Restaurant Reviews: Personal Experience vs. Professional Opinions

newspaperOver the long weekend, I dined out at Mirabelle Tavern, a restaurant I’d been interested in as it’s a new (and slightly less formal) incarnation of a long-popular French restaurant. I was excited to learn what was on the menu and sample the fare. I’d not read any professional reviews…until that very morning when The New York Times published one. I couldn’t help reading it (It was staring me in the face!), but I went from feeling adventurous to feeling as though I should heed the reviewer’s suggestions.

The experience got me thinking about how reviews can influence diners, not just in terms of what we order — but as to whether or not we even go to a restaurant at all. I certainly find professional reviews helpful and interesting to read, but, good or bad, I try not to let them diminish my curiosity about a restaurant. I’ve run into too many people who bash or praise a restaurant based on someone else’s experience rather than their own. In fact, over this very dinner, I had a heated debate with a member of my party about whether one location of a fabled steakhouse is better than the other, with him basing his opinion on what he’d read rather than what he’d experienced. (If you’re reading this, I still think you’re wrong, Robert!) But haven’t we all been inspired by a rave write-up only to be disappointed in a meal? Or read a less-than-stellar review yet had an enjoyable dining experience despite it?

I’m not entirely immune to influence, naturally, and I did go to our dinner armed with some ideas about stand-out menu items (according to the reviewer), but I took just one of her suggestions (and it happened to be a dish that’s a longtime personal favorite), giving in to my own appetite when it came to choosing a first course and dessert. I’m glad I did, as the dishes I discovered on my own were the most memorable. Going forward, I’m going to make an effort to be less influenced by restaurant reviewers and trust my gut (literally and figuratively) when dining out.


  1. Bob Markowitz says

    I like reading the profession reviews, however I have been finding that sometimes on a second visit to a restaurant that they have been inconsistent either with service or quality. I now read the professional and customer reviews to see if they can maintain quality.

  2. Jeanne Ohr says

    On June 9th we celebrated my niece’s graduation from Fenwick High School
    and it was my suggestion that we spend the evening dining at the Signature
    Room on the 95 th Floor of the Hancock Bldg. What a wonderful experience it was for the 10 of us not to mention the extraordinary view
    of our great City. The food was perfect and the service was tops we were
    treated with such attention everyone was impressed including me. My niece could not have been happier with the choice and to end the evening
    with two wonderful platters which looked like boats presented the desserts
    so we all had a sample of 5 different desserts, perfect!! I suggest more
    people think of the Signature Room for these special occasions.
    Thank to the Staff and Owners at the 95th Can’t wait to dine again with
    Jeanne Ohr


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