Head South

D. Brian Burghart

Todd South is a guy who needs little introduction, but by way of introduction, he's our new food reviewer. He's been hosting Reno's best open mic night for more than a decade (declared best by the readers of the RN&R in our annual Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada), and he's been a man about town and a man about social media for as long as many of us can remember (4,843 friends on Facebook). He's still doing the open mic Friday nights at Wildflower Village (signups starting at 6:30 p.m.).

Why are you so famous? Everybody knows who you are. It’s almost redundant to have you in 15 Minutes of fame.

Jeez, aahhhhhhhh, why am I so famous? I don’t know. It predates the whole Facebook thing. I’d say open mics.

Oh yeah, you’ve run open mics since—when’d you start?

The one that I’ve been running since 2002 actually started in 2000 at Walden’s. In March, it’ll be 12 years. I just meet a lot of people. I also have been involved. Everybody is on social media now, but way back when—in the dark ages of the late ’80s, early ’90s—we had bulletin board systems, and I ran a couple of those. [You could do] pretty much everything you can do now on Facebook—play games, meet people, exchange photos, whatever—just with much slower speeds and much slower technology. There are people that I still talk to on Facebook and other social media that I have known since the days of BBS-ing, since back in the day … prior to the internet. So you find out so-and-so knows so-and-so, and before you know it, you just become one of those [people]. Like you, obviously people know you from the News & Review, but I don’t even remember the first time I heard your name. But I’ve known who you are for years and years.

Yeah, Reno used to be a small town. It was not hard to achieve a certain measure of notoriety.

Exactly. So if you’ve lived here for more than 20 years, you know a lot of the other people who’ve lived here for more than 20 years. I’ve been here since I was a little kid, and that was in the ’70s.

Basically, the reason I knew you were a foodie was through Facebook, but you went outside, too, using Yelp. You developed a name for yourself as a reviewer long before News & Review picked up on it, so tell me a little bit about that desire to get your opinions of restaurants out there.

I like food. I like to cook food, and because I like to cook food, I also tend to have an opinion about other people’s cooking. So, if I’m paying for a meal, I’m going to have an opinion on it. I used to write little reviews long before Yelp and share them wherever you could, but it was just more of a conversation about “Hey, have you heard about this new place?” With the rise of things like Yelp and Chowhound, I found them useful tools of finding new places or talking about older places. And I’m just a pretty chatty person, whether it’s online or in person. So I started sharing my opinion. I’ve also been a writer of text for many years. I’ve worked as a copywriter.

I didn’t know that. That explains some things.

So I tend to care. You know, on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. And it’s been that way since the very first modems and communication like I was talking about. When people can read what you’re saying, how you actually write it becomes important. Maybe not so much for the Millennials and the Generation Y, they do all their chat shortcuts, but even when I text, I write in complete sentences. You can call it pride of ownership—I like to write in a complete sentences. My Yelp reviews, I typically don’t just throw out a couple of shots, I usually spend quite a bit of time editing them. I even edit and re-edit casual comments on Facebook. I’m just OCD that way. And then you get a response: “I thought the place was crap, too” or “Wow, thanks, we had a great time.” I don’t know why, I just enjoy sharing that opinion and seeing other people’s opinions.