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Florida restaurant reviews and Trip advisor

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An article in the Fort Myers paper (online also) discusses the power of Trip Advisor. It is the driving force for restaurant reviews. I do not find their reviews that useful. The #1 restaurant in my area, for instance is The Wisteria Cafe. This is a sweet little tea shop selling ok tea and mediocre sandwiches and tea cakes. Perhaps these people have never had afternoon tea, but I was underwhelmed by this 40's ranch house serving tasteless soups and sandwiches.

Chowhound seems to have less reviews these days and many don't take the time reviewing to comment on what they ate or what their tastes are.
I prefer the information here however. At least some have a little sophistication regarding food preparation, etc. LMF

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  1. I agree with you. I think Chowhound is much more informative but you have to look around, ask questions and read through post.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

      I don't find their reviews that useful either. Also, over the years, hubby & I have learned who to ask as well. For instance, don't ask an 18-20 yr old the best fine dining restaurant in town. They'll most likely direct you to the nearest Applebee's or Cheesecake Factory. They haven't lived long enough to know what fine dining is. lol!

      When we're off to a new city, I'll read up on their websites, menu's and try to find articles written about them.

      1. re: chloebell

        Good point...depends on who you ask! LOL.

    2. On another thread here in Florida, I asked the poster how they found a local gem that was not mentioned on Chowhound. Their reply was Yelp.

      Went back to the Old Fish House on SR520 in Cocoa Beach after the launch Friday and verified that the fried oysters are still sublime and the bisque was great. While it has all the prerequisets of a fine Florida dining experience, I would hesitate to send strangers there. Strip shopping center, decor from the 70's, tacky painted windows, and All You Can Eat prominently displayed.

      So Yelp can be another tool in the shed, if not the sharpest.

      3 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        One warning about Yelp...
        The Ritz Carlton in Sarasota just went through a major restaurant re-haul. Yelp and The Ritz invited their top local contributors to a free soft opening. All of the yelp reviews were overwhelmingly positive (why not.. they were pampered and fed for free!) yet when I went with my husband we were less than impressed.
        It almost seemed like The Ritz "bought" a bunch of good reviews...

        1. re: christinet.

          I see your point, and I don't like reviews like that because it doesn't reflect a real dining experience.

          They usually set up yelp event section where those yelpers can rate the event but not the actual restaurant itself. Some what to post on both but I think it's helpful to only post on the event section.

        2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          Yelp can be useful. I think there is a way to use it. Find people you agree with friend those people and read their reviews.

          Don't just go based on a yelp event high rating, or users that you typically don't agree with.

        3. I agree with the TA ranking being way off. Kind of weird, the order does not reflect reality - but the verbiage in the reviews can be quite helpful.

          I also think TA comes from the world of tourism - you have reviews from all over the world for a particular area, whereas Chowhound message board format is a better way - tourists pose the questions and mostly locals respond. A great back-and-forth that is quite helpful.

          With the advent of Facebook, combined with the (in my opinion) extreme heavy-handed moderating going on here, folks cannot express themselves freely. In fact, because this thread is not about actual chow, I'm pretty sure it will be either deleted or moved to the food media page, where it will wither and die...

          I have heard that Yelp charges restaurant owners to delete bad reviews and/or ads from competitors appearing on their page.

          1. Urbanspoon seems to have better traction among the locals in my part of the panhandle because Yelp took forever to sort out the local geography.

            I tend to think of Trip Advisor as for the people who want to eat at a place with the best ocean view, and don't particularly care if their 'grouper' is actually Asian catfish as long as it's cooked acceptably and the fries are at least lukewarm.

            1. I agree, to a certain extent, Trip Advisor can be "very powerful" and a "driving force" so to speak. It's about audience, traffic, etc. Regardless, some people may find their reviews not helpful at all. That's perfectly fine, normal and should be expected. Why? Because in it's simplest, purest form, it is nothing more than opinion. However, it is opinion from a wide-range, varied, and large sampling audience.

              I was discussing this very recently with several friends -- restaurant owners and/or chefs, and other in the industry. One common theme or feeling was that the expectations of the author is a factor, but also so is the "common" factor. Trip Advisor, might have "travel" or "foodies" or other types of people as the common factor. Here, you may have more "foodies" so to speak. That said, people may feel that the opinion of people here are "more qualified opinions" because of the type of forum we have here, the reasons why people come here, and so on.

              You simply may not agree with most/many of the opinions at Trip Advisor.

              All of this aside -- it is simply "opinion" -- and your likes, dislikes, tastes, and so on are certainly not the same of everyone else.

              When I travel or even look to leaving my area, I will look here and Trip Advisor as well. I did this just Saturday night. I did a search for the town (which has a ton of restaurants) here and looked around, and I did the same on Trip Advisor. The latter had 80 or so restaurants reviewed, with multiple comments. Here I was able to find more specific only about specific places -- but both were a resource.

              5 Replies
              1. re: ELA

                I don't disagree with anything you said.

                It is just lately, Chowhound has many people writing their opinions but there is no way to discern anything from them. If someone calls their meal "yummy" but doesn't say what it is, I don't consider that helpful in anyway. Yelp, TA, Open Table are the same. I don't know if people are intimidated trying to describe food or perhaps can't write, so "yummy, it is.

                All reviews can be suspect on Trip Advisor as there is no verification method. Open Table limits their reviews to people who have made a reservation and fulfilled it through their website. This is no safeguard, however. An example: a restaurant opens in one of those zombie restaurant locations. No splash opening, just a new listing on Open Table. Within a week it is up near the top in reviews with 5 star remarks across the board. Someone that should know told me that the restaurant had friends make ressies on Open Table and the restaurant comped the meals in return for the ratings.

                1. re: LilMsFoodie

                  I can see that. That happens, it's a forum, different people have different writing styles, etc. I don't know why people write what they write or how they write it. I can only speak for me -- but I don't view my writing, experience, etc. on a restaurant as a review. Maybe others do and that's fine. I simply don't. I am giving my experience, opinion and I know others don't like, dislike, and so forth the same as me. Even more, I can only speak to my dish, because I am not sampling every other dish at the table, but hey, that's just me, LOL.

                  As far as verification -- I understand the Open Table process. For me, it's take what you like and leave the rest, and being that I understand the process I look at that type of "top reviews" and "5 starts" with a grain of salt. For those who don't understand, I very much see your point and agree.

                  I don't see any right or wrong. An educated consumer is the best customer (Sy Sims' motto, LOL). In today's day and age there is a great deal of information to sift and weed through.

                  1. re: ELA

                    Just looked at your profile. You mention LeBecFin. The one in Philly or the little bistro one in NYC, probably many years ago. Love Little Moirs also.

                    1. re: LilMsFoodie

                      Philly. I have actually never been to the one in NYC. Far too many places on my "have to try" lists, LOL. Little Moir's is just one of those places...absolutely great. I hope they don't change the business model, offerings, etc. It works! It ain't broke...don't fix it. LOL.

                  2. re: LilMsFoodie

                    A thrust! A mighty and powerful thrust!!

                    So let me provide a better review of the oysters which I enjoyed so much. The batter was extremely thin, and was evenly cooked. No doughy bits. The oil was fresh. Each oyster was seperate, and no burned bits included on the plate. The oysters were an inch to an inch and a half. A fresh salt water taste with no chewy parts. Received 10+ for $8.

                    The soup of the day, lobster and crab bisque, had a heavy cream base with finely shredded lobster and crab. You could taste both. There was no discernable Krab. Milder than I am use to, but my benchmark made by a friend uses a fairly heavy hand with the white pepper. Which I personally like.

                    With coffee, total cost was $14.

                    edit: This was supposed to be posted directly under "Yummy" but whatever.

                2. The way I look at it is that all of these sites are available for anyone who wants to be informed and we all tend to gravitiate to the sites that best match our interests. I choose to contribute to Chowhound because to me its audience are food enthusiasts who tend to have a primary interest in authentic and unique dining experiences. And I know these places are in Orlando but the basic image of most visitors is that our great city is nothing but plastic theme parks and a sea of chains. I hope that for those people who are like myself and plan a trip based on what and where they will eat before they fill up any other part of their itinerary, I can provide them an alternative to the tourist guides, compromised concierges, and negative nannies who only see Orlando food as something to be survived.

                  As for other sites, I agree with others in this thread that Trip Advisor is meant for folks who are interested in the atmosphere first and also I know their user base to be slightly older. Yelp to me is really a haven for the snarky and complainers who are looking to vent about some real or perceived slight or about how this or that is a rip off. My main site I use when I travel other than Chowhound is UrbanSpoon - it matches my vibe and style and it works better on a mobile device when I'm in market and looking for something good that's close to me.

                  To me what I wish we could do here on Chowhound Florida is develop more of a local food community rather than simply operate as way to educate visiting foodies. I've tried several times to organize Chowdowns but they fizzled out, and as LMF said the posting of reviews and discussions of trends and news is sorely lacking vs other boards. I feel those who could be on here helping with that have moved more into the blogging sphere where they can post photos (and sell advertising) and write longer entries that allow them to gain followers and influence. That has its place as well, but what I feel challenged by in that model is the lack of give and take that we find on our best threads. Blogs are one way communications; what Chowhound offers is a "dialogue" that gets better and more valuable with differing opinons and discussion. I worry we're all moving into a place where all we care about is that everyone hear our opinion and we don't really care what anyone else thinks, a sad state that has already taken over sports and political discourse.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: YosemiteSam

                    " I feel those who could be on here helping with that have moved more into the blogging sphere"

                    I loved your post, and agree with everything except the above statement. I think you missed Facebook: some posters in my area (Tampa Bay) have formed a group on facebook that is great for reporting local finds, what you ate today, what we made at home, where can I get equipment, etc, complete with photos and a great back-and-forth. No advertising, just great discussions. The heavy handed moderation here has been quite a turnoff. (I'm shocked this thread has survived this long in fact, as it does not meet the (too) strict guidelines for the Florida message board: must be about food, not the discussion of other boards).

                    1. re: joan

                      The problem with that is adding new people in is hard - it becomes an echo chamber somewhat - I like that method too - the best is having multiple outlets

                      1. re: joan

                        I lived in the Tampa Bay area for over 35 years and lurk here frequently. I have been puzzled why the TBA "voice" has been so quiet in recent years...Just an outsiders perspective, but often questions seem to go unanswered and what discussion there is can read as an insiders club. Which makes it equally hard to cultivate new posters and retain old ones. There are generally many more readers than posters. Many valued posters lurked for a bit, testing the waters before jumping in.

                        My local board has a Yahoo Group used to plan Chowdowns and the occasional off topic issue. Local eats, restaurant news and sourcing stay on CH with no moderation issues. People interested in discussing home cooking are very active on the Home Cooking board. We keep enough talk going that people want to check in frequently. We make it a resource and try to keep it from slipping into cliquishness. Newbies are welcomed and encouraged. If too much is taken off the local board it becomes a very slippery slope - maintaining a communities health and growth is much like pruning - it helps to visualize the direction you wish to move towards.

                        YosemiteSam - your last paragraph really speaks to what I find so valuable about the CH community. The give and take which occurs is really wonderful. I have nothing to add - you covered it quite eloquently.