Food websites can be helpful, but use caution

QUICKREAD

WHAT: Restaurant-rating, information websites:

• Yelp.com.
• Zagat.com.
• Tripadvisor.com.
• Urbanspoon.com.
• OpenTable.com.
• Frommers.com.
• wow-coupons.com.



Today’s Internet has been called a “cult of amateurs,” but who better to decide what we like and what we don’t like than “we the people.”

In the realm of restaurants, online rating websites are popping up like wild mushrooms, and they often offer entertaining information and discounts.

The opinions are offered by everyday diners who want to share their experience. The sites wouldn’t exist without input from “the people.”

Because food is very subjective, reviews run the gamut. Some bad dining experiences are magnified. People are passionate about their dislikes.

I seriously doubt that a respected Grand Junction restaurant is serving katsu-don that looks like vomit, but that was an actual online observation.

And other folks, let’s face it, are just giddy about a stack of pancakes covered in gelatinous strawberries and fake whipped cream.

But generally, if the restaurant has a fair number of reviews, you can weed out the malcontents and cranks and average the experiences.

How else are you going to know which Grand Junction restaurant has the grumpiest waitress ... one known to bop you on the head with a menu? When at least three people mention her antics, it’s probably a good indicator.

Or which restaurant has busboys who appeared to be stoned? At which place are you going to be dive-bombed by flies?

I would say these websites are best used as a guide, not as a fortune teller. Most also provide locations, cuisine type, address, price range, menus and links to official websites.

Google the name “Suehiro Grand Junction,” for example, and you’ll likely find a couple dozen reviews. 626 on Rood has 45 reviews. The Winery has 34 reviews. Main Street Caf&233; has 23 reviews. Il Bistro Italiano has 69.

The most popular sites nationally are Yelp and OpenTable and they’ve recently combined to offer an integrated service.

OpenTable’s specialty is making online reservations and posting specials, prixe fixes and wine-pairing dinners.

Yelp’s forte is user-content reviews.

Both sites are widely used in larger cities, but are starting to make solid inroads in the Grand Valley.

If you’re traveling to a major destination and expecting to shell out some clams for a good meal, I definitely suggest Yelp and Open Table.

Here at home, you will likely find Tripadvisor and Urbanspoon are more prevalent, especially for the down-home places. Those sites’ information is a little more spotty — sometimes with no menu — but worth a peek.

The Winery holds the distinction of being “very highly recommended” by the professional critics at Frommers.com, the noted purveyor of travel and fine-dining advice.

A couple of other places to check:

On downtowngj.org, click on restaurants or nightlife and see that Thursdays is open mic night at Rockslide Brewery.

At gjchamber.org you’ll find that Blue Band member Cold Stone Creamery offers a free waffle cone with any ice cream purchase.

Many restaurants and pubs have their own websites and Facebook fan pages, on which they offer discounts.

If you love a restaurant, become a fan and you’ll get e-mail updates.

I got a $5 off coupon the other day for Pablo’s Tom Turkey Pizza with gravy, mozzarella, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and craisins. Hmmm. They say it’s popular.

Wow-coupons.com posts coupon downloads for casual and fast-food restaurants.

FEAST OR FAMINE: To benefit the hungry, Mountain View Winery, Cottonwood Cellars and Garrett Estate Cellars are hosting a wine and cheese tasting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, at Cottonwood Winery, 5482 Colorado Highway 348, in Olathe.

Bring a nonperishable food item (or more) and you are invited to sip and nibble. Ten percent of all wine sales at the holiday food drive will be donated to Food Bank of the Rockies.

Last year, the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies distributed 2.6 million pounds of food and essential items to more than 100 local hunger-relief programs.

For information, contact Mitch Garrett at 970-901-5919.

QUOTE: “There is no sauce in the world like hunger.” — Miguel de Cervantes

Send tips and ideas to tess.furey@ gjsentinel.com.


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