Robert G. of Malvern writes: What’s your opinion on hotel review websites and restaurant critics?
I recently attended an overseas familiarization trip with several journalists, and we all agreed that the evaluation process has become a tricky one: Whom can you trust to deliver an experienced, honest voice within the realm of reviewing these days?
Personally, when I want to learn about a restaurant or hotel, I have a multistep method of discovery. First, I pull up a venue on Frommer’s, which I feel provides legitimate expertise and overall continuity. I also trust the uniformity of the Zagat Survey. Even though the submitted reviews are from the general public, who better to provide opinions about dining and lodging? More often than not, if people are giving input on Zagat, then they are probably as much foodies as I am and, thus, qualified to share their experiences.
Likewise, I enjoy surfing TripAdvisor. Admittedly, one needs to sift through some public misinformation and more than a fair share of angry diatribe to get the real skinny on a place. But still, uniformity is pretty much in order on this highly informative site.
I also go on Chowhound, Urbanspoon and eGullet. These three provide culinary assistance rather than thumbs-up and -down reviews. They have answers to questions posed in a general forum setting, such as “Where can I find a good Turkish restaurant in the city?” or “Can anyone tell me where to locate a wine-and-spirits shop that sells grappa?”
And I trust the well-known guidebooks by AAA and Michelin.
Locally, I find myself on Main Line Dine. I don’t always agree with the site’s reader contributions, but I respect the moderator’s content and his own informative take on the places he visits.
I also respect the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan, even if I feel he doesn’t always give certain high-quality chain restaurants their due. Regardless, if LaBan’s telling us that a restaurant is “Two Bells,” then it probably is.
And, though it may seem as if I’m currying favor by stating my regard for Main Line Today’s own Food & Drink critic, Beth Ceccarelli, I can sincerely say that her writing style and straightforward honesty are refreshing, especially during these times when many so-called restaurant reviewers too-often just ride the low road of negativity.
What do I avoid?
The website I usually stay away from is Yelp.com. Its intent, I’m guessing, is to be like a Zagat Survey for the masses. However, I find Yelp’s content is riddled with incorrect information, a lack of fact-checking and, in some cases, hidden agendas brought to us by either a restaurant’s competitor or a critic-wannabe who thinks the way to give an opinion is through smarmy comments and mean-spirited barbs.
But like many of the journalists I traveled with recently, I trust most in you. As I like to say: My recommendation is only as good as yours.
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