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Would you ever not visit a restaurant based solely on negative reviews on chowhound?

I see this often on my home board where someone (or multiple people) will post reviews about a place and even if that place has received glowing reviews from other posters, inevitably, people who have never been will chime in to say that they will never try the place based on the negative reviews. I guess I could see it if a place exclusively gets terrible reviews, but I'm talking about places that also have great reviews.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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  1. If I get a positive or negative from trusted chow sources that have been spot on in the past, yes.

    Interesting enough, I spoke to a well known and BUSY chef last evening and he said he follows all the local food blogs. This is nothing short of genius. Instant feed back where you can make corrections over night based on free market research.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DallasDude

      I'm inclined to agree with DallasDude. Just like movie reviews, I don't always agree with chow reviews; BUT, a trusted reviewer would probably tip the scales for me unless I was more curious than interested in a positive dining experience.

      1. re: DallasDude

        In PHX, we have such a restauranteur. He follows CH, and other food sources, and reads all reports. He has made some changes, based on CH reviews, and they have been for the better, IMHO. CH is a great venue for feedback, and it's nice to see that some "in the business" read it, plus other sites.

        OTOH, I tend to run contrary to many on the boards that I frequent. Just different expectations and tastes.

        That can be confusing to both a chef, and to a poster, asking for recs. When possible, I try to link to my reviews, in hopes that they can see the details of my reviews, and either judge, or decide on my perspective.


      2. Depends.

        There are certain posters that I trust, and if they post a negative (and well substantiated) review, I won't visit.

        Then there's just the buzz from the peanut gallery, which I'll listen to, but not necessarily pay much heed to.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Good point. I feel like the usefulness of chowhound largely depends on how long one has been reading the boards and thus been able to figure out which posters have similar tastes. For example, if you like a place, I know I'm very likely to also enjoy it.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Exactly. There are professional reviewers whose judgement I don't put much store in, and a lot of posters here who seem to have taste buds from a planet unrelated to my own. Tweech his own. Seeing how much I agree with a poster over time allows me to know if I should give any weight to reviews from that person, seeing what components of a meal and flavors matter to them lets me know if we're after the same sort of experiences.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              "if they post a negative (and well substantiated) review, "

              That is what I try to base my choices on, and try to offer to others. If I do my job well, they can see where I "am coming from," and then make their own decisions. I try to cover my preferences, and my biases, and give them something to contemplate.


            2. I'm swayed by democratic action. If a place received overwhelmingly negative reviews, I wouldn't chance going there. If, OTOH, it received overwhelmingly glowing reviews, I would be more inclined to give it a shot.

              1. I've only been around Chowhound for a year.

                My experience so far is with NYC and CT restaurants. Those that tend to be highly recommended by CHers that we've tried have all been excellent.

                However, 'hounds have skewered several of our favorite dining destinations. I've stuck up for them for the most part. Of course, if I have a closer-than-arm's-length relationship with a restaurant I can't talk about it. That's what gets really frustrating.

                If, let's say, a trusted friend told me to go to a place, I'd go even if I discover Chowhounds have panned the joint.

                1. It depends on the reviewer. After a while, I've pretty much figured out who has the same tastes as I do. I read their reviews more closely than from others. If those reviewers generally like a place, I usually like it as well. As for the others, it's a hit or miss.

                  1. A single restaurant can vary in quality from dish to dish or in the same dish from time to time. Even the most accurate, careful and trustworthy poster is not immune to bad luck (i.e. they ate at a place on a bad day or happened to order the least delicious item of the menu) or good luck.

                    Looking over the many posts on the board can give one a decent estimate of how variable the restaurant is, and how variable opinions are on the same specific dishes, which is why going in depth is really useful on the boards.

                    But of course nothing beats trying a place yourself to decide if you like it or not. Chowhound is site that encourages people to make up their own minds based on their own direct experiences.

                    1. Chowhound is just one resource I use. I also take account of other food boards I contibute to, or local review sites, restaurant guide books, professional reviews.

                      I bring the relevent information together in my planning - and this also includes who is making the comment. It might be a professional newspaper reviewer who I generally agree with. It may be a user on a discussion board whose views I have come to know and , generally, agree with.
                      I would rarely base a decision, one way or the other, solely on the reports from as single source.

                      1. Maybe, but only if all the negative reviews were based on something acknowledged by the positive reviews as well. For example, noise level. If there were a bunch of negative reviews saying the place was too noisy to hear dining companions, while all the positive reviews said it was loud but it didn't bother them because they aren't sensitive to noise and the food was so good...since I am sensitive to noise level, that might be a situation where I'd skip the place based on the negative reviews. Similarly - no rezzies policy plus long wait. There are two places in Seattle that some people post negative reviews of having to wait for hours and never getting a seat, while others post reviews about how the food is so great they didn't mind having to eat right at 4pm or waiting for three hours in the rain. No thanks.

                        1. Depends on the reviewers, and the "majority". If a place is universally panned on the board, then that's pretty much a clue the food must be bad and to stay away. But I tend to ignore any rants about chain restaurants because that seems to be the habit on this website. I'm not ashamed to admit to eat at certain chain restaurants if it's convenient where I happen to be and the price is right. But I won't come here looking for opinions on them nor would I post any since that's just asking to be jumped on by the snobs.

                          What I really look closely for on Chow are complaints about service. People may not agree on what tastes good or bad, but we generally agree on what is acceptable service and what is not at a given price level. Toronto board raves about Duff's chicken wings. I went once and I hated it and will never return. Service was fine but the wings were awful.

                          Those who read the Toronto board will know of Terroni, a source of many flame wars there. People rave about the food but the service is well known to be rude, and it's an attitude ENCOURAGED BY THE OWNER. What's sad is, the moment anybody complains about the service, suddenly that poster is shouted down by all the fanboys who'll spew the mantra of "best pizza in the world" and "they're rude in order to stay authentic". Because of these fanboys, on principle I will never set foot in a Terroni, ever. I can find good pizza elsewhere for the same price or less and without the attitude. And I suspect this post will get bombed by the Terroni gang... give them 1/2 an hour....

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: TexSquared

                            I guess your last paragraph is what I was talking about. There are a couple of places like this on the LA board where people love to slam the service. I've never experienced poor service at the place I'm thinking of, but apparently some people have. Because of that, I see people posting that they will never set foot in the place, even though the food is delicious.

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              If you're talking about Terroni in Los Angeles (it's owned by the same guy as the ones in Toronto), then I was right, 1/2 an hour or less and I'd get an answer :-)

                              1. re: TexSquared

                                I don't think she is.

                                Molly, I know exactly what you mean. And I generally agree with everyone who has chimed in on this topic.

                                Like you stated, a lot depends on the reviewers and how long you've been reading the boards, etc. Once you have that figured out, it's usually easy to follow those that are likeminded.

                                I also practice Harters methods in that I try not to get all my info from just one source. Unfortunately, it seems lately that internet boards are not the most reliable of sources.

                                But where I differ from many, but not TexSquared, is that service is a BIG deal for me and my DH. Being former waiters and bartenders, and I also happen to cook a lot, we put a lot of stock into the posts that talk about horrendous service. And I truly believe that even if your food is awesome, if your service turns people off, it will eventually affect your business, usually for the worse. And tho many have prayed at your altar, and praise the food, there will be some who don't want anything to do with your place because you show no hospitality, and they can find what they want elsewhere because no restaurant owner / chef is an island.

                                The reverse is also true - your food can suck, but if you treat people the way they should be treated in a service industry, you can still be incredibly rich, famous or take over the world. Case in point - McDonald's. I have never been to one that is not clean, and that doesn't provide service with a smile.

                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                  First of all, my apologies to Molly and anybody else; I put the smiley in that post since I was "just kidding" but unfortunately it might have come off that I was ratting her out as a Terroni supporter. Not the intention at all.

                                  Phurst -- I love your last paragraph. CH'ers love to pan the "bad food" at chains and then add to their rants "how do they stay in business?". You answered it right there. I used to do some mystery shopping for some of the chain restaurants (full-service, not fast food), and it amazed me at how RARELY I had to give a failing mark to any of the places I visited. These hard-working people nailed all the timings, the food and drink come as ordered, they greet me and respect me as required, etc. And they not only nailed the standards but BEAT them, consistently. For all the ranting about bad food and bad service at chains I read on this website, I sure as hell didn't see it. If they were as bad as some of the posters here ranted, I'd be failing places left right and center.

                                  And then I'll go to some independent place and they'd have failed all the timings required by the chain, offer surly service yet charge more money for food that is maybe slightly better than the chain. If any chain location offered up "Terroni" style service, mystery shopper evaluations and mailed-in comment cards would make their way to head office and heads would roll. The few locations which I had to fail, invariably passed with flying colors when I returned a month later. At chains, complaints don't fall on deaf ears. They do at places like Terroni.

                                  But back to your service comment - eating at a restaurant is a treat. I could buy the ingredients, find a recipe online or in a cookbook, and make it for myself for a lot cheaper. I pay a premium, and a sizable one at that, to have someone else make it for me, and serve it to me. If they want to do a crappy job at it, ignore my requests for substitutions, and be rude to me, then why should I pay them that premium? I'll take my business elsewhere or stay home and make it myself.

                                  I wish what you said about bad service affecting business were true for Terroni. It hasn't. You should read this article in the paper (I know it was discussed in Food Media awhile back); on principle,to go along with my opinion on the fanboys over on the Toronto board, I sure as hell ain't going to help the rude owner buy his next Porsche SUV and pay for his kids' private school tuition. My money goes elsewhere.


                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                    Totally agree with your assessment of chain restaurants. It's so true that the servers and bartenders are TRAINED in hospitality, usually by management, who obviously have a stake in the success of the company.

                                    Most places that are run by sole proprietors are lacking in this basic training, usually due to the time & money constraints of their business b/c they're just starting up. The owner/manager doesn't have a lot of time or money to pay servers extra to attend seminars or just come in a half hour earlier so they can be taught basic customer service. And unfortunately, a lot of owners have surly attitudes, (why on earth they pick a service oriented business is beyond me, but a lot of them are not usually American, and there fore have different customs, where politeness is not an attribute) and that comes through the service. (and yes, I'm sure I'll get some hate mail on this comment, but I can't help it if it's accurate, and not P.C. Too Bad.)

                                    Anyway, I too refuse to spend my hard earned money on a place that refuses to serve with a smile and use basic courtesy as a foundation of their business. These places have enough lemmings to keep them open, so the masses can have them. I take my business to places that I feel deserve it.

                                    1. re: Phurstluv

                                      Thanks for backing me up, I wish you were on the Toronto board during the Terroni wars! But I would think basic service would not require expensive training. It could be done with simple on-the-job training... you learn soon enough what you're doing right or wrong. If a customer complains then, duh, maybe that wasn't right. If customers are coming up to the owner with the same complaint every night, then maybe something needs fixed - either discipline the server/hostess, see what shortcuts the line cooks are taking, etc.

                                      I don't care about "PC" either, but most would agree that Terroni is not typical of Italian restaurants. Italians are known for their hospitality; you are treated like family in their restaurants. Clearly, Terroni treats customers like a necessary evil so that they can buy another Porsche and take another vacation back to Italy.

                                      But staying away from the ethnic angle (although I'll throw in my complaint about the "hidden menu" that only certain customers get... I don't need to say more, you know what I mean), what really gets me is when I get the short end of the stick because my server also has to serve a big table of "big tippers" or "regulars". Truffles at the Four Seasons Toronto, ruined our ANNIVERSARY dinner this way and I ripped them huge on CH for it.

                                      We had a table for two. Everything was going fine... until the big round table across the aisle from us filled up with 10 guys in suits. And our server had to deal with them too. Needless to say our service went from standard to zero in a big hurry. Water, wine glasses and bread basket sat empty for an eternity. Empty appetizer plates didn't get cleared until AFTER the main courses appeared. Main courses finished, empty plates sat for maybe 15 minutes before being cleared away, and then it was another 10 minute wait before we were offered the coffee and dessert menu. Server had his back to us the whole night, serving those suits, keeping their glasses and bread baskets full, maybe just once coming over to check on us. In the back of my mind I was filling out a mystery shop evaluation -- failed all timings, failed to clear dishes, failed to fill glasses... . The food was fine, it was what I expected, but for what they charge, I expect service. My wife and I didn't spend $250 on dinner to be ignored. I don't care if the suits paid $200 each. This isn't like an airline where you can buy a first class seat to get better service. We're all paying the same menu prices, we should all get the same service.

                                      As I said on the Toronto board, the next time you wonder why people go to chains... after that experience I started to research a lot more before investing time and money on expensive and/or independent places. Back then I picked high end places based on professional reviews, and of course a place like Truffles would score very high. Nowadays I look through CH for service reviews, while I give more weight to the pros for food quality comparisons.

                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                        You're right, it is not expensive training that's needed, just time. And since I was a waiter long ago at a chain after college, we had meetings before the lunch and dinner rush, to go over food issues, personnel issues, and service issues. Seems like a lot of these small indy places don't want to take the time that is necessary to ensure that the customer is treated well, so they will tell friends and come back.

                                        Good for you for dissing the 4 Seasons restaurant. Being a 4 seasons property you'd think they'd have their shit together, but alas, it's not always the case, even in 4 & 5 star places. I think one reason establishments don't fix service problems is that many customers just sit and stew, and possibly, just write scathing reviews online. It's easier than confronting the problem at the time. But then, the problem isn't always recognized and therefore gets swept away in the bustle of the restaurant biz. That's not going to help the management correct the problems.

                                        My husband & I had a similar experience when out with a couple of couples at a very nice place. It's been over 5 years, so the details are still sketchy to me, as I was having fun with my friends. But the waitress was rude to my husband about a request. He took it up with the FOH, and we had been frequenting this restaurant before, but not that they knew us. She basically told my husband, politely but firmly, that he was wrong, and she was standing by her waitress. Needless to say, after dropping oh, probably more than $500 on the dinner, we never went back, and I wrote scathing reviews of them online.

                                        Doubt if it really affected their business, they're still popular, but word is they're been going downhill for a while. But I just can't comprehend how any person in that business can treat a paying customer with disrespect. The old axiom of a customer is always right has gone out the window.

                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                          My wish is for Terroni to finally fail and then they have to call in Gordon Ramsay to do a Kitchen Nightmares episode there... would love to see Ramsay give that jerk owner a big ass-whupping.

                                          As for Truffles at the Four Seasons, the hotel closed the restaurant last year, because the hotel is moving locations this year and they'll open a brand new restaurant at the new site (not a "Truffles II"). Business had been slowing for awhile thanks to the downturn (and maybe service issues like mine, although that was awhile ago) so they felt the timing was right to pull the plug on it.

                                          The place you mentioned, sounds just like Terroni. You don't ask for substitutions, you don't make requests. Their way or the highway. Customer is always wrong, owner is always right. Glad you ripped them a new one online.

                                          Maybe what I should do is go to Terroni with a hidden camera, ask for parmesan on my pizza, more water, etc (those are the two requests that get declined automatically by staff there), and post the incident on YouTube.... but I don't want to spend one dime on them, even on the gas to drive there.

                                          But if I was ever treated to dinner there, I fully intend to smuggle in a ZipLoc bag of parmigiano cheese and a small bottle of balsamic vinegar and "season" the food myself just to make a point.... I dare them to take my food away unfinished and try to charge us for it!

                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                            You sound pretty angry. Why not just avoid the places that irk you, and be happier?

                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                              Hahaha - that would be great and I'd love to see that on You Tube.

                                              What's up with no water?? Toronto has a drought issue??

                                              @Dallasdude - if you read the whole thread you'll see that he doesn't go there anymore........

                                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                                More like I've never been there (to Terroni). Avoided it because of all the negative publicity it gets. And when I say this on the Toronto board, there's always some fanboi who tries to call me out on that. Uh, why would I willingly go where I know the service sucks and you pay too much for what you get (another complaint is you get a loss less food for higher prices than their competition)....

                                                As for the "no water" -- what some reviewers (on Chow and elsewhere) have said is they'll refuse to refill your water glass, or take their sweet time at it, to try to make you pay for ripoff bottles of Pellegrino. Imagine that - thirst your customers into submission. Amazing....

                                                That attitude would be an automatic fail on a mystery shop evaluation -- refusing to refill water when asked. We definitely don't have drought issues, hell, we're on the north shore of Lake Ontario!!

                                                Even funnier -- this is a pizza place that 1-refuses to cut the pizza for you (I can just imagine the owner saying "you lazy bum, cut it yourself!") 2-puts whole olives in the pizza (so, you have to spit the seeds out onto your plate, yuck).

                                                I will admit, it's nice to be able to rip that place apart without being gang-attacked by the fanbois.... IMHO, the owner better be paying his servers a lot better than minimum wage because I bet they get much lower tips than servers at the chains!

                                                1. re: TexSquared

                                                  That's what I thought, can't they just melt some snow? Hahahaha....

                                                  Hey, how do you get in on this mystery evaluation thingie? I'd be an AWESOME evaluator out here in LA! I would love to have that secret power..... like a foodie superhero!!

                                                  And, OMG you're right, we do have a Terroni here, now that I've read the rest of your post and they refuse to cut the pizza too. I now feel like I should go just to bust their balls - ask for copious amounts of free water, bring my own seasonings, and then tear their ass up in a review!! Ah, sweet victory!

                                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                                    To be an evaluator, just do a web search for "mystery shopping" or "secret shopper", you'll find a whole bunch of companies and what the process is. Usually the home page of the company will have a "Become a Shopper" link which will lead you to information and the application form. And it's not just restaurants. I remember seeing a news story on TV about the "high end" mystery shoppers who get to spy on luxury hotels, cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts, Las Vegas casinos, etc. No, I don't get those jobs :-(

                                                    I knew Terroni opened an L.A. location and from the reviews I've seen online they're up to their old tricks there too. I wonder why they chose L.A. for their U.S. expansion....

                                                    1. re: TexSquared

                                                      It seems like you really really dislike Terroni. As I've said, I've never been, so it really is that terrible, but how can you dislike a place so much when you've never been there? I guess maybe you'll say that you don't have to go to hell or New Jersey (I kid, I kid) to know you don't want to pay a visit, but Terroni clearly has many fans. It can't possibly be that terrible, can it?

                                                  2. re: TexSquared

                                                    What I find bizarre about your choice not to go there is that although you admit that many people complain about the service, it sounds as if there are also many very ardent defenders (btw, I've never been to Terroni in either Toronto or LA so I can't speak to this particular restaurant). I can totally see not going to a place if it's roundly panned, but the one particular place I'm thinking of in LA (a bar called Father's Office) has many many fans. And I consider myself somewhat of a stickler for good service, or at the very least, someone who very much appreciates good service and dislikes bad, and I've never once had poor service during my numerous visits there. I think my original post all comes down to are the people who refuse to set in a place that gets both good and bad reviews based on the reviews alone. Even more strange to me, the impulse by those same people who have never been to a place to chime in on threads about the place to state emphatically how they will never go.

                                            2. re: TexSquared

                                              The thing I like about the chains is that the service tends to be consistent. Something turns me off about small, independent joints.

                                            3. re: Phurstluv

                                              Not sure that I can agree here, but must admit my lack of experience with the chain restaurants. I seldom dine at any. OTOH, I do dine at sole-proprietorships and chef-driven restaurants, and the training is easy to see. The chef does classes in the food, the sommelier does training on the wines, and the pairings. And on it goes. The owner trains the FOH and the chef the BOH. All spots are covered and it shows.

                                              There might well be mom-n-pops, where the servers are not trained, but most of the places, where we dine, have a great program.


                                  2. I use chowhound and rely on reviewers for information on places to visit when I travel. I also search on yelp. If a place is getting totally slammed on chow then I will probably pass on it. I have had great experiences however with recommendations and ideas on places to visit. If a place has a few bad reviews it doesn't necessarily keep me from going there.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: duck833

                                      Not in a million years.
                                      I look here for subjectivity which is welcome.
                                      Objectivity? Nope.
                                      I prefer to make my own subjective decisions.

                                      1. re: mr jig

                                        Objectivity when it comes to food? Does such a thing even exist?

                                    2. If the general consensus is that a place is all-around terrible I will avoid it. If the reviews are mixed I'll steer my ordering towards things that I hear are good. If you had a bad experience (crappy waiter, billing issue) but the food was good I'll still consider going.


                                      1. I always try new places in my area, and if I like them keep going back. I generally don't post about negative experiences (likely due to being told in my younger days if you don't have anything nice to say ...) If I read a lot of negative posts on chowhound about a new place I don't try it as quickly as a place that got a lot of positive posts. Sometimes new places close before I get to try them.

                                        When I'm traveling I research restaurants I want to go to online, and usually have it down to a handful, in that case if one of the options has a lot of negative posts compared to others I'd likely pass. Although, I have to say, next time I'm in Toronto I'll be sure to try Terroni's, I'd never heard of it before but it sounds really interesting. I never request substitutions in restaurants so it's not an issue for me.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: hsk

                                          Just have your camcorder running when you ask the server to refill your water or cut your pizza for you... love to see the footage :-)

                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                            Okay, my DH and I are going to go to Terroni's in the near future, ask for copious amounts of tap water and lots of service and see what we get. He's totally up for the experience. Will post later about what happens.

                                            But no matter what, Molly, I will NOT go to FO again - too many good burger joints in this city....his is NOT the best and the surly service just compounds it..........

                                            1. re: Phurstluv

                                              and of course ask for parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on whatever you ordered :-)

                                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                                As long as you've been and at least tried that incredible burger! ;) I for one, have not had a better burger in this town, or anywhere else, for that matter.

                                          2. Depends on what you mean by "ever not visit". If you mean that I'd 100% rule it out, then no. But it happens all the time that a trend of negative reviews (here, yelp, etc) will lead me to probably choose a different place. I almost always have the "all things being equal" type of thing going on, so that's usually enough to tip the scales for me.

                                            1. I don't base my restaurant visits on any persons reviews, chowhound or otherwise. I am an adult and can make up my own mind. As others have said, there are so many different things to factor in and they can change from one visit to the next. You may get a truly rotten server one time, but a real jewel the next. The wait can vary greatly, also, especially depending on when you choose to visit. Another problem with reviews is the date of said review. There is one brunch spot we really like, but the place got trashed for insolent servers, poor quality food, and long waits. Most of the reviews are at least a year or more old, and yes there were real problems, but we stuck it out (loved their quiche) and so many improvements have been made that you wouldn't think it was the same place (quiche is even better!). Yet people won't try it again because of the previous reviews. Their loss and our gain! We have had experiences, from highly recommended restaurants, that left us baffled because we thought it was a cruel joke played on us. Going back a second time it was well worth it we were very pleased. Off night? Chef out of town? New servers or kitchen help? Who knows! But it was worth trying it again.

                                              I do draw the line at noise levels, as akq pointed out. I just can't tolerate loud places, and even if it is supposed to be great, if it is loud enough that you can't converse, then I will not enjoy it no matter how good the food is. The workaround for that is to go early enough before the noise level climbs, if possible.

                                              Simply put, I do enjoy reading my fellow CH's reviews of local places, and take them into consideration, but ultimately it isn't a deal breaker if so & so hates the place, even if I have agreed with them on other places. Bottom line is I like what I like, and you like what you like, and we don't have to follow the herd just to eat a good meal.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: danhole

                                                I think that goes without saying. A year-old review is useless, whether it's on Chowhound or an old magazine in a doctor's office. As you said, maybe a place that had issues before, corrected them However, if a place was bad a year ago still gets the same kinds of reviews today.... I know you want to keep your quiche place your "secret" but if they have improved they should start getting positive reviews and ultimately, more business. And maybe you should do them a favor and post that they've improved. Like I said about the chain restaurants I used to mystery-shop; if they failed this time, they'll pass with flying colors next time because the issues would have been fixed. But then you have our old friend Terroni, where bad service and insulting their customers seems to be something they're PROUD of.... they'll never change so I'll never go there.

                                              2. If there is a bad review.......I don't go. Period.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: arm53

                                                  So a place gets 100s of rave reviews, and you see one bad review and you don't go? No matter what?

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    That is a good point. Not THAT long ago, I was looking for reviews on some high-end places on the California Coast (US), and was doing my homework on several places and on several sites. I kept getting at leas one horrible review on each one. Just scathing reviews, but they were from the same person. With a bit of Google work, I tracked them down. They had done about 100 horrible reviews of many restaurants along the Coast from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. If the restaurant was over about US$25 per diner, it got a miserable review. The only even moderately acceptable reviews were places that were in the US$10/person range, and even those were not that good. For whatever reason, this poster felt the need to pan any restaurant, about a McDonald's, and had it out for anything even remotely high-end, along the Coast. My guess was that they just had a hate-on for higher-end dining and were on a mission. Considering the places that were barely acceptable, I cannot imagine that they would really have dined at most of the places, that were reviewed.

                                                    I mean that if Coco's is barely passable, and Manresa is horrible, what are the chances that this person ever dined at Manresa?

                                                    I have seen similar, where a poster raves about an upper-level chain, but then posts a horrible review of an upper-end restaurant, and comments on the cost to value ratio. How accurate and helpful is that? In my case, probably not so much, as I feel that they have no clue as to what fine-dining can be about.


                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      I said the same sort of thing below:


                                                      One bad review, especially one that falls in one of the categories listed in my post, won't sway me from checking a place out. Actually I'd dismiss reviews that fall under #2 or #3 due to the obvious bias.

                                                2. I won't skip a restaurant just because someone else disliked it unless it is a place with consistent cases of food poisoning/unsanitary food practices. If I do hear about a negative review from fellow chowhounders because of the service or food (non-food poisoning), it will move the restaurant further down my list of places to try. The more negative reviews the place gets, the further down my list it goes, so sometimes it may be many, many long months or years before I get around to visiting the place. I keep saying "one of these days" rather than "never". My hope is that by the time I go,they will have fixed whatever problems were causing the bad reviews in the first place.

                                                  Conversely, the more positive reviews I hear about a place, the higher up my list it goes!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                    I was just about to post a similar comment about the effect that positive CH buzz has on my dining plans. One of the things I like best about Chowhound is discovering spots that I otherwise would have overlooked. I am far more likely to add a restaurant to my list because I've read good things about it here than to strike one forever because of negative feedback on CH.

                                                  2. Actually, I visited a restaurant in LA based solely on some glowing reviews.
                                                    I dined, wasn't particularly thrilled with the food or the service, and ended up getting sick on the food before finding out the health department was investigating the place.
                                                    So, in answer to your question, I don't really visit ANY restaurant based on the reviews of any particular restaurant.
                                                    I think there are places that receive glowing reviews, consistently, and these are the places I'll end up going to. Restaurants in LA come and go as quick lightning. However there are those excellent standbys that never fail me.
                                                    Langer's is a good example. Primo's is another....I have a good, solid list and lots of those I found on Chow.

                                                    1. I wouldn't go or not go to a place based on any ONE review; but a lot of in-depth reviews could definitely sway my decision

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: kerosundae

                                                        When a place that almost unanimously gets good reviews gets one bad review, it's usually one of several easy to spot reasons:

                                                        1- Restaurant had an off-night, which does happen unfortunately and people justifiably feel ripped off since they pay the same prices as if the place was on their game.

                                                        2- Reviewer/CH poster does not appreciate the kind of cuisine served, i.e. a steakhouse/bar and grill/burgers fan trying a high-end molecular gastronomy or super-traditional sushi restaurant. He/she might hate it. Some people don't "get" certain cuisines, and that's normal, nothing wrong with them but they shouldn't be posting negative reviews in that situation.

                                                        3- A subset of #2 -- someone accustomed to chain restaurants (big servings at low prices) feels ripped off when he/she goes to a higher priced independent, pays twice what the chain would charge but leaves still feeling hungry.

                                                        Not to say these reviewers'/posters' concerns are not legitimate but one such negative review would not sway me from trying a place had I intended to all along.

                                                        There was one guy on the Toronto board who loved to post bad reviews about Splendido, consistently ranked one of the best places in the city and rarely has an off-night. That guy clearly fit under categories 2 and 3 above and it showed. It was as if he went to the place looking for a fight. If he knew from the menu (which you can read online easily) that he'd hate it, why the heck go, just so he can come to CH and be a wise-guy ripping it apart after?

                                                        Same reason why I won't go to Terroni. I know I'll hate it and deep inside I'll be going there looking for a fight. I have better things to do with my time and money.

                                                      2. A reviewer for a national newspaper recently went to a place that's on our list to visit. I like his writing and usually think he talks a lot of sense (although there's few opportunities to visit the places he reviews). He slated this place. Mrs H now says we shouldnt bother going - as all the things he hated about its pretentiousness are the things we hate. I say we should still go as it's still only his opinion. I think I will win the argument - and, afterwards, she will say "Ahha, I was right and that was waste of money". And it will be quite a lot of money - it is a restaurant with pretensions, after all.

                                                        1. I think the only time I'd rule a place out because of Chowhound would be because of vegetarian-friendliness. If I read that a restaurant is not receptive to making a dish vegetarian or refuses to divulge ingredients (e.g. chicken stock in a risotto) or worst of all lies (yes, I've had this happen), then it's a no-go. My vegetarianism is important enough to me that it's just not acceptable to risk it.

                                                          On the flip side, I definitely favor restaurants that have positive veg-friendly reviews on Chowhound.

                                                          1. It depends, if there are a lot more negetive reviews than positive, ie Nate and Al's new restaurant in Thousand Oaks, CA where the portion sizes supposidely make the price a rip off then I probably will not go, there are so many good choices to be had elseware, but I am aware that some negetive reviews could be posted by competiors.

                                                            1. I never completely rule out trying a place. I reserve judgment until I've tried it myself.

                                                              Also, I have an informal trust model that assigns greater weight to certain Hounds. I value their opinion more because of their track record, a combination of: perceived lack of bias, adventurousness, reasonableness, knowledge/experience, my sense that we share some of the same tastes and preferences, and in some cases, specialized expertise (e.g., they grew up in a Filipino family). Being a good writer doesn't hurt.

                                                              I assign hardly any weight to the opinions of new posters. Until you've built up a body of opinions, you're Zagat to me: an anonymous splinter in the aggregate lowest common denominator, or possibly a friend of some restaurant. For all I know, you queue up at The Cheesecake Factory weekly. You might be a brilliant advisor on restaurants, but your tastes are suspect until proven otherwise.

                                                              Trusted Hounds may move a restaurant up or down on my to-try list, but never off it completely. Even my favorite posters dislike places I like, love places I hate, and vice-versa. But despite the variability in quality of opinions, Chowhound, especially the Boston board, is my favorite resource on finding new restaurants and worthwhile dishes. There's more substance, less dross, fewer shills and better manners than on other amateur-reviewer boards, in no small part due to the assiduous work of the moderators.


                                                              1. I wouldn't visit the restaurant in passive sense. That is if I have multiple choices to go to that night, then I may put that restaurant down the list based on a review here. Will I actively not visit that restaurant? No. If I am close by that restaurant, I probably won't deny trying a place.

                                                                Aside from someone said something about health related issue, like food poisoning, there is nothing I will not try.

                                                                15 Replies
                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  You won't read about alleged food poisoning from a restaurant on Chowhound: it's a taboo subject (with good reason, in my opinion).


                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    "Aside from someone said something about health related issue, like food poisoning, there is nothing I will not try".

                                                                    That's just the thing. I agree and I went to a restaurant based on glorious reviews on Chowhound. I ate the food and walked out 24 hours later came down with horrible food poisoning (there was no question it was the place).
                                                                    Nobody had mentioned their practices and the fact this place carried a very well-deserved "C" rating....when it was mentioned by several others on Chow the entire thread was erased. I don't understand it.

                                                                    1. re: latindancer


                                                                      So that restaurant food tasted good, but it did not handle/cook correctly, huh? Yike.

                                                                      I am not sure. Maybe Chowhound is designed to only discuss food taste and not food health safety because something like this can really hurt a restaurant business and Chowhound may worry about lawsuit. It is impossible to prove or disapprove food poisoning is caused by restaurant A, unless you have 10 people get food poisoning from the same restaurant at the same peroid of time. If the restaurant business goes down because of a comment here, the restaurant can file a lawsuit and most likely not against the poster but against this website.


                                                                      The only time I remember is that we (~40 people) went out for a New Year lunch at a restaurant and . I didn't taste anything funny, but a bunch of people complain about the foul taste of the fish, and then a few of them threw up and have diarrhea. This was a company lunch, and these people did not have meals together before.

                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                        One major reason why we do not discuss food poisoning and other food safety issues here is because that is a very serious issue that needs to be conveyed rapidly to the relevant health authorities who have the ability to enforce safety regulations and protect the public. A breezy chow discussion site like Chowhound is not the place to go into these issues as we have no enforcement ability. Moreover, time is of essence when public safety is concerned and we do not have the ability to monitor every single post to rapidly identify threats to public health.

                                                                        The more certain one is about food poisoning from a specific place, the greater the need for one to immediately inform the relevant authorities, because they can shut the place down if necessary (we can't), and conduct tests to identify the relevant contaminants/pathogens that may help diagnosis/treatment (we can't).

                                                                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                            Agreed. I know too many people who will cry "food poisoning" without knowing whether they've picked up a norovirus, food poisoning, or something else. Most food poisoning requires a period of time for the bacteria present in the contaminated food to produce enough toxins to make the host sick. It's handy to blame the last place you ate, but that doesn't make it accurate.

                                                                            DH and I went to a local restaurant once and that night he got horribly, horribly sick. I called the restaurant's owner several days later to let him know there may have been a problem with his lamb chops. he called me back and gave me a calm and reasonable scenario. He explained frankly that it happens to everybody sooner or later, but when it does, he gets many complaints instead of one. Mine was the only one he got. He told me without being patronizing in the least that he would eat those lamb chops himself. he was that sure there was nothing wrong with them.
                                                                            After analyzing DH's illess further, I finally figured out that since he'd been working on a range project out in the desert, he'd had been making himself a sandwich for lunch every morning with deli-cut ham and carrying it in an unrefrigerated pack for hours on horseback every day for a week, aka a ticking time bomb. The restauranteur was correct. If I had gone off at the mouth all over town that the restaurant had poisoned my husband I could have unnecessarily damaged the restaurant's reputation, and, since I was totally wrong, also set myself up for a slander/libel suit- deservedly so.

                                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            So that restaurant food tasted good, but it did not handle/cook correctly, huh? Yike.

                                                                            I have no idea what you're talking about but it sounds interesting.

                                                                            1. re: latindancer


                                                                              I think you said that you went to a restaurant which received great review but had a stomache afterward. So I am guessing the food probably tasted good, but was not handled correctly.

                                                                          3. re: latindancer

                                                                            The mods can probably comment, but you put your finger on it when you wrote: "No question that it was the place".

                                                                            I'm not sure how anyone can authoritatively make that statement. Many things can mimic food poisoning or contribute to it, and the incubation time varies. It's difficult to state conclusively that Restaurant X gave it to you, even if you get positively tested by a doctor for food poisoning, which I imagine many folks haven't done when they try to post about it here.

                                                                            It's also a charge that is impossible to defend against, which makes it too easy a tool for an unscrupulous competitor to wield against the restaurant in the form of well-disguised negative-shill posts or just bad word-of-mouth.

                                                                            I think not allowing it is the right thing to do here.


                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                              "I'm not sure how anyone can authoritatively make that statement".

                                                                              Just so you understand how food poisoning and the documentation of the bacteria is documented...here's how it happens.
                                                                              A person goes to the doctor with symptoms. A good doctor will sample a stool, send it to a lab, and the lab reports it back to the doctor the findings within 72 hours.
                                                                              If the lab tests it positive for a bacteria ie; salmonella the lab/doctor reports it to the health department. The health department now begins compiling, cross checking and comparing other reportings of people who've had the same experience where the doctor suspects poisoning has happened. This is how the source is found where the problem began.
                                                                              'No question it was the place' is documented.

                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                Fair enough, in which case you could substantiate the food poisoning claims with the public record. That's not what's going on with the vast majority of food poisoning allegations that get posted and then removed here: they're largely anecdotal and without the benefit of a culture test to back them up.


                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                  Right, the vast majority of food poisoning reports (which are mainly over on yelp as they get wacked over here) are *not* involving that degree of precision. Instead you typically see something like, "I ate some pizza there and totally had to vom 2 hours later, they gave me food poisoning, don't go there!". Sorry man, but a) that was probably not food poisoning and b) if it was, it was almost certainly not involved with the pizza in any way.

                                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                                              the chowhound moderators expressly forbid and delete any posts related to health-related issues and whether or not someone got food poisoning from a place.
                                                                              dunno why.

                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                It's largely because it is extremely difficult to tie food poisoning to eating a specific thing, as it can occur hours to days after ingesting contaminated food; thus, to claim that a certain restaurant made you sick could very well be erroneous and severely and unfairly damage the reputation of the restaurant. Better to take such issues up with the restaurant itself and health officials and let it get sorted out that way.

                                                                                1. re: vorpal

                                                                                  vorpal's right. I said the same thing above with a ton more verbage. :-)

                                                                          4. yes.
                                                                            i eat out all the time and have a very limited budget.
                                                                            not interested in much risk-taking.
                                                                            would be more lenient if i still had an expense account with which to work.

                                                                            1. If there's a restaurant I specifically want to try, negative reviews won't sway me. But if I'm just browsing for ideas, and don't have a specific place in mind, I'll definitely avoid somewhere that is only getting negative press/reviews.

                                                                              1. No. I respect the crowd here too much, and while many have different palates, than do I, if they ALL pan it, and I have no contradicting experiences, I would never buck the CH crowd.

                                                                                Now, I have dined at several places, that had highly polarized CH reviews. In those love-it, or hate-it situations, I often have to see for myself. Mama's Fish House on Maui, was one such restaurant, some years back. It was a love/hate relationship. Well, I loved it so much that I dined there for lunch on several trips. I wanted more, and actually stayed there, just to do dinner, and not have to drive across the Island. That was well worth the effort, and we did two dinners and a lunch.

                                                                                On the Phoenix board, many love both Maestro's Steakhouse and Eddie V's. We have done each, and you could not drag me back to either, regardless of the "love." They are dreck on all counts. Still, most CH's love both, and recommend them to others. In good conscious, I could not recommend either to an enemy.

                                                                                Why the differences? Experiences and maybe the palate of the diner. If one wants a "happening" bar scene, but cares nothing for the food, then maybe they would have a totally different opinion.

                                                                                I'm a purist, and very picky, and I've found that "happening," "buzz," "killer," and similar, are just code words for "the food's no good, the service suckie and the wine list is the 'usual suspects' at 600% mark-up," and that translates to "you will not like it."

                                                                                Still, buck all CH's? No way.


                                                                                1. Absolutely not. Chowhound is no more reliable on bad places than Zagat's is on good ones.

                                                                                  It's a directory of places where people have eaten, nothing more. Some of my favorite restaurants are loathed by chowhounders.