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Calibrating Yelp reviews for Manhattan/NYC

I live in Portland, OR, and have learned through experience how to calibrate Yelp overall star ratings and specific reviews to extract meaningful and helpful information from them, especially for smaller places that don't get the attention of local food blogs.

I'm wondering if there are some rules of thumb for how Yelp ratings in Manhattan are best interpreted by someone with what I might call "Chowhound sensibilities" -- because sometimes, a quick check of Yelp is all one has time for.

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  1. if it's a new-ish place, i tend to lop off all the top and bottom reviews -- experience dictates the ubiquity of shills and anti-shills (read: friends and family of direct competitors). after that, i believe you have to carefully read these things, as opposed to glancing at stars qua stars.

    if there's a consensus that a particular dish is heavenly (or hellish) and that's a dish you are intrigued by, go for it. but as far as pure numerics, it's kinda like glancing at rotten tomatoes and saying 'oh, movie A got a 78, movie B got a 64' without considering who's writing, what kind of movie it is and so on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: debinqueens

      I agree with all that.

      It also helps to validate individual posters by checking some of their other recent reviews. FWIW I do that with CH posters as well if I don't know them. It's not like we all passed a tough entrance exam when we got our CH accounts. Credibility isn't automatic.

    2. Yelp is a fantastic resource for finding an address or phone number or looking at photos of various dishes. the ratings can't be trusted at all.

      2 Replies
      1. re: coasts

        I like it also to find accurate hours and a link to the web site, or if something is closed/moved/under renovations.

        1. re: kathryn

          Or if somewhere takes credit cards or not.

      2. I always end up reading the actual reviews themselves.

        I actually find it very difficult to find a restaurant in Manhattan that hasn't been written up by at least one local food blog or publication between Serious Eats: NY, Time Out NY, New York Magazine / Grub Street, Village Voice's Fork in the Road blog, the NY Times, the New Yorker, New York Post, New York Press, Eater, Michelin, Bloomberg, Midtown Lunch, Gothamist, Gotham Magazine...

        1. I use yelp for the info and photos, the reviews i take with a grain of salt and note what the consensus is for favorites or serious service issues that sound legit and non-whiney.

          1. Personally I never rely on/trust yelp for pretty much the same reasons I don't rely on/trust zagat's. Go to almost any of the legitimate reviews kathryn pointed out for your info (or ask here because we all know what we're talking about ; ) ).