I wrote a rather dark Yelp review of an old Dearborn mainstay on Friday. My folks and I had just eaten there. As of that moment, Yelp reviewers, apparently all with multiple sensory disorders, had given Richter’s Chalet an average of four stars of five — a lofty rating. Now I’m no gourmand, but this place was so exceptionally bad, I wrote:
I grew up in Dearborn, Mich., where Richter’s has been a mainstay. Went there tonight with my folks. How the mighty have fallen.
I agree completely with the reviewers commenting on the state of the decor — deplorable. The carpet dates from the Adenauer administration and is sticky like a fraternity after a nine-kegger. Menus dog-eared and Scotch taped. At least 80 degrees in the place, possibly to accommodate the octogenarians who, taste buds eroded, still drag their descendants into this sorry establishment.
Where I disagree is with those lauding the food. I lived in Germany on two occasions in my life and have had good German food there and elsewhere, and this ain’t it. I had sauerbraten, questionably cooked, oversauced, presented like a pile of rags. My mom’s meal one would need a mass spectrometer to properly identify. Some combination of possibly reheated meat hiding under congealed gravy. She couldn’t stomach it, and neither should you.
If you’re in Michigan, try Metzger’s on Zeeb Road in Ann Arbor. In Dearborn, just eat Arabic.
OK, so harsh. One star, obviously. Then my mom did her own review because she felt strongly about it:
My appetite had already been impacted by the fact that my feet stuck to the filthy carpet as I walked to the table, and was further impeded when I was handed a shabby, food-stained menu held together with tape. Very decent coleslaw was followed by barely-warm spaetzle, the latter not a good omen. But it was totally over for me when I received my entree, a grayish glob of lukewarm pork covered with congealed gravy. My dining companions’ meals (plates of oversauced but undercooked beef) were only slightly better. I felt sorry for our waitress–she was lovely, tried hard, and offered excellent service. But no amount of friendliness can make up for inedible food. I will not return to this restaurant. For the record, I have lived in the area for many years, and have dined there intermittently. The quality was declining, but it has now reached a point of no return–literally!
Also a one-star. But not harsh, really, and nice to the waitress, whom we felt bad for.
I hopped on Yelp today and noted the absence of both reviews on the Richter’s page, and the restaurant’s rating back up to 4 stars (we had dragged it down to 3.5). Scrolling all the way to the bottom, there’s a link, in parenthesis, to “filtered reviews.” Look closely or you’ll miss it. Click in and you have to fill in one of those Captcha things. That’s to make sure you’re not a computer.
Yelp doesn’t factor these filtered reviews into their overall ranking. And a follow-up negative review, couched in less inflammatory language tonight, also landed there instantly. Auto-filtered. In Yelp-land, you have to be human to read bad reviews, but you don’t have to be human to decide a whether a review is actually “bad,” that is, inaccurate. Just search for pessimistic keywords and ban the whole thing. Bravo, Yelp!
This is nontrivial. Yelp’s bot means the service works for restaurants — not for prospective customers — in filtering out bad reviews automatically. Which means, simply, you can’t trust Yelp to tell you if a restaurant is bad, which Richter’s truly is. Yelp, less than no help, is misleading to the very consumers whose opinions it purports to aggregate. Skip it.