This recent Eater.com article, Yelp Elite Are Becoming Obsolete, discusses the traditional unreliability of Yelp reviewers – especially Yelp Elite – and the new unreliability of Instagram influencers. For us here at 17 Degrees, it raises the fundamental question of who can you trust? This website is an attempt to solve that problem. If Yelp is not reliable (#1 restaurant in DC: Founding Farmers), and Instagrammers might be paid without disclosure to steer you to certain restaurants, then there is a greater need for independent, informed, and available guidance. That is why we created this site.
This is an absurdly first-world problem: where should you spend $100 on dinner? But if you saved up for that dinner and were steered wrong by petty-crowdsourced information on Yelp or Trip Advisor, then that is $100 wasted. It is also a $100 that did not go to a restaurant that deserved to stay alive instead of one that may be less deserving.
In the marketplace of ideas, stupid can drown out smart but smart shines brighter. Even when we may disagree and fling the Post Sunday Magazine across the room, professional critics like Tom Sietsema, Tim Carman, the Washingtonian crew, and those at Eater are important reference points to sort this mess out. Zagat and Michelin are less-reliable in D.C. than in places like New York, but they can be helpful. Those running personal pages and blogs, like DonRockwell.com, Lori Gardner at beenthereeatenthat.net, Rick Chessen at rickeatsdc.com, and others are great resources for those willing to dig deeper. Time spent there is infinitely more rewarding than any time on Yelp. When swimming in the muck, look for these lighthouses to lead you to safety. We hope that 17 Degrees will be one of those lighthouses to navigate you to a great place.
Subverting the Yelp paradigm will not be easy. Warding off new threats like paid Instagram posts takes some effort. Although when the promoted place to eat is McDonald’s it makes it easier to spot. So please support us and others trying to highlight the great places to eat in this dining renaissance. Looking for the best places to eat? I’ll give you a hint, the top 5 places on Yelp do not match any objective top 5 list. I doubt the Google algorithm will ever figure this out, but we can hold out hope that the first page of results will include local, independent, informed resources and relegate Yelp and Trip Advisor to the back pages.
So, click and share away. And please spread the news.