Self-Yelp - Digest - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

Self-Yelp

Why I’d never pick a restaurant based on an amateur online review—unless nobody’s looking

Illustration by Tim Bower

I have been living in constant fear that the NSA is going to reveal my greatest shame: that I have visited Yelp. Should this happen, I will claim that I’ve only used it to grab a restaurant’s address or hours, but the truth is, I’ve been reading the reviews. They are, of course, tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing more than the fact that an incredible number of people use stopwatches to time their servers. In February Yelp released a list of the “Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S.” based on its reviews. The top restaurant in L.A.—and number four in the country—was Porto’s Bakery and Café in Burbank, which is not only not the best restaurant in L.A., but it’s not even the best Porto’s. Hatfield’s has four stars, but the Chick-fil-A in Cerritos has four and a half, despite the fact that its pastry program is limited to one cookie.

I would never post on Yelp. Neither would I knowingly sit at a table with someone I knew to have done so, even if I were single and had an Asian fetish, which I know would severely limit my dating options, since every food blogger is a young Asian woman. Yet I secretly scroll through the write-ups, ordering Hinoki & the Bird’s crab toast and lobster roll because they were the top two most suggested dishes—which I will then pretend I heard someone mention on Good Food. And while I will never know for sure, I believe Yelp saved me from a disastrous lunch at Morimoto’s Skewers at LAX, directing me toward Lemonade instead. I do not like to think about what my seatmates to San Miguel de Allende would have endured had I eaten those curry-covered pork skewers.

I use Yelp because it’s just like talking to people about food: You have to quickly determine who are the morons and then pretend to hear a friend calling you from across the room. In fact, I wish that strangers came with Yelp’s best feature. After reading the first few sentences, you can choose not to click on “Read more.” 

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