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What factors into your CH restaurant reviews

When you eat out at a restaurant and decide to write about that experience - what factors into the appraisal you will write?

Is is strictly about the food, or is dining out an "experience" including not only food, but service, surroundings, ambiance and style (fine v casual), cleanliness, price to value, etc. Will you break down those individual components or generalize all into one generic assessment?

For me, it's certainly heavily weighted on the food - first and foremost - but it's also an overall experience; so I tend to break the other categories down, particularly if there is something notable (good or bad), or for that matter, little known that may be of aid to another reader.

I know that many are more purist to the literal term "Chowhound", writing only about the food. I just wondered how others view a review - when reading or writing.

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  1. I include the whole experience. If the parking valet was exceptionally nasty or the bathroom was freezing or hadn't been cleaned all day, it all adds up to the dining experience.

    1. Food is paramount, then service. I've eaten in some pretty divey places with questionable ambiance, but great food. As my husband likes to say, "You can't eat the walls."

      2 Replies
      1. re: pikawicca

        "As my husband likes to say, "You can't eat the walls."
        i like that! unfortunately, you *can* - and wouldn't want to - eat some of the things i've seen crawling on restaurant walls...


        1. re: pikawicca

          Ditto. And I will add that if a place is just ordinary, I probably won't write at all. But if a place is standout good or bad, I feel compelled to write.

        2. I can hardly remember a time in my life when I have received bad service. Oh, I hear other people's complaints, and for the most part they seem rather shallow.

          Often on the internet I will find negative reviews about a place, and especially the really negative ones are filled with such vitriol about tiny matters.

          So I rarely mention the service.

          1. For the effort to write a good review, it has to be about the food

            - texture
            - color
            - balance
            - seasoning/spices
            - execution

            If the food meets the criteria, then I'll add comments about service and ambiance. I'll go back to a place where the service is sinister and the place is a cement cube but never if the food is simply eh.

            And I'll never say it's good food for the value - it's good food that happens to be inexpensive.

            1. I have to say, I tend to fall back on the Zagat's Food, Decor, Service criteria. I would say (for me) it's weighted 60% food, 30% service and 10% decor. I can deal with a dive (as long as it is not a health risk) ....Great service may not make me like a place better (lousy food, amazing service) but really really bad service will make me DISlike a place more.

              1. When I'm out eating with one or more companions, the restaurant is mainly an environment for conviviality. Whether it's a jolly dive or a classy joint, ambiance is paramount. If the food is wonderful and the service competent , so much the better.

                1. I hate thinking of what we do on ChowHound as "reviews." I prefer to think of what we do here as "snapshots," and discussion starters.

                  Professional reviewers visit an establishment several times on different nights, often anonymously, and then create a summary of their experience as a single review.

                  Th internet is a wonderful tool allowing quick and easy communication like never before. But like any tool, it can be destructive when placed into the hands of someone that has no training, or lacking the common sense to recognize their own inexperience.

                  Many people visit a restaurant once and then provide a summary of their experience here on Chowhound, and that is great. When many people climb aboard and discuss what is good, or not so good, about that establishment, then that discussion thread is valuable to me.

                  But, every great establishment has had a bad night or has not performed at their top game. And every mediocre restaurant has had a stellar night, where everything came together and impressed someone, for one reason or another. So, unless you are reviewing a restaurant after many visits, and you tell me so in your post, I am going to take what you say with a grain of salt. I think of your post as a snapshot, a moment in time, indicative of that night's experience only.

                  Worse, and too often, especially on sites like Urbanspoon or Yelp!, people will get online with the sole purpose of venting about a single bad experience. While others post glowing "reviews" in the most ridiculously amateur language and betray the fact they know nothing about food whatsoever. "Double-plus-good," "GREATEST RESTAURANT EVER!!!" "Iced tea not as good as Denny's"
                  This is not food journalism - not even food reporting - it is a debasement of the food discussion and a waste of bandwidth. I know of a number of local chefs that are against open and random reviews of restaurants on the Internet, because of this reason.

                  At ChowHound, I find the discussions to be quite intelligent, civil, and respectful. There appears to be a higher caliber of people here - a higher appreciation of what comprises quality food, and an understanding of what makes an establishment good. And there is always a healthy respect for the men and women that work at these establishments. That is why I choose to participate and remain here.

                  2 Replies
                    1. Food, taste vs. value, service, in that order mostly are my main criteria. If I go to a dive and get perfect "fish and chips" in a decent portion for $10 or pay $38 at high end restaurant for "lightly battered haddock and crisp potato sections" and I get a piece of fish the size of my middle finger and couple of slivers of a fingerling potato that taste... well like fish and chips.. I would rate number one better. But if those tiny portions in number 2 blew me away taste wise, I would give 2 a better rating, unless the service was bad, then I would say small portions of amazing food serviced with bad attitude.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                        Ironic? After writing this I decided I wanted some "Fish and Chips" and went to Cotton in Manchester (A higher end restaurant than most in the city) I paid a mere $11 for a huge piece of delicious fish cooked perfectly served over a mound of fries that were impossible to finish with some delicious and very interesting house made tarter sauce that was tan in color, not white and a lemon wedge in a cheesecloth package so you don't get seeds in you food, nice touch.... all done with impeccable service. 2 thumbs up!

                      2. When I write about a meal, I write about the whole experience. I describe what I ate, what the service was like, what the decor was like. I try to write in style where the reader (if there is a reader) has a sense of the occasion and can form their own view about whether it was a good experience and whether they might like to eat there. I don't believe I have used the "best ever" or "worst ever" phrase. Such phrases are meaningless to the reader unless they know me and my general standards and opinions on food matters. For example, my definition of good service might not be the readers.

                        1. I rarely write about restaurants (at least in the last 3-4 years), because my likes/dislikes are so intense that I don't see in point in inflicting them on people in general. On the other hand, for example, if I were to encounter a restaurant that had 1) wonderful food and 2) wonderful service but 3) loud noise, I would describe why I thought 1) & 2) were "wonderful" and, in passing, tactfully mention that I would never go near the place again because I hate noise. I think different factors deserve different weight. Absent obvious(?) incompetence in the kitchen or a food hazard, taste is pretty individual, so I would try to explain thoroughly why I did/didn't like something. On the other hand, I view service in more or less absolute terms, would be harsh with any sign of condescension, rudeness, or significant neglect (but even the last is a matter of "taste"). Now that I've written this and thought about it a little more, it amazes me that anyone wants to be a restaurant critic.