This is not an April Fool’s joke.
I actually do use Yelp with some frequency, though I rarely read reviews. To me, Yelp’s best use is as a directory service. They’ve built the most comprehensive index of restaurants out there, at least for now, as Google is coming on strong – hours and full restaurant menus are becoming a part of Google searches now. But at the moment, Yelp has the most accurate listing of phone numbers, menu links, maps (with geographic searches enabled), and filtering (by distance, category, features, and what is open at the moment). As in “I’m in a new city and I’d like to find a BBQ joint within five miles of me that’s open on Thursday’s and looks like it has a chance of being decent.” I can admit this – Yelp can and has helped me locate such places.
The user reviews are what makes Yelp so polarizing. There’s a lot of inaccurate and malicious information out there. Who knows what an individual’s taste or agenda may be? Even in aggregate, ratings can be tricky, but it’s fair to say that if there’s a restaurant I’ve never tried, and there are fifty reviews averaging four or five stars, there’s a fair chance I will find something decent to eat there. Of course, there is some context one must understand when making such presumptions. Tourist towns, for instance, are a greater gamble. There are plenty of crappy fried fish shacks with loads of positive reviews. And a thousand positive brunch reviews might just be a restaurant I will mega-loathe.
What I’ve always wanted is a curated list of recommendations, from sources I can trust. I’ve started to participate in Google’s endeavor to accomplish this, as a featured source for the Field Trip app. My blog posts/recommendations will start coming up with Atlanta alerts very soon. Not that recommendations from myself or these other “trusted” sources are always perfect or current.
In this vein, Yelp does provide the ability to select users you want to follow, and their reviews will always pop-up first when you view a restaurant. If you are going to follow one person, follow Daniel B.
Daniel B, I dare say, could be the most prolific food writer in Atlanta. As of today, Daniel has over 1500 reviews, 151 review updates, 162 firsts (as in, he is the first person to review a place), 1385 tips, and 117 lists. And Daniel doesn’t throw up a sentence or two, like “this place sucks” or “the spaghetti with clam rocks but the waiter was a douche”. His average review is around 400 words. That’s over half a million words written. Oh, and he has posted 10729 photos. Let’s say you just stumbled upon a tiny bakery on the backside of a dumpy strip mall in Marietta? Want to see what their food looks like? Guess whose photos show up first? That’s right friend, Daniel B. Even without reading his text, which is very thorough, a picture can often tell me exactly what I want to know about a place, and whether I’d like to give it a shot.
So those on their high horse may make fun of me for this post, or for my use of Yelp, but I call it practical.. And for those who hate the Yelpers and won’t use it on principle of the often whiny users, if you take a look, you will see that Daniel loves food as much as anyone, and takes the time to write and post more photos than just about anyone in the city, which can be an unexpected resource.
I’d be willing to bet you will be surprised the first time you pull up Yelp for a new-to-you spot, and see Daniel’s tip such as the recent one for 246, “Valet is available directly across the street. Decatur courthouse parking garage is free after 5pm. Decatur metered street parking is free after 6pm. Sunday, free” and silently tell yourself, “damn, thanks Daniel.”
* disclaimer – I do know Daniel B through a mutual friend, and he is in fact, a nice, quiet guy.