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Trip Advisor in your city

c
cresyd Mar 4, 2013 05:29 AM

Where you live, is Trip Advisor a reliable resource to finding restaurants?

I have a friend's family planning a trip soon, and she was asking me whether or Trip Advisor was reliable for Jerusalem restaurants. After a look - while I don't agree with the rankings, it's a pretty solid resource - particularly for higher end places. For hummus, falafel, shwarma, and other "dives", I would not go to Trip Advisor - but it's not a bad resource for Jerusalem.

Is this an anomaly? Or reliable for cities where restaurants and tourist areas have greater overlap?

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  1. Motosport RE: cresyd Mar 4, 2013 10:40 AM

    We like Trip Advisor for destinations that Chowhound does not have a huge following.
    We trust Trip Advisor reviews as long as there are several of them.
    We read the reviews and toss the rave reviews and the bashing. The reviews with the most detail make the most sense.

    1. Perilagu Khan RE: cresyd Mar 4, 2013 11:01 AM

      I tend to prefer Urbanspoon, although, suffice it to say, neither are foolproof.

      1. gaffk RE: cresyd Mar 4, 2013 11:37 AM

        Out of curiosity, I checked the Philadelphia Tripadvisor. Other than a few head scratchers, the majority of the top 30 are spots folks on the local CH board would send visitors.

        1. viperlush RE: cresyd Mar 4, 2013 12:26 PM

          For Boston I would say it's 50/50. A nice mix of price range, no chains, and various neighborhoods. Just question the rankings and in the inclusion of so many bakeries. But there are numerous board favorites in the top 30.

          I think that they did a better job with Cambridge. Most of the top 30 are board recommended.

          1 Reply
          1. re: viperlush
            c
            cresyd RE: viperlush Mar 4, 2013 10:45 PM

            For Jerusalem - I was also pleasantly surprised to see no chains in the top 30-40. Israel has a large number of chain cafes that serve coffee drinks, sandwiches and salads. Overall, they're not bad - but they're definitely not the cafes that I'd want to hear recommended.

          2. h
            Harters RE: cresyd Mar 4, 2013 02:15 PM

            Generally speaking, I don't find TA helpful. Certainly not about areas I visit regularly. There are usually other sources - from local boards to print guides - which are more tuned on to good food. For example, I have recently responded to a thread asking for "foody restaurants" in a resort area that I know well. Most respondents to the thread are mentioning places that are not only not foody but are "lowest common denominator tourist crap" places.

            That said, there can be times when TA is the only resource available. And, actually, in the case of the tourist area I mention, it is the only source. Then it's just a matter of using your own common sense to identify places which may be worth further research when you actually get to the resort - and further research need only be a matter of saying "does the place look OK" and "does the menu interest me"

            1. j
              Just Visiting RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 09:14 AM

              Not for DC and the surrounding burbs. It obviously skews to stuff in tourist areas and places near the major hotels and the convention center. Lots of trendy places that I would never recommend (Georgetown Cupcake) and "names" that are just names and nothing more (Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris). Lots of chains. Not surprising, not useful for the great and moderately priced restaurants, many of them of the various ethnic cuisines that bless DC. And lots of places that have closed. Unless someone takes the time to write to TripAdvisor to tell them, the list fills up with places that are closed.

              1. m
                masha RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 09:41 AM

                Just checked TA for Chicago. Of the top restaurants, a surprisingly large number are breakfast/brunch places -- perhaps because there is greater consensus on those places and because TA reviews are most often written by visitors rather than locals. Visitors presumably consume more breakfasts at restaurants than locals. Beyond that, among the top named, there are some "usual suspects" -- i.e., restaurants that would be highly mentioned on the Chi. Board of CH like Alinea, Sable, Grace & Purple Pig -- as well as more offbeat examples.

                I may consult TA for restaurant recommendations in cities where there is a paucity of CH recommendations, but try to 2x-check the highly rated TA restaurants against other available resources, including Yelp & travel guides.

                It often seems that the highly rated TA restaurants include a number that are budget-friendly but not necessarily particularly food-worthy. Worst example that I can think of offhand was a particularly mediocre Thai restaurant that we tried in Palm Springs a few years ago. On the other hand, when we were in Tokyo about a year ago, we went to a noodle place based solely on the fact that it was highly rated and close to our hotel (it was raining and we did not want to go anywhere further than about 2 blocks). The TA review was in Japanese and the google-translate of it was wholly unintelligible -- i.e., we were influenced solely by the high TA rating without any further information. It ended up being a very good dinner, within the context of a stripped down, simple noodle bar.

                I do think TA is a valuable resource for lodging, especially if you read the reviews carefully, which includes clicking on the reviewers to make sure that the favorables do not emanate solely from reviewers who have never reviewed any other hotel (a sign that they are likely shills, especially if the same hotel has many reviewers in this category).

                1 Reply
                1. re: masha
                  rockandroller1 RE: masha Mar 5, 2013 09:49 AM

                  I agree with masha, and will disclose also that I am a "local expert" on TA for my city. Everything on there should be taken with a grain of salt, and that grain being that it's visitors to a city who populate the rankings of things like restaurants and lodging. It ain't Fodor's or anything remotely scientific and it's a good idea to read through several reviews of whatever you are considering that's recommended on TA to get an accurate picture, because some people are really unfair about reviews and bash a place because they were out of the fish special or something. It's not something I generally use for restaurants and I'm a part of the site - I come to CH first and then seek out other sources like (sorry!) yelp or urbanspoon where I can get a good consensus. TA is just not a food site IMO. Now, for other travel-related items like lodging and attractions, I do think they're fairly comprehensive and give a good rating system, though it does take a long time to sort through things.

                2. k
                  kengk RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 09:50 AM

                  I think Trip Advisor is a good resource. I don't trust the overall ratings a bit but if you read the reviews there is valuable information to be gleaned.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kengk
                    m
                    masha RE: kengk Mar 5, 2013 10:00 AM

                    One of the reasons that I find CH a more valuable resource than TA for restaurants is the fact that participants engage in dialogue on CH, whereas there is no opportunity for back & forth on TA. So, for example, if someone on CH provides a somewhat cursory comment -- negative or positive -- another CH'er can, not only offer his/her own experience at the same establishment, but can ask the original reviewer to expand on the basis for his/her review. You end up with a much fuller picture of the restaurant than on TA, where you can read a series of reviews but there is no interaction among reviewers.

                    1. re: masha
                      k
                      kengk RE: masha Mar 5, 2013 10:12 AM

                      If you live somewhere like, Chicago, I see your point. CH virtually useless for my day to day environs.

                  2. juliejulez RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 10:11 AM

                    I think for my area (I live near Denver) it's somewhat useful... especially since the CH presence here is not very large. The top restaurants are the ones I would have expected to be there.

                    The issue with a site like Trip Advisor is it takes awhile for a newer restaurant to gain footing in the list. So, there could be a great awesome new restaurant, or a great established hole in the wall place, but most people who are visiting won't know to go try it and write a review about it. I've found in my city, Yelp is actually better for that.

                    I do really appreciate their hotel reviews though. My SO travels to a new city every week for work, and I do his hotel research for him since he's not able to. Being able to see actual photos of the hotels uploaded by guests instead of the fancy shiny professional management photos is super helpful. I also like that they have a section for "attractions"... I used that in my own city when my folks were visiting and I wanted to take them somewhere interesting the day after Thanksgiving, but didn't really know where. Through the attractions feature I found the Celestial Seasonings factory does tours, and it was ranked very highly. We did it and it was super fun.

                    1. MplsM ary RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 10:11 AM

                      Like any site there's wheat and there's chaff. I was planning a trip a while ago (ok - a few years ago) and Trip Advisor popped up for various reasons. I followed the links to MSP and read one review for Northwest Airlines (now Delta) where the guy was squigged out because the little prepackaged mayo packets used on his trip out of MSP were Hellmanns instead of Best mayonnaise. His reasoning was that since MSP was clearly east of the Mississippi river (which it isn't), the mayo had to be really old. Many others ticked the "helpful review" box for this odd little diatribe. I sort of wrote off Trip Advisor right then.

                      For the most part the top reviews for the Twin Cities seem fine. Now that I look in on TA, I think I may have dismissed it the same way that fellow dismissed NWA. I missed the overall for focusing on an anomaly.

                      1. Dio Seijuro RE: cresyd Mar 5, 2013 10:42 AM

                        Just looked at the Atlanta restaurants on TA. Like others have said I find the results mostly represent visitors' experiences. About half of the first 20 or so places that come up are solid and well known. Some others are outdated or typical expensive places near hotels. Lesser known or newer places that locals prefer are much further down the list or not listed.

                        Personally, if the city I am visiting is on eater.com I will use that first as a reference. The Eater's 38 for each city is updated several times a year and very good selections for the cities I know something about. I think they come up with the listings from aggregate opinion of actual critics and local food bloggers which probably include CH if present. If there's no Eater.com presence, I would seek out direct opinions from local food bloggers, and one can lead you to several others. Further down the chain I would look for local Yelper with high number of "Useful" votes for their reviews and ask direct opinion, and again one will easily lead to others. You can even cross reference and get an idea of the consensus of who are the most helpful local experts (there tends to be specialized experts, like the pizza guy, the ramen girl etc), then you can get direct opinion from them.

                        1. MsMaryMc RE: cresyd Mar 9, 2013 04:09 PM

                          In Seattle, it's pretty good. There are a surprising number of cheap, interesting places (Paseo, Salumi, Pike Place Chowder, Molly Moon) in their top ten, not many overpriced hotel restaurants, and not a major chain to be found. You could eat pretty well here if you took their advice.

                          I regularly visit the Cruise Critic--West Coast Departures board. Whenever people ask there about restaurants for their time in port here, they're always deluged with recommendations of mediocre national chains and tired, pedestrian local standards. Trip Advisor would be a far better resource than that!

                          Of course, a lot of visitors would probably prefer a meal at Cheesecake Factory to one at Paseo or Spur Gastropub--it's more familiar and less challenging. I usually try to steer the more adventurous ones to the Chowhound Seattle board, but it looks like Trip Advisor might be a good place to send them as well.

                          1. LurkerDan RE: cresyd Mar 10, 2013 09:26 AM

                            For my town, it's an odd mix. Some breakfast places mixed in with fine dining; some ok places for a reasonable night out mixed with the fanciest places. A few head scratchers too. A person could certainly do worse with a map of restaurants on a dart board, but it isn't the best reference either. I also don't understand their rankings, as they don't appear to be directly tied to the restaurant's ratings. For ex, how is this restaurant: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant... ranked higher than this one: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant... It has more reviews, but their average is lower, and a lower percentage of people recommend it.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: LurkerDan
                              k
                              kengk RE: LurkerDan Mar 10, 2013 11:55 AM

                              It's not hard to figure out. People that like Waffle House will go there and give it a good or bad rating and people that like nice white tablecloth places will go there and give it a good or bad rating. They are in no way related to each other as far as rankings go.

                              In a near to us town, the "best" restaurant by far is rated number eight. There is a a hotdog counter ranked higher. Comparing the local hotdog counter to the universe of hotdog counters I would also give it a higher rating that I would the nice place compared to the universe of nice places.

                              1. re: kengk
                                LurkerDan RE: kengk Mar 10, 2013 08:09 PM

                                I don't think you understood my post. Trip Advisor ranks the restaurants, but the rankings do not appear to be directly tied to the actual ratings given to the places by consumers.

                                The two I linked are one example:

                                Rank #11, with an average rating of 4 and 79% recommend
                                Rank #12, with an average rating of 4.25 and 85% recommend

                                I get why a hot dog place might be ranked above a fine dining establishment, because it could be rated higher for the reasons you stated. What I don't get is why Trip Advisor ranks a place higher when it's average rating is lower, i.e., the rankings don't reflect the actual ratings.

                                1. re: LurkerDan
                                  m
                                  masha RE: LurkerDan Mar 10, 2013 08:16 PM

                                  I wonder if they use some sort of formula that gives more weight to recent reviews.

                                  1. re: LurkerDan
                                    k
                                    kengk RE: LurkerDan Mar 11, 2013 04:48 AM

                                    I see what you are talking about now. I guess it is an average of the star rating and the % who recommend it. Plus maybe a weighting of the number of and how current the ratings are.

                              2. DiningDiva RE: cresyd Mar 13, 2013 10:38 PM

                                I live in a major tourist (and convention) destination. Out of curiosity I, too, checked out what Trip Advisor had to say about our local restaurants. Not necessarily the best places but pretty solid list. A visitor using the top 15 restaurants would eat pretty well. No fine dining among them, but they would find much better than average sushi, several excellent breakfast locations, good (grass-fed) burgers and pretty decent beach burgers, pizza and beer (for which we are known).

                                All of them have had some play on the local CH board, and while we're a pretty tough lot to please on that board, most of them do have, to one degree or another, a seal of approval

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                  h
                                  Harters RE: DiningDiva Mar 14, 2013 07:19 AM

                                  Your post prompted me to look at the city at the centre of our metro area. Looked at the 20 highest ranked. There are some places I have never heard of and others where I would never choose to eat or recommend.

                                  It takes me to #15 ( a very casual type place) before I get to one I have eaten in - a place that was OK but I've no need to return to. And I get to #19 before I come to a place generally accepted as being "good" - nice little bistro out in the suburbs.

                                  1. re: Harters
                                    DiningDiva RE: Harters Mar 14, 2013 10:25 AM

                                    Harter's that's pretty much what I expected to find when I check out my city. I was surprised to see that there were actually viable chocies in the first 25. I think I had to go down to about entry #20 before I found a place that was unknown.

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