TripAdvisor’s inaccuracy and Estes Park’s sucky Mountain Home Cafe

Estes Park is a key Colorado tourist destination. It has many culinary delights.

Mountain Home Cafe is undistinguished and served my family low quality food. Why does TripAdvisor rank it as Estes Park’s 2nd best restaurant?

TripAdvisor apparently allows liar ratings. For example, look at my August 3 rating, and pay attention to the highlight:

I don’t understand this restaurant’s very high rating. The food quality was the pits. I had the breakfast chicken fried steak meal. Um, chicken fried steak is supposed to be a solid piece of cheap steak breaded and fried. This restaurant served me some kind of sausage-y junk that was ground up and reformed to look like a steak, the same quality and texture of frozen meat patties that really are full of beef hearts. Another person at the table had the chicken fingers. Texture and taste was like what you buy in the frozen foods section of your supermarket. Mashed potatoes tasted mostly like a mix, little depth to the flavor.

Sorry, $9.50 and $10 (rounded) for meals that taste and feel mostly like frozen foods and mixes? I don’t think so, even in Estes Park.

Now look at the next newest rating, from August 8, by a reviewer for whom this is his only review:

I have lived in Estes Park for 18 years and have sampled many of the local restaurants. Mountain Home Cafe is definitely one of my favorites. The food and service are excellent. My favorite dish is the chicken fried steak and eggs combination. While growing up in the South I was able to sample chicken fried steak from many restaurants and households. Mountain Home’s chicken fried steak ranks high for taste and texture. Mountain Home’s white gravy is the perfect compliment. Mountain Home is the only restaurant in Estes Park that serves high quality American and Mexican food. Enjoy.

Um, OK, this person has lived in Estes Park long enough to know its culinary delights. Despite this, I am supposed to believe that this person:

  1. Has a “favorite dish” of sausage-like, too-perfectly-shaped-to-not-be-preformed-and-frozen chicken fried steak and flat, salty, might-as-well-be-from-a-mix gravy.
  2. Thinks this is the “only” Estes Park restaurant that serves “high quality” American and Mexican food?
  3. Has only left one review ever, and it’s about Mountain Home Cafe?

Yeah, right. Oceanfront property in Arizona…

Compare that to Rock Inn Mountain Tavern’s review, also in Estes Park. Much fewer “1 contribution” reviewers, and the whole experience was excellent.

The ratings for Colorado Springs’s Travelodge are more obviously stacked. The excellent ratings almost uniformly come from “1 contribution” accounts, and thanks to this apparent manipulation, Tripadvisor ranked it as the 3rd best hotel in Colorado Springs, above high quality chains. Poke into the other ratings, such as its poor and terrible ratings, and you start to find reviewers with more than 1 contribution.

Two lessons:

  1. Stay away from Estes Park’s Mountain Home Cafe. It doesn’t deserve its rating.
  2. Don’t trust TripAdvisor at its word. It isn’t preventing obvious abuse.

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