It’s no secret that professional foodies, from chefs to restaurant critics, aren’t a fan of restaurant review sites like Yelp. After all, it’s irritating for members of any profession to deal with people who think they can do the same job just as well without the same skills, experience, or training. But when it comes to something as personal as food, doesn’t the palette of the proletariat count for something? According to Andrew Zimmern, no, it does not. The Bizarre Foods host issued an epic and articulate rant about everything that’s wrong with sites like Yelp when you’re trying to find a darn good dinner.
In a recent video, Zimmern explained why he skips review sites entirely when he’s hunting down the next tasty dish in cities around the world. “I think Yelp is neither good nor bad for the food industry,” he said. “I find it useless. If you’re aggregating a lack of expertise, then when I plug in ‘best sushi bar in Los Angeles,’ Yelp doesn’t help me at all.”
He has a point— just because a restaurant gets a lot of up-votes, a foodie on the hunt doesn’t have any way of knowing if the people leaving the reviews have only tried a California roll or if they’re discerning types who opine over kaiseki and Masaba Battera. That’s why Zimmern recommends you seek out advice from people who know their stuff and who have the ability to describe exactly what you’re getting into and why it’s good.
What I do when I’m going to a new city is I look up who the 4 or 5 better food writers are in that town and the 4 or 5 better chefs in that town. And then I go on to their Instagram and Twitter or Facebook timelines, and I just go back a couple weeks and I write down all the places that these people have been eating or taking pictures of. And I put a little check by it, and the places that have the most checks are the ones that I go to first.
That sounds like a pretty sound strategy, especially since it means you might get to see mouth-watering pictures of the latest menu items. Just be warned—you could end up as grumpy as a professional about review sites. Zimmern’s rant was still a lot nicer than what former New York Times food critic Ruth Riechel had to say a few years back: “Anybody who believes Yelp is an idiot. Most people on Yelp have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Instead, you can pick up where Zimmern left off. “Ugh … Yelp drives me crazy,” he said. “I’ll let you decide if it drives you crazy.”
(Via Business Insider)