Sunday, October 05, 2008

On online restaurant reviews

So I've spent the last hour or so looking for restaurant options to take my friends out to dinner tonight. Oftentimes these searches lead to common review sites like Citysearch, Yelp and Trip Advisor. I usually devour the reader reviews, but I've been running into some reviews that I have to admit irritate the crap out of me.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a huge proponent of open-to-the-public online reviews, and have been known to author a few myself. I love the immediacy of the Internet, and in Portland especially there is an active and encouraging dialogue between chefs/owners and diners on sites like and Food Dude's Portland Food and Drink.

In my humble opinion, however, unless you are Ruth Reichl, Jeffrey Steingarten, Frank Bruni or a food writer of that caliber with comparable knowledge, experience and finesse with words, the following phrases immediately disqualify your opinion:

- "I would first off like to say that I am a total foodie and have visited some of the finest restaurants in America. I used to live in San Francisco, where I found the greatest food on earth to be located."

- "I'm an experienced foodie. I've lived in Seattle and New York and currently reside in San Francisco so I know good restaurants."

- "...What my server didn't know is that I'm a server and probably tip a whole lot better, not to mention know a lot more about food than most people in the room."

- "So I'll start by saying that I have been to many (and I mean many) restaurants around town..."

- "We are regulars at [insert list of expensive restaurants here], and for special occasions we dine at [most expensive restaurant in town]."

The above quotes were pulled from actual reviews. Okay people, if you feel the need to define yourself as an expert diner in order to garner some sort of respect, you automatically lose. Some of what you're saying may be true, but let your food knowledge come across in the retelling of your dining experience without prefacing your opinion with a qualifier.

Other irritating phrases:

- "I would have given five stars if there had been more vegetarian options."

It would be one thing if this particular reviewer was writing about a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, but this was a review of a restaurant well-known for it's meaty deliciousness and common use of animal offal.

- "People in Portland may like this restaurant or revere it as top notch, because there is not much else available."

I don't even know where to begin with this. Wait, yes I do... read this and see what the New York Times has to say about "not much else available" in Portland.

Not all the bad is entirely bad, however. These comments gave me a chuckle:

"As I waited for my computer date..."

I appreciate the honesty here.

"The ambulance was good."

Hmm. I don't know about you, but I don't really like the ambulance during my dining experiences.

Anyway, enough with irritants. I think the sudden onslaught of cold, wet weather after a seemingly endless string of perfectly blue skies has turned my mood slightly. Summer is officially over, kids.


ml said...

hilarious. if you need a break from the rain come visit me in LA!!!

Ben said...

You saved the best for last with the ambulance and computer date. Cheers.

mrjeffmccarthy said...

That was a great post. Clever and resourcefully observant.

goooooood girl said...

i like......

Bonnie said...

you are so f-ing funny. people are so dumb.