Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

In (awkward) defense of Yelp

If you've ever browsed Yelp, you know there are plenty of reviewers who--to put it charitably--tend to shoot from the hip without much regard for substance. Here's a great example: it's a review of Porto's, the Cuban bakery in Glendale:

Overcrowded and terrible parking. Hey it's Portos!

And that's itDid he even eat there? Did they find parking? And how is it Porto's fault they're popular? And it's not just the haters, there are plenty of thoughtless 5 star reviews, too. It gets kind of nauseating. Thanks, Internet. But luckily for them, Porto's can take it. They have literally hundreds of reviews--far more fair and informative than that one. But for a struggling mom and pop restaurant, a 1-sentence, 1-star screed like that can put a big dent in their rating. People need to be responsible about these things!

And so it was that yesterday, Off-Ramp intern Raghu Manavalan started passing around a new blog that wants to take those thoughtless yelpers to task. F*** You Yelper, is a tumblr likely run by locals (they've featured reviews of Wurstkuche, Providence and more) and it's already made fans out of bigger blogs like Eater LA and Grub Street. One of my favorites on there comes from yelper Carla B, who was distraught after she tried (and failed) to get lunch at legendary Langer's Delicatessen. Why?

wtf, try to go to Langer's on the day after Thanksgiving, and it is CLOSED! For four days!!!

...because the most insensitive, heinous thing a restaurant can do is give its employees some time to spend with family at home during a holiday. But then there's head scratchers like this line about Olio Pizzeria from Ginsu T: 

Soda came out 15 minutes after I ordered it. It sucked. It tasted like Club soda with a splash of Crystal Light.

Yeah, it seems kind of bad. But I did a little bit of research and found that this is actually just an excerpt from a much longer 1-star review of the place. And even though I love Olio Pizzeria (and their home-made sodas), taste is subjective. And the reviewer describes in detail both what he experienced, and why he didn't like it. Sure, by the end of the article you get the sense that a lot of the complaints here could've been addressed by a simple conversation with the owner or manager... but it's not like he didn't put some thought into his criticism. And isn't that the exact reason Yelp came around?

I'm totally into the idea of ridiculing lazy Yelp reviews... and Yelp in general, even. But how many others on there have been taken out of context like that? And how many more will there be down the line?

(Photo is mine. It's of the Super Magherita pizza from the still amazing Olio Pizzeria on 3rd)