One of the most common arguments of people all over America involves something so simple, deciding where to eat. Personally, I have had this row with just about everyone in my life from my family to friends and my boyfriend (every other day lol). While these fights may continue to go on, I have found true aid in one of the most useful apps on my phone, Yelp. In this article, I will share my own personal Yelp guide so you can understand the true power this app can have.
I discovered Yelp a few years ago and over time it has helped me find some of my favorite restaurants here at school, on vacation, and even in my hometown. Hopefully, it can help you decide where to eat, so fast, that you won't' have to deal with your "hangry" friends.
First, Learn the Basics
Yelp may seem a little daunting at first glance. There are so many tabs and filters and buttons that it is quite easy to lose your way. For this Yelp guide, I want to start off with the basic structure of how to search in this app. The first thing you want to do is type in what you want to eat or drink in the "Find" search box and then enter the location you are in or will be in. In this step, the more specific, the better. If you want Mexican food put that into the search box to narrow your selection. You can even put specific things like "rice bowls" or "American brunch" or "gluten-free" and Yelp will sort through restaurants that have or relate to these items
Next, you will be faced with the list of choices Yelp gives you. From here you can go through the list and choose what restaurant appeals to you. A great trick is to check out the pictures of food to get a good idea of what you are going to be getting. And always keep in mind the $ signs ($= Costco Foodcourt, $$$$= French Laundry).
I know the whole point of Yelp is to give and read reviews but this can be a very dangerous game. People may give negative reviews for a restaurant just because they couldn't find a good parking spot or that there was a long wait for brunch on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Many reviews can be skewed are biased (even the positive ones), so make sure you read with caution. Just because you read a couple 1-star reviews does not mean the restaurant is automatically terrible.
The Secret Weapon
When I want to find the best of the best, the restaurant with the highest stars and the highest number of reviews, I go to the trusty "Filter" button. You will find this feature located on the top left of the search bar in the "Search" section on the Yelp app
This is where the true magic of Yelp happens. With filters, you can customize your results with so many different choices. You can find restaurants within a mile of you or find out what restaurants are going to be open after your 8 p.m. class. Yelp lets you apply multiple filters at a time making your results personalized to your budget, time schedule, or even location. Users can even sort through only new restaurants or only restaurants that deliver with the "Most Popular" features.
My favorite (and most useful) filter in many cases is the "Sort by" section. Here, if you want to find the most popular restaurants in the area, click on the "Most Reviewed" button and when you press search, Yelp will display restaurant with the highest reviews in descending order. With this specific feature, I have been able to find some of my favorite restaurants that I often frequent today like Din Tai Fung (who has over 4000+ reviews for each restaurant, insane).
My Approach to Ratings and Reviews
Don't forget to keep in mind the star ratings for the businesses which represent the cumulative "scores" each reviewer gave the establishment. Usually, with places that have 100-1000 individual reviews, I try to pick from those with 4+ stars if I want to have a meal that will be almost guaranteed to be satisfactory. However, don't discriminate against those with 3-4 stars because there could be a hidden gem lingering in those search results. But, just because a restaurant has 1000 reviews doesn't mean that you are going to love their food. There is just a higher chance of success due to the hopefully honest meal assessments from previous customers.
This is just my personal methodology of using the app and my own mental Yelp guide I use on a regular basis but I am not in any means trying to dissuade people from going to less reviewed or 1-2 star places. For example, my local Panda Express has only 2 and a half stars and 47 reviews and we all know Orange Chicken is about 6/5 stars. Don't play.
So to all my new Yelp guide experts, I dare you to go take what you have learned and go eat somewhere new. Who knows? Maybe you just might find your next go-to spot with the help of your good friend, Yelp and, all the while, becoming a better "where do you want to eat" participant.