Over 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 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.