Zagats: Solving the how to find a restaurant problem

by William Grosso

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About 5 years ago, I began to rely on Zagat's Guides. The guides are little red books, specific to a city or locale, which contain very short descriptions (one or two paragraphs) of the restaurants in that area. The descriptions themselves are compiled from volunteers who review the restaurants. Thus, for example, when you find out that Katia's Russian Tea Room got a 19 (out of 30) for food, you're seeing the result of dozens (or more) of reviews that were recorded and averaged together.

It's sort of like a highly structured epinions for food.

The web site is even better. It lets you search for restaurants, and it makes it very easy to submit short reviews. The reviews will be taken into account for the next edition of the guide for that area.

About the only feature missing is the ability to look at the reviews for a restaurant that have been submitted. If a restaurant has gone downhill since the reviews were last compiled, you wouldn't be able to find it out from Zagat's (you'd be able to submit a review that said so, but no-one else would be able read the review).

For the record, here's the review I just wrote of Cafe Kati:

I've been there three times. Each time, the food has been excellent. Each time, the service has gotten worse. The topper (and the reason I won't be going back): they don't let you take longer than two hours to eat dinner. I had reservations, it was a going away dinner for a valued colleague, and we spent a fair amount of money. The one thing the occasion did not need was a frazzled maitre-d reminding us, repeatedly, that another party was waiting for our table.

What restaurants have you reviewed lately?