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Jul 11, 2009 09:15 AM

Is Chowhound really useful?

For every restaurant someone likes, another person won't, and the opposite. The same places get rehashed in multiple threads...why can't the restaurants just be listed based on geographical location and cuisine, with a rating system, and be done with it?

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  1. chowhound is useful BECAUSE it isn't a simple rating system, but a conversation

    besides what would these ratings be based on, if not the varying opinions of the aforementioned people?

    3 Replies
    1. re: thew

      Yes, but the conversation can be limited, and many times reduces to "This place is awesome!" "This place is terrible". I just think there should be a database of places by location and cuisine with a ratings system and people can provide comments that other people can look at if they want to, and they can compare other comments the person made so they can judge whether the person is reputable or not.

      1. re: observor

        There already is a database on Chow based on location and cuisine. It can be found by clicking the "Restaurants & Bars" tab at the top of the page. You seem to be from the New England / Boston area, so here is the Boston listings

        And by clicking on a posters name, you can see what other restaurants they like or don't.

        There are a many, many sites that do just what you are asking for. I wonder why you would trust the opinion of someone you don't know and throw your bucks at a restaurant someone thinks is "awesome"

        The difference with chowhound is you learn which dishes are good and which to avoid. If you stick around, you find people whose tastes are similar to yours. And if you post about places you like and don't, pretty soon people pick up on your likes and dislikes and you get better recs.

        Yes. Though it has been watered down a bit, I still think Chowhound is one of the most useful sites on the web.

        1. re: observor

          >>Yes, but the conversation can be limited, and many times reduces to "This place is awesome!" "This place is terrible".

          Yeah, that annoys me, too. But often, when pressed, posters are able to articulate reasons for why they like or dislike or recommend a place. And you do come to realize certain culinary affinities with certain other posters, as Kattyeyes noted. Even when there is no agreement at all on a topic or place (i.e. Where is the best bbq/bagel/pizza in NYC?), it's helpful to know that opinions -- passionately held ones -- diverge so much.

          I travel a great deal all around the world and Chowhounds everywhere have been invaluable as one source of good information on local eats (thanks, especially, to the Toronto, Singapore and China board 'hounds... you guys totally rock) . Admittedly, most of these great tips have pertained to major cities where Chowhound coverage is pretty good--but not always. Posters helped me find a wonderful restaurant to send my parents called Holly Hill Inn near Lexington, KY, though I was thousands of miles away at the time. If I find myself in the hinterlands of NYC's outer boroughs (I know, I know... so horribly Manhattan-centric of me), I can count on some wonderful 'hounds to guide me to the best restaurants within a 10 block radius of where I'll be.

          Are there dumb, useless posts? Of course there are -- including some of mine. But there is also an amazing wealth of knowledge, expertise and kindness out there that I don't think could ever be reduced to a mere numerical rating.

      2. Where are you at? CH in the hinterlands is a whole different thing.

        1. That's true--and just like real life! But as in real life, if you read Chowhound with some regularity, you'll get to "know" posters as they review places over time. Some of those reviews will likely resonate with your own viewpoints of establishments. And that's when you might find a reviewer who's a kindred spirit (at least as regards food!)...and can open up doors to places you might not have visited previously. It takes time to figure out who's who and who has similar likes/dislikes as you, but I find it to be very worth the investment. Thanks on my local board to joan mar, Scargod and rbailin who have steered me to some FANTASTIC dining experiences in Connecticut.

          4 Replies
          1. re: kattyeyes


            Talk about hitting the proverbial nail on the proverbial head ...

            1. re: kattyeyes

              I too found a couple of local spots I probably wouldn't of gone to. Nothing fancy and certainly not a dining experience. But great quality traditional Mexican cooking that was really a treat. Very good. Also a local place just north of here for great somewhat traditional but, just a treat with the atmosphere.

              Not everyone likes the same thing in a restaurant and it is difficult to just rate on certain criteria. I like atmosphere, I don't enjoy quiet but enjoy quaint and unique. I don't like modern, but I enjoy good food. You don't have to have a Iron Chef presentation to impress me, just good quality food. However I do appreciate that same type of quality. I rate the overall restaurant experience as a whole not just the food or the service. And remember ... all places have bad nights so go easy.

              I went to a restaurant highly rated when I went to NY. However, I couldn't stand it. It was the worst over priced meal I ever had. I was not impressed with any part of the entire night. Although I didn't say anything, I just politely ate and said thank you and would never go back again, although highly recommended.

              As I mentioned, everyone has their idea of a GREAT restaurant, so I enjoy CH's giving different opinions and experiences. The second NY restaurant was a more quaint, unique, smaller restaurant which had very unique but still very good food which was enjoyable to eat, NOT just for show. Both were suggested to me and I was very impressed with the second one.

              And many times they suggest a certain dish which I did try which was very good. So it just isn't good or bad but much more info to learn about.

              1. re: kchurchill5

                I'm just north of you - what is the good Mexican spot? Thanks.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Little hole in the wall on clark/stickeny point road just east of 41.

                  Nothing fancy by any means, but to me and for several others people who mentioned to me pretty traditional Mexican cooking. I'm not an expert, but I went with a friend who lived in Mexico a few years and also said their food was excellent. Inexpensive, and don't dress up, but just good food and very reasonable.

            2. You may find what you are looking for at Zagat.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ChinoWayne

                Or Yelp. There are other sites that do the ratings thing. I look at those ratings a bit skeptically, and yes, while you have to dig around a bit here to get a broad opinion of a restaurant, I always come away from my research knowing a ton about the place that I wouldn't know from a "3 stars" rating on some of those other sites.

                1. re: Chris VR

                  I thank local people like Kattyeyes, danieljdwyer, capecodguy, joan mar and passadumkeg ( way up in Maine), and there are many others who have steered me to winners, that I can't remember right now).
                  You do have to put in the time to read and learn people's tastes and preferences before it pays off with great frequency. And why bother if someone says "fantastic meal!"?
                  I'll continue to search till I find substance and credibility in a report. Besides Chowhounds are supposed to be into discovery, not just taking other's word for it!

                  In the Chowhound forums devoted to "restaurant/food resource", I do wish responses could be keyed to types of restaurant or supplier type and locations via zip codes. This could be just like adding photos, or linking to a place, but easier. You check food type, add zip code and perhaps recommend/not recommend or use a ratings option. Then these could easily be searched by at least type and location.
                  I would think Chow/Chowhound would do well to provide these options and on-site linkages to maps and so on to keep Chowhounders on the Chow site rather than have them wandering off to other sites and to Google to find what they need.

                  I don't like Yelp so much because it has its competition side, where people vie to be rated as superior to other posters. This might promote cutesy, fast and loose postings that are not very serious or discerning.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    i know ive said it before, but i find yelp and chowhound to work well together

                    if i want to find a type of food or check a specific neighborhood i'll start at yelp. once i've settled on a specific place, chowhound gives a better lowdown on the specifics of the place

                2. re: ChinoWayne

                  Yes... Though I personally find that the ratings -- especially for non-western European / U.S. restaurants -- are pretty different from how I'd rate the places and summaries are slow to reflect changes in quality, even taking into account once-a-year publication.

                3. ...and beyond the recommendations is an intro & educational opportunity to learn (& hopefully) try new cuisines. Not only has CH contributed to my tastebuds, it's done wonders for my less-adventureous-but trying child. CH is useful, fun and a great way to learn about food-love.