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Yelp, Stars, Le Diplomate and a Charm City Yelper Hits Town

by Borderstan.com April 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm 2,179 7 Comments

From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.

"Le Diplomate"

Le Diplomate at 14th and Q NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Earlier today I took a rare moment to visit Yelp to take a peek at what the irrelevant set were saying about a restaurant that opened just two weeks ago — and only officially opened April 15.

Surprisingly, by their accounts, Le Diplomate is off to a great start here in DC. The users of Yelp, or “Yelpers,” as they’re known, have treated the restaurant with the restraint, patience and the respect an adopted French newborn deserves.

Le Diplomate can feel very proud of an average rating of just over 4 stars — a dream rating for anything found on Yelp. As time passes the restaurant will enter its stride, find it’s niche, and those 4 stars will surely hold strong.

DC’s picky diners will come to understand what those in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Florida long ago embraced — that Stephen Starr is a force, that his restaurants succeed, and that he may know just what he is doing a little better than we do.

The Unhappy and Never Satisfied

Then again, tucked among the restrained praise of 4 and 5 star reviews, are the grenades lobbed by the unhappy and the never satisfied — which do a better job illustrating the reviewer’s awkward life experiences than the restaurant, dry cleaner or CVS in question. Here are some choice excerpts:

“Bob” from Baltimore, 2 stars for Le Diplomate brunch:

“Pros: Great job on the interior decor. Cons: Went for morning brunch on 4/21 and arrived 9:50 am and waited inline to get in. The atmosphere was chaotic (arranging tables, no wait staff to sit customers etc). A group of about 15 customers just milling at the entrance after giving their names waiting to be seated. Eventually around 10:15 waitstaff{sic}show up and start seating people. Although I requested a table in the atrium area I was not seated there and was taken to the back.”

Let’s see, the restaurant doesn’t even open until 10 am, and you were there at 9:50 am. You “waited inline{sic} to get in…”  So, you were early, and there were already other people waiting ahead of you. Perhaps next you should blame them because you had trouble parking — or because there was traffic on the drive down from Baltimore.

Chaotic atmosphere, a group of 15 milling around, giving names, arranging tables. How dare they! Really, on their first ever brunch, where they are bombarded by people who arrived early, asked to seat an entire sidewalk of diners at once? They were arranging tables? You mean they didn’t know where each and every person should be seated? I can’t imagine. Total fail.

And then, after the 15-minute wait, which must have felt like an eternity, you were seated in “the back!” Unable to sit in the section you self labeled as “the atrium,” and relegated to an area with available seating?  The horror.

But that’s not all. Life has bigger problems for this Charm City Yelper,  he was none too happy with the oldest takeout scam in the book:   Missing Shrimp.

“Tom” from Baltimore, 1 star for a Chinese restaurant:

“Such a scam! 12 bucks for shrimp with garlic, 5 tiny shrimp with tons of onion peppers and fillers. Stay away”

Heavens, what is the restaurant up to? TWELVE DOLLARS for five tiny shrimp? “Tons of onions, peppers, and fillers!” Oh no, my readers! Expect at least a pound of thumb sized, hand-cleaned, wild-caught, organic gulf shrimp for $12!  Did it come with rice? I bet the owner even went so far to add FIVE CENTS for the takeout bag.  The thief! Over on W Street NW, things just weren’t going “Dick’s way either…

“Dick” from Baltimore, 2 stars for an upscale fast food restaurant:

“Went here last night and ordered a wrap with shrimp to go. Got home and there was not a single shrimp. Very disapointed.” (sic)

Not a single shrimp. It must have at least lived up to it’s name, and been fast and gourmet (minus the lack of shrimp).

Last night, I asked my friend, fellow blogger, and DC radio legend, “Why do you like Yelp so much?”

Without pausing to think, she said, “It’s so great, I mean, it’s the fastest way to see if a restaurant is open, the hours are right there, and you can click to call the number.”

“And the reviews?” I wondered.

“Who has time for that? I just need to know what time they close.”

Hers was the first Yelp review I found useful.

By all means keep yelping, but most of us have stopped reading.

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  • M

    Thank you for the lulzy article!

  • Me

    Poor Bob.
    I must have been right behind him in line at Le Diplomate. The difference is they sat me immediately FOR MY 10:15 RESERVATION in the section that I requested, and I had a fantastic brunch with fantastic service. There was obviously a line of people at 10:00 that morning without reservations, my guess is that the restaurant didn’t want to seat everyone at once and overload the servers and kitchen. Bob, get reservations or quit complaining about (15 minute) waits!

  • Moi

    So Why are they NOT part of DINING OUT FOR LIFE??? Seems like a great way to really back your neighbors and the community you have become a part of.

    • Emanuela

      Most probably because to respect the deadline to be included, Le Diplomate should have signed up when it was still in construction.

  • Patrick


    Be careful making jokes about [sic] being necessary when you’ve got a big it’s/its blindness. You also might want to avoid calling yelpers irrelevant when some of us A) might have voted for you, and B) are also your frequent customers. Although I only rarely contribute (to my own discredit), participation in a community-driven resource like yelp is really the only way to get a good guess as to how I’ll likely view the same unknown venues.

    Of course, I have to account for the outlier jerk contributors, but that’s necessary anywhere online. I also read published reviews, but when traveling, for example, it’s easier to find a cross section of yelp comments that seem relevant than it is to find a respected reviewer’s take, especially if the restaurant in question is more than a year old. In fact, after visiting Le Diplomate, I went to look for real reviews but had trouble finding them in a super-brief search for the exact opposite problem: All search hits pointed to the articles just before it opened. Yelp was therefore really my only source for reviews, user or otherwise.

    Other than your attack on we irrelevant, unwashed masses, I believe you’ve got a good point about respecting a newly-opened business and also about a general need for courtesy. Would that you’d treat us the same. I’ll be sure not to drop by your bar soon to thank you.

  • Emanuela

    Thanks VERY much for this article and for putting the whole issue so straightforwardly (at last!), speaking out for people like me who never dared to criticize Yelp (but wished to do so in the past!). 🙂
    I must say that even though I have been living in the US for 12 years I am still puzzled (as many other Europeans) by the need, almost the urge that Americans have to systematically read a review before going to any restaurant or before booking an hotel, while in Europe the best way to judge a restaurant is reading its menu or through comments of close friends: the pleasure is also in exploring and discovering a place. Thanks again!

  • Dito

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