Yelp sucks. I need unbiased reviews. Help!
January 8, 2010 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Are there any web sites that have unbiased restaurant reviews?

I want to find some web sites with good reviews (and ratings, perhaps) of restaurants. I don't even care if it costs at this point; it doesn't have to be free. In fact, if it's like Mefi that would be even better.

Yelp keeps sending me to lousy places. I've had horrible coffee at 5-star coffee joints and mind-bendingly bad Italian food at 4 and 5-star restaurants. I am beyond frustrated! I've come up with some hypotheses about Yelp:

1) Restaurant owners get their friends to write positive reviews.
2) The general public doesn't know good food.
3) People are interested in free wifi, decor, speed of service, cleanliness of bathrooms, variety of food available, niceness of servers, location of restaurant, and the food itself--in that order.
4) Vegetarians have no shame in rating meat places poorly because the veggie burger they got at the local hamburger joint wasn't the best they've ever had.
5) Everyone thinks they're a 'foodie' and that they have some special insight on food.

Is Zagats any good? Their web site says that they get their results from surveys--which sounds a bit like Yelp to me. Is it? Anybody have any feedback on Zagats?

PS--I'm going to Chicago next week (actually around Munster, Indiana). Any recommendations of Italian food and/or pizza?

PMS--If you love Olive Garden, you don't even have any idea what I'm talking about anyway, so don't worry about it.
posted by rybreadmed to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite is a good Web site for reviews. Let me know what you think.
posted by srbrunson at 3:32 AM on January 9, 2010

Chowhound is the standard answer if you're looking for good food reviews. It's not as slick as Yelp, so it's not as easy to find what you want. It's just a bunch of message boards with a mediocre search engine. Still, the people there do care about food, and it's worth taking a look.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 3:57 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

My wife and I joke about the fact that a "great" Yelp review means the restaurant is very good, horrible, or somewhere in between. The only thing that seems consistent is that one star reviewed restaurants are indeed bad.

We've had better luck reading what people say (and ignoring the average score) to get an idea if a restaurant will be enjoyable. If someone has written a review about the experience as well as the food, their rating is usually valid. Someone who writes a few lines, or hates a dish because they don't like broccoli, ignore.

The Chowhound forums (discussions, not necessarily reviews) have been fairly good in my experience to give an indication of what restaurants are worth a try. Again, those who write more about the total experience seem to have a better handle on the value of a restaurant.
posted by qwip at 4:02 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Zagat's is decent, but I have had very different views on a few places. Have you checked out the Michelin Guide? They have really high standards and I've liked every place I've tried from there.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:39 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, just reiterating all that has been said before.

The Michelin guide is the absolute standard (though at times there are some politics involved, but still very much the standard)

Zagat isn't bad, but it still user rated and not critic rated. is an excellent resource, and yes especially the conversations.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:05 AM on January 9, 2010

Have you checked out Urbanspoon? They have a pretty decent rating system. Also while all the reviews are not going to be written by true foodies and gourmands, they have a voting system which has usually been a pretty accurate reflection of the restaurant's quality.
posted by lrkuperman at 5:41 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck this week in suburban Tampa cross-referencing the aforementioned chowhound with (bear me out)

Chowhound has people who loooove to talk about food and are full of themselves, rather than full of shit. tripadvisor helps match it up with maps, overall rankings for the area, and multiple reviews for the same restaurant. Note that this was especially useful because I am NOT looking at a major city with easy public transit; I need to stay close to home-base in a sprawling suburban area.

I have had bad luck with "best of.." type listings from major papers and alt-weeklies, most recently in Tucson.

Of course, AskMe is always the BEST.
posted by whatzit at 5:53 AM on January 9, 2010

If you don't want results from surveys, you probably want to just pick up a local newspaper and see what their food critic says. Most cities with major papers will have an archive big enough to have a good set of options.
posted by decathecting at 7:00 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're theories on yelp are correct plus Yelp allows business that pay to "supress" negative reviews.

Zagats is very reliable. I'd also recommend going to the boards on, here's the Chicago ChowHound board. The site is full of passionate, knowledgeable foodies.
posted by lannanh at 7:04 PM on January 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

We need Eat MetaFilter!

But seriously: Chowhound is leagues above the rest for somebody like you. Zagat just tracks what's popular -- it's not a reliable guide to good food and it totally misses anything obscure.
posted by escabeche at 6:55 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I travel, I check chowhound, but then I also look at the local alternative weekly paper for their reviews & recommendations.

For Chicago, it's the Chicago Reader.
posted by TuffAustin at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2010

Chicago Italian recommendations: La Gondola (2914 N. Ashland), Mia Francesca (a few locations), Caro Mio (1825 W. Wilson). Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. (2121 N. Clark) is good for a different take on it.

Chicago pizza recommendations: Lou Malnati's (a few locations), Pizza Rustica (3913 N. Sheridan), Spacca Napoli (1769 W. Sunnyside).
posted by adrian_h at 8:21 AM on January 9, 2010

Another go-to site in Chicago for restaurant reviews is the message board LTHforum, a Chicago-based foodie forum; I'd search the keyword Munster there to see what they would recommend.
posted by carrienation at 1:57 PM on January 9, 2010

When you're looking for pizza in Chicago, swing by Gigio's Pizza in Uptown. It's right off the Wilson El stop on the red line. Just a half block north on the other side of the street. I think Broadway is the street.

Anyway, even south siders will tell you that Gigio's is excellent pizza.
posted by kensington314 at 6:54 PM on January 9, 2010

The way to use Yelp, fyi, is to keep track of users who agree with you about restaurants. Don't look at any other reviews. Moving on.
posted by herbaliser at 4:08 PM on January 11, 2010

Great Lake pizza in Chicago is, well, great! Long waits, byob, no reservations, often closed without notice so call ahead.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2010

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