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"Best Restaurants" incorrect in your area (TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, etc.)?
Old 09-05-2014, 04:36 PM   #1
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"Best Restaurants" incorrect in your area (TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, etc.)?

I've lived in the area for more than 20 years, and the lists of best restaurants for our little burg couldn't be more random. It can't be representative of local best restaurants for 99% of residents or visitors.

Is it random nonsense in other areas too?

I realize merchants flood sites with fictitious "good reviews" (and websites try to combat same), sometimes employees are required to enter reviews along with friends & family of the restaurant employees. But the supposed #1 restaurant in our area on one "best" website is an old, run down, very average hole-in-the-wall bargain Chinese restaurant I may be wrong, but I'd be very surprised if they've conspired to create good reviews, the owners & employees barely speak English. Must be a fraternity prank or something.

Strange...
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Old 09-05-2014, 04:49 PM   #2
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I just looked at Tripadvisor's and laughed. A lot of the Asian restaurants are highly rated but we avoid those like the plague because we don't want to catch the plague.

The local paper publishes the County health department restaurant inspection reports once a month or so and the Asian places consistently rank near the bottom of results. The detailed reports are available online and are sometimes pretty gross. But I guess if the number of rodent droppings or roach fragments that are in your food is low enough it doesn't affect the taste.
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Old 09-05-2014, 04:55 PM   #3
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In my area, restaurant.com, and other reviews usually are fairly accurate. There could be a spike in good or bad reviews for new restaurants. But over time, it usually corrects itself.
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Old 09-05-2014, 06:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
I just looked at Tripadvisor's and laughed. A lot of the Asian restaurants are highly rated but we avoid those like the plague because we don't want to catch the plague.

The local paper publishes the County health department restaurant inspection reports once a month or so and the Asian places consistently rank near the bottom of results. The detailed reports are available online and are sometimes pretty gross. But I guess if the number of rodent droppings or roach fragments that are in your food is low enough it doesn't affect the taste.
Chinese and Mexican ones are the worst. As we were dining one day at a table next to a wall, we saw a good size cockroach slowly making its way across the wall. And the cockroaches are nocturnal to begin with. Imagine how many will come out when the lights go out in the restaurant at night. Needless to say, we never went back.

Recently, well known/loved Chinese restaurants were exposed in media with having pest problems. So, it can happen to the best of them.

But food can be still good ....
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Old 09-05-2014, 07:34 PM   #5
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What an interesting question!
I just looked at the top 60 restaurants in my area, and I would agree that at least ⅔ of them belong in that ranking. The others I'm not familiar with so I can't say.
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Old 09-05-2014, 08:04 PM   #6
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I just reviewed the top restaurants in my community. While I might disagree with some of the order of the rankings, I have to say that the top few dozen are all among the best.

But.... some of the rankings are suspect. One new place just opened a few months ago, has only two reviews but is rated in the top 20%. Sorry, but that does not make sense to me.
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Old 09-05-2014, 11:43 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
The local paper publishes the County health department restaurant inspection reports once a month or so and the Asian places consistently rank near the bottom of results. The detailed reports are available online and are sometimes pretty gross. But I guess if the number of rodent droppings or roach fragments that are in your food is low enough it doesn't affect the taste.
I like the solution that L.A took where the restaurants have to put their inspection grade in the front window.
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Old 09-06-2014, 04:46 AM   #8
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Interesting exercise. The top 10 include a chain Buffet (Cinzetti's) which does have decent food but the offerings are always the same and it's very expensive unless you're a big eater. Another is a steakhouse chain (J. Gilbert's). Top is a local BBQ which has a good reputation, so I'll believe that one even though the BBQ place Anthony Bourdain lists as one of 13 places to eat before you die is not in the Top 10. No. 5 is a Thai restaurant with only 12 reviews but they have details (what dishes they ate, for example) so they may be real. No Chinese in the top 10.
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Old 09-06-2014, 07:16 AM   #9
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I still remember the first time I ever saw an online review site, way back in the day on a travel user group with IBM Prodigy. I knew the city well (Caracas) and couldn't believe the top restaurants on the list. The only positive thing one could say about them was "cheap". The really good restaurants were nowhere to be found.

TripAdvisor is better than nothing when visiting an unknown venue. I look at TA and OpenTable lists but also look at the other reviews made by the reviewers to see if we have anything in common. Politely put, many reviews by prominent reviewers show they have different taste than ours. Increasingly, smart service providers are finding ways to use these lists to their advantage. Yelp in particular has a reputation for filtering the reviews.
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"Best Restaurants" incorrect in your area (TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, etc.)?
Old 09-06-2014, 07:31 AM   #10
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"Best Restaurants" incorrect in your area (TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, etc.)?

Some of the tripadvisor rankings in our town seem suspect also. Places with 4 reviews in the top 5 out of 54. A hot dog stand at no 4. I haven't been to any of the top 3, yet no 3 is close to our house.


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Old 09-06-2014, 08:08 AM   #11
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Yelp in particular has a reputation for filtering the reviews.
Yelp in our area has the most skewed and unreliable reviews. The one and two star reviews (even reviews 1 week old) are moved to the back pages. Not worth using anymore.
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Old 09-06-2014, 09:05 AM   #12
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Yelp just won a court case where the judge ruled that yelp could manipulate ratings:

Yelp can manipulate ratings, court rules - SFGate

So between possible yelp manipulation and businesss/competitors leaving fictitious reviews themselves I'm not sure who to believe (besides word of mouth).
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:19 AM   #13
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Different restaurant reviewers rank our local restaurants differently, and eveyone has their favorite. That said, I don't know anybody here whose favorite restaurant critic is TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, or Yelp. Those sites are just ridiculous, I agree, at least here, and I think that you could safely say that I had lost my mind if I relied upon them for restaurant rankings.

The best restaurant reviewer in New Orleans, in my opinion, was an anonymous one on one of the news websites (did he call himself the Anonymous Gourmet? I have forgotten). His reviews disappeared about 10+ years ago and are no longer anywhere to be found but they were spot on every time.

Most people here like Tom Fitzmorris's reviews at New Orleans Menu | The Best Restaurants In New Orleans although we tend to think that he rates certain restaurants way too favorably. Frank grumbles that Fitzmorris must be getting money under the table, but I suppose I am more forgiving because I just think his opinions differ from ours. I enjoy his radio show a lot, even though I don't agree with his ratings all the time.
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:33 AM   #14
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I only look at yelp and yelp is a great source since tons of people post their experiences and even photos.

Robnplunder,

I haven't seen a cockroach since I moved to the Bay Area over a decade ago (and I have lived in a condo as well as next to a hoarder). I didn't realize they were around. (I used to live in AZ and I have seen them there.)


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Old 09-06-2014, 10:40 AM   #15
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I just checked out the tripadvisor.com rankings for my town. They are quite accurate, except that Cheesecake Factory is much higher on the list than it should be.
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:52 AM   #16
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I looked at tripadvisor for Raleigh NC. The top rated restaurant was a fancy French restaurant I'd never heard of but is probably the place to go if you want to take a date to an expensive fancy French restaurant. Next are #2 Lebanese (I know it's good, eaten there many times), #3 Peruvian (never been, heard good things, seems to be trendy to dine at S American places these days), #4 Laotian (never been, friends love it, even Laotian friends/family, seems like a trendy place), #5 Mexican/S American (never been, friends love it, seems trendy).

Going down to #6 and #7 gives a couple of trendy places in the hip part of town (next door to each other). Friends like both places, can't recall if I've been to either one or had catering/apps/drinks at either (used to work nearby).

#9 is the Angus Barn, a perennial favorite and one I would expect to see in the top 10. I've been a few times when others were paying, and if you like steak it's probably awesome (if you get past the $40-50/plate price tag).

I'm personally a fan of the ethnic restaurants in #2-5 position, and would be most likely to dine at some of those.

In summary, I'd say their rankings will probably get you some pretty good restaurants in Raleigh. Overall, I see a lot of "trendy" places that the hip crowd enjoy and are likely to review online. Does it mean the food is better than a hole in the wall place? Not necessarily. But for the top 10 restaurants, it would be hard to go wrong with any of the suggestions.

The places we usually end up are in the 300's and 400's out of 1,220 restaurants. That might reflect the lack of trendiness, non-English speaking clientele, and as a result very limited reviews. All of our regular places have 4 out of 5 stars at Tripadvisor, but between zero and 12 reviews (compared to hundreds for the top restaurants).

The Trip advisor ranking algorithm must include a weighting to number of reviews to focus on popular restaurants and to prevent an individual's efforts at tilting the reviews in their favor with fraudulent reviews.

I find the written reviews more useful than numeric ratings. The local chinese place, at 4/5 stars says "not the best, but good" for one reviewer. If I just want to run in and grab some potstickers or dumplings to go, it'll do every time since it's a block from my house and walkable.
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Old 09-06-2014, 11:29 AM   #17
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Restaurant.com in my area absolutely useless. Didn't recognize one name, it appears most are either new or about to go out of business. They do provide coupons....not worth my time .......I'd rather go to a good Mexican, Italian or Chinese restaurant I know for a proven good meal.
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Old 09-06-2014, 12:37 PM   #18
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There's got to be a fundamental difference between restaurant.com and tripadvisor.com. Restaurant.com doesn't have a single restaurant in our, very popular town.
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Old 09-06-2014, 12:50 PM   #19
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I have used restaurant.com a lot in the past. Great way to get half off or more. Only once has my gift certificate been turned down, and they still offered me a big discount off the full price.

The restaurants are definitely hit and miss. Some are great, and are only on restaurant.com when they are new and looking to find new customers. Others tend to be good and remain on restaurant.com long term if the offer competing coupons (like some mexican restaurants that have BOGO or buy one get one half off coupons all the time). Other restaurants on there are part of hotels and I guess have higher prices than competing nearby restaurants, so offer discounts to get locals to eat there, too. Then there are the truly crappy restaurants that are using the restaurant.com as a promotion to get anyone to come in the door because no one would ever show up and pay full price for crappy food.

We made out pretty well with restaurant.com in Chicago while staying there for 4 days. The $25 gift certificates only cost a few bucks each, and stipulate you must spend a total of $40 for a meal to use the $25 off. For the four of us (2 adults, 2 kids), that meant we could spend right around $40 to qualify for the promotion and end up with a $20-$25 bill for a nice lunch or dinner for 4. All the restaurants we visited were good or great.

But restaurant.com is definitely different than tripadvisor since restaurant.com shows only local restaurants that they sell "gift certificates" for.
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Old 09-06-2014, 03:33 PM   #20
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A Yelp review of our favorite Chinese restaurant:

Quote:
This place is particularly foul, even for a chinese restaurant. Mostly the customers come here for a the buffet. Well, if you like your food old, hardened by heat lamps even mold found on some items, then this is your place. The booths are sticky and the food is gross. You get what you for in this life and in the Illinois Valley, they love it cheap and easy. Did I mention they don't seem to clean?

What a disaster of epic proportions. Who would ever eat sushi from a chinese buffet? They use spaghetti noodles in their lo mein. They serve such a large variety of food items, that it's difficult to describe the overwhelming disgust.

Gosh, I'm grossed out just writing this review.
(he left out dirty plates, silverware, cockroaches, salmonella, HIV, ebola and terrorists)
.................................................. ..............

Where to start? A beautiful new building, Brand new dining furniture. A food bar with 120+ entrees including Salmon, stuffed clams, and virtually every major food known to man except maybe caviar... Crab legs and crab in 4 different forms... 6 kind of shrimp, 9 chicken entrees etc. fresh fruits, and maybe 25 different deserts, including premium ice cream in 6 flavors.

no heat lamps, but a state of the art warming buffet, with two permanent attendants. Always full, and and refreshed when the trays reach 50% empty.
Mongolian stir-fry is a feature, personalized... no extra charge.

I've been into the kitchen, and it is run like a hospital operating room. Masks, gloves, hair nets. Immaculate!, as is the seating area.

Sushi? The owner moved from Shanghai where he operated a chain of restaurants, successfully... he does the sushi. Different every day, always at least 15 different selections. My favorite... eel... on Thursdays. I'm becoming a real fan of sushi, and Chinese in this case, is just as good as the Japanese restaurants.

I didn't mention price... which has gone up this year. All you can eat including everything in the restaurant... with our senior discount, and including tax...
two persons $12.12. Up, $1.00 from last year. (because I always feel it's priced too low, I tip 30%+... which I suppose helps with the excellent service.)

All Chinese personnel, with permanent smiles, and personalized service so that no empty plate sits on the table for more than 20 seconds and the beverage glass never goes below half full. The Hostess is the owner's wife, and has a Masters degree in Technology from Princeton. Runs a tight ship, and delightful to talk to. Am sure neither one of them needs to w*rk, as they still own apartments in Shanghai and Beijing.

The total rehab took place over three months, to perfect what was already the best restaurant in the area. Now even with the low, low prices, it is extremely successful.

I'm very reluctant to broadbrush Chinese or Buffet Restaurants... The proof is in the visit.
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