Yelp restaurant reviews absolutely crack me up. Many people bust out SAT words that most of us don’t apply to college essays, let alone a critique of a drive-thru. It seems like saying, “I would recommend the chicken; it was moist and delicious,” no longer conveys enough meaning. Instead, restaurant-goers now feel a deep need to express every aspect of the dining experience in minute detail: “The succulent breast of chicken was dripping with a rich sauce that can only be likened to liquid gold; with each bite I felt like I was truly having an out-of-body experience.”
Looking up these restaurants also leads me to question my own astuteness in setting up a blog—I could have just gotten my writing fix on Yelp! It seems like some people have skipped the hassle of creating domain names and layouts, and merely use Yelp as a convenient place to display their writing samples. If an employer asks for past writing projects, they need only be directed to the site, as some of these reviews could be full book chapters. I recently wanted a recommendation for Mediterranean food in Santa Barbara, and stumbled upon this shockingly detailed and, at times, horrifyingly insensitive account of an experience at Zaytoon (which, incidentally, we ended up trying and LOVING—no dying men in wheelchairs or any “lacking amount of fowl” in sight):
**disclaimer: long review but worth the while
Lenore C. Pasadena, CA
I love ZAYTOON’S location and outdoor setting. These types of places are always hidden and hopefully wonderful. Regrettably my experience wasn’t wonderful, and now I understand why it’s hidden.
One should never review a restaurant based upon a bad waiter. After all, even the finest restaurants have a new or weak waitperson. Or a busy night. Neither was the case. What was wrong here was the management, and it was (and apparently still is*) GOD-AWFUL.
The ambiance and cuisine was so tempting I kept forgiving one transgression after another, until the sheer volume of them made me realize — YUP — the non-existent manager should have been forced to actually be on premises during operations but then bitch-slapped back INTO consciousness.
Where to begin…
We arrived early on a Sunday night. Half the place was empty. We had no reservations and this caused the hostess almost five minutes of inconvenience. Look, either you can sit two people in a half empty restaurant or you can’t. Tell us where and when and do so in under a minute. We’ll cut slack here because she was a kid.
We were sat in an entirely empty semi-outdoor room adjacent to the desirable room. Okay, we didn’t have a reservation, and it sure beat the enclosed dark glass room by the bar. So we have a seat and things are looking up.
Within a minute, something that’s never happened to me before in some 40 years of restauran-touring: a dying man in a wheelchair was rolled up to the table next to us. Not just an old man. Nor a sickly man. A DYING man. One eye was completely fogged over, he went into immediate convulsions upon arrival, and a nurse (?) had to soothe him for minutes before the convulsions stopped.
This puts us into an interesting PC situation. It is politically correct to allow someone who’s on death’s doorstep to dine in a lovely Mediterranean spot with hookahs and firepits and romantic couples? I honestly don’t know if they could be sued by the man for not being allowed to dine in public with everyone else. But I’ll tell you this —
— halfway through my meal the man was being fed liquid nutrient through a tube to size of billyclub into a catheter… in plain view for all to enjoy. I’ve been to old folks homes and cancer wards and have never been subjected to this.
Where the muck was the fanager? You just read there was an enclosed dark glass room this gentleman could have been rolled into. I know, it may sound heartless on my part to insist a person with one foot in the grave to be moved anywhere, but be honest: would you go to a romantic Santa Barbara dining spot knowing this might be awaiting you?
For the sake of argument let’s just forgive this critical management mistake. Or blame me for being too sensitive. Whatever.
How was the food and service?
Our waitress was great… but we seldom saw her. Because there was no management, she had tables all over this sprawling restaurant.
I ordered the Lemon Chicken. My partner the veggie plate. We waited quite a while for these dishes to arrive, which is fascinating, considering one takes very little time to prepare.
The two measly pieces of credit card thick chicken were sad. Less than half of one skinless chicken breast for $20. I could have sent it back, but I didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes for a proper dinner and possibly witness a life pass away at the next table. Thankfully the chicken sauce was tasty and made up for the lacking amount of fowl. The vegetarian plate was better, though some of the mounds of hummus and such were absurdly scooped away to make room for olive oil. And there was only one grape leaf on the plate. Conclusion: Ren and SKIMPY.
The good news is we got a nice sized salad with each plate. The bad news: no discernible dressing and tired lettuce. The bread they dropped on the table was generous, but not warm and kinda dry.
When we were done, a person arrived to clear our table, and they asked me if I wanted more lemonade. I shook my head no. They asked again indicating no problem. I suggested just a sip with two pinched fingers. They brought me a full glass. For a non-disclosed $1.75 refill. I refused to pay for it, the same person said no problem, and then they failed to take it off the bill the first time round.
All said and done, we must have spent 30 minutes trying to get out of this disaster. Now if a manager was working on the premises, a competent one, they would have made most of these issues go away. Instead —
— I’ll go away and never come back.
Apart from the blatant lack of morality in discussing her dying fellow restaurant patron, my favorite part of this review are her adjectives. It was “fascinating” that the dishes took so long to prepare; some of the hummus was “absurdly” scooped away to make room for olive oil; the lettuce was “tired.” Put this author up for a literary award.
I’m going to hazard a guess here, that Lenore C. from Pasadena was probably rejected from writing for The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, Cooking Light, and Martha Stewart Living, and so now she finds that only Yelp is a suitable outlet in which to express her prose. A whole memoir chapter conveniently disguised as a helpful review.
(Also I literally cried laughing at these Youtube videos, where real actors read Yelp comments. Couldn’t you imagine them reading the one above??)
Jenny Marshall studied Language, Culture, and Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, and now teaches English in Spain. Here she writes about the intersection of language and culture, and lives a life translated by travel.