could amount to criminal assault, while responding (replying) in the virtually anonymous 140 character realm of Twitter is... just clearly not the same.

BD
BD

I'm not denying that. My original question was exactly a "what-if"I am curious why, in your opinion, there is a difference between blasting off on a customer at the restaurant versus in person...And I think your original response added a content difference by (intentionally or not) contrasting 'replying' and 'screaming in your ear' 

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

Now you are fabricating "what-ifs" and assuming reactions. None of that happened. Don't go all talk radio here.

In fact I have had a discussion with Ricky that was mildly critical of an aspect of his restaurant. He good-naturedly thanked me for my input. Also see the example of the critical yelper who was invited back for a civilized discussion.

BD
BD

Very clever phrasing there... I don't mean 'replying' versus 'screaming'Let's look at just the content of the actions. What if Macdonald had told him at his restaurant that the beef was bland and Craig verbally threatened him to his face? 

Guest
Guest

I'm not 'morally offended'. I think he sounds like a deranged crybaby - like he might spit in my food if I asked for Tabasco sauce.

ParanoidAndroid
ParanoidAndroid

Every great town has their food douches. At least ours makes great food.

Kymberlie R. McGuire
Kymberlie R. McGuire

I unfollowed him a long ago after seeing behaviour like this.  I went and tried the burgers anyway in December and was pretty unimpressed.  However, since I have several friends that love the burger, I was still going to go back and try it (and had actually mentioned that Saturday to a friend).

I saw this happen on Sunday night on Twitter from a friend's Twitter stream and Tweeted "Had planned on giving @hubcap_grill another shot (didn't care much for my burger when I went), but after tonight, I won't be going back."  Within five minute, Ricky had replied to me on Twitter with "GOOD! Go to jack n box where u belong"

From everything I've seen, anything at all that doesn't sing his praises (and I thought the review both fair and not very critical) is basis for a personal attack.  I'm all for defending yourself if you get a bad review or if people treat you unfairly, but this type of bullying is beyond the pale. You shouldn't have to bend over backwards just to not have him attack you. There's better burgers (Burger Palace, Bernie's Burger Bus, etc.) where you won't be bullied if you happen to not like them.

MadMac
MadMac

How long has this Mo Mo been in business? How is it his burgers are sooooo great, I'm just now hearing about them, (as a result of a tantrum)? I'm a fat man, I get the junk food news letter. I'm thinking tortured artiste here will get his plug pulled soon enough. It's hard enough out there for a pimp without calling your clientele "ho's". Just saying. 

Delphino
Delphino

How do we subscribe to the Junk Food Newsletter? Interested.

Doak
Doak

It's the same, sad story that happens far too often.  Someone publishes profane, defamatory comments and then has the audacity to virtually command that everyone just forget about it after a token, aloof apology and excuse.  

It does not matter if such things are published on Twitter, a blog, any other "social networking" site, or in any comments to any of the above.  In fact, that is even worse.  It's one thing to be hornery in your own place.  It's another thing, entirely, to write and publish profane, defamatory comments.  Once you've published your words for all the world to see, you have to deal with it.  You cannot excuse it unilaterally.  You cannot command another's forgiveness, whether that of the target of your comments or all the persons that you broadcasted them to.

Of course people get fed up, exhausted, angry, and frustrated.  That is not the problem.  It happens to all of us.  The problem is dealing with it.  Way back in the 20th century, we had ways to deal with such feelings.  We called the "friends."  We grabbed a friend and we blew off whatever steam was built up.  In a few minutes, it was over.  We all felt better, and their were no apologies to be made.  Instead of picking up your phone to let off a slew of tweets, use that phone to call a friend and blow off that steam. 

Go ahead and lose your temper, but direct it appropriately.

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