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Do you read restaurant reviews before eating out?

Personally, I will rarely read a restaurant review before I eat out at a new restaurant. Very occasionally, if I am going to a new area, I will scan Trip Advisor for highly rated local establishments and possibly skim (aka "man") read a few of the recent reviews, but nothing more.

I don't tend to read the restaurant review amateur food blogs as some of them are either just pictures and a few poor words, or they are badly written with the stock "to die for" type descriptions.

The only professional food reviewer I will read is Grace Dent in the Evening Standard (UK) - only because she has a very entertaining writing style.

So who does read the reviews and do they influence your choices?

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  1. Not actively.

    But if I happen across a FB review from a few favorite local bloggers or hear an interview with a interesting local chef it often spurs me to make a reservation.

    1. Occasionally. I never bother with something like Zagat's. That is just a popularity contest. I find a well written review helpful especially if we are going some place new to us. Then they can at least give you an overview of what to expect.

      1. Yes, why wouldn't you want information about a place where you are going to be spending your time and money.

        I read local newspaper critics, chowhound and even yelp reviews when I am considering a new restaurant. If the reviews are overwhelmingly negative or if they just mention things that I know are not to my taste, then I can skip the restaurant and find somewhere else.

        If the reviews are OK or even mixed and I am still interested enough in the menu then I can go and make up my own mind.

        1. I read them all the time. While I think any single review should be taken with a grain of salt, if there is a preponderance of comments about any one aspect of the place (good or bad), I'm likely to pay more attention.

          1. I use Yelp to look @ the overall rating scale, and do check the negative (1 on scale). I almost always launch to the restaurant web site to peruse the sample menu.

            1. I use Urbanspoon a lot to scope a place before I go. If for nothing else, to get and idea of what's on the menu.

              1. Generally, no, but I do rely on Tom Sietsema and his Washington Post reviews. He's never steered me wrong and I enjoy his live chats.

                1. No. The local restaurant reviewer is mostly interested in highbrow places that I would never consider going to. Amateur reviews are even less help. I consider Yelp utterly useless. Zagat is of no interest to me. Back when I ate a lot of sushi, I once tried a place that a local weekly rag recommended in their "best of" issue. It was a place I would never go back to. Long ago I decided I do better on my own.

                  The only time a review anywhere is useful is when it calls my attention to a place I didn't know about which falls within my parameters of cuisine and location. Then I might have a look at it and decide for myself whether to try it.

                  1. I do, mostly just to figure out the vibe of a place, or to read what's good to order. Many reviews these days are kind of useless, so I'd rather just try it out for myself. Tastes vary.

                    For example, the non-fancy sports bar (that I would rate 3-4 stars... it's not fantastic but it gets the job done) that we frequent has some negative reviews on Yelp. One is written by a girl who gave it one star. In her review, she said "sports bars aren't really my thing" and then proceeded to complain that the food was served in baskets. Also complained that the servers shirts were too low cut. But also in her review she said "the food and drinks weren't bad at all, this just isn't my kind of place." So, while I guess it was a good review for content (helps people who hate food in baskets to stay away I guess), there was no reason for her to give it one star.

                    The only time that reviews might turn me off of a place before trying it is if there's a consistent message in all of them, like if almost everyone complains about the service, or if more than a few people have said they've felt ill after eating there. Then I might avoid.

                    1. I read any available source as the circumstances dictate. Professional reviews, guidebooks, local discussion/review boards, Trip Advisor, Chowhound, Egullet. You name it, I'll read it. Although very rarely do I read blogs as they don't generally add much to my knowledge

                      A single review is not going to particularly affect my choice but a mountain of evidence one way or another certainly will. I am not a pathfinder over new restaurants and much prefer to read about other people's experiences before I spend my pension.

                      1. Huh. I thought that was what CH is all about. Or at least a LOT of it.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: linguafood

                          I thought he was talking a "professional" reviews from critics-like Devra in Boston, Pete Wells in NY, etc as well as guides like Zagats.

                          I don't actively seek out a critics reviews, never use Yelp and the like. I do use Urban spoon when I find myself suddenly in a town where I know no one and only have my phone and no time for research. It helps me narrow down my choices.

                          Chowhound I use all the time. There are some posters who have similar tastes, likes and dislikes whose posts I trust so I actively seek out their review of a newly opened place or a place that want on my radar. And as much as I like Devra here in Boston she and I don't always line up. There are bloggers and CHounders that I would seek out before her.

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            Professional reviews of restaurants are generally what puts them on my radar in the first place.

                            That said, if I've had a restaurant recommended to me, I will look around on the interwebs (here & yelp) and see what people are saying.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              I disagree, although LF...I generally concur with you on many points..
                              Many or most of the "professionsal critics" are paid professionals and just that their opinons are stratiegically placed in the media by PR firms...that is a fact. Had an uncle that reviewed restaurants in NYC for a living, like for 30 years...he would bring me along with him...and of course the owner knew he was comming......because the owner of the restaurant was either paying him directly or indirectly....BTW...his pen name was Walter Kaner, her in NYC....he passed on about 10 years ago...but check him out he wrote for teh NY Daily news amongst others

                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                Well, I'm talking the NYer, for example. It doesn't even mean that I will absolutely go there. But it'll put a place on my radar I hadn't even heard about. I guess that's what I'm saying.

                                Generally, of course, I prefer forming my own opinion by going and finding out myself :-)

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I value your opinion more than a published review.....

                        2. With the explostion of foodie blogs and the internet, it's alot easier today than to merely rely on the recommendations of friends or some concierge at a hotel. I do review reviews to see what others have to say, keeping in mind that there is little so disparate as the public's taste in restaurants. In another thread I posed the question of how to quantify the "goodness" of a restaurant to help standardize one's opinion, but since it's all opinion, that one came up a bit short.

                          1. If I am trying someplace new and am not doing it spur of the moment, I definitely search out local professional reviews as well as consult CH. I don't make my decision solely based on reviews, but consistent negatives about something that would bug me will definitely cause me to reconsider my plans. Likewise, if there is a lot of buzz about someplace new, I will be more inclined to try it based on what I read.

                            I don't search out amateur blogs because there are so many of them and I don't "know" the authors well enough to know if their tastes and mine are in sync. I do enjoy reading them just for fun, though.

                            1. I trust restaurant reviews as much as I trust movie reviews (remember, Siskel and Ebert gave E.T. two thumbs down and predicted it would be the biggest bomb of the year).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                Not true! They loved it! Check out the 1982 review onYouTube.

                                1. i trust and rely upon certain posters on my local chowhound board FAR more than i trust and rely upon formal restaurant reviews.

                                  1. wrapyourlipsaroundthis.com is funny

                                    1. The most poignant and honest review ever written:

                                      Anton Ego: In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, "Anyone can cook." But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more.

                                      1. For me it depends a lot on circumstances, and what's available.

                                        I spend a lot of time eating in places that don't have particularly good English coverage for restaurants. So depending on reviews restricts me to a small selection of places that have been reviewed in English, and cuts me off from a lot of the really fun stuff. So while I might check out reviews for a higher end meal, for cheaper, more local stuff, I will search out places more randomly (walk through neighbourhood, look for something that looks popular, attempt to order food). Plus, there are very rarely review for street food.

                                        It also depends on how much work I want to do - it can take quite a while to find reviews, sort through them, figure out which ones are legitimate, and which ones of those are written by people whose taste in food matches mine. And my tastes sometimes deviate wildly from the taste of the people writing reviews.

                                        1. Prior to joining here I NEVER read any reviews of restaurants I relied on local knowledge and or the recommendations of friends.

                                          Since joining Chow I do not look up a new restaurant I'm going to try before going, simply because I don't want anything I read to potentially skew my observations and experiences. I will go back after I have dined somewhere and see if my observations or experience seemed to match those who have reviewed the place before and then ad my review, or start a new as the case might be.

                                          Also since joining here.....random reviews have become a big part on my choosing "new dining experiences". I have tried several new restaurants I would have never known about or dreamed of trying if it wasn't for what I read about them here on Chow. So from that respect, yes I do read about them before I try them, but simply because that's how I discovered them to begin with.