Our Favorite Dumb Bad Yelp Reviews of Cleveland Restaurants

I’ve always been a casual reader of Yelp!, but I became a true fan in the fall of 2014. That’s when I spotted James W.’s one-star review of Choolaah Indian BBQ. It wasn’t so much the low rating that caught my eye, it was the date. You see, the restaurant hadn’t even opened its doors yet, making an objective review of the place an impossibility.

Worry not, dear readers, this particular Yelper still found plenty of things that raised his ire. Chief among them was the appearance that they were open for business when in fact they were not. On two separate occasions this person grabbed ahold of the front doors, pulled and, rebuffed, left in a huff. He later sat down to compose the following report.

"Why the hell are they giving off the appearance they're open when they're not?"

If there’s a review that better illustrates the sense of entitlement held by many, but not all, Yelpers, than the following, I have yet to come across it. Thanks to Yelp, Mike K. noticed all the buzz surrounding Ushabu in Tremont, so he rounded up some mates and decided to pop in for a weekend visit. Sadly, given that the restaurant seats only 25 people, often combining small parties at large booths, Mike and the gang were shut out.

“When we walked in, no one really greeted us, there were only 3 or 4 booths and someone finally came up to us as we stood awkwardly in this very small and tight place. She said ‘Do you have a reservation?’ We said no, she almost rolled her eyes and then a man came over and asked them same thing. She quickly shooed us out!”

You have to love the equivocation in phrasing like “no one really greeted us” and “she almost rolled her eyes.” Regardless, the exchange and lack of accommodation left a vile taste in Mike’s mouth and he was compelled to share his opinion in the form of a bitter one-star review. (Reminder: he never ate there.)

Entitlement courses through the cables of Yelp, but so too does a steady whiff of arrogance and conceit. Experts all, Yelpers enjoy offering “clueless” owners tips on how best to run their businesses. Michael Symon might be on the receiving end of more advice than any other owner out there. But no tactic of his was met with more fury than his decision to serve only one barbecue sauce at Mabel's BBQ – and to divert from the locally accepted sweet goo that enrobes most meats around town.

“For the money there should be a variety of BBQ sauces that pairs with each expensive meat!” one Yelper exclaimed.

“Their claim to fame is using a local mustard in their BBQ sauce,” added another. “Meh.”

“Their sauce is made with a mustard/vinegar base! Blah! Cleveland is known for a ketchup/tomato based sauce!”

Well, who would want to tarnish that reputation?

Porco Lounge's recent decision to add meatballs DID NOT SIT WELL with Jocelyn from Eastlake, who penned the following screed.

"I do not care if or how cool meatballs are right now or trendy. 'You know what I would like with my italian meatballs and sauce? - a fruity rum drink' - said no one ever. 'You know what I would like with my fruity rum drink?? - meatballs' - said no one ever."

What irks me when reading many of these reviews is the lack of context. Calling something “authentic” or “not at all authentic” without supporting details doesn’t really help a reader. Mexican food always seems to be characterized this way, often with hilarious results.

“Went here randomly with my boyfriend one night and was incredibly happy with how authentic it was,” Danielle from Chagrin Falls wrote about a popular Cleveland spot. “Chicken chimichanga was amazing!”

Norman from San Diego enjoyed one of our local Mexican spots and awarded it with Yelp’s highest honors, a five-star review, for its authenticity.

“I grew up spoiled on good authentic Mexican food. I have been looking for years for a good authentic Mexican restaurant. I finally found one. The food here is REALLY good. I had the Fajita Bowl and it took me back home.”

Let me know the last time you encountered a chimichanga or fajita bowl in Michoacán or Jalisco.

I recall my lengthy conversation with owner Ehab Enaia over his decision to stop serving shawarma at his beloved (now departed) Café Falafel. It was one of the most popular items on the menu because it was truly exceptional: fresh marinated meats layered on a vertical spit and slowly roasted. So why stop selling it? Because there was no way to maintain the level of quality and consistency between the lunch and dinner rushes, he told me.

I’m guessing that Michele R. never spoke to Enaia about his predicament, but she clearly was not happy about it.

"So disappointed they don't have beef shawarma anymore. It was the best I've ever had. What middle eastern place doesn't sell beef shawarma?”

Maybe one that doesn’t like selling reheated shawarma?

You can’t really get more “authentic” than injera, the unleavened flatbread eaten by Ethiopians since the late fifth century A.D. But that doesn’t stop local Yelpers from denigrating this particular staple of the cuisine.

Bob says, “You'll spend most of your meal filling up on the spongy, completely flavorless ‘bread’ called injera.”

Ross admits that he didn’t know what to expect when it came to Ethiopian food in general and injera specifically, but you better believe it wasn’t this.

"I truly didn't know what to expect in coming here. This is a cuisine I have never come across. The waiter really talked up the bread they use, called injera. To describe it looks like a giant pancake with a crepe consistency. Made of buckwheat and another ingredient, it was served cold and honestly was disappointed with it, it had a very bland taste and not at all what I expected."

Thanks for the insight, Ross.

You will always hear about a restaurant’s untidiness, but very few Yelpers bother to commend a restaurant for its general cleanliness – unless, of course, it is an ethnic restaurant. Apparently, a clean Chinese restaurant is such an anomaly that it needs to be highlighted in reviews. These are from a single Chinese eatery in town.

“Everything looked clean. Clean white table clothes, clean floor, nothing was sticky or greasy.”

“Quality, chinese food, quick, in a no frills yet very clean setting.”

“The restaurant is clean and service is good.”

“Small but accommodating, simple and clean.”

“Looking from the outside, you may just pass it up. However inside is neat and clean.”

“The restaurant itself is a clean hole-in-the-wall, if that makes sense. I noticed there wasn't any carpet (thank god) and everything appeared pretty spotless.”

“It’s small, very plain but also very clean.”

“This little place is clean and the staff speak enough English to be helpful.”

“The restaurant itself is super clean, service is friendly and they do speak English, which is a plus.”

Many Yelp reviews are simply fucking hysterical – in a good way. They read like funny little vignettes that reveal more about the scribe than the subject of the review. Here are just a few of my favorites that I keep handy for when I’m in need of a quick pick-me-up.

"Do you enjoy paying $5 for a cold taco while surrounded by douche-bag hipsters sipping craft-brewed India Piss Ales, and listening to 'Chad' talk about where he got his latest 'tribal' full-sleeve tattoo, how much it hurt to get, while sending selfies to everyone at the table? This is your place, then."

“TERRIBLE!!!!!! Literally nobody at the restaurant and they "didn't have any openings." Absolutely terrible!! I will never give this place a second chance. Absolutely awful. Ended up eating bar. I will say the clam chowder was delicious...”

"Cleveland this place is not kid friendly!!!!!! I asked the server what do you have for kids to drink his response was "we have coke products"... what good parent give their 3yr old coke products.... Shame on you mr. Simon for taking advantage of the hard working people of Cleveland with your ridiculous prices and condescending staff. You already lost me and my family from eating at Bspot now from Mabel's! Shame, shame!"

"Their selection is bare minimum, and the fish I wouldn't trust if you paid me,” wrote one would-be Woody Allen.

“Everyone was friendly. Perhaps too friendly; even staff who had no reason to interact with our table said hello and asked with no point in mind how we were as they passed by.”

Guess there’s just no pleasing some folks.

Lastly: I’m not a Yelper or member or friend or subscriber or whatever you call it, but from reading my fair share of reviews I can only assume that there’s a points-based system that allots credit for using certain phrases like:

“I really wanted to love this place.”
"Hidden gem."
“You guys!”
"On point."
"Next level."
“All of the feels.”
“Get in my mouth hole!”
“It was just… okay.”

About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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