Authenticity and Authority on Yelp

Archaeology and Material Culture

No compliment on the online review site Yelp is as highly esteemed as being dubbed “authentic,” and that authenticity is routinely linked to restaurants’ material spaces.   An Oakland reviewer believed herself transported to another place, concluding that “i looked around the restaurant and noticed how well the place is decorated…felt like i was back in thailand (ive never been, but i felt like i was there maybe?).”  Yelp reviewers fancy they are unlocking a hidden consumer geography:  In the class and ethnic niches of neighborhoods outside bourgeois comfort, yelpers discover dishes, spaces, and new experiences.   However, the search for an authentic burrito or an urban “dive” may tell us more about yelpers than it reveals about foodways.

Yelpers stake their claims to authority by capturing dimensions of authenticity that often include material descriptions of space.  A Mexican grill review waxed rhapsodic that “The meticulously painted walls and ceiling, accompanied…

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