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Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Restaurant Review Site Aims to Be the Anti-Yelp

Posted By on Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge THE INFATUATION
Happy 10th birthday Yelp, but don't get too comfortable.

At the Infatuation, co-founders Andrew Steinthal and Chris Stang craft restaurant reviews that they believe to resonate with the voices of their generation. Based in New York City, the Infatuation launched their first expansion in San Francisco on Monday with Max Child, a self-acclaimed “food nerd,” as their correspondent.

Stang and Steinthal came together in 2009 with the idea for their review site after realizing that there was no critic or site that gave them and their friends the information they wanted about restaurants. Stang says that user-based sites like Yelp had too much going on and they couldn’t get a clear reading on whether or not a restaurant was worthy of their time.

“We just found that the people we knew didn’t find that stuff very useful, so we wanted to create something that was the one-way opinion that was useful,” Stang says.

While none of them were ever avid Yelp users, they’re not complete bashers of the concept.

“Yelp is great for the average person,” Stang says.

It’s understandable that the plethora of comments on the site can be overwhelming and can skew the accurate rating of a restaurant if the possible “hangry” Yelp user gives a one star rating because the restaurant is cash only or the wait was too long. This is the type of stuff that drives away from the credible truthful voice that the dudes at the Infatuation are striving for.

Steinthal makes the point that critics try to relate to the “foodie type of crowd” that “cares about chefs, they really care about cooking.” He says that his site is trying to represent “the casual diner, the average diner who goes into a restaurant who isn’t necessarily concerned with the high-end food stuff and wants to know if a restaurant is good for what purpose.”

In the world of the Infatuation, folks who may not care about chefs, cooking, and such things do care about whether or not a bar is a prime spot for "drunk hook ups" or "listening to Black Eyed Peas mash ups." The site also offers posts about what to do during holidays or guides to the best things in the city.

click to enlarge The highest rated restaurant in the City according to Child is great for dates, the 'rents, and special occasions. - THE INFATUATION
  • The Infatuation
  • The highest rated restaurant in the City according to Child is great for dates, the 'rents, and special occasions.

Steinthal tells us that the New York site and app reaches roughly 400,000 people a month through app downloads, page visits, and social media platforms.

We’ll have to see if San Franciscans feel the same way. Obviously Child does.

“I always found that Chris and Andrew sort of provided a voice that I thought made sense to people our age,” Child says, referring to a specific group of people in their mid-20s to early-30s.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Child has lived in NorCal for quite some time and in S.F. for at least a year, working on material for the Infatuation. Of the 12 Bay Area reviews currently on the site, he’s written nine of them with three by Steinthal.

click to enlarge So far, SF restaurants to be pretty okay. - THE INFATUATION

Child and Steinthal have already been to city favorites like Rich Table, Nopa, Bar Crudo, and Tosca Cafe. The kid’s even reviewed the elusive Emilia’s Pizzeria in Berkeley that offers they pies during a small window of opportunity so you can’t deny that they mean business. But what kind of business is that?

Steinthal’s review of Nopa is nothing short of in awe with how great the food is (because we all know that Laurence Jossel is a cool dude and a mastermind), but it doesn’t sound like he likes to share.

“Nopa is our ultimate go-to restaurant in S.F. Unfortunately, it’s everyone else’s too,” he writes.

The about section on their site states that “you won’t hear any pretentious foodie hobnob from us.” These folks at the Infatuation pride themselves on their reviews that are “spoken in a voice that is relatable,” as Steinthal puts it.

“People really react to reading something that is formatted that way and they just like people speaking their language and having the same experiences as they do,” he adds.

And the conversation is just one way: comments are not allowed on reviews.

“We want to put our opinion out there and we want that to be the opinion and the people can agree or disagree but we just didn’t want to be undermined by the chatter or the cacophony of voices that come in any sort of user-generated pollution,” Stang says.

When they’re not unpretentiously reviewing restaurants, Stang and Steinthal work on building their “offline community.” One way they’re doing this is getting a group together and running the Brooklyn half marathon every year. They’ve even started planning for SF’s Nike’s women's half marathon in October — they’re partnering up with Whole Foods.

As far as expansion goes, Denver and Chicago already have correspondents planted in the area, working on their launches while Austin, Nashville, and LA on track to be coming soon.

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Tiffany Do


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