Two of my favorite travel show hosts Andrew Zimmern and Rick Steves have come out strongly against crowd sourcing apps such as Yelp as a means of getting recommendations. It has been reported that as many as 30% of the reviews on Yelp are fake so how can you make a reasonable decision based on their information? These are all very valid concerns and must always be kept in mind when using the app. Without the culinary contacts of an Andrew Zimmern or the travel contacts of a Rick Steves how can an independent traveler find a good restaurant when in a strange city? Their suggestion is to talk to the locals and get a recommendation from them. Excellent advise but not always practical. When I need to I do use Yelp to help find a good restaurant and I find it to be very useful. I will give you an example. We were driving back from Burlington, Vermont to our home in New Hampshire, it was around lunch time and we decided to get something to eat. We were in the White River Junction / Lebanon, New Hampshire area. I yelped restaurants in the area and scrolled through the hits. One of the results we saw was for a Korean/Japanese restaurant called Yama.
The restaurant had over 100 reviews and an overall rating of 4½ stars out of five. A small little hole in the wall place tucked into a back lot and totally invisible to routine traffic flow I would have never found without Yelp. The food was incredible and the dining experience was great.
My rule of thumb for using Yelp is to note the number of reviews an establishment has and to look through the pictures. If a location has less than 20 reviews than you eat at your own risk, but if there are more than twenty reviews and the pictures look appetizing than go for it. Unless there are many reviews (>50) I do not put much credence in the rating as it can be skewed one way or the other by individual ratings.
Another example is on a trip to Jersey City, New Jersey we were going to arrive in town in the late evening, a restaurant search yielded many middle eastern and Turkish restaurants in the area. Realizing that there must be a prominent ethic population I narrowed my search parameter to these cuisines. I settled on a restaurant called The Bosphorus and again the food and experience were incredible.
Again Yelp led us in the right direction. In summary when you have time by all means get a local recommendation but if you do not have that option use the Yelp app wisely and you will get rewarding results.