Reviews are Written by Sociopaths or Restaurant Owners
There’s a strange phenomenon my wife and I noticed in DC. People are fanatically attached to their neighborhood restaurants, dives, bars, and clubs, never venturing out more than a few staggerable blocks from their homes when they go out in the evening. We lived on Capitol Hill for years, and we’re just as guilty of this as anyone else. The Hawk-n-Dove was usually as far as we got, unless the Belgian beer and moules frites drew us as far as Barrack’s Row. We knew all the great places on the Hill, and we wanted to share them with everyone. But if we ever asked our friends in Mount Pleasant to meet us for dinner on the Hill, they always had excuses and complaints, such as “that’s so far away” and “is there a metro there?” and “what city is that in again?”
To be honest, we did the same thing when they asked us to dinner in Adams Morgan; but, let’s be honest: Adams Morgan IS far away from the Hill, and there isn’t a Metro there (no matter what the signs at the Woodley Park station say). So our excuses were legitimate. Or, maybe we’re all just lazy. But the point is, when my wife and I recently moved to U Street, we didn’t know the neighborhood’s culinary scene very well. Except for our pilgrimages to Ben’s Chili Bowl and our required quarterly visits to Adams Morgan to reinforce our belief that Adams Morgan is far away and has no metro, we knew almost nothing about U Street.
So I turned to the Washington Post’s restaurant reviews to check out which were the best places. At first glance, it seemed like a good idea to read the “Reader Reviews”. Surely, they’d be honest and insightful, written by discerning diners like myself. My strategy was democratic: the more people that liked it, the better the restaurant. Right?
But like many other things in DC, this bastion of democracy, it ain’t so simple. I discovered that the reviews are written by one of two kinds of people: restaurant owners or sociopaths. And usually, those were the only two reviews. It goes like this: the owner of the establishment writes a glowing review of his own place that sounds as if it were cut and pasted from advertising copy. This prompts a sociopath, for reasons known only to his (or her) addled brain, to write a review trashing the restaurant. The review is often filled with vitriolic rage at anyone who would dare to charge such high prices, utter disdain at the poor service, and an overall hatred, it seems, of the very idea of going out in public to share a meal with friends. A good example are the reviews for Simply Home. The review at the bottom is obviously the owner’s, and the middle one is from the sociopath.
This is completely unhelpful. I can’t trust the owner of the restaurant to be fair, and while the old adage “just because I’m a sociopath doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a bad meal” may be true, I believe the sociopathic review rings true only for other sociopaths.
I didn’t know what to do. Bothering me more than my hunger and confusion was my sense of justice: these reviews ill-serve the very audience they are meant to help. So I decided to rectify the situation by writing my own review of the reviewer’s reviews (got that?), thinly veiled as a review of the restaurant. That’s right, the first review entitled “I’ve gotta try this place!” on the Simply Home page is mine. I figured two stars is good enough for a place I’ve never actually set foot in. I have to admit, my review is no more helpful than the other two reviews, but it sure does make the place seem like it is worth at least one visit. Keep an eye out for other reviews of reviews (or “meta-reviews,” as I fancy them, allowing me to believe I’m engaged in a broader epistemological discourse, as opposed to simple Arjewtino-like kvetching). I intend to right the wrongs of restaurant reviews everywhere, starting with the Washington Post.