20 November 2008

"She cried 'More! More! More!'" --Billy Idol

I am not a fan of Zagat, the compiled restaurant review people.

Before I completely trash them, let me say:

  • I like the fact that they provide numerical ratings that reflect averages for restaurants in different areas of consideration (Food, Decor, Service, Cost.)
  • I do always feel better when I see the little Zagat Rated sign in a restaurant window.*

Now the bad:

  • The little number ratings don't give me insight into what people were thinking. Did they rate Decor high because the restaurant was elegant or because it was comfortable and cozy or because the lighting was so low they couldn't really see their ugly Match.com date? If the write up doesn't explore this dimension, I'm SOL.
  • As good as I feel when I see the Zagat Rated sign in a restaurant, I'd feel even better if the little sign told me how the restaurant was rated. Something like Zagat Rated Nummy! or Zagat Rated Not Even on a Bet. That would be, oh, I don't know, useful?
  • But, so much worse, is their "write ups"! I like brevity but this is too brief to be useful. All those snippets from surveys mooshed together feels disjointed.**
  • And with all those quotation marks, I'm always tempted to read them like air quotes, all sarcastic and smutty. Yeah, I'll just bet its VERY SMALL SPACE is augmented by its BIG PATIO OUT BACK. *nudgenudgewinkwink* ***
When something is this cobbled together, it loses context. It's like those one-word movie reviews:

"FASCINATING" --Bob Mediabuzz, The Herald Tribune Sentinel

"HYSTERICAL!" --Jane Snoot, NeverHeardofItMovieReview.com

How do I know that the full quotes weren't:

"The acting was so bad it was fascinating to see how wooden Nicole Kidman could be."--Bob Mediabuzz

"This movie was so insultingly unfunny, leaving after five minutes was the only thing that kept me from getting hysterical!" --Jane Snoot

So in closing...

Zagat is big on the "not so much", provides a "generous dollop" of "insufficent detail"; its "helpful numbers are the bomb" and combined with its "quotaliciousness" suggest more than is "actually" there; "fascinating"!

* Not as good as when I find a golden ticket in a candy bar but, still, strangely, good.

** I bought a cream for painful snippet mooshing but it didn't help. Dammit! Now it's all welty, and not in the Eudora way.

*** Okay, maybe I'm the only 8-year-old that reads it that way.


Lemmonex said...

I am with you on this; any local newspaper or magazine can give much better insight than the Zagat.

Matt said...

I'm going to have that Billy Idol song stuck in my head all day...

which is ok with me.

Dixie said...


One of my "favorite" blogs "ever."

fiona said...

Michelin Star, a name you "can" trust!
Never heard of Zagtag but I'll be on the lookout now.

LiLu said...

Agreed. Zagat can totally "suck" my proverbial "balls."

brian said...

For all my foodie ways, I learned long ago with book and movie reviews to... ignore reviews. I know Zagat is well-known for it, but there are still too many variables (and often not enough visits) to get a good review of a place. It's just like the unmoderated online review sites like yelp or urbanspoon, just better edited.

Friends are a much more reliable source, even shmaltzy ones.

Doug said...

isn't it still amazing though how people will shell out dollar after dollar to pay for those useless little zagat books that don't tell you anything? I admire their business model.

f.B said...

you most definitely are not the only 8 year old who reads it that way

rs27 said...

the only Zagat's i listened to was the skit on SNL with Sandler and Chris Farley.

"Lord, kill me now!"

Narm said...

Is SOL kind of like LOL but with shitting?

Aaaaaaaaaand I'm not allowed back now, am I?

LBluca77 said...

I have never even noticed the zagat signs in the window of restaurants. Probably because I am to busy thinking about the free meal I am getting and the putting out I am gonna have to do after.

Mike said...

Typically if a reviewer likes it, I don't want to go. Restaurant or movie.

restaurantrefugee said...

The Zagat Guide is great... as telephone directory, but that's about all in my book.

Kristin said...

I generally like to form my opinion of things, especially restaurants, but I do love award-winning books. Is that hypocritical?

lacochran said...

Lemmonex: So true!

Matt: :) In the midnight hour...

Dixie: "Fabulous!" Seriously, great find. Thanks.

Fiona: Michelin, they're the star givers, right?

Lilu: :)

Brian: You're right. And shmaltzy can be good. :)

Doug: I guess it's the perfect holiday gift in that it's gender neutral, inexpensive, and implies you're tapped in. (Even when you're not.)

f.B: Huge :)

Rs27: Agreed. That skit was brilliant!

Narm: It'll take more than that to get you kicked out. Wait! That's not a challenge!

Lbluca77: You need to come out of your shell more.

Mike: Let me guess, you're a maverick.

RestaurantRefugee: Agreed.

Kristin: I dunno. But you're okay by me, either way.

Alex said...

I think Zagat might be helpful if you were in a strange place... however, in one's own town, I am with you... there are far better ways to find a good restaurant (including word of mouth and willingness to take a risk and check something out just because it looks cool).

Also, I'll never be able to hear the word "dollop" again without thinking of the Bush-Obama-hand sanitizer story.

lacochran said...

Alex: Agreed. It's probably somewhat useful if you are far afield. But then so is OpenTable and that's free.