Who do you trust when it comes to restaurant reviews? Who does the best job of covering Howard County restaurants? I hope my blog is a help, but there are certainly lots of other resources available on the web. This is one of a series of Restaurant Review Site postings that aim to find which are really the most reliable when it comes to local coverage.
Urbanspoon is one of the most comprehensive sites for coverage of Howard County restaurants. It's also very friendly to bloggers, letting us link directly to each restaurant page and providing other blogger-friendly tools.
You can't browse or compare all of Howard County restaurants at once, but you can browse by Ellicott City (86 restaurants), Columbia (159), Elkridge (79, though mostly in Anne Arundel county), Clarksville (19), or Glenelg (4). For each city, you get a Top 10, and can sort by alphabet, popularity or price.
For each restaurant listing you can find published critic reviews, blogger and user reviews, along with an indication of how many users like or don't like the restaurant. The published critic reviews are usually from legitimate sources like the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and City Paper. Blogger posts are great since they feature HowChow and this blog a lot.
The user reviews in Urbanspoon, however, are thin. There are not very many and they don't aggregate from other sites. Also, the "like"/"don't like" ranking system is not very helpful or reliable. And the results can be confusing. For example, the "Best" restaurant in Columbia according to Urbanspoon is Eggspectations (which in itself I find questionable). Yet, when you sort Columbia restaurants by popularity, Eggspectation is not in the top 10.
Urbanspoon has a very cute iPhone app that's gathered a lot of press and is even featured in Apple TV commercials. But it won't be truly useful until the ranking system is more reliable.
Best features: Comprehensive list, easy to add information/restaurants, good links to published reviews and blogs
Room for improvement: Few user reviews, can't search/compare whole county at once, questionable rankings of favorites