Let’s face it, going out for dinner is a crap shoot. Even if a place is great, the day you decide to check it out might happen to be the day that the head chef calls in sick, your server is hung-over, the busboy is pre-occupied about a fight with his boyfriend, the bartender’s cat died or three staff members didn’t show up for their shifts. Or, maybe all of the above. Good luck having a great dining experience then. Or, you may hit the place on the one night when everything “clicks” and you have an incredible experience.
If you find a professional reviewer whose opinion and experience seems to align with yours, it can be an invaluable aid in choosing a restaurant. If you haven’t, or a place you’re considering hasn’t been covered by your favorite reviewer, you need to rely on opinions from a restaurant review web site. But, how reliable are these sites?
Unfortunately some of those reviews are by people who are just plain stupid. I actually read a Yelp review where someone complained about the lack of meat on a vegetarian menu. That may be an extreme example, but you’ll see people complain that; “the food is too spicy” in review of a Thai restaurant or “the fish was undercooked” at a sushi place. Similarly, there are people who praise a place just because they don’t know any better. If you usually dine at Denny’s, the service at a top level restaurant is going to blow you away, even if it is sub-par by industry standards. When you read a review on a web site, be aware of date of the review. An older review may not be valid if the restaurant is under new management.
Your best bets for information on Wilton Manors are Yelp and Trip Advisor. Both indicate how many times the places have been reviewed, offer maps and directions, allow reviewers to post pictures and have links to the restaurants’ web sites.
Yelp uses a 1-5 star rating system, lists an average rating and indicates the date of review. Trip Advisor also uses a 1-5 star rating system, and lists not only an average rating, but also breaks the rating down into four categories; food, service, value and atmosphere. While it doesn’t give exact dates for listings, it does indicate how many weeks/months ago the review was posted.
So given all that info, how do five new spots on the Drive fare in on-line reviews? For these restaurants, I’ve compared the Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews to my experiences.
What the Pho
2033 N. Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Yelp: average rating of 4.5 stars based on 66 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 4 stars based on 26 reviews.
SFGN: both sites’ reviews are significantly better than my initial review of What the Pho. However, a majority of the positive reviews weren’t from people familiar with Vietnamese cuisine. Additionally, many echoed my major concerns about What the Pho’s service and price point.
2390 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Yelp: average rating of 4.5 stars based on 66 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 4 stars based on 29 reviews.
SFGN: I don’t know how I could have not have reviewed Thirteen, but it turns out I haven’t, even though I’ve dined there numerous times. The listings on both sites do echo my feelings about Thirteen, that the food is tasty and it’s obvious that the owners have a hands-on approach when it comes to quality control.
2406 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Yelp: average rating of 5 stars based on 62 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 5 stars based on 74 reviews
SFGN: I couldn’t agree more. I think the pizza is the best in all of South Florida and the gelato (handmade daily) is to die for. The Italian couple who owns Dolce Salato, Leonardo and Sylvia, are warm and friendly and really care about the product they put out. A couple of on-line reviews echoed my feelings about their son; “Their handsome son is real eye candy.”-Yelp
2043 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Yelp: average rating of 5 stars based on 26 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 4 stars based on 74 reviews
SFGN: The newest place in this list. Novel Tea has only been open for a few months. I’ve found the owners, who both happened to be there when I stopped in, to be friendly and knowledgeable. The tea tends to be a bit pricey, but then top quality merchandise often is. At the time of my visit, they were just putting together their wine and beer menu. It’s a nice change of pace from the bars as a place to meet.
When you cross the border into Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find more reviews from some of the other web sites, but Yelp and Trip Advisor still offer the most listings. I reviewed two new spots in Fort Lauderdale last year.
1032 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Yelp: average rating of 3.5 stars based on 182 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 4 stars based on 150 reviews
SFGN: Like a lot of Italians I know, it’s big and loud and inviting. It’s a bit crowded and frenetic, as I said about the place in my review all the hub-bub, “would be a waste of time if the food weren’t good, and it’s not good, it’s great.” While I experienced attentive service, that wasn’t the case for many folks reviewing Louis Bossi. There were numerous complaints about rude hostesses and on-going problems with service and the timing of dishes coming from the kitchen. When you see the same complaints over and over, that’s a red flag.
Flash Fire Pizza
2949 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Message the business
Yelp: average rating of 4.5 stars based on 78 reviews.
Trip Advisor: average rating of 4.5 stars based on 17 reviews
SFGN: I said, “Flash Fire Pizza may be fast, but it’s not fast food, it’s artisanal pizza done fast and fresh.” The on-line reviews agree and the friendly and attentive service was praised often.