How Yelp fails to help D.C. diners, partiers

Yelp is swarming with legions of idiots.

Mr. Medvedev chose Ray's Hell Burger after reading lots of self-important restaurant reviews. Then he fired the Mayor of Moscow. From Wikipedia.

"Mr. Medvedev, please pass me my BlackBerry. I have a very enthusiastic review to write of this unpretentious burger joint with 'real people' in it". From Wikipedia.

The site, which seemed so useful two years ago, is now filled with self-promoting wankbags that aren’t interesting in reviewing anything, only furthering their Yelp “elite” status. Being an “elite” means cranking out lots of reviews and using at least 10 exclamation points per piece.


Though not without scandal in the past, unequivocally the worst aspect of the operation is rating other peoples’ ratings. You read someone’s review. It stinks. You want to say so. But here are the options users are given: “Was this review…useful, funny or cool.” I would advise adding these categories:




-Written by a tourist

Here’s an “elite” yelper on Trusty’s, a pub on the southeastern fringe of Capitol Hill. Two people found this review useful, one found it funny and one found it cool. I found it terrible.

Is this an alternate universe with local places and easy going people in the metropolitan DC area? Why yes it is! This is great!

How can a place NOT have anything local, chris m.? That doesn’t even make any sense. If it exists, an establishment is local to someone. chris blathers on:

I step in to Trusty’s and grab a local wheat in the mason jar and take in the comfort and happiness of a local place.

Again with the fixation on “local.” A McDonald’s is local man, so is a 7/11. How many nationwide bar chains are there? Zero to few. Worse, the writer earlier states he drove to Trusty’s by himself. He doesn’t explain why. My guess? He went to Trusty’s specifically to write a Yelp review. While that might help Trusty’s bottom line, to me, that simply sucks. Go where you want to go my friends, not where you can find the most e-fame.

This writer was also from Detroit, revealing another huge flaw in Yelp’s raters. A large percentage of reviewers at this point are tourists/transients who simply are checking off another review on their way to “elite” status. The more out-of-towners reviewing a given place, the less a review can be trusted. Take Matchbox in Chinatown, a place so crowded nobody goes there anymore.

I looked at the first 20 reviews, and wouldn’t ya know it, 10 were from locals (inside Beltway), 10 were from out of town. Of this admittedly small sample size (this place has 758 reviews, averaging four stars) the locals gave Yelp an average of 3.7 stars (with four three-star reviews) while out-of-towners averaged 4.2 stars (with three five-star reviews).

People from away fawn over restaurants in touristy areas while the people in the know that can offer more apt restaurant opinions and comparisons are less bubbly (read: not on vacation). The more you go to a restaurant, the more you notice its flaws or strengths, especially in contrast to its neighbors.

Check out DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant from my hometown. Every single review on the first page is written by an out-of-stater. This is a fantastic sign that a place sucks. If the locals won’t go there or can’t be bothered to up their elite status, you have identified a tourist trap.

Yelp is an ingenious and useful tool for nightlife and dining, but simply using an averaged star review or reading people’s little online dining diaries is not how to use it correctly. I mean look at how bad this review is of Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar on H St., which 40 people found useful funny or cool.

For some reason whenever I walk in here, all I can think is that this place would make the best backdrop for a music video. With me as the star, of course.

And if I were to shoot that video, my cameo guest list would rival Michael Jackson’s Liberian Girl. But Don King, is definitely out. In fact, the cameo list would look a little something like:

David Bowie
Pat Benatar
Snoop Dogg
Grace Jones
Robert Downey Jr
Lady Gaga (sans unicorn heels and paparazzi)

I’d probably rock out with Dave (we’re like that), Grace and Pat upstairs on the dance floor where the DJ really gets it in.

Just…stop. That is a really weird thing to write, lady.

I’ll keep using Yelp, looking for other people’s reviews that come across in a similarly scathing tone, but for real food knowledge, I turn to Tom Sietsema of The Post, Tim Carmen of City Paper and word of mouth. Tom and Tim already have jobs and none of my friends are trying to up their e-status.

Unless they are writing for this blog.

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