Where Do You Look When Learning About a Restaurant?

CTable_primaryI’m meeting up with a friend for lunch tomorrow, and we were discussing where to eat. A few restaurant came up that we’ve heard of but never tried.

Usually when this happens, I go through a two-step process:

  1. I search for reviews about the restaurant. Usually this involves me looking on Sauce Magazine’s website (it’s a local foodie magazine), not finding anything there, then turning to Yelp.
  2. After I select the restaurant, I want to know about what’s good at that restaurant. Again, I turn to Yelp.

So, the answer for me is Yelp. But I’m not satisfied with that answer at all.

Like, today, Yelp offered bad reviews about two of the restaurants. But they were from random Yelpers or whatever they’re called. And they’re often mixed–someone might give a restaurant 5 stars, another 1.

This is in stark contrast to movie reviews. For years I’ve followed a great movie news/review site called Slashfilm. I feel like I “know” them, and I trust their reviews. I’d love to find a St. Louis food reviewer who has reviews on almost every restaurant in St. Louis.

Also, I tend to trust professional critics more than random people. So I also turn to Rotten Tomatoes when deciding whether or not to see a movie. Rotten Tomatoes does a fantastic job of depicting in a single graphic (a) what the critics think and (b) what moviegoers think.

I want that for restaurants. I want Rotten Tomatoes for restaurants. Does that exist?

When you hear about a restaurant you haven’t tried, do you look for reviews? Where do you look?

8 thoughts on “Where Do You Look When Learning About a Restaurant?”

  1. I Googled “Rotten Tomatoes for restaurants” which is a common search and found: https://www.zomato.com/ (formerly UrbanSpoon) lets you see reviews AND blogs, which sometimes catalogs expert reviews. It’s pretty comprehensive but it’s not as quick a snapshot as Rotten Tomatoes (which can source experts across a country or the globe since movies are released and widespread vs local restaurants).

    Alternately, if you want to avoid the complainers of Yelp and just get a second opinion, check Trip Advisor or their Facebook page for more (just another place to look for reviews, not necessarily more qualified).

    • Emma: Great minds think alike. 🙂 When I was writing this, I searched for that same exact thing and got the same result. However, as you also discovered, it doesn’t provide the same quick snapshot as Rotten Tomatoes. Also, I find the comparison of critics versus regular people on RT to be really helpful.

      That’s a good tip about Trip Advisor and the restaurant’s Facebook page!

  2. You’re a guy with a talent for scribbling words who enjoys trying new restaurants. And while you are a man with many things on his plate, you’re also possessive of the spirit of an entrepreneur. Maybe making something like this can be a pet project?

    • Unfortunately the only pet project I have time for are my actual pets. 🙂 I bet there are great food blogs in St. Louis–I’ll try to Google them.

  3. Zomato bought UrbanSpoon, but sadly destroyed a lot of what made UrbanSpoon great in the process. They’re doing course corrections now to bring it back in-line, but it’s a slow change. It used to have a great “find me a random place to eat nearby” part of the app where you could give general parameters and let it go (price, cuisine(s), distance, etc.). Still, I head there before Yelp because I don’t trust Yelp not to manipulate the results based on whether or not the restaurant pays them.

    We have a local reviewer who just goes out to eat with his wife and posts reviews. He happens to live nearish to us in the DFW area and tries all sorts of places where “normal” people would eat. He used to frequent UrbanSpoon, then started pushing his own blog/Facebook after the Zomato mess. Zomato reached out to him to work with him on improving their service (which I appreciate).

    Otherwise, we’ll use word of mouth. Sometimes that works out well. Sometimes it doesn’t. We tried a place the other day that was getting rave reviews from friends and it was … okay. We’d go back, but wouldn’t go hugely out of our way to do so.

    • paschott: Thanks for your comment! I used to love UrbanSpoon–I still have the app on the first screen of my phone, actually. I’m glad to hear that Zomato is open to advice from users and content creators. Perhaps it will become the Rotten Tomatoes of food after all!

  4. Yelp has always been my go-to, but I’ve been burned too many times recently with going somewhere based off a lot of positive Yelp reviews and discovering that the reviews aren’t accurate (the bland fish tacos at a local restaurant that people raved about on Yelp was one huge recent disappointment).
    I think Joe is on to something with the idea of someone who is good with words and enjoys food starting a pet project foodie blog. Maybe something like that would work better with a team of people who each take turns visiting new places and alternate who is in charge of writing reviews.

    • I like the idea! Though I’ve realized that I’m actually not that much of a foodie in that I like to go to places I already know and love. It’s on the rare occasion that I try someplace new that I need a way to learn about it. 🙂 I did find one blog that seems pretty good–I’ll see if it works out.


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