Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Written by John Grabowski

The first time I ate in Europe, I experienced cultural shock, of the extremely pleasant kind.
It’s not simply a matter of different menu items or the high cost of food over there (and be prepared to empty your wallet). Europeans have a totally different philosophy of food and eating, one that would probably baffle many Americans.
For Europeans, eating is an extremely important ritual. It’s communal and in some places, such as France and the Czech Republic, downright sacred. I know of people in the latter country who turned down a better job in richer western European countries because the food, and especially beer, was just not as good. I can’t imagine an American ever taking that into consideration when planning a career move.
The French two-hour lunch is legendary. Recently there’s been an effort by President Nicolas Sarkozy to clamp down on this ritual, and to make French workers more like Americans, who often can be seen gulping a Coke, eating a Big Mac for lunch, jabbering on their cell phones and texting their coworkers, while driving.
And that goes on in Europe as well. Frankfurt certainly has its share of business-suited men and women running about making deals on sleek headphones in sleek cars. The streets in front of hotels and restaurants in the business districts of Berlin and Vienna are packed tight with Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs. But Europeans, no matter how busy, seem to manage to stop their urgent finance deals and stock transactions for what we can only call more civilized eating. Even a casual lunch on the go always seems to involve real napkins (no paper!), draped elegantly in the lap over an expensive business suit, an appetizer and an aperitif,(No qualms about drinking on the job here). Of course, no meal is finished until the espresso has been served.
Waiters in Europe take their occupation very seriously. They are not college kids with part time jobs this is a career. They are paid living wages and tips are just a small addition to the bill—you usually round up to the next euro or two and that’s it. Unlike American restaurants, in Europe it’s easy to estimate what the evening’s tab will come to beforehand. The bad news: it’s probably going to come to a lot these days compared to prices in the U.S.
The philosophy of service is very different. I often think that Europeans must feel rushed and slighted in American establishments. That’s because American restaurants “turn the table over” several times a night. In Europe it’s expected that it’s yours all evening. Slow service is good service. A server will not breathlessly rush your table the moment menus have been opened and ask if you know what you want already…and you have to ask for the bill, they will not bring it to you. That would be rude as would, expecting you to clear out so other customers can be seated at your table. Most people stay in restaurants all night, talking leisurely (there’s a word you hardly hear in connection with America) with large groups of friends (I’ve noticed Europeans tend to eat out in large groups more often than Americans), drinking, and smoking although ever-stricter regulations on where you can consume tobacco are becoming part of their reality.
I was floored a couple years ago in Salzburg when my wife and I were asked when we walked into a favorite restaurant if we wanted smoking or non-smoking. I felt like asking, “Since when?” But yes, many parts of Europe are now offering non-smoking sections or even banning the habit entirely. For me the change is welcome. I still remember the beer hall in Munich in ‘05 that was so thick with smoke we could not even see the other end of the room, or the gentleman in Berlin who lit up cigarette after cigarette at the next table and blew smoke my way as I was trying to enjoy a meal back in ’04. (My experience is if you shoot them a look, they think you’re miffed because they haven’t offered a smoke to you.)
There are quirks that take getting used to, “free refills” as a concept generally doesn’t exist. You have to pay for that second cup of coffee or soft drink, (trust me, the coffee is usually worth the extra dough)! Why Americans, who landed astronauts on the moon, never learned to make really good coffee is a mystery to me. And they don’t serve their drinks swimming in ice, cool to lukewarm is how most beverages arrive. You’d be surprised how fast you get used to it, too. There’s rarely free water for the table, and if you want some, you’d better specify tap (and many restaurants won’t like it when you do). If you just say “water,” they’ll ask some variant of “sparkling or still?” It’ll come bottled, and likely be very expensive, but will taste wonderful. Europeans drink more wine and other alcohol with dinner, it seems to me, though I haven’t “Googled” for specific stats. Almost every dinner table I see has wine on it, however, even in very casual (read “cheap”) restaurants. Many times that wine is cheaper than the soda.
For all the rumors I’ve heard that many European servers, especially in France, don’t like American tourists, I’ve rarely experienced anything less than wonderful service. They are attentive and genuinely seem like they want to make all their customers happy. One waiter I chatted with in Paris said he longed to come to America because he’d heard the food was so good here. Where here? Walnut Creek, California, about a half hour from where I live. As much as I love Europe and its magnificent cuisine, that comment made me realize what I easily take for granted sometimes.
This is the first column where I will be talking about eating experiences in Europe, of which I’ve had plenty. I hope you’ll come along as my “ipartner,” enjoying the foods I’ve experienced and the interesting restaurants, cafes, and pubs where I’ve experienced them.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The internet can be your best friend or hang you out to dry. This is because photos and descriptions posted on-line can be really confusing or better yet downright deceitful. Look, if you are reading this article there is a pretty good chance that you have either used the internet to search for lodging and/or make a reservation for travel or know someone who has. And lets be honest, the internet is one cool invention. But it does have its down side.

I needed to go to Los Angeles to attend a graduation but searching for reasonable accommodations in Southern California can be somewhat of a challenge. Not due to a lack of hotels or motels, there is certainly no shortage of lodging, it’s just where you choose to stay and lay your head. Some of the hotels/motels hire people to write about their establishments to make them sound great, they use words like luxury accommodations, newly refurbished, and minutes from popular attractions. What they often fail to mention are words like near a seedy neighborhood, we have a hooker stroll nearby, plenty of freeway noise or my favorite “you may have to check in through a nighttime, registration window”. Which brings me to my stay at the Willow Inn Motel in Rancho Dominquez, California, at least that’s what the Willow Inn used as its mailing address, although all the street signs read Compton. Now, when you view the pictures and read the reviews posted by lodgers it seemed like a fairly nice place, but when I arrived to the hotel, I’m sorry, I mean motel, around 9pm after a just completing 6-hour drive down from San Francisco I walk up to the lobby doors where there is a sign that says lobby closed use nighttime registration window ….WTH??? a registration window? What’s next a hooker stroll? Then after ringing the bell, a man appears at the window and asks me, “cash, check, or charge”? Really?? I can see the lobby and it looked just the photos on the website. I asked the man behind the glass if I could step into the lobby to complete the checking in process, His response was simply, “the lobby is closed”!

Now under normal conditions, I would be running and screaming away from this place and checking into someplace with a restaurant located in the lobby but now, I was just curious to see where this adventure would take me. The man behind the window, (excuse me), bullet-proof glass, asked me for my Identification and credit card. He actually seemed surprised that I had both. I was hit with the real surprise after swiping my credit card, I was presented with a receipt for the length of my stay and I was asked to sign the credit card receipt. Now, never in my entire career I have ever been asked to pay for my stay in advance. Typically, when I check into a hotel, a hold is placed on my credit card and when I check out of the hotel, they bill my credit card, that how it’s always been. When I inquired as to why I was being billed for my stay in advance, the man behind the window in a rather thick Indian accent, explained to me that he had merely placed a “hold” on my credit card and that I was not being charged for the entire stay. Now, I am a pretty sharp guy and I happen to know that you don’t sign for “holds” on your credit card, at least not as far as I can tell. I was given my room key with no instructions on how to find my room in the dark. So this hotel gets a low score for customer service.

The room appeared to be a standard motel room, but it was clear that the owners went through great lengths to give this motel just a little classier feel. The rooms were nicely appointed for a motel room with nice artwork on the walls and above average furnishings. The television was a 27- inch Magnavox with a generic remote. Actually, the room was a pleasant surprise, except for the fact that the online listing offered free WIFI, but the only signal I was able to obtain was from a Starbucks in the next building. I called the front desk, with a bit of annoyance in my voice and asked “Hey your website says free WIFI, I was told, “the WIFI was not working today but if you will come down to the front desk” ,I could get an internet cable. I arrive at the front desk which is really the registration window, the man behind the counter whom I had just spoken with, asked me,” cash check or charge”, Really!! The hotel offered a continental breakfast every morning and it was pretty good, the housekeeping services were very good and all in all it was a reasonable good experience outside of the two details that I mentioned.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Beethoven was here. It’s a sign I almost expected to see the first time I toured the 19th district of Vienna, Heiligenstadt, which used to be a distant suburb from that great the walled city. Once upon a time if you wanted to make it big in music, you had to come to Vienna, the way today you probably want to live in New York or LA in the U.S. Vienna was home to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Johann Strauss (the waltz king), Mahler, Bruckner, and others. Many of them are buried in a cul-de-sac in the city’s central cemetery. For those of you who love trivia, it’s the same cemetery where they shot the burial of Harry Lime in The Third Man.

The suburb of Heiligenstadt is a train and then bus ride from the center of Vienna. Heiligenstadt’s most celebrated individual is Beethoven. This was his country get-away 200 years ago, when he got sick of all the annoying counts, archdukes and princes making demands on him. (“Can’t you simplify this violin part? It’s unplayable!”) In one of the houses, which today is a museum, the 31-year-old composer penned a famous document, appropriately called the Heiligenstadt Testament, wherein he discussed his deafness, which many people close to him still didn’t know about. He considered taking his life. But in the end he decided against it, and instead plunged himself into his art with a renewed vigor. Shortly afterwards, his style became grander, more heroic, more defiant, and masterpiece after masterpiece poured forth. Though the document was addressed to his two brothers, Beethoven never actually showed the Heiligenstadt Testament to anyone, and it wasn’t discovered until after his death.

The trip to the house where this document was written can be boring (because you’re basically looking at rooms of furniture, a piano or two, and facsimiles of letters) or deeply moving (because you’re standing at ground zero where music essentially changed, becoming more personal, more triumphant, more Romantic than ever before). I was one of the latter and after paying my respects to the man I consider the greatest composer ever, period, I wanted to get something to eat. Something hearty.

That’s the second reason I was in Heiligenstadt.

There are several lovely, breezy wine gardens located in the town. My favorite is Mayer am Pfarrplatz, and not just because Beethoven officially stayed here and dined here on some of his trips. The food is terrific—and cheap. It’s typical Austrian/German fare—smoked meats, potatoes, schnitzel, bread and lots of vegetables—washed down with a Heurige, which means “this year’s (white) wine” as well as the tavern or wine garden where it’s served. (Vienna produces lots of wine—there are more than 1,700 acres of vineyards within the city limits.) And there must be a law that says every wine garden needs an old man who sits off to the side and plays the accordion. It’s not Beethoven, but it made the evening feel that much more authentic.

The style is buffet. You sit outside. To get your food, you go inside. Portions are generous so make sure you eat lightly that day prior to your arrival, or you’ll find you have to turn down the scrumptious desserts—strudel with lots of whipped cream, and chocolate éclairs to die for, and some very tasty cookies. I felt guilty for not walking, or jogging, back to the center of town.

I love Heiligenstadt for a number of reasons. The wine bars are chief among them. The atmosphere is just what you’d imagine when you think tranquil food and drink in the beautiful Viennese outdoors. The prices are great. And everywhere you step, there is history, especially musical history.

In a nearby park there’s a statue of Beethoven. I really like this monument. Unlike many of the statues of Mozart which dot Vienna (and Salzburg) and which portray him as almost an Olympian bon vivant, tall and graceful (which he was not), this shows its subject in a characteristic pose, walking, hunched over in thought, carrying a small notebook behind his back. This is how Beethoven looked as he strolled through the village, planning masterpieces in his head. He even wrote a whole symphony that describes, in music, the flight from the city to the beautiful countryside for some peace and tranquility—his Symphony No. 6, the Pastorale. Today Heiligenstadt is not the quiet getaway it was 200 years ago—cars are everywhere, there’s more noise pollution than there ought to be, and I feel they really ought to make the area pedestrians-only. Still, for a beautiful evening with great food, you can’t beat this place.

John Grabowski

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There are so many different ways to rate a restaurant, you can rate the food or the service, you can even rate the atmosphere, but these are all subjective opinions. You have the option of either giving the business a high rating or a low rating, it all depends upon your mood or the mood of your server on any particular day. However, I’m going to suggest a new way to rate restaurants and this method is either a pass or fail, there is no in-between. This rating system has to do with rating restaurant restrooms. Please read on...

Before I sit down to eat, even at the finest restaurants, one the very first things that I do is make a little visit to their facilities, restroom, that is. Why? Well it's simple, the restroom in a restaurant can tell you a lot about the cleanliness of the kitchen more often than not. If the restroom is filthy and smelly there is a very strong chance the floor of the kitchen is sticky, the counters are dirty or even worse. Many years ago, I worked in the food service industry, everything from fast food restaurants to full service restaurants. I have friends who either own or work in various restaurants, who are deeply entrenched in the food service industry in every aspect from busboys and wait staff to executive chefs. So you can say I know my way around a kitchen.

How many times have you been in a restaurant restroom and read the signs asking that everyone wash their hands after using it? The signs are there as a reminder to the employees to always wash their hands before returning to work because unwashed hands harbor germs and bacteria that can be easily spread. My point is, if there is no soap or hot water in the bathroom, you have to wonder how the employees are washing their hands. The thought may have never crossed your mind, but I want you to think about that the next time you order a hand tossed anything. Yes, there is always a chance that there is a cleaning station in the kitchen for the chefs and cooks to clean up before handling food, but if you see a sign in the restaurant restroom advising the employees to wash their hands, rest assured that you are sharing the restroom with the restaurant staff.

So what do you do if you enter a restroom of a restaurant and it’s filthy? Restaurant experts say turn around and leave if the restaurant restroom is less than hygienic! Every business establishment(and home) has a down day where their bathroom might be a bit of a mess, but you can certainly tell the difference as to whether this is a permanent state of filth and dirt or just a bad bathroom day. Do not pass go, do not collect the two hundred dollars, (sorry I had a Monopoly moment). This simple, common sense precaution may save you from catching a food bourne illness, which we all know, is no fun at all. So, if you follow the new restaurant rating system I just suggested, you will notice your list of acceptable restaurants will begin to shrink and what you see will open your eyes, I promise !!
One more thing, is it me or have hairnets become a thing of the past? I have observed that in more and more restaurants, food handlers are not complying with food handling rules, by not wearing hairnets. I personally have found hair in my meals on several different occasions and most recently in my 5 year-olds food...not cool!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reviews we can't post but we thought we should share them with our readers!

Think (name withheld) in Camp Hill, Pa is delicious? You might think again after you read this…. Great service and a personal experience ? That is if you realize she is adding at least an additional .05 to .10 tax on every bill, like I said at the least. She also pockets all or at least ½ the tips from every table if you work for her. Wonder why the constant employee turn over? She steals tips off the tables as well. If you leave the heat on forget to charge a customer for a drink or break something she also makes you pay for it after she already takes ½ of the tips. Her kitchen employees are illegal. She doesn't pay them she just provides an employee apartment. Her front house employees are all paid under the table just from tips so she doesn't have to pay taxes or claim all the profits. She is always adding additional charges to customer's bill like bread they didn't order. They order one piece she puts a whole basket on the check which isn't even listed in the menu. There were many customer's upset with her about this who said they never ordered it and she said well you ate it and didn't say anything. Hence, the customer's didn't know how much bread came in an order. She only allows select customers to use coupons. If you do not notice the large sign 15% off all take-out on the front window, you only get that discount if you bring it to their attention. Otherwise, they said don't honor it. They save all the food that sat out all day on the buffet and either serve it for dinner or put it back on the buffet the next day. No gloves or hair nets are ever used in the kitchen. The Tandoori chicken and many other dishes are made on the floor in the kitchen. Their tomato soup and many other foods just like their Indian pickles are packaged. She put fresh fennel seeds out if the front of the restaurant one day from their dirty office, and there were bugs crawling all through them.She says that Asians are superior and smarter than Americans. She had a male working in front of the restaurant in November 2008 and said she fired him because he was gay. She seemed the think this was perfectly legal. Would you ever think she would take advantage of a blind person? Well she does she has a blind customer that comes in with a female she writes their check for them and their bill is always about $80.00. had worked for her on and off again for 2 years this is the longest I ever worked for her and found the truth in how they behave. If a bill is $28.30 it would be $14.50 each she will make it $16.00 each if they want to split it. She always adds atleast a dollar then the bill is split. She also won't split a bill exact she only will divide it by 2 or however many at the table which isn't fair to the customer. The kitchen is filthy they never clean the area underneath where the servers pick up their food, I could go on forever but I just wanted to put out a warning so the next time you are dining out for the evening you may think twice.
A P (05/10/2009) Camp Hill, PA

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sitting in a restaurant off the Mendocino Coast and being ignored by the wait staff for what felt like an eternity is how was conceived. The year was 1999 somewhere around breakfast time; Carmen Jones and I were sitting in the Sandpiper Restaurant in Gualala, California. We became angry because we could see the server and she could see us, but for somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes, she just walked right past us and never bothered to ask if we wanted a glass of spit or anything.

Believe it or not has been online without interruption since September 1999, for the past ten years we have watched websites come and go. Of course as soon as we come up with an idea to put on the web, the bubble bursts, go figure!

Most of the companies we were partnered up with were closing their doors faster than you can say IPO. Everyone was saying, "wow, is incredible," "you're going to make millions," "I wish I had thought of that", the funny thing was that almost everyone except was making millions! Every person with something to sell was calling our home office phone trying to sell us something …"Get better rankings", "build up your trust score", "Let us host your account for only a bazillion dollars a month", at first I bought into some of those pitches until I discovered nothing changed, I still had the same ranking and was losing money.

Some of the best talent in the web business came on board to help move forward including, Jean-Louis Brunet, who designed our incredible infrastructure; the man is quite simply, a genius! You see, I don't now squat about designing or creating a website, I simply like to create ideas and try to see them to fruition. I am delighted to see them become something more than just an idea. Jean-Louis used his creative genius to make the site safe and fun for the whole family. Jean-Louis introduced me to Connie Seidel, of Seidel and Associates, Connie created the user interface that you see today and he is as well, another extremely talented web designer. Carmen Jones, who co-founded we8there, is a gifted Vice President, who is a virtual wellspring employment and human resource law. Lionel Mosley, our very brilliant CFO, is a 30-year IBM professional who tries to keep me from tossing any money we make down the drain. We have invested a lot of time and energy in an effort to make a household name and after 10 years you would think its time to give up. But we will not!!! has a unique niche and a following, when I see family members like Ryan Johnson, who has posted more than 530 reviews or Loris F., who is getting close to 100 reviews and all the other new and faithful reviewers, I have to continue to try to make this site as successful as it can be…To all those venture capital firms who log on to, (I know that you do, because I read them in our referral logs), take a second or third look. We are happy to forward a business plan, if you are interested. is not a flash in the pan website, we here to stay. It's because of our faithful users, that we have remained a strong presence. We8there is here for the people and I hope in 10 more years that I can write another Stanley's Corner and have tons, upon tons of good news… In my bedroom, there is a news article hanging on my wall that says. "Turner Broadcasting acquires We8there Communications for 50 million dollars", I created that article, so I could have some motivation, something to dream about..Little old "me", Stanley Roberts, from Camden New Jersey wanting a dream to come true …

Stanley Roberts

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On January 20, 2009, the United States of America swore in its first African American President ever, President Barack Obama…or is it? Some people to this day believe that John Hanson Moor was the First African American President of the United States, this reportedly happened back in 1781-1782. Some of these same people also say that George Washington was actually the 8th President of the United States. If you don’t believe me, just try searching the name, John Hanson Moor.

The fact is this, Barack Obama is now the new “President of the United States” and we will finally see the end to the Bush administration, (at least unless Jeb Bush runs and wins in 2012). There are so many people who thought they would never see an African American U.S President in their lifetime. This list included my mother, Patricia J. Hartley who passed on December 9th 2008 in a Camden, New Jersey Hospital, shortly after Barack was elected to be the 44th President of the United States. On November 5th, I called my mother to see what she thought of an African American winning the office of President, she said, “I never thought I would see the day.” Which was an interesting comment coming from a woman who because of her religious beliefs had never voted a day in her life or even possessed a drivers license…at least, as far as I can recall.

Some 2 million plus people from all around the nation descended upon Washington D.C. via planes, boats, busses; trains and automobiles just to witness this history making event. The Inauguration of Barack Obama, will rival the August 1968 March on Washington D.C, where an estimated 250 thousand people listened to the famous “I have a Dream” speech given by the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. I am so proud to see so many people coming together in the spirit of “Yes We Can”. I must admit though, I never thought that I would ever see the day when an African American would ever hold a seat in the highest office in the United States. I mean really, just look at the past attempt; There was Shirley Chisholm, who was not only the first African American woman to win a seat in U.S. Congress in 1968, but in 1972, she became the first African American woman to run for President and, of course, there was Jesse Jackson; who campaigned for the Democratic nomination twice, in 1984 and 1988. Some people say these runs secured his place as the pre-eminent black American leader of the era (I beg to differ.) There was Lenora Fulani, she ran as an independent in 1988 and was the first black woman to appear on presidential ballots in all 50 states. She also ran in 1992. There was Alan Keyes in 1996 and 2000 not to forget Carol Moseley Braun. A U.S. senator, Moseley Braun briefly sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, oh yeah, and then there was the Rev Al Sharpton in 2004.

The election of the nations first “Official’ African American President is without a doubt one of the biggest events in the history of the United States. My question is how do we top this or do we? I say, “let’s just bask in the glory for a few months”. Whether Barack Obama is the first African American President or the second, the 44th President or the 51st I still would like to say Congratulations on a job well done and much success in the White House. (Hey, I was just wondering should we still call it “The White House?)

Stanley E. Roberts, Founder,

Friday, November 21, 2008

We found this article listed in We wanted to share it with you!

They Might Bring Hanging Back...

Recently I mentioned how some restaurant review sites, like Yelp in particular, have been used to bludgeon the unsuspecting restaurateur.The way this allegedly works is if (and when) a restaurant gets a negative review there is very little s/he can do about it…unless they respond (positively) to a sales rep who coincidentally contacts the restaurateur, shortly after that negative review appears on the site. (I won’t even go into the idea of “who” is writing such reviews….and “why”…but you can figure that one out when you check the two sites I mention below…)This is a quote from the forum I’ll tell you about in a few moments….” Yelp's sales reps use negative postings as a "lead source" to call the owner and attempt to sell Business Owner Accounts. I received a phone call from a sales rep named ‘Summer’ who stated that negative reviews could be moved to the bottom of the page and possibly removed in the future if I purchased a Business Owner Account. The hypocrisy is legendary, and is further amplified by their removal of my negative "review" of Yelp on their own website. So much for, "The voice of the people" or "Real People. Real Reviews" Yelp hires paid "Yelpers" $15 / dollars an hour to write reviews because their business model is not succeeding. The ads for paid Yelpers can be found on Craigslist in every metro area in the U.S. You could call this, “Paid People . Fake Reviews". (End quote).This post and many more like it from angry restaurant operators are to be found at a site called: .There are so many irate food service owners vis-à-vis Yelp that now there is a class action suit being formed. You can learn more about this by going to:, I would rather see my restaurant posted for review on a site like for example. I would rather be on a review site that is honest, upfront, straight forward, with a positive track record; one who has been telling it like it is for a few years in this business. I’d even pay for that.The inability to face and answer your accuser is not a fair situation. With some of these sites, it is almost impossible to obtain a fair opportunity or forum to address or explain the complaint….assuming it is a legitimate one. Stories abound about disgruntled employees or spouses who have deliberately placed negative reviews on such sites to try and do the restaurant harm.Then there’s the restaurateur who tries to fool the review site by having a friend or relative put a glowing review on the site to enhance the image of the outlet. This might work for a while; but the owners of the review sites are not stupid. They have their ‘ways’ of determining the authenticity of a review…and they will throw you off the site if they find you cheating.Let’s face it: this is one damn tough business; we have to face the public every day with a smile…and at least look like we mean it. Our customers have huge problems, so folks hope to escape some of them when they come to your restaurant. It’s like going to a movie….to escape the reality of negativity….even just for an hour or two.We have many problems too (food costs, labor shortages, battered economy and so on). But that is what we have to deal with in our business. It comes with our territory. We must separate what we face in our business from why our customers come to us. Our job is to make them feel much better….to head off any problems up front.The best way to protect yourself from a negative review is to make sure you do all you can to please the guest and ask if s/he really did have a nice visit.I know what you’re thinking. We know that most often a customer will not want to unload on you ‘publicly’, right there in the restaurant; but will tell you what s/he thinks you want to hear. That’s human nature.But now they can go home, switch on the computer and dump all over you and your business. You can do everything possible to make sure they are happy; but you can’t please everyone. The unscrupulous or mismanaged review sites make your lives harder; but they can also really help you out too.Take that negative comment…that lemon…and turn it into your own lemonade!Try to get your guests’ email address so you can communicate with them via your blog or newsletters. This way, if you get a negative review on one of those nasty sites like you-know-who, use your blog and/or email lists to address the complaint right up front. Tell your readers ‘your side of the story’. Tell them what really happened, what you’re doing about it and how you hope it won’t happen again.People know you are trying to do your best…especially when you apologize in public and explain what happened. It will make your guests want to give you another try in the future; they will really respect you for your honesty and ability to admit that you were not quite 100% that evening.As for Yelp…don’t concern yourself with that outfit. You all know the old adage about giving an offender enough rope... In my judgment, it’s just a matter of time.© Roy W. MacNaughton, 2008

They still Keep trying to post fake reviews on and we keep catching them, here is the latest batch from a public relations company in New York, called they tried to post reviews for two different restaurants, our eagle eyed checkers caught them!

Vintage Irving
118A East 15th StreetNew York, NY 10003-2102
Phone: (212) 677-6300

This place is fantastic. Can't say one bad thing about it. Went in with my wife, ordered a bottle of wine- and took our time sipping. We ordered a cheese platter, and then serveral different plates to share. It was lovely. There was no rush to get up and we just sat and hung out for a while. I will return.

Ben Jones


The Village Pourhouse
64 Third Avenue New York, NY 10003-5534
Phone: (212) 979 2337

The Village Pourhouse is the perfect blend of sports and games. They have wii, rockband, and I think others.. they have a million tvs to watch all the games. They have tons of beers, and they have good choices for food.

Oscar Gomez

Both reviews were deemed bogus and deleted from the database......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When you begin your search for lodging near Yosemite National Park you will probably find a ton of misinformation from hotel and motel operators, many toting the fact they are located at the gates to the park. The truth is many of those businesses are close, if you consider 30 miles close to anything. However, I did find a lodge that is true to its words. The Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal is only a mile or so from the actual gates to the park, that is if you travel via highway 140 from the town of Mariposa. Yosemite View Park is actually a good place to stay without actually staying in the park.

The last time I stayed at a motel near Yosemite was in the town of Mariposa, again, thirty miles from the gates to the park. I stayed in a Best Western (same owners of the Yosemite View Lodge.) I was unimpressed; Yosemite View Lodge had changed my whole idea of overnight lodging near Yosemite. I stayed in room 2007, which had a loft with a pink spiral staircase (not my first choice of colors). The stairs lead to the loft which had a queen size bed and a television. The main room had a mini kitchen which is a plus when you have children and a flat panel television, not a good one, but nonetheless it was a welcome relief from the normal motel/hotel type televisions. You will be hard pressed to get any cell phone service so check with your carrier. The lodge doesn’t offer internet service, so the nearest internet hot spot is in Yosemite Valley (inside the park) about 14 miles away.

When you check into the lodge if you are looking for any special treatment, forget about it. They will check you in and move on to the next person. I wish I could give them high marks for personal service, but I’ve had better service in some of the smaller lodges I've checked into. Housekeeping appeared to have a shortage of face cloths because after housekeeping cleaned room 2007 they didn’t leave face cloths, only towels (apparently I drew the short straw) but hey, they did wash my dishes…. So, I put in an order for a few face cloths, after all, I had my two little girls with me ages 4 and 10 and needed clean face cloths… None appeared until housekeeping cleaned up the room on the next day, except this time they did not wash the dishes, so I guess you can’t have both.

I really like the Yosemite View Lodge even though it had problems with its service. The rooms are nice and clean, you can’t beat the views, and if you arrive in the winter you might just get to play in the snow. I will have to stay at Yosemite View Lodge in the summer and use one of their many pools; including the inside heated pool the lodge keeps open during those bitter cold winters. After all, you are two thousand feet above sea level. BTW: The entrance fee to Yosemite National Park is 20 dollars per car load, which is good for seven days and is worth every penny.

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but grew up in a small city named Camden in New Jersey. When you enter Camden via the Benjamin Franklin Bridge or the Walt Whitman Bridge there are signs that read: “welcome to Camden watch our rebirth”…. Normally I write articles alerting you of great places one should visit...sadly this is not one of those stories. I really wish I could tell you Camden is a great place to visit and tour, but unless you like taking your life into your own hands, Camden, New Jersey probably should be avoided at all cost.

You see 40 years ago Camden, New Jersey was a rising star. I remember walking the streets in total safety; sometimes leaving the front door unlocked and not having a fear in the world, except for the occasional bully who thought it was fun to smack me around from time to time. I was proud to call Camden my home. I attended John G.Whittier Elementary School on Chestnut Street, moved on to Morgan Village Middle School, and finally graduated from Camden High School, the “Castle on the Hill.” I felt relativity safe attending all three schools. Now each of those schools are encircled by a fence, and by now when you enter my Alma Mater you are met by metal detectors and uniformed security guards.

I had to travel back to Camden this month (February) for a family emergency. My mother, who refuses to leave Camden because all of her friends live here and it is all she knows, had a heart attack and was admitted to Cooper Hospital in Camden. On the night I arrived, my flight touched down at Philadelphia International Airport at 11:02. I headed straight over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the hospital to check on her status and let her know that I was there for her. After visiting my mother I wanted (needed) to see if Camden had changed in any way, so I drove around the old neighborhood to get a firsthand look. Boy was I surprised at what I saw. At 1AM the streets were like a scene from the movie “Night of the Living Dead.” People were walking the streets trying to make eye contact with me or any other car as they passed by. I even saw one guy carrying a vacuum cleaner. Where he was going with a vacuum at 1 o’clock in the morning was a guess, but he didn’t appear as though he worked for a cleaning service.

If you drive around Camden in the daytime, you will see city blocks with either demolished buildings or abandoned homes everywhere. Now to Camden’s credit they are trying to change things. For instance, the city built an aquarium near the riverfront, which includes a symphony hall and an events center that was named Tweeter Center. The events center will soon be called the Susquehanna Bank Center. The old RCA Victor building is now loft apartments where the cost of the apartments doesn’t seem to match the economy of the city. But some of the lofts offer great views of the Philadelphia Skyline, even though they are a few blocks from the Camden County Jail and less than a mile from a state of New Jersey Correctional Facility, which was built on the same land one of my old houses, was located. But alas you can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful. I wish Camden City officials much luck turning my old city around, but to bring about a rebirth you will need to reeducate your residents. Since the beginning of 2008 there has been more than a dozen murders in Camden, the population of Camden is just over 80,000 residents… Scary!

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This fraudulent review actually made it past our filters and was on line for 6 months (we can't catch them all). The review was found after a random review audit was performed, whch we conduct from time to time targeting random reviews.

Laguna D'zur International
Cocina de pura passion ( Kitchen with pure passion)
Laguna d'zur International is like restaurant number one, we dine last week and chef is espectaculare, the duck escuisite.
I recommend this restaurant to people to enjoy master cuisine from all over the world, Kaibil Bravo sei numero uno

Review submitted by: Estefan Jesua Velazquez

How we determined the review was submitted by the restaurant is simple, just click this link:

Fraudulent reviews just keep coming in. The review posted below never made it past our filters although the poster used a fictitious name. We were able to track the review back to an employee of the business, who just so happens to have the same last name as the chef (go figure).

"Wow! Amazing experience! Hidden downtown Detroit gem! Great waterfront/riverwalk location with amazing food and impeccable service! Steaks are superb! We asked to meet the chef and Chris Franz was a delight! Can't wait to go back! "

MaryKay Richland

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

As’s popularity continues to grow so does the amount of fraudulent review attempts we receive. We are committed to maintaining a quality site for restaurants and lodging establishments, but when unscrupulous owners try to bolster their ratings with bogus reviews it undermines our credibility.

We are beginning to take drastic steps to curb this problem. Currently we are stepping up efforts to detect and delete fake reviews. has implemented protocols that are now fully in effect. If your restaurant/lodging staff, whether it’s the owner, the general manager, a part time employee, the wife of the executive chef, cooks, busboy or anyone closely associated with the establishment past or present are caught violating our posting policy, we will ban your business for 30 days (first offense) 60 days (second offense) 90 days (third offense) and reserve the option of filing civil charges in the state of California for attempting to undermine the credibility of If you have purchased a Premium Listing and it's determined an employee posted a bogus review, you will forfeit your listing and the business will have to purchase a new listing when the ban has been lifted.

If you read the Blog we have posted some of our offenders on what I would like to call our wall of shame. These were attempts at posting fake reviews to bolster the establishment’s ratings, in some cases it was because the establishment received a negative review and they wanted to counter that review. In other cases it was because they just wanted to get listed for free and give their business a positive rating in hopes of increasing business. I completely understand.

If you’re really interested in getting your business on we do offer legitimate ways to do so. Check out our premium listings for as little as $70 per year you can list your business and point your customers to for honest feedback. It would be easier to read what your customers think about your restaurant and fix the potential problem rather than never knowing the problem. Consider as your personal secret shopper.
We are very happy the general public finds useful and helpful, that was why I created the site. We will continue to offer quality reviews for both casual and business travelers. Word of mouth has moved us to approximately 2 million hits per month. Just recently an independent website researched multiple sites and determined the best place for a business to maximize their exposure. How cool is that? Thank you for using and please tell a friend.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yet another restaurant (Avocados World Bistro) trying to promote itself on with a fake review... we were made aware of this fake review by a helpful user:

Review that was posted:

fabulous food!!!! Authentic flavors. Great wine list, nice range but doesn't break the bank. We also loved the selection of music, which is available for purchase in the restaurant, hard to find European music. Tracy Van Eijl

A very helpful website user pointed this out to us:

It disturbs me that the part-owners wife fakes a review on this website to try to bolster business, I am all for entrepreneurs but to go online and pretend you are a customer of your own restaurant, giving it rave reviews! Give me a break, I guess it shows the true nature, morals, and ethics of the owner(s).... Oh, and by the way, the place does break the bank, be prepared to call your bank the next day... Ad I write this I am reading below that this website does not accept reviews from employees, managers, and owners, It might want to research this one! Chris LiarSmith


Nicholas Restaurant in Natick -
Posted a review about Nicholas restaurant in Natick, MA. did not want to post it because as they explained to me in an e-mail, my review was critical so therefore I am probably the competition. ??????? Beware, the website is weird... I honestly thought the reviews that were already there were so perfect that they could not be real. The restaurant is just OK according to other reviews, not the perfect scores these people posted. Response to this posting that was found on multiple websites

Nicholas restaurant in Natick
What the user failed to mention was removed close to five reviews of Nicholas Restaurant all posted by him, using a different name for each review but using the same email address. Here are all the different versions of the reviews that were posted. review #1. I like Greek food. I decided to try Nicholas's restaurant. We ordered appetizers. After 20 minutes we had no food, so we tried to call the waitress to find out what was going on. It took at least 10 more minutes to get the waitress to respond. I cannot tell you how rude she was, my party and I felt as if we were imposing on her. We all left, and I cannot believe, nobody at the restaurant even questioned what happened. Needless to say, What a crappy place it is, we will never go back again!!!!! robert xakon

review #2 After passing by this restaurant I noticed that the old Nick's Ice Cream restaurant had changed, no more Drive Inn fare or antique cars, but a sit-down restaurant. After reading reviews we decided to try the greek food. Very different from American tastes, if you are adventurous and want to try something new you need to keep an open mind. Actually, the greek appetizers were quite good, something for a special occassion. The fried scallops were a little dry, but the tuna salad was pretty good. One note on service, it was a little slow but friendly. The restaurant is worth trying out once even if you do not go back. My recommendation is more American food be put on the menu, martha stacks

Review #3 I love greek food. I decided to try Nicholas' restaurant, unusual because one does not expect a greek restaurant in the suburbs. I went with a party of four. We were greeted by a young girl and seated immediately. After many minutes of conversation, we all noted that nobody came to our table. I asked a waitress to please send someone to our table. She told me that my waitress was busy in the kitchen, but she would speak to her.Finally the waitress arrived. She asked what would we like. I asked her why we had to wait so long ( I have been known to be a grump) She said and I quote, " we are really busy tonight, what do you want". I'll tell you, I was shocked!!!. My wife told me to chill out. OK, I get upset at situations like this, but she was so rude. We all ordered our food but I have to tell you... It gets worse. When dinner finally arrived, it was wrong. I ordered Arni Souvlaki, I got Fried Haddock. Although I have nothing against Haddock, it was not what I ordered.So... it gets better. I told the waittress she gave me the wrong meal. She told me "That's what you ordered". I said no, I ordered Souvlaki, not fish. I could not believe what a face she made. She actually walked away towards the bar!!! I shouted out "Miss, Miss" Nobody even came to our table. Although my dining partners were happy with their meals ( althought 1 person ordered Lamb Ribs and received Ckicken Souvlaki), I got upset. My wife told me I need to chill out. After many minutes of conversation, we all agreed that something needed to be done. I called our waitress and asked that she please come to our table. She told me that she has other people to serve and she will be with us as soon as possible. Well, 20 minutes later is as soon as possible. I could not believe the attitude she had. I finally lost it and asked to speak to the manager. She walked away. Almost 20 minutes later, a young girl approached our table and asked us what the problem was. I told her our problem and she actually said the following ( I could not make this up!!), "the manager is in the kitchen and cannot be bothered"OK, judge for yourself, but even though I tend to be somewhat "critical", I really believe there is something wrong with this picture.A testimonial from some average guy...who likes to eat good food!!) Peter Franks

Review#4 After reading all the stellar reviews it makes me wonder why so many people would spend so much time writing wonderful things in such detail...MMM...sounds fishy to me. The reality of this restaurant is that it's OK, it appeals to the Pat Whitley crowd. If you really like fine food, go into Boston. Bill Tilly

Yes we added this reviewer to our wall of shame.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

I went to a Taco Bell the other day… ok there I said it, I went to Taco Bell and the funniest thing happened to me, no I didn’t get screwed in the drive through as Joe Pesci so eloquently put it. What happened was this: after placing my order I noticed a miniature trash receptacle on the counter; when I say miniature I mean it stood about 6 inches from top to bottom. There was a sign on the micro trash can that said if I made you smile please leave a tip. Oh give me a break! Is that what it’s come to now, you make me smile and I give you money, at a Taco Bell?

This whole tip thing has just gotten out of control. Now when you buy something to-go at a restaurant, there is actually a place on the bill to leave a tip, and the funny thing is I feel guilty if I don’t one. Why do we have to tip the person who just poured us a cup of coffee, or the person who reached in an open cabinet and simply placed a bagel in a brown paper bag? TIP means To Insure Proper service. You pouring me a cup of coffee is not TIP worthy. And if you think that pouring me a cup of coffee is tip worthy, please keep reading because I am about to blow the whole lid off this tipping deal. No pun intended.

For the record this is my second article addressing this tipping issue. It seems that everyone wants a tip these days. I am waiting for the day when I get stopped for speeding and after the officer issues me a ticket it will have a tip calculator attached. Ok maybe that’s a little extreme, but I think you get the point. Maybe there should be a code of ethics when it comes to when and when not to leave a tip. I just took a tip quiz on a website I found called and guess what, I failed. I thought I knew the rules of tipping, but now I have a better knowledge of who should get a tip and who should not. I’ll share some of the information I discovered.

First off the hotel concierge who makes your dinner reservation should get at least a five dollar tip. To all the hotel concierges I have short changed, I’m sorry. If you employ the service of a wine steward he should get, get this: 15% of the cost of the bottle of wine. The pizza delivery man gets no less than two dollars. But what about the person who shampoos your hair at the beauty salon? The correct answer is two dollars. While a flight attendant does not get a tip (I knew that) the cocktail waitress at a Vegas casino should get 1 to 2 dollars per round unless you hit the jackpot, then I might just be inclined to give a little bit more.

Now according to there are some big tipping rules that you might not be aware of, and I must admit some of these caught me by surprise. For example your personal trainer, once you reach your goal you are required to tip the trainer 60 to 100 dollars. Your housekeeper should get one week’s pay, but only around the holidays. If you get married you are required to tip your florist 15% of your total bill, which could be significant. Now get this, according to you have no obligation to tip anyone at Starbucks or for that matter any other coffee shop period, so save your money. If you have any more information regarding tipping rules please send them to me at sroberts at we8there dot com.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Okay, I know I’m kind of dating myself here, but I’m a big fan of the Transformers. I was pretty upset when they killed off Optimus Prime, so imagine my joy when I’m sitting in a theater and the trailer for Transformers with the name Steven Spielberg attached flashed before my eyes. The trailer alone had me hooked, and then as if the movie gods shined upon me and I got to attend a premier of the Transformers in San Francisco, one week before the rest of the world.

I’m sitting in the theater with more than a hundred spectators, a large portion were members of the media, all wondering will the creators get it right because all too often a lot of these old cartoon characters that are brought to the silver screen are such a disappointment and should have been left in a comic book. So what does Transformers offer that the other comic book like companies tried to create but missed the mark? Well first off, special effects. If there was an instant award for special effects I’d present it to the makers of the Transformers. I actually had a tear in my eye as I watched the movie, it wasn’t a tear of sorrow, it was a tear of joy. I was in love with the silver screen all over again.

I’m not going to tell you about the movie I think you should go see it yourself, but if you are a fan of special effects and high tech gadgets and car crashes and things that go boom and trucks and helicopters and fighter jets that can change shape, I can go on because everything that you could ever dream about was in this movie. At some points during the movie the audience actually cheered, ok they cheered and applauded several times, but then again they cheered when the name appeared too which lead me to believe that most people were dating themselves as well.

So what was wrong with the movie? Okay I have to say some of the fight scenes got a little confusing as I tried to figure out who was fighting who, which means that I may have to go back and watch it again (which won’t be a problem) to fully understand the movie. It’s two hours and 23 minutes, but it goes straight to the action within the first two minutes of the show. Although we view them as robots, they like to be called Autobots and Deceptocons. And you actually feel sorry for them during the fight scenes (well only for the good guys.) So should you spend your 7-10 dollars to see the Transformers? I would say yes. When Optimus Prime said his name it sent chills through my body, and for a few seconds I reverted back to a 10 year old, and I said “This is the best movie ever.”

The dialog is witty and at times comical though sometimes getting way too bogged down in the minutia. My favorite was the masturbation reference, which reminded me of a scene from American Pie. The Transformers movie had a lot of cameos like the classic scene with Bernie Mac and the exchange between him and his mother. Oh and the scene with the guys from sector seven kind of felt to me like a scene from Men In Black minus Will Smith.

I can’t say two thumbs up because someone else has the trademark on that, but I definitely give Transformers five unequivocal smiley faces. I would give them six but we don’t go that high. The movie starts July 3rd although some posters say July 4th whatever day it starts I’ll be there again. And when it comes out on DVD I’ll be the first one to buy it. In fact I have Transformers saved as wallpaper on my laptop. Oh and one more thing, I have never seen anyone give a movie a standing ovation until now. It may not be for everyone but it’s definitely the movie for me.


Flying has changed so much it’s hard to picture how it was 10 years ago. I remember my first flight: I moved from Philadelphia to Salinas, California after receiving an invite from my Uncle Ralph Eugene Roberts; may he rest in peace. I flew on Continental Airlines, which for a while left such impression on me, that it was the only airline I flew by choice. The more I flew, the more I enjoyed it. I remember my first, first-class flight, it was also on Continental and I flew non-stop from Los Angeles International Airport to Philadelphia. They served rack of lamb with mint jelly and we actually used real knives and forks. Yes, there was a time when a plastic knife was a taboo.

That was then and this is now. With the rising cost of fuel and airline tickets, more and more discount airlines are popping up every where, but just as many are quickly vanishing. For example, Song Airlines, was quickly gobbled up by Delta Airlines. Now, if you log onto you will be redirected to Delta’s website.
Discount airlines scare the big airline carriers because they sometimes offer last minute cheap tickets. In the past when you needed to take a last minute flight you were required to spend what was tantamount to a first class ticket. But now you can find a last minute ticket for less than three hundred dollars through many discount airlines. For example, I booked a last minute flight through Frontier Airlines from San Francisco to Atlanta, the day before my flight. In the past unless it was a bereavement flight, you still paid about 500 dollars . The cost of my last minute one-way flight was 190 dollars.

Now there is a new breed of discount airlines. Skybus Airlines offers self-service air service, which means you have to pay for any extras and I mean ANY extras. A pillow could cost you three dollars, and you have to check your own luggage. But a plane ticket will cost you only 10 dollars. Okay, only 10 seats are available at that price. Skybus does not have a phone number and is a completely no frill airline service based in Ohio. Some are calling it the Greyhound of the sky. I am curious to see how long this company will stay in business or if anyone else will follow suit.

But I guess as long as the air service gets me there without incident all is well. I just hope the no frills service does not include the maintenance or for that matter no frill pilots.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sustainable Agriculture Certification Program Expands into California
Davis, CA – Tuesday, April 17, 2007—The non-profit organization Food Alliance announced today that it has opened an office in California to certify farms, ranches, food processors and distributors in the state for sustainable practices.
Food Alliance has hired David Visher to represent its program in California. Visher brings broad experience to the position, having been a farmer, managed a produce company, been an educator with University of California Cooperative Extension, and consulted to agricultural businesses on management and regulatory compliance issues. “I’m really pleased to be able to support the nex t wave in sustainable agriculture in California,” said Visher. “Consumer and market expectations are only going up. I think there are real opportunities for growers and processors that can meet Food Alliance standards.”
The move by Food Alliance will also create opportunities for retail and food service companies. “Food Alliance has been very valuable for our operations in the Northwest as they move to source more sustainably grown products,” said Culinary Support and Development Director Marc Zammit of Bon Appétit Management Company, “We look forward to working with Food Alliance in California as well.”
Food Alliance certification standards for farmers and ranchers include:
Safe and fair working conditions
Healthy and humane care for livestock
No hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics
No genetically modified crops or livestock
Reduction of pesticide use and toxicity
Conservation of soil and water resources
Protection of wildlife habitat
Planning for continuous improvement
Certification standards for “handlers,” including food processors and distributors, address:
Handling of Food Alliance certified products
Safe and fair working conditions
Conservation of energy
Conservation of water
Responsible solid waste management
Reduction of toxic and hazardous materials
Quality control and food safety
Planning for continuous improvement
Businesses that meet Food Alliance’s standards, as determined through a third-party site inspection, use the certification to make credible claims for social and environmental responsibility, in order to differentiate products and to protect and stre ngthen brands.
Food Alliance launched its certification program in 1998 in Portland, Oregon, with a single apple grower selling in three area grocery stores. Today, there are over 270 Food Alliance certified farms and ranches managing over 4.3 million acres of range and farm land, and raising beef, lamb, pork, dairy products, mushrooms, dried beans and lentils, wheat, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Food Alliance has also certified 13 handling operations, including 9 fruit/vegetable processors, a cheesemaker, and three units of a mainline produce distributor.
Food Alliance’s expansion into California has been funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Cedar Tree Foundation. Food Alliance Certified businesses in California currently include the Hearst Ranch and pear processor Ale x R. Thomas & Co. “We’re looking forward to building a strong presence in California,” said Food Alliance Executive Director Scott Exo, “And to helping more farmers, ranchers, and food processors add value to their products with verified claims for social and environmental responsibility.”
Scott Exo(503) 493-1066, ext 30
David Visher(530) 852-7188
Marc Zammit(650) 798-8062