For women going places

Review Runaround: Online Restaurant Reviews


When you’re in a new city and looking for some where to dine – where do you start? Who do you ask for recommendations? The concierge? Your friends or family? Locals you meet on the street? Online review sites?

Lately, it’s been online review sites for me, or in particular. I used them recently on trips to Baltimore, Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale.

I like to tell myself that checking a website takes the least amount of work (and I don’t have to bother anyone). But I’m pretty sure it’s taking much longer than stopping at the concierge desk on the way out of the hotel. But I’m using my smart phone so it has to be simpler, right? Not really, when you have to wade through a bunch of junk to find the gems.

My favorite reviews are the ones that go on and on about how bad the service, food and atmosphere are yet still give it 3-4 stars. Huh? Figuring out just how to read the reviews is an art in itself. You end up analyzing the reviewers – how many posts have they made, how many visits to this place; do they speak in restaurant terms or as regular Joes? What is their biggest complaint – hair in the soup or a table near the kitchen?

In Cleveland, I was looking for a breakfast place – nothing fancy just good inexpensive food. I remembered seeing a restaurant highlighted on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and looked it up. Holy cow – there were hundreds of reviews on Yelp, mostly negative. It seems the increased exposure had led to increased expectations and decreased quality.

So I was in a quandary. Go anyway or believe the reviews? We ended up taking the reviews to heart and trying another restaurant that had fewer reviews but many more were positive. However, that place turned out to be just mediocre to us. So you really can’t win, can you?

So what’s your tried and true method for finding a good place to eat on the road?

Road Reporter Vicki Zwart

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