HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


chowhound vs. yelp-pros & cons?

I think both sites are useful, yet different in approach & design. Which do you find more useful & why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In case you see this before the moderators delete it, you'll want to take this up in the Food Media and News section: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/33

    Here's at least one previous thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/656616

    EDIT: I see it got moved rather than deleted.

    1. yelp seems far too random, and i don't "know" posters there the way I do here, thus having insight into their areas of expertise. On yelp everyone seems to think they are an expert. And they (sadly) are not.

      1. For restaurant info, IMHO it depends a lot on where you live. I live in the outskirts of the Los Angeles Metro area and most of the local restos here are not patronized by any or enough CHers for the site to be of much help in that regard. While I agree that trusted CHers are a better barometer than unknown Yelpers, that isn't much help if you can't find the restaurant on CH.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Midlife

          I agree with your experience...I also live in an outlying area of LA (Calabasas). I recently was interested in trying a relatively new restaurant that opened in Calabasas called Tour Eiffel. CH had zero information on it, Yelp had one review and Open Table had over 20 reviews.

          1. re: calabasaschow

            CH usually focuses on places that are noteworthy. The Open Table reviews for Tour Eiffel suggest its obscurity is deserved.

            1. re: Peripatetic

              Got to agree with you on that...based on the OT & Yelp reviews thus far.

              1. re: Peripatetic

                I get your point but CH is not of any help if it doesn't cover a restaurant at all. I wish I could only patronize places good enough to get a mention, but that's not practical for everyday needs as it covers only a very small number of places in 'homogenized suburbia'. Yelp at least gives me some frame of reference when CH comes up empty, albeit often requiring sifting through the 'jughead' posts there.

                I suspect that the underlying issue is more one of user numbers in an outlying area, combined with an overall lack of 'better' restaurants altogether, but knowing why there are no reviews doesn't help with the purpose of deciding whether to try a place. You'd really have to lof in some time looking for local CH resto reviews to capture how often one comes up empty in South OC.

          2. Living as I do in Akron, Ohio, I find yelp very handy, as there are MANY more local reviewers on that site for smaller towns, such as mine, than here.

            Like others are saying, there are often some "less experienced" eaters reviewing some places, so it's good to take the reviews with a grain of salt, but yelp can still give you a good idea of basically what to expect.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cherveny

              agree.. I travel a lot with work and when CH fails me I go to yelp. If the person is smart enough to make their own choice based on reviews I do not think yelp is at a lower level than CH

            2. To me; Yelp is a one trick pony with not very knowledgeable trainers.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                ROFL! However, occasionally a nugget of gold can be found in the pile of scat.

                To echo what has been said before, CH is about discussion and Yelp is about 'reviews' *cough*.

                To use Yelp successfully, look for maturity, balance and relevance.
                Raving about chips, salsa and margaritas does Not a Mexican restaurant review make.

              2. Other posters have made good points, but I think for me the main advantage of chowhound is that you can actually have a dialog with the other posters, ask follow-up questions, etc. In addition, I think the demographic of chowhound is quite different -- and closer to mine, which makes it more useful to me. I do occasionally use yelp, mostly for basic information on a place that isn't discussed on chowhound, but the number of grains of salt I have to use on their "reviews" is bad for my blood pressure.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Seems like Yelp has probably 10 times more reviews per restaurant than CH, even though I respect fellow CHs opinions more. I also find that Yelp has many more comments for popular restaurants, whereas CHs tend to avoid chains and sports bars. It is somewhat more difficult to find recommendations on Chowhound because they are quite often of the variety, "that place is fine but since you are in Rockville you should just go to Joe's Noodle House and not waste your time."

                  I had joined Angie's List hoping to get recommendations for home and auto repairs (for someone to take the time to go online and make a recommendation about their mechanic, indicates that they were very happy with the service), and found Yelp to be much more helpful. I found that Angie's List had no recommendations for auto repair shops anywhere within 10 miles of my town! Whereas I am able to find more comments from Yelp users, probably because it is a free service.

                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                    I'd have to agree. Just on sheer numbers of reviews, when it comes to picking a restaurant, rather than having a dialogue about it, yelp wins hands-down for me.

                2. The information on Chowhound is narrower but far deeper than what you find on Yelp. But sometimes Yelp can be quite helpful, although not in the intended way.

                  Two cases in point. There was once a one-star review of a sushi place the Yelper hated because the chef professed not to know how to make a Monster Truck Roll or some such abomination, and only focused on nigiri. Another review panned a different restaurant because nobody in the place spoke English. Score and score! Two more places on my rotation.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Very happy to see the Monster Truck Roll concept is becoming more popular.

                    Thanks, Alan.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      I agree that some things people write in reviews can be a little outlandish. Sushi is a good example to use because of the broad spectrum of people that eat sushi. Some people think sushi is all about the california roll, some miso soup and a ginger salad, while others go far deeper in the realm and more adventurous. I happen to be the latter and not the former so I look for reviews that seem more inline with my taste.

                      Every so often I'll see a review mention "Hey I'm not a fan of this type of cuisine but this was pretty good!"

                      This doesn't help much. lol

                    2. Rumors about Yelp are still out there that if restaurants (or other establishments) don't buy advertising the Yelp officials (moderators?) only allow the negative reviews to stand. Anyone know if there is any truth to that rumor?

                      24 Replies
                      1. re: chicgail

                        I don't think thats true. While I don't look at the "fancy" restaurants In my search for the perfect chili dog Yelp as let me down. As I travel up and down the east coast I have to find a restaurant that lived up to a Yelp review, at least in my opinion.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          I know that they've adamantly denied it many times, but I have heard far too many first and second hand stories from biz owners making this claim to believe that there's not at least some fire behind the smoke.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            yes, the lack of moderators on YELP make it a hotbed for blackmail potential. CH doesn't let shrill nor blackballing stand, so there is another, and to me, a major reason who the two sites are different in reviews.

                            1. re: Quine

                              the review section of yelp is completely separate from the talk forum - so moderators there would not effect the quality of the reviews one way or another

                              1. re: thew

                                Yes Yelp is not moderated to any standard,so shrills, flames and threats to blackmail or blackball by individuals reported to live long and prosper.

                                1. re: Quine

                                  that is total BS. i have seen, and had posts removed from the talk boards. I have seen many fraudulent reviews filtered out, and many fake profiles removed from the system.

                                  this yelp hate is boring. don't like the site? don't use it.

                                  many of us find it useful. personally i don't think either yelp or CH is as useful on its own as both are used in conjunction.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Hell, I've been put in talk jail there multiple times after having posts I made being removed.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Thank you, thew, the voice of reason.

                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                        Except that thew isn''t entirely correct. Yelp occasionally removes reviews:


                                        There is also a "review filter" that automatically moderates other reviews:


                                        Finally, there are persistent allegations that Yelp removes bad reviews and supplies good reviews for businesses that pay for advertising, and does the opposite for businesses that don't. Admittedly these are only allegations, but check out the comments to this Techcrunch article:


                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                          i said yelp filters reviews. (" I have seen many fraudulent reviews filtered out...") but moderation implies the talk forums, not the reviews.

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I have had a non-fraudulent review that I wrote removed from Yelp at least twice. These were reviews about non-food businesses, and I posted there because I thought the particular businesses I was reviewing were terrific, and I was aware that a lot of people rely on Yelp for information about such businesses. I can only assume that if it happens for hair salons or real estate agents that it happens for restaurants.

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              it's done by algorithm, not people for the most part.

                                              1. re: thew

                                                >it's done by algorithm, not people for the most part.

                                                I susepct that is the case, which does *not* make it more reliable or trustworthy, IMO.

                                                If the algorithm is based on number of prior posts, for example, it could well delete me because I only post when I find something truly exceptional, whereas a frequent poster's shill could be left intact.

                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  true. and they are aware of it, and are constantly trying to update it to make it better. that said very few shills post frequently

                                            2. re: thew

                                              Apologies, you did mention that they filter. It seems persuasive that there's other content control at work, though, whether you call it "moderation" or something else. That's not to say that Yelp is unusable (see my March 8 post below) but you need to be an informed consumer of the information in Yelp. That would be true even if Yelp exercised no control whatsoever on content.

                                                1. re: thew

                                                  > that's true here too, no?

                                                  Definitely! I've been a victim on several occasions. However moderation on CH, while perhaps sometimes overzealous, seems largely consistent with CH's statement here:


                                                  If the allegations are correct, Yelp is "moderating" reviews with the intention of improving revenue. My impression is that if Yelp is doing this, they are trying to do it with a light enough touch to keep it under the radar.

                                                  1. re: Peripatetic

                                                    i've never seem evidence of it, honestly. i don;t use yelp as much as i used to, the talk side that is, because ive gotten bored with it, but i was a very heavy user for a while

                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      I had a yelp review disappear once -- and it was a very positive one. I thought maybe it was somehow intentional. Then I posted a new review of a different place, and lo and behold, the positive review reappeared. I suspected it had something to do with my lengthy period of inactivity (about 2 years), It was as if my account became inactive and so my reviews were deleted. Anyone else have this experience?

                                                      1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                        No, but I've been inactive for a few years and will try posting a review to see what happens. I have to say that when I check the "hidden" reviews, more than half of them appear to be good, legit reviews (after a while you can smell a phoney), but it's the only review for that reviewer. If I were new to Yelp & had my first review hidden, I might think twice about doing another -- not very encouraging.

                                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                                          It's definitely inactivity. I've tested it several times now. That's why people who have only posted once often end up being "hidden" -- because Yelp hides you if you don't post for along time. I don't know why. It doesn't seem very useful to me.

                                  2. re: Quine

                                    I think there must be some moderation on Yelp. They have a section of reviews that are filtered, and I have seen shill posts removed, although I think I saw somewhere that they need to have a certain number of reports before a human looks at it. But I think they do have *some* moderation there.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      They do filter reviews. You can actually see the filtered reviews if you try hard enough, but there's generally a reason they were filtered.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        They get filtered if enough people flag them. There's a place on the page where you can alert the moderators that you think it's a shill.

                              2. I use yelp for facts about the restaurant (location, hours, payment options, etc), pictures, and to get an overall idea of what to expect.

                                I use Chowhound for suggestions of where to eat and what to eat when I get there.

                                1. There are pro and cons to both. I find it best to seek out chowhounders and yelpers that I agree with.

                                  Read some reviews or post of places you've been .

                                  Chow hounders are very focused on the food which I enjoy where as yelpers sometimes seem more focused on service or other.

                                  Yelp seems to have more variety than chowhound and they also seem very interested in getting to the newest restaurants to review them.

                                  Both yelp and Chowhound have their fair share of spammers, yelp probably has twice as much.

                                  I think both are useful with chow hound get a lot of consistency with yelp you get a lot of variety.

                                  1. Yelps strong point is their directory. It's seem thorough and the most up-to-date, compared to other directories (citysearch, urbanspoon... etc). The reviews I take with a grain of salt.

                                    Chowhound is my go-to place for discussing food.

                                    1. Yelp for my area is horribly out of date, impressively incomplete, and when I search by zip code, it sends me 20-30 miles down the beach. I've actually had better luck with Urbanspoon in terms of finding newly opened restaurants.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: beachmouse

                                        Glad to see another Urbanspooner! It was easy to get them to add a new restaurant in my area -- so I could post a scathing review of it.

                                        I'm starting to like Yelp a little more, but I prefer Urbanspoon in that genre. Still CH is my first go-to (I've been here since 2000!).

                                      2. Yelp's search and sorting functions are miles ahead of Chowhound's. If I want to order pizza, for example, I can in about 30 seconds, search Yelp for pizza in my city, click boxes to show which neighborhoods, click to see if it's open or if it delivers, and get fast results to scroll amongst. I would never even think to look on Chowhound for that, though I might then go do a google chowhound search for specific pizza places to get reviews. Yelp also has a lot more and faster reviews, so if a burger place opens up near me, I would go to Yelp a lot faster to see if I want to spend money trying it out or not. Sure, some Yelp reviews are nonsensical, but a lot aren't, and plenty of people are descriptive enough so I know whether what worked for them will be something that will work for me, or if they loved something that I would hate or vice versa.

                                        Chowhound is better for deeper conversations about restaurants, especially ones that have been open for a while, and is a place to browse to find great places to go. I guess, that sums it up for me: Yelp is a place to search, Chowhound is a place to browse. There's a place for both.

                                        1. Trusting a Yelp review is like trusting Charlie Sheen with your kids...

                                          1. I live in the Philly area and used to participate on Yelp. I do not do so any more, although I will check a review every once i a while. My comments regarding Yelp have to do only with the Philadelphia area since I have no ecperience with it in other cities. I found that the reviews, on average, were somewhat shallow. It seemed as though the reviewers were more more motivated by posting a specific number of reviews and becoming "elite" than they were in providing thoughtful feedback. They appeared to be far younger than I, with interests that did not mesh with mine as well as those on Chowhound. Now the moderators are screening reviews, "hiding" many of them. When I looked at some of the hidden reviews, I was really puzzed as to why they were hidden; they seemed to be more legit than some oif the non-hidden reviews.

                                            Chowhound provides much more of a forum for give and take -- genuine, thoughtful conversation about specific restaurants, products or topics. I've seen some fairly lame stuff on Chowhound (heck, I've probably posted some of it myself), but that's not the norm. Most hounds genuinely care about food and their fellow hounds, and are not the shallow types I used to encounter quite often on Yelp.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: PattiCakes

                                              the reviews are hidden when the reviewer only writes one review and never comes back. I think they are trying to weed out those with hidden agendas.

                                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                I thought that too, until I found some very well-thought out reviews, not shills, filtered out. Some were by authors who had posted other reviews. It was odd. If I am really interested in learning about a particular resto, I look at those filtered reviews as well. I just don't use Yelp nearly as often as I used to. I'm not a Yelp hater; it's just that I don't find it to be as relevant for me as some other sites (including Chow).

                                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                                  Yes, all of my reviews were filtered out -- probably because I haven't been on it long enough.

                                                  Yelp has come in handy at times, but I really have to take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. Not with restaurants, but I've seen enough things where I know the owner got all of his/her Yelp buddies to write good things about them. Because these guys are already on Yelp, their reviews don't get filtered out.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    I read Yelp with some skepticiism especially when I've observed restaurants soliciting positive Yelp reviews.

                                            2. I once saw a yelp review that stated, 'I reviewed x place before I went there. Nuff said!

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: cstr

                                                That's like those stupid product reviews on some sites that say "I just ordered this, looks like a great product!"

                                                1. re: cstr

                                                  You'll see this 100% of the time with a new place. There'll always be a handful of reviews before it even opens.

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    How can that be accomplished? Totally baffles me!

                                                    1. re: cstr

                                                      When I've seen it, it's usually a bunch of overenthusiastic posters who give it five stars and say that they can't wait for the place to open and how they love their other restaurants.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Or people who just want to get a FTR. It used to be worse, or at least more obvious, but you'd see someone get a FTR with a review like, "I've totally been waiting for this to open! Can't wait!".

                                                        Beyond that, you're right. You have the fans of the not-yet-open place, you have the 1 star "why aren't you open yet?", you have the people who are obviously friends with the owner, etc.

                                                      2. re: cstr

                                                        The fraudulent reviews notwithstanding, people sometimes post reviews based on having attended pre-opening events. The same happens on chowhound.

                                                        1. re: racer x

                                                          We have a strict policy of excluding posts based on friends and family-only soft openings.

                                                          See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3676...

                                                          If you (or anyone) has come across posts like these, please report them and we'll have a look. Thanks in advance.

                                                          We do allow posts on restaurant prior to the "official" opening if they're open to the public and if the poster is not connected to the restaurant in any way.

                                                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                            Thanks for that heads up, Chowhound Team.

                                                            I was referring to the latter situation, in which people who aren't business associates or friends of the restaurant owners/workers visit the restaurant before the official opening.
                                                            A good (very well-written) example being

                                                    2. re: cstr

                                                      probably a review that had tongue firmly in cheek

                                                    3. I find both sites useful, too.

                                                      Here's how I use Yelp:

                                                      1. For reviews for places that are not mentioned or are barely mentioned in CH. The standard of judging and commentary is generally lower than CH, but it's better than nothing.

                                                      2. As a very general metric of Chow-worthiness, especially on the down side. I've been to numerous places with 4.5 or 5 stars on Yelp that were poor, but I've been to very few places with fewer than 3.5 stars that were any good.

                                                      3. To get a sense of which dishes are favorites.

                                                      4. To see what negative comments there are about a place. The positive comments are often unhelpful ("Their tofu turkey burger is da BOMB!" If you say so.) but the negative ones can be enlightening. Admittedly some of the negative comments are blackmail or "scorched earth" missives by profoundly unhappy customers, but these -- just like the shills -- usually can be identified by reading between the lines.

                                                      5. To see whether a place has had any changes that might affect the quality of the food. Downhill alerts sometimes appear more quickly on Yelp.

                                                      Here's how I use Chowhound:

                                                      1. To find the very best places. CH usually doesn't waste a lot of time discussing mediocre places.

                                                      2. To get an overall sense of the food scene in a particular city. The longest threads are usually indicative of topics that are central to the food culture..

                                                      3. For reviews by respected contributors. For example, in LA there's a well-defined core of well-known and often prolific contributors who I find I rarely disagree with. These "Alpha hounds" are some of the best sources of information around.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Peripatetic

                                                        Couldn't have said it better myself. Along with those I add

                                                        Yelp's search function is better when you don't know exactly what you are looking at. If I am trying to find a sushi restaurant in my neighborhood I'm going to use yelp. And then once I have a name of a restaurant, search on Chowhound.

                                                        And when I first moved to Boston from Baltimore I almost exclusively used yelp over Chowhound to find places to try. Yelp has more restaurants reviews than Chowhound and I wanted to know all my options and form my own opinions before being influenced by the board.

                                                        1. re: viperlush

                                                          Good point. It's useful as a simple database of (mostly) up-to-date information. I do wish its "nearby" search function wasn't so fuzzy. Often I just want to know what's close, and want a list of places sorted by ascending distance. Yelp insists on weighting it by rating and other factors.

                                                          1. re: Peripatetic

                                                            You can filter it to sort by distance.

                                                        2. re: Peripatetic

                                                          Forgot to include this for "How I use Yelp":

                                                          6. Photos! Even though CH permits the use of photos, it's rarely done. My main complaint about yelp is that they don't permit larger photos. This is particularly annoying for pictures of menus.

                                                          1. re: Peripatetic

                                                            Peripatetic, DITTO :)

                                                            Especially #1. If I don't know a restaurant or city it's CH first, Google second (usually a Yelp review appears).

                                                          2. yelp is a great place to find restaurants, especially if you want something specific, or a specific 'hood. CH is a great place to discuss food and restaurants.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: thew

                                                              That's how I see it too. I think it's easy to weed out the silly Yelp reviews, and actually don't see all that many total crap ones. I'm not on Yelp enough to "know" the people and don't know if clicks form, but that's one thing I def. see on Chowhound. For better or worse.

                                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                                me three.

                                                                and cliques definitely do form. in boston it used to be really bad with the original in-crowd, but they've pretty much all left now.

                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                  I can't believe I spelled clique click, 20 lashes.

                                                                  I'm not sure I agree about Boston's clique having left, but hard to tell when you've been a black sheep as long as I have (or I should say was?).

                                                                  I actually was just reading a few yelp reviews of my first Rest Week destination and the writing leaves a lot to be desired but it didn't sound like anyone was a shill or total idiot. Then again, those kinds of people may not go to Bistro du Midi.

                                                                  1. re: Joanie

                                                                    I almost spelled it as click just to try to not bring attention to it :)

                                                                    There are cliques and there are cliques. There is going to be an in crowd in any message board but look back to '06, '07 and even '08 and things were a lot different back then. I'm probably biased in that I didn't really care for most of the in crowd back then, and that those were the ones that left.

                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                      I'll always feel an affinity for you since I'm pretty sure you were the only one to get my "joke" before I got chastised, which was the final straw on that board.

                                                                      I feel like I should make a random Yelp comment now. I like the fact that it's easy to find nearby restaurants when you're looking up a club or bar. I think basically it's better for everything except having full on discussions.

                                                                    2. re: Joanie

                                                                      if we stop going to places that have total idiots in them we may never leave the house. and even that isn't a guarantee

                                                              2. yelp isnt just restaurants and u can review any business u like on yelp..
                                                                CH is food centric..not just reviews of places to eat...but also how to make/bake/cook/prepare something..or what tools to use like cast iron or what knife to use...

                                                                when i travel to someplace i havent been before i use multiple sites and google for searching out someplace to go and or do things...

                                                                the more information u have about anything u are going to spend money on these days is a good thing....

                                                                1. As far a design and approach usefulness - Yelp kicks Chowhound's ass. I really want to make Chowhound my everything but it's ages behind Yelp on what it has to offer. Hounds and their contributions are what keep bringing me back to Chowhound over the years. Both design and approach have changed drastically since the early days and I find it a huge improvement in a lot of ways but I also see features offered that seem to me a huge waste of time and effort.

                                                                  I use Yelp's mobile app as a business directory because it easily connects me with google maps for directions, business details, bookmarks, reviews, and more. It has its flaws but it's more useful to me than most other apps. I've found the reviews very useful when I'm visiting another city. Plus, I like how I can find places open near me. I take the reviews with a grain of salt just as I do here or anywhere else but most of the time Yelpers point me in the right direction - just as Chowhounders do, too.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: scarmoza

                                                                    Amen. Yelp is like the best phonebook/map ever. I don't trust it too far with reviews, but I can locate and phone a restaurant in under 30 seconds, and have driving/walking/public transport directions via google to boot. I look at the overall reviews and not so much individual ones.

                                                                  2. I'm sure there is good money to be made by doing a credible restaurant review website. Maybe like a bill-back system where the merchant pays a commission, or is assessed fees like dues. Well I haven't seen it yet, but that doesn't mean somebody isn't working on it.

                                                                    1. Yelp and Chowhound are really quite different sites. In fact, their strengths don't seem to overlap.

                                                                      I'm a more frequent user of Yelp than Chowhound. Before Yelp, I did visit Chowhound more (it replaced ba.food as my source for Bay Area food info).

                                                                      The positive points for Chowhound are a knowledgeable user base and meaningful discussions. The interaction between people is good. However, it takes more effort to use Chowhound. It takes more active searching in order to do research.

                                                                      Yelp is quick. It's a place to find reviews for a particular restaurant or to add your own reviews. There are some good, active users who write good reviews, make good lists and offer advice. I like some of the site features (being able to follow certain reviewers so that their reviews show up first when looking up a restaurant).

                                                                      Yelp also has lots of problems. If you start reading random reviews, you're quickly reminded of the general level of cluelessness. The demographic seems to be quite young, which probably accounts for some of that, and also a preference for quick and cheap places. Discussion on the site are useless, and quickly make you despair for humanity (or at least for ever trusting the reviews). Some people treat it as a social network / interaction site and that's a detriment. You can't judge a restaurant based on number of stars; you have to dig deeper. Categories sometimes don't make sense. It seems weird the way they pick top places.

                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                      1. re: jman1

                                                                        i disagree that teh social network aspect is a detriment - just as chow and chowhound are different entities with a different focus, yelp talk is NOT a food forum, like chowhound is, and is a separate entity from the yelp reviews. so many people here who complain about yelp base it on the discussion boards, and not the reviews.

                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                          I'm a Yelp "elite" this year (invited to be one) and a long-time CH reader, lurker and occasional poster.

                                                                          I was skeptical about Yelp and actually participated once in their discussion forum after being frustrated with the way that a search for "Best Lobster Restaurant" in my borough turned up Red Lobster. I started a discussion suggesting that the "star" system created a silly ranking system that in some instances established a false claim to authority -- does every reviewer have strict rules on the distinctions between a 4- and 5-star restaurant? What qualifies as 5-star? Can a fast-food chain be a 5-star restaurant? I suggested that perhaps a better voting system should be a simple "thumbs up/down" button, instead of a ranking system that suggests some kind of accuracy to rating.

                                                                          Well, the snarky, downright rude and aggressive responses convinced me never to bother participating in their discussion boards again. A strike against their social networking ambiance, for me.

                                                                          CH, on the other hand, for all the snarkiness I've read, has rarely disappointed when it comes to solid food suggestions and thoughtful (even if heated) commentary.

                                                                          I also echo the "reviews can be incredibly lop-sided" sentiment, as proven by my aforementioned search for the best lobster restaurant, and by reading through a lot of the 5-star reviews.

                                                                          That said, I use Yelp more extensively and write more extensively on it, thanks to its freer posting rules. As Thew says, it's a different system. I'm not keen on the social network thing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work for everyone. I've never attended any elite events, but I might attend one in the future, just to see what the fuss is all about.

                                                                          I think both CH and Yelp can exist in the same universe in a complementary way, but both definitely do have their down sides. Honestly, though, when I'm looking for the final word in food authority, it's CH for me, not Yelp.

                                                                          1. re: cdnexpat

                                                                            i used to be a heavy yelp user, was elite in 08,09,10. i gt bored with the discussion board, and dont participate that much, but still use it for finding places

                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                              Thew and Cdnexpat... Question about being an eliite.

                                                                              id you have to write only positive reveiws to achieve Eliite?

                                                                              From what I understand, the local embassador in my area will only grant Elite status to people who write positive reviews. The reasoning is people who write negative review scare away potential sponsors which translates into $$$.

                                                                              Have you heard/experienced that before?

                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                never heard that before. i wrote both positive and negative reviews - the full gamut from 1 to 5 stars

                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                  yes i thought the whole idea of yelp is to let people know the good and the bad...
                                                                                  i write both..
                                                                                  i especially want people to know if someplace is either ripping u off or just a horrible place to do business with...

                                                                                2. re: dave_c

                                                                                  I don't know what the ranking criteria are to be an elite, honestly. I hadn't posted much (something like 70+ posts over 2 years) before I was invited to be an "elite." I'd like to think it's because Yelp changed its ranking system to invite more thoughtful reviewers, but that might just be me patting myself on the back for being invited to a club that I (still) eye with some skepticism.

                                                                                  I've written 1-star and 5-star ratings, but most of mine fall in the 4- or 3- star category. A restaurant has to really wow me to get a 5-star, and I try to make sure those represent the best of the best. I will also revise previous high rankings lower if something (food, service) changes.

                                                                                  I've lately written a bunch of 1-star reviews, so we'll see if I'm invited to be an elite again next year.

                                                                            2. re: thew

                                                                              The discussion boards on yelp CAN be useful for food-related inquiries though, at least in my area.

                                                                              Several weeks ago I started a thread on chowhound asking for suggestions for local fishmongers. There was only a single response 3 days later, followed (after I asked for more responses) by another 3 responses over the following week. A total of 5 places were mentioned. One of the 4 responses was very helpful, with info on several different places and even directions for how to reach several of the places.

                                                                              Essentially the same question was discussed on yelp about 5 months ago. In that discussion, there were 14 responses within 3 days of the thread being started, with 12 of the 14 being posted within the first 24 hours. A total of 11 places were suggested.

                                                                              Notably, the one place that I ultimately agreed was among the best, if not the single best choice, after I'd visited most of the places suggested in both discussions, was recommended on both websites. In fact, it was the first place recommended in the yelp thread.

                                                                              1. re: racer x

                                                                                of it can be, as there is no limitation on what is discussed on yelp. my point was about comparing CH and Yelp based on the talk side of yelp.

                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                  I didn't mean to leave the impression that I was disagreeing with you, thew.
                                                                                  Rather, I was responding to the general opinion expressed by several here that the discussions threads on yelp are "useless." In some cases, I have found yelp discussion threads to be as or more useful than chowhound.

                                                                                  Btw, your input on the manhattan yelp discussion threads is sorely missed.

                                                                                  1. re: racer x

                                                                                    thats nice to hear. i got kinda bored with it all. and pissed off that my review of the modern was too damned long for them, LOL

                                                                                    maybe i'll return

                                                                            3. re: jman1

                                                                              Agree 100% (except it was ne.food and not ba.food for me). This is exactly how I'd describe things.

                                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                                Wow, I'd forgotten about ne.food. The good ole days of ne.food, alt.punk, alt.music.banana-truffle and the like.

                                                                                1. re: Joanie

                                                                                  I stuck with it for a while but by the early aughts most people had clearly transitioned to places like this. Most of my newsgroups (including alt.punk!) i had purged by the mid-late 90s, the noise/spam was just getting to be too much. There are still 2-3 groups that I read, but even those are petering out.

                                                                            4. Yelp “seems” more free market and more democratic. I say “seems” because I’ve heard lots of negatives about the system and processes, but I can’t and am not interested in delving deeper into these issues. Whatever the case, it “seems” all businesses start out on a level playing field, the rules tend to be more lax, and anyone can post. Yelp is easy to use. It’s a great directory with just about every and any business - food-related or otherwise, has a good basic “search” function, photos galore on many places, and offers related/comparable businesses as well.

                                                                              Yelp is quick and dirty. If I’m in Oz, haven’t done my homework and want a few candidates for food like pronto, Yelp is handy. So many folks post on Yelp that just about any and every possibility will be accessible on Yelp. The rating system can be of help, but has its faults and limits. One should have at least an idea of what the business’s nature and market is to begin with (Outback or Cut? Bucca di Peppo or Osteria Mozza? Subway or Mendocino Farms?), a large number of responses helps in a statistical sense, and because just about anyone can post, many of these posts and their ratings can blur the true picture of a particular business. Moderating is weird, inconsistent, and there is so much amateurish and irrelevant information in large part because of this and Yelp’s “democratic” approach - anyone can have a voice, and with no back and forth, this type of popular voting system is far from perfect.

                                                                              Chowhound is more like a caucus. I think one has to be far more serious about the subject of food in this case to even consider discussing topics or places. I’d imagine this site is visited by a lot of lurkers. They glean very thoughtful, high quality info about places and subjects that have been discussed and eventually vetted in many cases by posters pitching in their takes and expertise. The ability to discuss and debate is critical to this site’s success. One has to be engaged as often as possible to stay current, get to know other posters, their habits, preferences, expertise, experience and temperaments. And because we discuss, exchange thoughts, etc., we feel more like a community with a common purpose.

                                                                              Many of Yelp’s strengths are Chowhound’s weaknesses. Attempting to use Chowhound as a directory is difficult. Pix are almost nonexistent, and far fewer places are found and discussed on this site. In order to use this site effectively, one needs to be engaged, and if seeking recs, e.g., visiting a town and looking for recs, one needs to take the initiative to do some homework in advance. Quick and dirty Chowhound is not. Starting out from zero and attempting to gain thorough knowledge about a place, area or type of food can mean reading through more than one post, if not several. But in the end, the knowledge and info gained is solid and typically no stone is left unturned.

                                                                              Many have an issue with the moderators here. I was one, but after understanding the process and the rules, I can almost always understand why something I wrote was removed or changed to another board. They are the overseers and the gate keepers. We are the participants and if we want to play, it’s their rules.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                Slightly off-topic -- but Oz? Did you mean Australia?
                                                                                I was in Sydney last summer; I didn't find any yelp there. One of the popular yelp-like sites there at the time seemed to be eatability.com.au.

                                                                                I tried getting info from chowhound for that trip, but for all the reasons you've listed, found alternative sites more useful.
                                                                                Still, one of the major advantages of chowhound over yelp until recently has been that yelp covers only a few countries outside the US.

                                                                                1. re: racer x

                                                                                  I wish it were Australia - I meant like being in The Land of Oz - like somewhere completely unfamiliar. But I think your on-topic - it just goes to show you how the two sites shine in different ways. You've been around for a while - I'm surprised that you didn't post ahead of time for the Aussies to set you up with a working itinerary.

                                                                              2. Another problem with Yelp stems from it's popularity and that people with new businesses are eager to garner positive reviews.

                                                                                Business owners or service professionals often ask clients for reviews. The problem is that if one expects to have an ongoing relationship with such a person, it's difficult to give anything other than a five star review. When there is not an overwhelming number of reviews, the business owner can often determine the identity of the person who wrote the review.

                                                                                I've decided that it's best to avoid being asked to write reviews.

                                                                                This is somewhat less true in a more anonymous situation (a typical restaurant). But, it explains why many service reviews are either 5 star (I'm still a client) or 1 star (not returning).

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: jman1

                                                                                  Jman1 and several others have excellent points.

                                                                                  Firstly, both CH and Yelp do not offer the same things, nor do what they offer fit all applications by themselves.


                                                                                  Living in the Rockies area (which includes TONS of remote places not near Denver), I've been totally screwed over on Chowhound trying to find reviews of obscure eateries in obscure areas. Also, Chow doesn't deal with things like campsites, old hotels, museums, etc. No biggie. Roadfood.com is the same way.

                                                                                  I use Chow for home cooking and wine selections, food gossip, etc. I use Yelp for travel, dive taverns, campsites, etc. You just have to use common sense on Yelp. If someone only has a couple reviews, take their rants with grain of salt and MOVE ON. They probably have either a vendetta or are relatives to the restaurant owner. Also, much like life, find Yelp friends in areas you like whom you choose wisely. Usually, I can tell after reading several reviews by a Yelper if they're going to be a "friend" or not or if our tastes don't mesh. And usually, there's a couple trustworthy Yelpers in about every small town to big city. You just have to read their reviews critically. Did they go into detail, share pictures, try to be objective?

                                                                                  But the big thing is both Roadfood.com and Chow are somewhat limited in their geography. Example: if I'm going to be traveling throughout ALL OF NEBRASKA, one or two reviews of top Omaha establishments are of NO use to me.

                                                                                2. I love Chowhound and have been active on here for 12+ years (names have changed as I've moved across 5 states since then).

                                                                                  CH has and is a great place for discussion. And a great place for knowledge sharing, especially on city-wide subjects. It's perfefct for asking such questions as: I'm visiting Santa Fe in 3 weeks and want to experience green and red chile... where to go? Or, "what's the best Pizza in Phoenix."

                                                                                  Yelp is great for instant access to a broad variety of reviews on very specific corners of a city.
                                                                                  Example: I'm in Santa Fe tonight and want to see the best rated New Mexican themed eateries within 3 blocks of where I'm standing at this moment. Or, "what the best Punjabi takeaway in this 6-block section of Queens on my train stop?" Right now.

                                                                                  Both brands have some really great, expert people who contribute. And idiots. Here's the thing.. you learn to trust people who you learn to trust.

                                                                                  It ain't perfect, but we have 10-20 thousand restaurants and there no way any media outlets can follow them. Power to the people but keep a pinch of Salt.

                                                                                  1. One of the pluses about Yelp appears if you live someplace that doesn't get a lot of mention on CH. Check out how much Tucson gets mentioned here vs on Yelp. Maybe some of the Yelp posters are self-important douchebags, but at least you're much more likely to see reviews on what you're looking up.

                                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                      Speaking as someone who prefers CH over Yelp, I do think the percentage of self important douchebags is about the same on both sides. Yelp just happens to have a higher number of users and the way it's set up, it's easier to spot said d-bags.

                                                                                      1. re: Jase

                                                                                        You really think Yelp wins in the self important douchebag contest? I'd disagree.

                                                                                        1. re: Joanie

                                                                                          Please re-read what I wrote. I said the percentage is the same on both. But I think Yelp has a higher number of users so its more noticeable. I don't think CH has the same amount of users. But proportionally I think both sides are equal in the d-bags.

                                                                                        2. re: Jase

                                                                                          I haven't bothered to learn much about Yelp, but the reviews often seem to be geared towards some kind of reward for being clever, like there is a rating system on reviews, a points accumulation, or some kind of driver that causes doubchebaggery.

                                                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                            all else being equal i would prefer to read something clever than something plodding and pedestrian

                                                                                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                              when i write a yelp review...i honestly describe my experience at the place i review...
                                                                                              i also try to add some humor..as yes i think they make for a better read..

                                                                                              but theres no rewards for anything other than the funny,cool or useful votes...

                                                                                              and i usually flag the really crappy stuff on there as well...

                                                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                Yelp is set up as a site where posters accumulate friends and ratings for their posts. Those with a high number of posts become *Elite* members. They are actually invited to events and receive other perks when they obtain this Elite status. Therefore, many posters are looking for volume of posts over quality of information and write more about anecdotal things that their friend-base is likely to vote up than about the actual restaurants and meals they are supposed to be reviewing.

                                                                                                I do use Yelp to find restaurant information, especially when traveling. I have found that the San Francisco Bay Area, my home, seems to have a lot of those posters who are just on the site to boost their own popularity, while providing little useful information. In other cities I have found the reviews much more balanced and useful.

                                                                                                1. re: pamf

                                                                                                  actually volume of posts is only one factor in becoming elite, and it isn't the primary one. i've known low post/ review users who were elite, as well s posters who review everything they do that are not.

                                                                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                                                                    i didnt start out on yelp looking for friends.....i primarily go there to look for places to eat..especially when i am traveling...

                                                                                                    i have come into contact with people from the local area..and the few areas i have traveled to...but its not my primary goal to become an elite

                                                                                                    i just like to express my opinion about the places i come into contact with...

                                                                                                    and if my negative review keeps someone from getting ripped off or bad service from a place..even better

                                                                                                    1. re: srsone

                                                                                                      I think I liked yelp better when they didn't focus so much on the socializing element. Maybe I'm naive, but I think it could still have been popular, and maybe even more useful and credible, had they left the networking thing out of it.

                                                                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                        i dont think they do....
                                                                                                        its a part of it..mainly due to the fact that u cant really respond to reviews...
                                                                                                        so the message boards kind of allow that....

                                                                                                        i posted a review of a local pizza place i usually eat at..
                                                                                                        never had a problem with it...
                                                                                                        but someone else ate there and then posted a very negative review of it and accused me of being the owner or friends of the owner...
                                                                                                        all from a review saying i liked the pizza and have had it a few times...

                                                                                                        so there really was no way to respond to that directly..
                                                                                                        i did post a follow up review ...but its not directly to the other person either...

                                                                                                        they do filter or remove reviews that get posted like that...