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Best Restaurant Reviewers

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a good restaurant review website other than zagat and yelp. My usual process for deciding whether to eat at a restaurant or not, is to check zagat first, then if something is decently rated, to consult the yelpers. Yet I would like a more accredited source than yelp.com as my second-man to zagat--- maybe some kind of website that collects various restaurant critics' reviews and displays them nice and neat for me? Anyone know of something of the sort? Or even just a website that isn't so general as yelp and is more directed to foodies as reviewers...

I'm excited to know what you know. Thanks!

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  1. I like good old-fashioned AAA when I'm travelling and searching for reliably reviewed restaurants. I still wouldn't give it a 100%, but it's certainly a good jumping-off point. I find, Chowhound aside as we're fanatics, user-rating sites rather less than useful.


    1. You found it. I read the local boards of Chowhound before a trip. On a trip to Philadelphia this year they pointed out a restaurant that was so wonderful that I could have eaten there five nights in a row.

      I bought cheese where they suggested and found wonderful pretzels to bring to the friends I was meeting up with outside the city.

      1. Local newspapers' websites often have good, informative reviews that put particular restaurants in the context of their localities.

        1. Yeah, you're on it now, just read Chowhound. I'm biased I guess, but Yelp is kind of useless when it comes to restaurant reviews. I think the whole problem is that, as you said, it's not a food-specific board, so the people posting reviews often either don't know much about food, or don't care about it as much as, say, the drinks. My first step if I'm traveling is to do a search here for the area I'm going to be in, then if I still have questions, start a thread.

          Once you get it narrowed down to a handful of places you might want to go, just go to the restaurants' individual websites. If there is positive press about them, they'll link to it on their site. Also try the local print media's websites. Most of the nationwide review sites are just marketing vehicles.

          1. at least here in NY Yelp is very useful overall. i use it and chow the most, followed by zagat (mostly for sentimental reasons) and menupages to check the menus

            1. I find Zagat to be not all that reliable, mainly because it is based more on 'old' reviews rather than current reviews. A place can change chefs and go way downhill and keep it's high rating for a long time. I find this site to be more current.

              1. Zagat might have been useful 5 years ago, but since the blogsphere took over the concept of restaurant reviewing, ranting and raving, and everything in between, Zagat is worthless.
                The local newspaper, as others have said, can be useful, yet not always, and of course you must know the nuances of the reviewer.
                Any AAA review or similar is so old that things might have changed since the review was made, much less than when the review hit the publication.
                chowhound is light years ahead of yelp, as the latter is more scream for the sake of screaming, just to be heard.
                Read the depth of reviews on chowhound, not just any given post. Generally, there will be many posts regarding any restaurant that you might find to be of interest.

                1. I definitely rely on Chowhound for informed reviews. I do use the mobile Zagat app on my phone because it's a great directory of restaurants, addresses and phone numbers for when I travel.

                  1. Urbanspoon.com has professional reviews, blog reviews and public reviews all linked from each restaurant.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dagoose

                      I took a look at Urbanspoon and used my neighbourhood as a reference point for accuracy. I found it to be wildly inaccurate. It includes restaraurants that are closed, not in my neighbourhood, flagrant health code violators, and the top 10 has only 2 good places on it. I give it a 1 out of 10.

                      I stand my rec for AAA's 5 and 4 Diamond system. Again, using my own neighbourhood I find it to be about 75% accurate.

                      We all know Chowhound is the best. However, you need to know the writers and their tastes just as you would with local critics before you can really make the info useful. I'm lucky to have found so many in my community that I can relate to.

                      1. re: Googs

                        >>However, you need to know the writers and their tastes just as you would with local critics before you can really make the info useful

                        Amen. A combination of the good posters here, Zagats, Yelp and just googling the restaurant to get random reviews gives one a good idea about a place.

                        Of course, in the end personal opinion can prove all of the aforementioned dead wrong!

                        Oh, and if you see 'fantastic' coupled with exclamation points -- stay away.

                        1. re: Googs

                          The Urbanspoon Chicago listings are a sick joke: Mike Ditka's as the no.1 restaurant in Chicago with Harry Caray's as number two. Alinea is number 15.

                          Looking at the listings for my neighborhood, Lincoln Square, I see a large number of closed places as well as some in nearby neighborhoods. They don't even replace when a closed restaurant has a newer one listed at the same address. Some of these places have been gone for years. Nothing seems to have much information behind it while a number of classifications are wrong.

                          Use Chowhound for Chicago coverage in the tourist and yuppie district, but go to LTHForum.com for other neighborhoods and ethnic restaurants where the bulk of the clientele is from the same ethnic group.

                      2. I would rather go to the local Chowhound boards for restaurant reviews. I feel most professional reviewers will get different treatment than us regular folks (even if they think they are incognito). Besides I see reviews for places in magazines and newspapers up to a year after the 'hounds have discovered it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MrsT

                          Besides Chowhound, I like Frommer's books for their restaurant section, especially the NYC guide.

                          1. re: salvati

                            Ditto on the Chowhound Boards for recs. They've been extremely reliable for me in the past several years. The one exception, and this just might be the posts in the past few months were substandard, but the Parisian board seemed to be mostly made up of reviews of realllly expensive places and complaints by people failing to get reservations, etc. Very little useful info. My son and dil were going to Paris and I ended up using David Lebovitz's website for dining suggestions much more than Chowhound.

                        2. www.roadfood.com

                          It looks like it was designed on a Commodore 64 but it covers a lot of places that I've never seen on Chowhound.Read a bit about Jane and Michael Stern,the founders,they're an interesting couple who've made a nice living traveling around and musing about the food they've eaten.

                          1. I'll add my nod for Chowhound. There does not exist a more reliable source. Zagat is flawed. There are many, many folks who fill out the Zagat surveys, regardless of whether they've ever eaten at the restaurants, just to get the free guide. And Zagat is more interested in "cute and witty" descriptions than in unbiased reporting. AAA's featured restaurants are based on paid advertising and exclude many of the small independent restaurants that are the favorites of locals.

                            You just can't do better than right here at CH. The format may not be what you're looking for, but the content is far superior to anything else you might find.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: CindyJ

                              >>There does not exist a more reliable source.

                              Most of the time, true. But remember that there are words that have been purged, and so you may not get all the views on all the restaurants by all the people. I don't know the policy at Yelp, so they may be subject to the same bias.

                              In the end, you still have to try the place for yourself. Zagat sometimes appears to be a popularity contest, and sites like this are not always reliable. My guess is that AAA is the least unbiased of all the review sources.

                              But putting your seat in the chair and coming up with your own opinion is the way to go.

                              1. re: dolores

                                Personally, the only time I've had a post moderated out of existence was one that had nothing to do with a restaurant review, and it was reinstated once I explained myself. And I've heaped some bad reviews on some bad places. Of course it's true that the only way to find out for yourself is to go and eat the food, but in my experience usually the consensus about a place is accurate. If 9 out of 10 posters report that a place is not good, it probably isn't. On the few occasions when I've gone and tried a place that has been panned on CH, I've usually regretted it.

                                1. re: dolores

                                  It's not my impression that CH postings have words that are edited, or purged out by the moderators; rather, they are edited for appropriateness on the board on which they appear. Also, distasteful (no pun intended) postings might be removed. But for the most part, postings appear as they have been written.

                                  As for AAA ratings, it would be interesting to learn just how those ratings are derived -- who visits and rates the restaurants, how many times, what their criteria are, and how much of a difference is made by the extent to which a restaurant pays for advertising in the AAA guidebooks. Consider that the bold or red highlighted hotel listings in the guidebooks are clear indicators of paid advertising, and nothing more.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    >>But for the most part, postings appear as they have been written.

                                    Think so?

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      While we do move and remove posts, we never edit the text of post without a poster's permission (and that is something we rarely ask to do). We do occasionally add information to a title, such as the name of a city in square brackets, or correct the spelling of something in the title to assist with the search function.

                                  2. re: CindyJ

                                    What is chowhound but zagat played out in real time?

                                    1. re: condiment

                                      I really don't think there's any comparison between the two. CH provides an "up close and personal" perspective, whereas Zagat combines the opinions of the masses. The one indicator I used to rely on in the Zagat guides was eliminated a couple of years back. That was the icon that indicated whether there was consistency in the ratings. Some of the descriptions in Zagat appear year after year, and the ratings are subjective at best. Personally, I use Zagat for identifying restaurants in a particular neighborhood, or by cuisine, or by some other criteria (BYO), but NOT for their ratings.

                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        i used to use zagat for that as well, but yelp has better algorithms for filtering reviews

                                  3. I like Chowhound for most places. However, I find the Caribbean Board not as well frequented, and a lot of it is from Frommer's (as I think the majority of posters there are tourists and not locals). I think there are a lot of gems out there that are undiscovered. So I would have to say that if you're planning a trip in that region, consult Chowhound, but you also need to supplement it with something like tripadvisor.