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Yelp Gets It Right

November 24, 2014

There I was in East Providence, hungry, with only 40 minutes to eat. Honestly, I didn’t even know where I was. We had followed my mother to a music school where soon there would be a concert in memory of my aunt.

But I had my phone. And even though my uncle had his doubts, I was optimistic that Yelp could point us in the right direction.

Part of the trick is knowing how to use the app to your best advantage. It’s not rocket science, but I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and on the heels of this recent success, I thought I’d share.

To be fair, my uncle lives in NYC, and his pessimism was based on past experiences with the mobile app. I’ve found Yelp to be tricky in cities where the density of restaurants is so great. In the less populated corners of the world, I’m able to uncover hidden gems with surprising regularity.

Yelp’s app has a search function, so I tap “Nearby” on the main page.

That brings up a list of categories. In outlying areas, I’m not always 100% convinced that the categories are accurately represented, so I tap “More Categories” and swipe up to “Everything”. Generally speaking, “Everything” turns out to be mostly places where one can get food.

Perhaps the most important step is tapping the handy dandy “Filter” button at the top of the screen. I usually am just looking for something good to eat, and not any kind of food in particular, so I tap the button that sorts the results by ratings. That’s going to give me all the highest star places (weighted by the number of reviews). More often than not, I’ll tap the “$” to see where I can get the best bang for my buck.

Just to illustrate how this process works locally with places you should know, when I’m sitting in my living room, and go through the steps above, the Yelp app comes up with the following list:
1. Cheesecake Machismo
2. Nighthawk’s Kitchen
3. The Ruck
4. Crisan
5. Ale House
6. The Flying Chicken
7. Taiwan Noodle
8. Aashiana
9. Anton’s Greek Eatery
10. Carluccio’s Italian Deli
11. La Mexicana Grocery and Restaurant
12. X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery
13. Debbie’s Kitchen
14. Parivar Spices and Food
15. Beirut Restaurant

That’s a pretty solid representation of our better value restaurants right there. It’s not 100% complete, but you can even hone that list down and get different places to pop up if you tighten up the geography. So the next step is to tap the “Map” button at the top of the screen. Then I zoom and drag the map to however far I’m willing to travel. This is especially helpful when driving on some strange highway and feeling the need to pull over for a meal. However, it does help to have a navigator. Don’t search Yelp and drive.

Once the app has found the local business, I tap the “list” button which I find to be an easier way to read through the information.

Usually, that’s enough right there. If you want to be super fastidious about the process, you can actually read the reviews, and gauge how closely their priorities match with yours. I mean, there are some folks who really care about the shape and feel of flatware, and others who just don’t give a damn.

Yesteday in East Providence it was pretty clear from the 4.5* based on 41 reviews that Miller’s Roast Beef was going to be a winner. I’ll have to write my review on the site before I forget how great it was. Visiting places like this give you some insight to why Arby’s exists. Somehow the classic roast beef sandwich parlor has been slowly bastardized into something that barely resembles the original. But there are a few holdouts. We have Mr. B’s Best up in Glens Falls. That, too, is a gem that is stuck in time.

Cheap and quick eating on the fringes of civilization isn’t entirely without its charms. I’m just glad for this modern era that finds me with a navigator to such places, and amazingly it’s in my pocket.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2014 12:33 pm

    I also use Yelp a lot when I travel, and the “nearby” search is great for finding out what’s in an area. One area where I differ with your strategy: I pay a lot of attention to the number and quality of the reviews. You don’t say whether 41 reviews is a lot or a little for East Providence. If it’s below the average, that’s a red flag that tells me this place may not have a wide following and a good number of the reviews are likely to be planted by well-meaning fans. Then, I will read a few of the reviews to get a texture of what the experience is like. It’s not helpful to me if a five star review says “great pizza!” It’s much better if they go into some detail about what they liked and why.

  2. Pam C. permalink
    November 25, 2014 12:40 pm

    I have also discovered how handy Yelp is…I consult it almost daily. Glad to know that Mr. B’s Best is still operating as usual. No trip to Lake George was complete without stopping there on the way back, for what tasted like the “original” Neba and Mike’s Subs. Excellent roast beef, not that processed stuff you see at the chain shops.

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