Yelp. Yelpers. Yelping. If youâve not visited the online food community Yelp.com, youâre missing out on some of the most frank, honest and spot on restaurant reviews around. The Ann Arbor Yelp.com community is full of reviewers whose writing is as good, if not better, than that of local restaurant reviewers who get paid to tread lightly on the toes of the cityâs restauranteurs, some of whom are very politically-connected. Take the Red Hawk Grill, owned by Roger Hewitt. HewittÂ sits on the Board of the Downtown Development Authority. Can anyone imagine the Ann Arbor Observerâs reviewer writing something like this?
Iâve been dining at Red Hawk since they opened, and Iâve never truly gotten over their menu change from 5 or so years backâ¦
Burgers. Juicy, dripping, high-quality cheese, I love mine with guac and baconâ¦sometimes cheddar and bacon.
Steak Fajita Salad: get it without the sour-cream drizzle.
Onion Rings: hot, tasty, onion cooked through so no âtapewormyâ feel *sorry, but thatâs what underdone O-Rings bring to mindâ¦a long slithery tapeworm*
Killer Nachos (with chicken or pork) Great blend of textures and flavors, mmmm~
Thatâs it. Iâve literally tried the entire menu and am not impressed â everything is either missing a key flavor, or is oddly over-seasoned to the point of tasting mentholated.
When in doubt, order a burger. Staff are usually very nice/competent and they have a decent beer selection.
Donât hold your breath while youâre waiting for a review that honest and to-the-point in the local print publications.
However, Yelpers are not constrained by the need to protect advertising revenues and personal relationships. Thus, while Roger Hewittâs connections might get his eatery a light basting in the local press, on Yelp reviewers are not only more discerning but more likely to be even-handed, such as the reviewer, above, named Kate B. In answer to the question of why Yelpers considering an Ann Arbor restaurant should read her reviews, Kate B. writes, simply, âIâm honest.âÂ What more could someone want from a review of a restaurant?
Yelpers are a thoughtful lot. One Yelper wrote about the Red Hawkâs crazy bathroom configuration (down a flight of stairs). Should accessibility be taken into consideration when reviewing a beer & burger joint on State Street? I think so, considering we live in a country with some pretty extensive ADA laws. So did several of the Yelpers who reviewed the Red Hawk. (Note: there is an accessible bathroom on the first floor of the Red Hawk Grill, but staff routinely direct customers down the stairs and into the dungeon. Ditto at Grizzley Peak.)
On Yelp.com the Red Hawk scores a respectable 3.5 stars out of 5, as do The Fleetwood and Ahmoâs Gyros & Deli. Other local eateries arenât so lucky.
Real Seafood Company averages 3 stars in its 61 reviews, and Yelpers donât hold back:
When the bread is the best part of your meal, thatâs not a good sign.
The service was shaky, and all of our meals were sub par. We went at an off time, but they sat us by the front door in an empty restaurant, and it was really cold. The prices were also pretty steep for the quality/amount of food. And, as Iâve said over and over in my other reviews, just keep my water glass or pop full and Iâll be happy, but our waitress kept disappearing here.
Another Yelper writes:
I have eaten at Real Seafood Company three times, and have never been impressed with the quality of the food. On my last trip, I tried broiled fish that was especially bland.
The bread was delicious, but it was all downhill from there, at least as far as the food was concerned.
Servers, on the other hand, are always above average and are so helpful that they will steer you away from dishes that they think might disappoint you.
The decor is the most attractive thing Â about the restaurant. Itâs great when they roll up the glass doors at the front of the restaurant in the summer, and you can get a table with a breeze and a view.
The shame of it is that looking in from the outside you expect a really special dining experience, and the food is a let-down.
The decor and service might make for a meal that you remember, but the broiled fish wasnât worth $37 per person.
In the basement, Ann Arbor restaurants to which Yelpers have given under 3 stars are both chains such as Taco Bell and Arbyâs, but also family-owned eateries such as Argieroâs, in Kerrytown and The Cloverleaf, on Liberty Street downtown.
One Yelper writes about Argieroâs:
I want to like Argieroâs because itâs in Kerrytown and family owned. But I just canât. Â The food always disappoints me. Spaghetti sauce tastes like itâs out of a can and the bread has no flavor.
We tried the pizza not long ago and could have done better with cheap takeout. Crust was like cardboard. Â (Go to Silvioâs or Pizza House or even a chain instead.)
The only decent dish may be the lasagne and even that isnât a real standout.
This place is way, way past its prime and canât seem to come up with anything luscious or local, despite the array of fresh tomatoes, veggies, pastas and herbs for sale at the Farmers Market just across Detroit Street.
As for The Cloverleaf, many Yelpers took exception to the, well, âfilth.â âThe place is also pretty filthy, and Iâm surprised itâs lasted this long in downtown Ann Arbor,â writes one visitor who gave the spot just 1 star. Another writes, âFirst of all: it is absolutely filthy. Donât let your eyes stray too much or you will seriously lose your appetite. Those ceiling fans in the back?? Yikes. This machine covered in grime and dirt and dust is spinning away directly over me and my food.â The Cloverleaf scored 2.5 stars overall. Tios Mexican Cafe was also given an average of just 2.5 stars by the 50 Yelpers who reviewed the restaurant. Bar Louie, on Liberty, scored 2.5 stars, as well, and some of the 47 reviews read like Tales from the Crypt.
I canât say that I disagree in any large part with the overall findings of Ann Arbor Yelpers. In my experience, Tioâs and Argieroâs are not worth the money. Bar Louie lost me when I was served a âflatâ Mojito. I sent it back three times, and three times no one could seem to find soda water that was actually carbonated. It was unreal. It was expensive. It was a waste of money. Yelp.com and local Yelpers are looking to help others avoid the figurative âflatâ Mojito dining experiences one can have in local dining spots. Whether you take the advice is, of course, up to you.
Other Ann Arbor restaurants whose food and/or service score low (2 stars or lower) in the eyes of local Yelpers?
Old Country Buffet
Scorekeeperâs Bar and Grill