4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Bad barbeque, good reviews?

Disappointing ribs and the people who claim to love them

These should taste better than they do. Pork ribs. Sonny's Southern California Barbecue.
These should taste better than they do. Pork ribs. Sonny's Southern California Barbecue.
Place

Sonny’s Southern California Barbeque

549 25th Street, San Diego

Why would a place lookin like this need social media word of mouth anyway?

I don't enjoy writing a bad review any more than I enjoy eating bad food. It's just a cruelty of logic that the two always go together. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Twice, as it were.

The gist of this experience is that I ordered ribs and didn't finish them. I can think of a number of reasons this might happen. Appendicitis. Bird flu. The earth opening up and swallowing my half rack before I get the chance. No such luck. On this day I just didn't enjoy them enough to finish.

I never knew that could happen. I usually think of ribs in terms of they never give you enough. It looks like a lot on the plate, but once you finish stripping the bones, you've typically put in a lot of hard work for relatively small amounts of tender meat. That's my only knock on ribs, usually, but the work is worth it because with the right sauce they taste amazing.

Even weak sauce can't ruin good ribs, only slow them down. In this case I won't even take time to criticize the sauce. I've had way better, yeah, but I've also had worse. But often when I've had worse I still finished my ribs.

The problem was the meat, which was tough and chewy. There was a little bit of smoky flavor in there, but not enough to compel me. For 13 bucks, five pork ribs and two sides seemed like an okay deal. But my side of cole slaw was the best thing about the meal, and the mac and cheese was by far the worst I've ever had.

So yeah, I feel a lot of things. Disappointed. Guilty for saying so. This is a new business in a tough Sherman Heights spot that've seen many come and go.

But then curiosity got the best of me, and I had to check the Yelp assessment. This place is rockin' four and a half stars! I know from experience this star system is entirely unreliable, and from a combination of news articles and common sense that money occasionally exchanges hands for positive reviews on Yelp. — a practice apparently known as "astroturfing".

I'm not going to speculate about any specific perpetrators of this on the Sonny's Southern California Barbecue Yelp page, and I obviously can't claim to know for sure any are fake, paid or otherwise, because I was not personally paid to write any. But having tried these ribs, then reading through some of those five star ratings, the discrepancy is gaping.

Some of the reviews are definitely legit, complaining that there's no parking lot, apologizing about being dissatisfied. There are even a couple of poorly worded thumbs ups that I am convinced are genuine.

But a lot of the praise is fairly well written, what I might call very shiny prose. Despicably obnoxious to read, but practiced and intelligible, quite possibly the work of a trained writer trying to make a place sound desirable and fun – a must try! A couple of them even suggest this "dynamic" "gem" of place is destined to usurp all the business lining up over at Phil's BBQ. Now that's just silly.

I'm somewhat offended as a food consumer. I'm mostly offended as a food writer. And, hypothetically, if I were to start a business and enlist professional social media marketing assistance, I sure hope my guys would turn out more believable work than what passes for a Yelp review these days.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Ae Southammavong levels up on Next Level Chef

And then “a year later, you’re standing around talking casually — well, not casually — with Gordon Ramsay.”
Next Article

Long-range trips worth the $400-500

From outside Cedros Island, Alijos Rocks, past the end of Baja
These should taste better than they do. Pork ribs. Sonny's Southern California Barbecue.
These should taste better than they do. Pork ribs. Sonny's Southern California Barbecue.
Place

Sonny’s Southern California Barbeque

549 25th Street, San Diego

Why would a place lookin like this need social media word of mouth anyway?

I don't enjoy writing a bad review any more than I enjoy eating bad food. It's just a cruelty of logic that the two always go together. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Twice, as it were.

The gist of this experience is that I ordered ribs and didn't finish them. I can think of a number of reasons this might happen. Appendicitis. Bird flu. The earth opening up and swallowing my half rack before I get the chance. No such luck. On this day I just didn't enjoy them enough to finish.

I never knew that could happen. I usually think of ribs in terms of they never give you enough. It looks like a lot on the plate, but once you finish stripping the bones, you've typically put in a lot of hard work for relatively small amounts of tender meat. That's my only knock on ribs, usually, but the work is worth it because with the right sauce they taste amazing.

Even weak sauce can't ruin good ribs, only slow them down. In this case I won't even take time to criticize the sauce. I've had way better, yeah, but I've also had worse. But often when I've had worse I still finished my ribs.

The problem was the meat, which was tough and chewy. There was a little bit of smoky flavor in there, but not enough to compel me. For 13 bucks, five pork ribs and two sides seemed like an okay deal. But my side of cole slaw was the best thing about the meal, and the mac and cheese was by far the worst I've ever had.

So yeah, I feel a lot of things. Disappointed. Guilty for saying so. This is a new business in a tough Sherman Heights spot that've seen many come and go.

But then curiosity got the best of me, and I had to check the Yelp assessment. This place is rockin' four and a half stars! I know from experience this star system is entirely unreliable, and from a combination of news articles and common sense that money occasionally exchanges hands for positive reviews on Yelp. — a practice apparently known as "astroturfing".

I'm not going to speculate about any specific perpetrators of this on the Sonny's Southern California Barbecue Yelp page, and I obviously can't claim to know for sure any are fake, paid or otherwise, because I was not personally paid to write any. But having tried these ribs, then reading through some of those five star ratings, the discrepancy is gaping.

Some of the reviews are definitely legit, complaining that there's no parking lot, apologizing about being dissatisfied. There are even a couple of poorly worded thumbs ups that I am convinced are genuine.

But a lot of the praise is fairly well written, what I might call very shiny prose. Despicably obnoxious to read, but practiced and intelligible, quite possibly the work of a trained writer trying to make a place sound desirable and fun – a must try! A couple of them even suggest this "dynamic" "gem" of place is destined to usurp all the business lining up over at Phil's BBQ. Now that's just silly.

I'm somewhat offended as a food consumer. I'm mostly offended as a food writer. And, hypothetically, if I were to start a business and enlist professional social media marketing assistance, I sure hope my guys would turn out more believable work than what passes for a Yelp review these days.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Talk of undergrounding San Diego' powerlines is grandiose

What about side streets, what about Linda VIsta?
Next Article

San Diego woman leaves $3,000 apiece to Russian cosmonauts

$80,000 to Russian and Chinese orphanages
Comments
4

Ads are posted daily on craigslist, saying they pay $$ for Yelp reviews. It's totally ruined Yelp.

Aug. 8, 2014

Yep. I've also been separately approached several times for "freelance writing" gigs posting fake reviews. Instead I spend hours of unpaid time blasting the obvious fakes through Yelp report. Sadly, I know I'm tilting at windmills in that respect...

Aug. 8, 2014

Here's one that was posted earlier this morning on craigslist:

Post A Yelp review -20.00 If you have an account that is a few months old please contact us. We are looking for a few individuals to post a yelp review online. The payment method will be paypal. do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers post id: 4610786539 posted: 2 hours ago

Aug. 9, 2014

Couple years ago I got into with with some posters on Amazon who either didn't want to believe praise for for the band Imagine Dragons could be disingenuous, or wanted to defend the composition of their fake reviews.

I gave the band one star, and got attacked swiftly and often:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1S4XUS85B47PF/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0092MKTL2

Aug. 9, 2014

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close