Café San Miguel: A Failed Restaurant Through the Eyes Of Yelp

Categories: Whimsy

Cafe San Miguel Yelp.JPG
Cafe San Miguel's star rating rocketed from two to nearly four stars in two months
City of Ate had just posted its monthly revolving doors column when the Dallas Morning News reported on the closing of Cafe San Miguel yesterday. The owners sent out an email to diners saying, "After making a home at 1907 N. Henderson Ave. for over 6 years, with great sadness we announce the closure of Cafe San Miguel".

I've never been to the restaurant, so I poked around the internet looking for information. I started with the Observer. Mark Stuertz penned a negative review almost six years ago. Hardly relevant now. D Magazine reviewed the restaurant two years later -- but a lot can change in three years. So, after a search of local blogs that I like turned up nothing, I did was most internet sleuths do when researching a restaurant. I turned to Yelp.

Cafe San Miguel currently hovers at 3.5 stars, according to the page Yelp devotes to the restaurant, in a rating compiled over 69 user submitted reviews. In September of this year, that rating had sunk to two stars, but then quickly rocketed to four in just two months. Was this the power of the internet on display? A real time restaurant rating system that tracks restaurant performance down to the day? Can you picture a future where you can ask the internet how the fish is at your favorite hang -- tonight?

A blow by blow in the review section muddies the water even further. Yelpers praise guacamole, and lament parking and pricing. "I hear the guacamole is a green orgasm on a chip. Will have to get that next time, " wrote one user, admitting that he'd never tried the dish. But guacamole gushing was consistent. "Great guacamole,' "the guac is some of the best in Dallas," I LOVE their guac," and so on.

Other dishes were mixed: "Got the fish tacos here and they were muy magnifico" wrote the orgasmic guacamole eater. "Had the fish tacos...we were underwhelmed," wrote another.

So how helpful is Yelp? I use it every day. When I'm out exploring restaurants and people give me a recommendation, I'll pull up Yelp on my iPhone and add a bookmark for the restaurant. I love the map feature that lets me pull up my bookmarks within a small radius depending on where I am in the Metroplex. I'll read reviews, carefully looking for smartly written food commentary that might steer an initial order. And that's about it.

A friend from out of town this past weekend used Yelp to find a Vietnamese restaurant in Fort Worth. He ordered dishes according to Yelp recommendations and was underwhelmed. "Stick to Mexican in Texas," he told me.

Below I've cut and pasted the results of a Yelp inquiry: restaurants in Dallas, top ten, sorted by highest rating first. Capped with an Olive Garden ad, the list ranks Damian's Cajun Soul Cafe well above the much lauded Lucia. Mesa is also listed above Lucia, despite having a smaller rating. It looks like this:

Yelp Ad Olive Garden 3.0 star rating

1. Scardello 5.0 star rating
2. Mesa 4.5 star rating
3. Damian's Cajun Soul Cafe 5.0 star rating
4. The French Room 4.5 star rating
5. Cosa Nostra 5.0 star rating
6. Friendly's Grocery 4.5 star rating
7. Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas 4.5 star rating
8. Empa Mundo 4.5 star rating
9. Lucia 4.5 star rating
10. Pho Pasteur Restaurant 4.5 star rating

No matter what you think of these ratings or the site in general, Yelp has grown into a powerful tool that steers dining and even, some believe, threatens the profession of restaurant journalism. So I want to turn the tables today. Let's turn this comment stream into real-time review of Yelp. How do you use the site, and what features stand out. Do you let Yelp help you choose a restaurant? What about a dish? Sound off Aters.

Follow City of Ate on Facebook & Twitter. Follow me at @scottreitz


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37 comments
BradKnowsAll
BradKnowsAll

Completely disagree - Yelp is a mini-me Google (arrogant and demanding that YOU conform to IT). It's not user friendly, hijacks smartphone / tablet use with a demand to use it's app, etc. I eat at 4-5 different restaurants each week (Ali Baba, Cafe Monterray, Dodies, Bubbas chicken, and fuzzy tacos this week and that's just lunch). Urbanspoon, Cityscape and several others are vastly superior and more informative. And Cafe SM was great for what it was - Tex Mex done upscale and nontradrational, ala Ciudad of yore

luniz
luniz

The fact that the reviews of Cafe San Miguel revolve around the fucking guacamole, by a bunch of people who likely have never made it themselves, tells you everything you need to know about the value of their moronic reviews.

It is good to have a place to look up hours and dress codes however.

Bud Kennedy
Bud Kennedy

This is not fair.

Just because a restaurant closes one location but keeps its newer store -- that does not make it a "failed restaurant."

top5foods.com
top5foods.com

Yelp does very little for me. I really only use it for contact and location information. Plus, my A.D.D. does not allow me to read a 3000 word novella about a person's lunch experience.

Skottyj
Skottyj

I'm an active yelper and I think it has limited value.  My biggest problem with yelp, besides the rating whoring (offering to feature good reviews or nix bad reviews for a price) is that a lot of people add mindlessly positive reviews that inflate the rating of a restaurant.  I generally look only at the negative reviews.  If they complain about something stupid- the decor, the waiter rubbed them the wrong way, etc. or if they obviously know nothing about how food is supposed to be (steak not well done enough) I will discount their opinion.  However , if they write cogently and are able to legitimately explain why a place was bad and I see that criticism repeated in other reviews I'll take it into consideration.    I personally have no problem with snark.  I like interesting, well-written reviews that really get to the crux of what makes a place good or bad. 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Who reads Yelp reviews?  Yelp is like the Yellow Pages-who reads that trash?  Methinks the Facebook losers.  The only thing worse than a yelp review, normally written by a half wit with a 4th grade education and a need 'to be relevant", is a Crazyyy_Girls_90 post.  

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

If Yelp were any good there would be little need for food reviewers.  BTW, the Korean restaurants are around Royall and Harry Hines.

teachergirl23
teachergirl23

I use it pretty faithfully, but I really hate when the reviewer gives a restaurant 1 star because of bad service.  I can understand if it took two hours to get your food, but I think sometimes the complaints about service are frivolous.  They give it a one star rating because the restaurant ran out of something, etc.  It drives me a little crazy in that way.  I just wish the reviews were almost exclusively based on food.  I can deal with a little bad service if the food is incredible.  And I think service can be the most inconsistent thing in a restaurant.  

Ritchiebobo1917
Ritchiebobo1917

As over priced as that place was (considering what they served), I'm surprised they lasted this long.  Still, it's too bad to see another business shutter.

Frances
Frances

The claims lack merit. The fact of the matter is that you cannot pay Yelp to remove or reorder reviews. Anyone can see for themselves that Yelp treat both advertisers and non -advertisers the same. Look at any business’s filtered reviews and see for yourself. http://officialblog.yelp.com/2...

HC
HC

It's kind of like those group intelligence studies where you get 50 people to guess the weight of a cow; no individual has any idea what the real weight is, but the larger the group the closer and closer their combined guesses will get to the truth. Or... at least that's what Radiolab told me. In other words, Yelp's good to get a general feel for a place, though you can't take any one review as gospel. I think it does indicate something legitimate when a place has universal 5-star (or 1-star) reviews, and talking specifics, most reviews at least give you a feel for a place (fluorescent lighting, classical music, charmingly cantankerous waitresses) if not just for the reviewer ("my tomato soup was gross... I HATE tomatoes.")

Crazyyy_Girls_90
Crazyyy_Girls_90

@da4059e4681258273d2543e7d40381be:disqus ,,..........This is crаzy...Sistеr's girlfriеnd mаkes 73 hоurly оn the PC. Shе hаs bееn firеd frоm wоrk fоr 11 mоnths but lаst mоnth her pаychеck wаs 7756 USD just wоrking on thе PC for a fеw hоurs. Rеаd аbоut it on this wеb sitе......http://alturl.com/mn3zd

matt
matt

I only use yelp to ID a restaurant if pictures are listed.  More restaurants would do better with good yelp pics.  Other than that, everyone else thinks everything is AAAAMAZING  

Carrieu
Carrieu

Mad Hatter Cafe has 5 stars across the boad and no mention on here.

swingdude
swingdude

I have been participating on Yelp for the better part of six years and it often irritates me how people will dismiss the reviews as a waste of time. I believe that many contributors are like me in that they take the process seriously, try restaurants multiple times before commenting, and attempt to provide realistic (albeit sometimes stylized) accounts of visits in an effort to help other diners find gems and avoid disasters. HOWEVER, I do think that as the site has become more popular, the quality of reviews has dimished as some folks look to generate a high rate of reviews by including such masterpieces as "This Chili's rocks the house - 5 stars"

I do use the reviews of others to steer me in addition to using blogs like this to help me make informed choices. There is a trick, though, and that is knowing which Yelpers' sensibilities align with mine. Those are the reviews I will trust. I don't think it differs from how one should value the opinions of food critics. There are some that you respect and some that write for the DMN and seem to have some bizarre agendas. You simply weigh their statements accordingly.

Yelp is a flawed system, and the meteoric rise in Cafe San Miguel's ratings certainly make me want to cray "Shenanigans!, but it does provide valuable feedback. Yelp is obviously here to stay and I appaud that because it provides some sort of accountability for restaurants. Those proprietors who arrogantly dismiss it create a perception that not only do they believe thats customers are meaningless, but that they are also idiots.

CMN
CMN

I don't read yelp reviews, unless I'm doing a keyword search of them to find out something specific about the restaurant that I can't find elsewhere (ex. patio). 

I will, however, use Yelp if I'm visiting an unfamiliar city in which I don't know someone who has a respectable opinion on good food.  I still don't read the reviews, but I'll use rankings of top restaurants as a starting point from which to do a little further internet research.  The top 20 of any Yelp ranking always contains 6+ actually good places.  Wish the extra step wasn't required, but it's served me well.

asu87
asu87

this is not a review of yelp, merely a commentary on all review sites. in business the review sites are perceived to be extremely important---so, some businesses hire "reputation managers." These people look at yelp and others in real-time and help the business respond to problems..and that's great! 

But, these reputation managers will also post positive reviews about your business. Let me say that again---they will post positive reviews for your business if you pay for their services!

In the end, your reputation is all you have...and in the end, fake reviews will not cover up poor businesses.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

I yelp, but mostly to find specific food types in whichever neighborhood I happen to be in. The reviews are extremely hit or miss, and often times written too far on either side of the spectrum to be taken with any validity. If I see a place has 1 star and the review says it sucks, how am I supposed to believe the next review that gives it 4 stars and says it's amazing?

Plus, and I won't name names, but a bar and grill in Chicago that I would frequent would have it's employees and regulars give them favorable reviews at times. I was asked once to give a good review to balance out a bad one from the night before.

Eam0061
Eam0061

I admit it. I Yelp. I realize I'm not a Leslie Brenner or anything, so I simply stick to my experience. I am not here to critique preparation of food. I didn't go to culinary school, I have a useless college degree. I also won't post a review of places that I like more for nostalgic reasons rather than product (looking at you Snuffers) so I try to be objective and not a d-bag about stuff that is out of a restaurant's control. But if you try to rip me off, or treat me poorly and fail to rectify it, I will call ur ass out.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Yelp in Dallas is a complete waste of time. I was an active participant when it launched, now I am completely out of it. The astro-turfing was bad, but the mindless reviews were worse. Yelp only works in towns full of food savvy people. Dallas ain't it. 

Richard Buferd
Richard Buferd

Try using Yelp in Minneapolis.  People are so friendly there that I bet 4.5 stars is the average rating.  That said, I do like using it to find new places with their powerful map features and as a first stop for research on a recommendation.  I can't wait for Chef's Feed to come to Dallas...I'd rather know where Dean Fearing goes for tacos than a bunch of yelpers.  

cb
cb

I use Yelp for basic reasons, what's close and so forth. I have written a few reviews on restaurants I enjoy. My biggest complaint is there are snarky people who feel it's their place to rip a restaurant. When I read s review in a paper I know the person has credentials, on Yelp many are out to show they're snobbery many times.

Whitman1
Whitman1

I only use Yelp to find out the basics, address, waiter service, etc. I do not rely on amateur reviews of food that may or may not be accurate and are written in tortured English, or that might be written by an employee of the restaurant.

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

be wary - yelp salesmen are constantly calling restaurants offering to "showcase their positive ratings" with a monthly fee.  you can either be an unbiased peer rating service or a paid rating service.  what yelp is doing trying to be both is bad for users and possibly unethical.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

You've gotta take Yelp ratings with a big grain of salt.  

In an area I know, I find the value of Yelp to be greater as I've gotten to know the likes and dislikes of particular reviewers.  I look for their takes on a restaurant, as opposed to trusting the opinion of the Yelp community as a whole.

On the other hand, when I'm in an unknown area, especially a small town, Yelp has provided me with generally good guidance.  I guess there's less gaming of the system in that setting.

Mark
Mark

"I generally only look at the negative reviews"......"I like interesting, well-written reviews that really get to the crux of what makes a place [GOOD!?] or bad"

Ronde' in Flower Mound
Ronde' in Flower Mound

Dear Kerg's; MORE Kerg's! I called Crazyyy_Girls_90, and this ciggy hag answered, and offered to perform "full service" for, like 30 bucks.  I think I have phone Aids now!  The whole time she's weasing, and coughing, and she looked like that lady that works at 3AM at my local Walmart-help?

twinwillow
twinwillow

Did the spamming little bitch get laid, too?

swingdude
swingdude

Sorry for the typos. I hit submit before editing and can't get it to correct now.

Not Yelp's Biggest Fan
Not Yelp's Biggest Fan

I'm so tired of reading the "reviews" that constitute Yelp. How many times have I read a "review" that makes reference to something the yelper didn't even try - but passes judgment on it anyway? That's not a review; that's a blog post. I don't want to hear that story behind the waiter's outfit or your failed date. Just tell me about the food, damn it.

As long as it's above 3 stars and local, I'll try it. I won't get into an in-depth analysis of any review or group of reviews. Yelp's iPhone app is useful when I have no idea what to eat in an area, like Albert said. But when I'm in my own town, I rely on people's tastes that I actually trust - on Twitter, Facebook, or via local food articles.

If you're not already a part of a Yelp community in your own town, it's really too much noise to actually trust any of the "reviews." Yelp has hit that tipping point where the information that isn't factual really isn't useful at all.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Calm down, clam down.  First off; I didn't think there were any Ronde's in the Flower mound area?  Anyhoo, first thing is just wipe the phone down with a mix of seltzer water, and vinegar.  Now breathe deep.  Disconnect said phone. BREATH!  Finally, AND MOST IMPORTANT, don't tell thing where you live...and you'll be fine.  Last thing you need is Betty from Garland comin' over at 3 AM all liquored up with a couple of meth heads, rusty unregistered guns and prison moxy!  Next thing you know the fire departments spraying your house down, the cops are looking for you in the woods, and the meth heads are on a MASSIVE tweak induced cleaning binge-replete with cigarettes, mop buckets and a gallon of 409. 

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

So under this rule set you would have Tried San Miguel this week, but ignored them back in September.

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