Rob Balon—Restaurant Critic

Posted by on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 in Blog

Meeting held on May 3rd, 2016, Recorded by Phil Thoden

President Harold Ingersoll called the meeting to order. Kim Gdula led the pledges and Past President Sherry Workman gave our invocation of the day. Jordan Price led us in saying The Four Way Test. Adrianne Marks served as the greeter and Rich Fikani introduced the guests and visitors.

Tillery Castillo reminded everyone about the upcoming RCA Spring Picnic to be held on Sunday, May 15, from 2pm to 4pm at Pease Park in the picnic table area. Lunch is provided along with games and access to the playscape and splash park. RSVP to

Russell Gallahan announced an RCA Red Badge/Mentoring Committee meeting on May 10 at 1pm at St. David’s. This is the 4th in a series for new members and should last about 25 minutes. Richard Payton will be leading it and will be discussing DACdb Basics and social media.

Mary Reynolds reminded everyone about the Early Act First Knight (EAFK) Tournament of Champions – with LIVE horses! – on May 6th at Pecan Springs Elementary School.

Roger Williamson was in the Member Spotlight and talked about his work in the world of physics and science that has taken him from Alaska, to the Antarctic, Japan, New Zealand and many other global locations. He has been involved in space exploration efforts and, back here on Earth, has a passion for dancing the Tango.

President Harold reminded everyone about the upcoming Thirsty Thursday Happy Hour Cluster Meeting at the JW Marriott on May 5th. Also, the District 5870 Conference of Rotary Clubs 2016 will be held June 24-26 at the Horseshoe Bay Resort located about 1 hour outside of Austin. District Governor Elect Bruce Golden’s Installation Luncheon is on Sunday the 26th and this will be our Changing of the Guard Celebration, too!

President Harold then recognized the following RCA members on their Paul Harris Fellow recognition for donating $1,000 or more to The Rotary Foundation: Adam Borger, Myron Burse, Russell Gallahan (PHF+1), Greg Lehrmann, and Corey Wilson. Congratulations, all, on this achievement!

Michael Portman led the Thank Goodness Basket (TGB) by first noting that the RCA has exceeded the $1 million donation level for The Rotary Foundation, a rare achievement among all the Rotary Clubs in the world! Many RCA members then contributed to the TGB and expressed gratitude, including: Darrick Eugene, Brad Wiewel, Rick Ravel, Mark Johnson, Julie Benkoski, Barry Curlee, Jack Nash, Nadir Abdeladim and Mary Reynolds.

Ann Graham introduced our guest speaker, Dr. Rob Balon, who has provided restaurant reviews and dining advice for foodies across the Austin area for 15 years. He was on Fox-7 and KVUE-TV for 13 years and has been on 590 KLBJ since he began reviewing. His website is He is also CEO of the Balon Research Group, a national marketing research firm.

Rob shared details from his early life growing up in a restaurant family in Connecticut. After graduating from the University of Texas in the 1970s, he eventually moved here full time to teach at his alma mater. He shared a funny anecdote about starting his restaurant review work in the 1990s by filling in as the host of a new foodie radio show on KLBJ and engaging in a humorous exchange with the outspoken owner of Katz’ Deli, a casual dining spot that once served Austinites downtown. He also gave insights into the challenges of running
a restaurant, especially in a city like Austin that has quickly become financially burdensome for small businesses that exist on narrow margins.

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