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May 11, 2007 02:38 PM

Most Reliable Restaurant Review Site Outside of Chowhound?

I love Chowhound, but since this is not technically a restaurant review site (rather, more like a "go here, now!" recommendation site), I am wondering what's the most reliable restaurant review site you know outside of chowhound. It doesn't have to be a site that reviews all restaurants everywhere.

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    1. re: PeterL

      I think that is subjective - Yelp is big on the West Coast and hasn't caught on as big on the East Coast.

      1. re: PeterL

        Well it's pretty subjective, but I suppose by reliable I mean that you generally agree with the review after you went and tried the restaurant.

        1. re: PeterL

          I agree. Yelp rocks. And I like that it's subjective. There's no freakin' politics or advertisers to influence individual reviews. Yelp has caught on in NYC...

          1. re: sasabean

            Ah yes...and the lovely reviews of places where people haven't eaten and will tell you they haven't eaten...yet the "stars" count.

            1. re: sasabean

              Yes, it has. It's very easy to use and I'm having a blast. Thanks sasabean.

              1. re: sasabean

                I disagree with 90% of the Yelp reviews of restaurants in my town. (I write a food column for the local paper, so I eat out a lot.) I'm convinced that many "reviews" are written by restaurant owners and their friends and relatives, as they are frequently hyperbolic and bear no relationship to reality. Maybe folks in NYC do it better.

                1. re: pikawicca

                  My experience in Chicago is that Yelp reviews are petty and pretty useless. I dunno if it's competitors, but the number of negative reviews of restaurants I know to be good are just a tad suspicious. But I think the greater problem is a bunch of self-important people finding fault wherever they can. You can go from one review praising the place to another calling it a roachpit. People here may be combative at times, but there's almost no outright dishonesty.

              2. re: PeterL

                I too love Yelp! I am also a fan of Gayot. They are reliable for hotel reviews as well.

                I usually start by going to a town I know well and see what they say. If I think they are good and not just hitting on the obvious, I use them religiously.

                1. re: PeterL

                  I don't rely on Yelp exclusively because the reviews tend to be written by folks without my level of experience and, dare I say, discernment? However, taken with other reviews--local papers, chow, urbanspoon, opentable--it can be useful.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    I use Yelp to pick restaurants -- but when I think about it, I realize that the reviews are not worth much. As an example, the restaurant where I eat out most frequently is Luciano's in Rahway, NJ. I work for the largest employer in town, and this is our default restaurant for business visitors (and my job is focused on external partnerships, so I have a lot of visitors). Looking at the Yelp reviews today, I see they are completely mixed -- some think it's great, some not. In terms of "stars", for the most recent reviews I see 4,2,4,5,4,2,2,4,5,2,5,3,4,4,2,4,4,5,3,1,5,3,5,3,5,5,3,5,2... in other words across the spectrum from 1 to 5. My own experience has been that the place has never been great, though rarely dreadful except sometimes with regard to the service. But over the last few years I've been there many times and I'm somewhat bewildered at the very high and very low scores. How could so many people think it's that good or that awful?? (I will admit that I would not go there on my own dime, but perhaps that's a case of "familiarity breeds contempt").

                  2. Honestly, I don't find any one site to be consistently reliable on its own. I check Zagat regularly, especially when I'm going to a place that is new to me. I also check citysearch and the local newspapers. In San Francisco, I end up at Yelp a lot because it turns up at the top of google searches; i find the reviews there to be generally very annoying and often actually learn more about restaurants I want to visit based upon reviews that the writer clearly intends to be negative.

                    So, for me, the most reliable thing is when the same restaurants start showing up favorably in multiple places. If a restaurant rates well on Zagat, gets a favorable review in the newspaper, shows up with good reviews on City Search, etc...then I can be fairly confident that I, at least, won't be horribly dissapointed.

                    If I had to choose one, it'd be Zagat.

                    1. I don't think there's such a thing as reliable site, only reliable individual reviewers. So any site without bylines is by my lights useless.

                      There may be some good individual reviewers on Yelp, but on average the tone is inexperienced and uncritical.

                      Zagat's not a review site, it's a statistically invalid (due to self-selection) popularity poll. As good a place as any to find the usual suspects.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I agree with you that Zagat is not really all that accurate.

                        Then how do you usually decide which new restaurant to try next?

                        1. re: Dio Seijuro

                          I read my local newspapers--including the freebies, the NYT, and all the food magazines (Saveur, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine) to see what's buzzing locally and nationally. In addition to CH, eGullet is pretty good, though it seems like activity in New England has dropped off. Zagat is kind of like American Idol, a beauty contest but fairly helpful. Gayot has reviews of major cities. A very good blog site is Chez Pim--she gets around. Ultimately, it comes down to going out and trying everything that interests you. The disasters are as interesting as the great meals.

                          1. re: whs

                            I agree that eGullet is almost dead and useless in New England.
                            I don't know another one that is as good after Chowhound. I use eGullet in combination with Chowhound when I go to certain parts of the country. For example there is a lot about Texas BBQ (and more), there on the Texas board.

                          2. re: Dio Seijuro

                            On Chowhound's San Francisco Bay Area board, there are usually reports on new restaurants within a day or two of opening.

                            For preopening news, best sources are and a weekly column in the SF Chronicle.

                          3. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Oh, no claims about statistical validity or the ability to dig up unknown gems on Zagat. I do, though, find it useful as a means of tracking down a place that is unlikely to dissapoint when I visit a new town.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              Zagat once ranked Zachary's Pizza among the top 10 for food in the San Francisco area. It's only as reliable as the taste of the people surveyed.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Yes, one has to be careful and not blindly follow whatever is on the "tops" lists. I actually find those a pretty good item to stay away from on Zagat. I do wish they'd reveal how many votes a place has. And the new "Newly Opened" but no ratings listings are pretty annoying, too. It is, as you say, only as reliable as the people rating the restaurants; but that's pretty much true of anything. I'm not a huge proponent of Zagat; but its one of the only more "universal" systems out there so, as I say, it can be helpful navigating a place that is entirely foreign to me. For instance, since I moved to San Francisco last year, I haven't used Zagat to find a single place to eat because there are so many ratings sites for San Francisco and, more importantly, people I know that I can ask. But, when I went to visit Orlando, it steered us to Ran-Getsu for one of the better sushi meals we've had.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I've had very bad luck using Zagat in NYC. Every restaurant I went to that they held in high regard was a dud. I tried 5 restaurants from their guide before giving up.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                In Chicago Yelp seems to be disproportionately populated by 20-somethings short on experience and knowledge but with very high levels of self-esteem. Metromix (a Chicago Tribune property) and City Search are essentially worthless for reviews here. Metromix is fairly good for addresses and hours for restaurants with press agents in the tourist and yuppie districts.

                                The most extensive Chicago area food coverage, both restaurants and food shopping, is LTHForum:

                                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                  LTH for Chicago is full of all sorts of information that you willnot find on Chowhound. Among other things, they allow posters to include photos on their posts, so you will find all sorts of pictures of unusual or good meals - for example photos of all 24 courses of the Alinea tasing menu.

                                  Also, the moderators allow people to post on a wider range of topics than Chowhound - so the threads often cover a wider range of issues.

                                  As far a reliability goes - Art is in the eye of the beholder. You'll have to form your own opinion there.

                                  1. re: wak

                                    You can post photos on Chowhound, too.


                                    1. re: wak

                                      LTH is excellent, mainly for the high end. I prefer Chowhound, though. Erik, the guy who got the Thai native menus at Spoon and TAC Quick translated, is a treasure. But Nextasy (sp?) on Chowhound is absolutely wonderful. Helpful, accurate and able to find treasures here.

                                2. Citysearch is pretty good. I don't use it much, but most of the posted reviews that I've read have been helpful. Also, their maps are great in that they show you where other, nearby restaurants are.

                                  I don't like Yelp at all. I have not read any helpful posts there.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: slacker

                                    I find CitySearch utterly unreliable. It is not assiduously moderated like Chowhound. I constantly see reviews that are obviously posted by shills, loons, or disgruntled former employees. At least one Boston-area restaurateur uses it to post negative reviews of his nearby competitors.

                                    Lauriston's comment is right on: anonymous reviews are useless. If you don't know something about a poster from a history of reading their stuff, you might be taking advice from someone who loves The Cheesecake Factory. Online opinions can be great sources of intel, but you have to work at them to really make them useful.

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      i must agree with you about citysearch. i had a brief flirt with yelp, but it seems to skew very young here in boston and was not worth my time. i enjoy the passion of many of the posters on here, even when i disagree with them.

                                      being in the business a long time, i guess i'm spoiled since most of my intel comes pretty direct, and i'm very picky where i spend my eating out dollars.

                                      1. re: slacker

                                        I'm actually a fan of Yelp. Once you can get past the mentality the site promotes, there are some good tips. For someone who is into the whole gestalt of Chowhound, Yelp is like a shock of cold water ... but there are serious posters there.

                                        The thing with Yelp is you need pay attention to the posters who talk about the food rather than the ambiance or their own personal world.

                                        I really wish Yelp would knock off encouraging the frat-boy type of post. If they ask me one more time "what's your sign" ... and they will ... I may melt down. Who asks that anymore?

                                        So yes, ... Yelp is the most reliable review site outside of Chowhound. I do get burned a lot though by some of those reviews. It happens a lot more frequently than Chowhound. So I am more cautious with Yelp.

                                        The other thing with yelp is you really can't follow up except off-line.

                                        So someone will post an intelligent review and you can't ask them what they mean other than e-mailing. They do have a forum, but good luck that the person who posted the review will see that. The forums aren't that informative, more chatty.

                                        I'm not that comfortable intruding on someone off-line. Also, it doesn't up the knowledge-base in general. I get my info. No one else does.

                                        In SF, Zagat is only useful for the weekly newsletter with openings and closings. They are actually better than the SF Chronicle for that. Also they are good for upcoming holiday events. The reviews really suck and don't say much.

                                        Egullet just doesn't care about the restaurant reviews for the most part. There is no traffic in SF. I get emails when a new topic is posted ... usually one a week and that covers all of California.

                                        Citysearch, a site I once loved from its days, I use ONLY if there is absolutely no other info on the web.

                                        I wish lthforum expanded beyond Chicago. If they do what they do in areas outside Chicago, I'd rate them above Chowhound.

                                        Boorah, just totally sucks ... sucks, sucks, sucks ... sucks worse than Citysearch.

                                        Everything else isn't that great. They just are not wide-spread enough so only good if there is nothing else on the web about that restaurant.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          LTH does have a very lively "outside Chicagoland" board, which is excellent. All you have to do is ask about any place in the US or abroad and guaranteed someone will have a reasoned, informative rec

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            Yelp's accuracy can vary depending on the city. I found it wasn't half bad for NYC, but when I moved to DFW I found it to be downright unreliable for international cuisine. The reviewers were giving good restaurants bad reviews, and bad restaurants glowing recommendations.

                                            I realized it had to do with the tastes of the reviewers living in the region and their lack of knowledge about certain cuisines, so I had to research a reviewers other posts on yelp to figure out how much they knew about the food they were eating. If a person raved about the authenticity of sushi rolls with cream cheese in it, I could safely conclude that they know nothing about traditional Japanese cuisine or what it should taste like. On the other hand, if a reviewer reveals that they spent time living in Tokyo and found the sushi at restaurant "X" to be excellent, I'd be more inclined to take their review more seriously.

                                            I've learned to filter out a lot of junk reviews on Yelp. The second I see a negative review where someone complains about not having their water filled, using a coupon, or admits that they were hogging tables waiting for 4 friends who decided to arrive 45 minutes late when the restaurant was busy- I just skip it.

                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                            CitySearch isn't genuine reviews. They shake down restaurant owners for money, if they buckle and pay citysearch their requested sum citysearch writes good reviews to endorse the restaurant and removes bad reviews from the general public.

                                        2. Unlike some, I like Zagat. I think it's extremely helpful and very well organized. But I agree that it's not really a review site per se. As for any "review" sites. None. Citysearch and Yelp are touch and go at best. Unless you know what you're looking for already. Then they can be pretty good. But their search functions leave much to be desired in part because they're practically a yellow pages and you sift through the restaurants that pay the most to be featured first before you can find what you're looking for. I think Chowhound is the best for flat-out reviews. However, even Chowhound doesn't allow your search to be filtered by date, which I find bizarre at best, but usually flat out enraging.