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Jan 23, 2013 12:35 PM

Yelp Says The Owner's Racist...

Here's my dilemma:
I live in a small town where there aren't a tremendous amount of good restaurants, especially not within different cuisines. I have found 1 Lebanese restaurant that offers a good sampling of typical Middle Eastern foods. I've only had their food once and it was take-out and very good.
I'm supposed to go out to dinner tonight and someone suggested we go to this Lebanese place. I will have my child with me, so I decided to do a quick check on Yelp to see if anyone mentioned whether it's child-friendly. Instead, what I found were a lot of gushing reviews of the food and ambiance, one review that said the food is great but "don't mention if you're Jewish" and another that said they saw the owner scream at some Jewish people who were checking to make sure that a dish didn't have pork in it.

I don't really want to patronize a racist. That said, I also know that people will take things out of context to try to defame business owners that they may not like for other reasons.
What would you do? Do you trust Yelp?

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  1. I would go! ~~ I trust Yelp just about as far as I could throw a bull elephant.

    Have Fun!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Bob

      Second this. If I knew for sure the owner was racist, though, I'd never step foot in the establishment again.

      1. re: Uncle Bob

        I agree with Uncle Bob.

        I won't go so far as to say that Yelp is useless, bit it is kind of like Wikipedia...a sometimes useful _starting_ point for info, but sometimes very unreliable and often downright inaccurate. Definitely not to be trusted as the last word.

        I wouldn't let what I read there stop me from trying a restaurant that has good buzz from people I know.

        I say go try the place.

        1. re: Uncle Bob

          I travel the globe extensively, and am always trying to book restaurants for those travels. I have looked at Yelp, and have been horribly underwhelmed. I rely much more on CH, to help me, if I am in a new area of the world, or want something different. Yelp? - well, others can have them.


        2. I personally would not go to a restaurant if I had strong evidence that the owner was racist. But...that is a decision each of us needs to make for himself...and, I certainly would not take the word of a single stranger posting on Yelp. And even if the owner did react negatively to someone's question about something containing pork, it's still a stretch to say that he is antisemetic. Aside from observant Jews, many Moslems eat only halal foods (quite similar to kosher, including no pork), and others may avoid pork for multiple reasons...allergy, distaste for it, unfounded fear of trichinosis, and yes, I knew someone who wouldn't eat pork because he grew up on a farm and had pet pigs to whom he became very attached!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: josephnl

            I thought that review was a bit strange too and I might have ignored it entirely if there wasn't a 2nd post that says not to mention if you're Jewish. I'm not sure why the poster said that, the rest of the post was about how good the food was.

            1. re: hyacinthgirl

              I have to wonder if the person who posted that was looking for a fight.

              1. re: EWSflash

                Or the cousin, sister, husband of the other yelp reviewer....

          2. Since Yelp is so commercial I don't really trust it.
            If one reviewer made such a harsh comment it usually means there was some "personal" issue involved and they have an axe to grind.
            FYI: There are many Lebanese Jews and Muslims who do not eat pork. I was about to write that the Lebanese people are friendly but that would sound ridiculous. Is there an unfriendly nationality?
            Lebanese usually cook with lamb, beef or chicken and rarely pork.
            We love Middle Eastern cuisine. Whenever we are on a road trip we try to find some hole in the wall Syrian/Lebanese restaurant to try out. Recently we found a gem in Scranton (Savory Maza) on the way to Syracuse and another in Cortland (Pita Gourmet) on the way back.
            Send us a review of the restaurant.

            1. I have been to this restaurant. The food is good but I have been there when the owner has demonstrated "racist" behavior. The owner has been badgered by potential patrons about whether or not they have Halal meats. I think the issue here is that the owner is sick of being assumed to be Muslim by the general population. I wouldn't have taken his side if I hadn't witnessed it myself. I spoke to him about this once and he said that he doesn't want to talk religion or politics etc. If you like his food come eat if not don't. At first I was taken aback but then realized he had a point.

              5 Replies
              1. re: melpy

                This is an interesting take. Before reading this I was wondering if the owner *was* Muslim and might have been insulted that someone was asking if he had secret hidden pork in his food. Because that could be construed as ignorant. However, your take does remind me of someone I know, a Canadian from Iran. His family background is Muslim but he doesn't follow the religion and eats whatever he wants. He gets irritated (although not openly angry) when Muslim people ask why he isn't fasting during Ramadan, etc. This kind of social/political pressure to fit a certain mold is a big reason why he left Iran, after all.
                However, a restaurant owner has to understand that a big part of the job is dealing with the public, and there are probably more gracious ways to deal with these conversations.

                1. re: julesrules

                  My take was similar to yours...that perhaps the owner WAS Muslim and felt insulted by the question...but obviously this isn't the case. It may have been rude for him to yell at someone who asked if there was pork in the food, but I'm not sure that alone qualifies as "racist."

                2. re: melpy

                  That makes me feel better about this particular place. I don't want to talk religion or politics with the person making my food either. It's not polite dinner conversation, right? :)

                  1. re: melpy

                    <The owner has been badgered by potential patrons about whether or not they have Halal meats>

                    Well, sometime you do have to mix religion with food, when your patrons do not want to eat certain food.

                    1. re: melpy

                      Thank you, melpy, that helps round out the picture.

                    2. If you heard (and/or understood) what some Chinese restaurant owners/staff say about white people, you might never ever step foot in another Chinese restaurant, either to eat in or take out.

                      I know this isn't a popular stance on Chowhound, but I don't let politics dictate my food choices. I've been to BBQ joints in the South that are outwardly racist (as in we have Klan paraphernalia as part of our decor), and it's never bothered me.

                      Because if you mix politics and food, where do you draw the line? What if the restaurant does business with a racist vendor? What if the restaurant only hires white people (b/c they are small enough to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws), or what if they voted for a congressman that was pro-life? Or whatever ...

                      I'd be more concerned with having your child witness rude behavior by a grown adult than patronizing a supposedly racist restaurant.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        If an owner wants to flout their political beliefs--as in the joint with Klan paraphenalia--then I would be delighted to respond--by walking out the door. The other circumstances you mentioned are not likely to be things I know for sure so couldn't act upon those. I wouldn't eat in a restaurant and give them my money--and certainly wouldn't want my kids to see me give up my beliefs for a maybe good meal.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          To me it's a no-brainer. If a restauranteur openly demonstrates bigotry, I do not want to financially contribute to his cause. I'm not talking rumors here, or posts on Yelp. I'm talking personally hearing or seeing evidence such as Klan paraphernalia, swastitas, etc.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          There are at 3 individual restaurants or chains that I will not patronize because the owners openly and actively endorse positions that I cannot accept. I do not tell anyone else not to eat there and I don't make an issue of it. However, I do not believe that I should spend my hard-earned dollars advancing positions that disgust me. I also believe that I should be teaching my child to hold fast to her beliefs, too, even if it means missing a good plate of 'cue or a convenient burger. Some things are more important than how lunch tastes. YMMV.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            +1 to this, and the posts directly above. Principles aren't situational when something is as optional and discretionary as where to eat, no dilemma there.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            I'm pretty sure I'd draw the line at supporting a business that celebrates the Klan.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              If I saw KKK paraphernalia as a decoration I would leave.

                              Also I won't go to Chik Fil A because I don't support their beliefs. And back before I knew I used to get their sandwich every so often. Not now. Not anymore.

                              1. re: Disneyfreak

                                I think it all comes down to how passionate we are on each particular issue. Some issues we care more about, and some we care less.

                                For example, I don't think I or most people would care about the restaurant owner views on the Obama affordable healthcare act. I know it is a passionate topic, but most see it as a less personal one, but more of a governing topic.

                                1. re: Disneyfreak

                                  It's a very fine line for me.

                                  I agree with your assessment, I do.

                                  However, having said that....there are more and more establishments I'm finding out about that go against my beliefs. Using KKK or swastikas as a decoration, in a restaurant, is a blatant indication there's hate involved and I am NOT going to risk the chance of that hate being directed at me or anyone I'm with. Racism, antisemtism, is alive and well...that's a fact.

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  That's interesting to me. I do not know your ethnicity, and whether or not you would obviously be someone the KKK would target. Does your experience of the restaurant change if you feel there are specific signs up that say "Ipsedixits Not Welcome Here"?

                                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                    No, not really.

                                    In fact, I've dealt with that exact situation before, so I know what it's like.

                                    I've just learned to move on. There are certainly battles to be fought with respect to racism, patronizing (or not patronizing) a restaurant or a business, I find, is not the forum to do it in.

                                    Especially as a Chowhound, and especially given the original manifesto of Chowhound (, which is about "optimal deliciousness".

                                    That's all I'm going to say about it. Like I said up above, I know this isn't a popular position, and I'm not here to convince people that I'm right, nor do I want (or expect) others to convince me I'm wrong.

                                    (Also, just a point of clarification. There's a difference between celebrating a racist era, or group, and actively espousing those ideals. In other words, it's one thing to have framed pictures of the greatest Klan members of all time, and quite another thing to refuse service to all African-Americans. The two are not the same.)

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      "In other words, it's one thing to have framed pictures of the greatest Klan members of all time, and quite another thing to refuse service to all African-Americans. The two are not the same.)"

                                      Whereas such a display would and should clearly be read as "whites only."

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        Yeah, somehow I don't see black people clamoring to eat at this pro-KKK restaurant. Somehow, I suspect the only people who would be comfortable eating there would be those who are comfortable with the Klan's tenets...

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          <framed pictures of the greatest Klan members of all time>

                                          I won't able to stand it. I will have to walk out. Now, the grestest "Khan" will be different. I wonder if it is because of time. :)


                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                          I agree. If it tastes good, eat it!

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Racism and how any individual chooses to deal with it is pretty complicated.

                                            While choice of decor may put me off my food, actions speak louder than decor. E.g. there is one place that my SO's family likes to go to. When they go to the Maître d'Hôtel to get a table, we get seated in the fine dining room. If I go up without them (takes more than just my SO to be with me) right behind me, we get seated upstairs in the "cozy" dining area. This has happened with more than one Maître d'Hôtel at that particular location several times, so it's not coincidence (we tested). If I ask them to seat in their main dining room, they are fine with it, but I have to ask. Personally, it doesn't offend me much - actually I get a good chuckle out of it because I am pretty sure that that my presence in either dining room causes them far more discomfort than it causes me. Also my presence in the main dining room also helps to "fly the flag" so to speak in their establishment. Their actions also bothers my SO, but as you can tell we have gone back on occasion.

                                            Anyway, that example bothers me more than eating at a southern restaurant that has confederate flags in the decor but is in practice warm and inviting to me.

                                            I am not African-American, so based on a different personal and communal history, someone of difference ancestry may have a very different reaction to racist behavior or decor...