The Inquisitive Diner's Field Guide to Yelpers
Yelp is a huge force in the restaurant review world. They've taken a motley assortment of amateur writers and given them legitimacy and a huge platform from which to express their opinions. The site is a huge trove of information, written by normal people who don't see their name splashed across newsprint every week. Some of them contribute so much that they're given the Yelp equivalent of a prefect's badge--the "Elite '11" moniker.
Not all Yelpers are alike, though, and not all are positive contributors. The signal-to-noise ratio can be pretty discouraging, particularly as a given restaurant receives more reviews. For every couple of middle-of-the-road, helpful reviews, there are ten "gotcha" reviews--catalogued below.
The Would-Be Critic
The Would-Be Critic is on Yelp only for practice, writing lengthy, prosaic review after lengthy, prosaic review in hopes of landing a professional food criticism job. This Yelper can be identified by the use of semicolons and the overuse of adverbs ending in -ly.
"While the steak was competently prepared and rested sufficiently, the potatoes simply didn't work; someone should let the kitchen know that truffle oil is not a proper substitute for black truffles."
It doesn't matter if the food is good, bad or indifferent; the Scenester is drawn to famous names like a moth to flame. Michael Voltaggio or Eric Ripert could, in a fit of pique, create a deliberately awful dish and the Scenester would fawn over it. Identify this Yelper by the repeated use of the chef's name in the review.
"...Ludo Lefebvre's new hot spot. It's pretty much impossible to get a reservation here, unless you have the hookups like me lol, but trust me the crowds are never wrong."
The Special Orders Judge
The S.O.J. customizes each and every dish to his own needs, real or imagined, and then judges the kitchen (generally harshly) based on these one-off dishes. Can be spotted by the unsubtle references to dietary restrictions, food allergies or aversions.
"I had the pesto chicken sandwich, but asked them to hold the chicken since I'm vegetarian, and it was pretty boring, just some bread with a slice of cheese and some herbs."
The Social Butterfly
Writes about the décor, the looks of the staff, the bar, and the atmosphere--but completely fails to mention the food, arguably the most important part of a restaurant review. Can be identified by references to attractive (or unattractive) people and sentences that start with "so".
"So me and Jenna and all her crowd showed up at 9 and flirted in the bar for half an hour, because the restaurant was pretty dead. We ordered some food but it got hopping about 10. Totally full of hot guys."
The Contrarian thinks he or she is going to be achieve fame by consistently disagreeing with the popular opinion of nearly every restaurant. He or she appears to thrive on going to highly-rated places and then panning them. Look for references to hype or emperors' clothing, or even just a count of how many positive reviews a given restaurant has gotten.
"A hundred and forty-seven five-star reviews? I don't know why everybody fawns over this place. I ordered the house special pho and it was just plain beef noodle soup. Soooo overhyped. The emperor has no clothes."
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