Monday, March 3, 2014

Rant: Restaurant Reviews & Yelp's Top 100

What is the best restaurant in Massachusetts? That is certainly not an easy question to answer, and there is plenty of subjectivity involved in any possible answer.

Many consumers seek out restaurant reviews for advice on where they should dine. They might read the food column of a local newspaper or magazine, or check out the reviews from a local food blogger. Or they might check out the crowd sourced reviews from sites like Trip Advisor or Yelp. Which source is the most valuable for consumers?

Yelp has certainly been the target of much derision and controversy. And I don't think Yelp's new list of the Top 100 Places To Eat in the U.S. is going to help its reputation. I found the list enlightening and I feel it speaks volumes to consumers about what they can expect if they rely upon Yelp reviews. The list is drastically different from many other sources which have compiled their own "best places to eat" lists. There are restaurant's on the Yelp list that have probably never been listed before on any other "best place in the U.S."

Forget the French Laundry or Le Bernadin, according to Yelp the #1 restaurant in the entire U.S. is Da Poke Shack, a tiny seafood restaurant, kind of a hole-in-the-wall, in Hawaii that primarily serves poke, which you can roughly think of as a raw seafood salad. Really? The best in the entire country? Prior to this list, I have never heard of this place before, and have never seen it on any other "best in the country" list. It certainly befuddles me, though seems indicative of the type of places that Yelpers prefer.

Nearly half of the spots on the top 100 list are taken by restaurants in California. As part of the reason for restaurants to be on this list concerns the number of reviews a place has received, it seems likely that there are far more active Yelpers in California than any other state. It also seems to indicate that the list is biased more toward West Coast restaurants. With such a bias, can we take this list seriously?

There is a single Massachusetts restaurant on the list, at #32, and it is ranked higher than the French Laundry and Le Bernadin. That would make it the best restaurant in Massachusetts. Can you guess which Massachusetts restaurant garnered these accolades?

I bet you probably guessed wrong as it isn't an obvious choice. Yelp chose Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville as one of their top 100 restaurants in the country. Again, I am befuddled how this place, which though it is good, somehow got ranked as the "best" restaurant in Massachusetts. Personally, I could list a couple dozen places offhand that I would consider better than this place. Do any of my readers consider Dave's Fresh Pasta to be the best restaurant in Massachusetts?

Only two other New England restaurants made the list, the Fishermen's Grill in Portland, Maine at #60 and Los Andes Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island at #69. Again, neither of these two places are on a short list of places I would consider the "best" in their state.

If these are the type of places that Yelp considers to be the best, do you really want to rely on it for your restaurant decisions?

1 comment:

Rob Ciampa said...

I think I "yelped" like a scalded dog when I read the rankings. I continue to get my recos via WOM, informed blogs, and experimentation. Popular review lists do nothing more than elevate the middle, mediocre restaurants.