So news is going all around that Yelp added “Hipster” to its possible categories for a location's ambiance (which spelling is correct again?), and the first reaction that came to my mind is “redundant.” Isn't Yelp the epitome of hipsterdom, of a sea of shallow reactions and It buzz, with the cream of the crop eventually getting gigs at respectable publications à la Anita Lau over at The Orange County Register? I kid–kind of.
Honestly, though, adding “Hipster” to a restaurant/bar's possible ambiance or list of features won't help the average Yelp user, which is to say the unwashed masses who aren't spilling out missives for free for the site. Following are categories that would help the world at large when they Google a restaurant and inevitably find a Yelp review at the top of the list.
1. Proficiency in English
I don't care if an owner or waiter at a restaurant can't carry on a conversation with me, or if I'm the only customer in the place who's not part of the primary ethnic group there, and anyone who does is an uptight twit. Unfortunately, my view is in the minority, and too many Yelpers care about such an attribute, leading to borderline (if not outright) racist remarks and star takeaways by people surprised that a taquería in deepest, brownest Santa Ana is blasting Banda El Recodo (above) while everyone is cheering on the Chivas. Those people shouldn't have gone to that restaurant in the first place, probably wouldn't have gone at all if previously warned, so Yelp should protect a restaurant from such pendejos by letting said pendejos know what they might encounter.
Yelp does offer a WiFi feature that tells readers if a restaurant offers it (and if one has to pay for the service), but juice is more important; in these strange days, charging one's laptop/iPhone/iPod/iPad/iChihuahua is a quest almost as important as whether someone's eggs came from free-range chickens. And not all restaurants are created equal in the AC-power outlet category; some have strips, others only offer two, and still others don't allow customers to use them (I nearly saw a fight break out once at a Whataburger in El Paso between a desperate customer and an owner over this issue). Yelp can actually provide us technology-addicted people with a valuable service by adding this feature.
3. Free Water Choice
To make sure you don't get scammed by restaurants who charge you for water or ice without letting you know, but I'm also thinking of hole-in-the-walls where you pay for your drink . . . only to find a pitcher of free water on the tables or a water gallon hidden in the corner. (I'm looking at you, turo-turos!)
4. Neighborhood Makeup
Yelp does categorize its listings by neighborhoods, but that tells the outsider nothing. If I'm in Chicago, I'd expect the Ukrainian Village to be, you know, mostly Ukrainian–but it's not (and starting to get gentrified, last I remember). How do I know the restaurant I might visit isn't in a sea of strip malls or an office park, that where I'm getting a great pastrami on rye is the last remaining Jewish deli in what's now a barrio (as is the case with Langer's in Los Angeles), so I better be prepared to probably speak Spanish? This choice is related to No. 1, as people surprised that a great pho place is in the middle of Little Saigon too often knock a restaurant down for said neighborhood. You can guestimate a neighborhood's social strata using Google Maps and provided photos, but it's an inexact science. Again, let those bozos know what they're getting into, and spare the rest of us an unnecessary review.
5. Type of Hot Sauce Provided
Sriracha? Tapatío? Plain ol' Tabasco? Made in-house? None? You can tell much more about a restaurant by its hot-sauce choice than whether they take credit cards–just saying.