Alex Suaudom du Monde, Baan Sawan | photo by Jonathan Sharpe
Before heading to a music festival in Montreal recently, I looked for published restaurant reviews and made a list of interesting places to try. And naturally, I found some great ideas in a local alt-weekly paper called Cult. But trying to get in and out of a trendy or off-the-beaten path restaurant while sticking to the music festival schedule wasn’t always easy.
To make a couple quick dining decisions on the fly, I turned to location-based, user-generated content apps like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and Open Table. Most of the restaurants I found had huge numbers of reviews, and my experiences at those spots roughly matched the average rating. In short, the apps were fairly useful — in a big city.
But do they paint a fair picture for diners in a small- to medium-sized city like Columbia? I asked Saluda’s executive chef Blake Faries and Baan Sawan chef and managing partner Alex Suaudom du Monde for their opinions on crowd-sourced restaurant review services. Each had plenty to say.
“If I go to a different city, and there are 300 reviews of a restaurant and they’re trending a certain way, I feel OK about relying on them,” Suaudom du Monde concedes. User-generated reviews of his own restaurant, though, invoke a more passionate response.
“The stuff I have read online still reminds me that there is a very real sentiment out there that can be distilled in one comment I read a long time ago: ‘pricey for Asian food,’” says Suaudom du Monde.
Suaudom du Monde deadpans a casual Jerry Seinfeld impression: “Who are these people? Think about everything that goes into writing those few words. I fight that every time I send a plate out.”
Among the user-generated apps and websites available, Faries sees a big difference in the tone of his restaurant’s reviews, depending on which service diners use.
“Overall, we have mostly good reviews, and we’ve worked hard for that,” says Faries. “But Open Table diners seem to have planned ahead more, and ultimately have a more enjoyable experience.”
As for Yelp users, Faries puts it a little a more bluntly: “There are still a lot of hateful people out there.”
And he might be on to something in noticing the difference in tone. Open Table, by nature of requiring a real email address and phone number to secure a reservation as well as a name that you’ll answer to when you walk into the lobby, verifies its user base. On the other hand, a dubiously named Saluda’s diner who goes by the name Professor Chaos on UrbanSpoon left an overall positive review last year, but threw in an overheard account of another table near him not getting a steak at the right temperature.
Faries takes it in stride.
“Nobody’s perfect,” he says. “Every now and then a steak might not come out at the temperature a customer requests, but we do our best to maintain a good word of mouth reputation.”
And he’s quick to close ranks with his colleagues, too.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best chefs and best kitchens in this town,” says Faries. “And when I see some of those guys getting slammed online, it really pisses me off.”
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Learn and hone audition skills, monologues, and scenes from Shakespeare and modern works! Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com