Ten Questions, Five Stars: Haute Eating with Yelp’s Nish Nadaraja

It happens to everyone. You find yourself in an unfamiliar part of town with an hour to kill and a growling stomach. What to do? Where to go?

For the average San Francisco resident, and more than 26 million other users, the answer is Yelp. Yelp.com is a user-review website that encourages users to provide their two cents about anything from their favorite dive bar to the best dentist for a root canal. In addition, Yelp also offers social networking features. Users can create a profile, add other users to your group, and write enough in-depth reviews to achieve an “elite” status.

Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Yelp now extends across cities in 40 states, and they recently branched out overseas with the creation of Yelp UK.  The site is quickly climbing ranks in the social media realm, approaching, dare I say, verb status: “That was a great bar. Yelp it!”

With over 9 million reviews posted, the site is a goldmine for amateur foodies, cocktail connoisseurs, and nightlife aficionados alike. But the best reviews come from within: meet Yelp’s own Nish Nadaraja.  Currently serving as Brand Director, Nadaraja started working at the company in 2005. Over five years later, he’s approaching 1700 reviews of San Francisco restaurants, bars, and businesses.

Haute Living sat down with Nish for a five-star look at the city:

Haute Living: What brought you to the Bay Area?

Nish Nadaraja: Having grown up on the East Coast, two college friends and I decided we had to see what the Left Coast was all about before getting too along in our years. I never looked back.

HL: What SF neighborhood do you live in? Any particular reasons for choosing this area?

NN: I used to live in the Mission, but now just North of the Panhandle. It’s a neighborhood on the verge, and a good of example of when gentrification can be a good thing.

HL: Being part of the Yelp team, you have over 1500 reviews under your belt for hotspots in the city – what is the one place you always take an out of town guest?

NN: I’m a big fan of the bartenders and what they pour at Rye, so showcasing our city’s cocktail culture is always a good start.

HL: What was your most memorable day/night out in San Francisco? What did you do?

NN: We recently celebrated the Year of the Tiger at the SF Symphony, followed by dinner at City Hall, then martinis at Absinthe. This was all before 10 p.m. on a Saturday, so that ain’t so bad.

HL: So what is the best meal in the city, in your opinion?

NN: I recently experienced the moveable feast that is the Phoenix Supper Club, and I can’t think of anything quite like it. Check out my review on Yelp for more thoughts!

HL: Best drink?

NN: If I find a bar that fresh squeezes their grapefruit juice, I always, always go with a classic Greyhound.

HL: Best dining atmosphere?

NN: I like social dining, and it’s hard to top the community table at NOPA, really anytime of night.

HL: What’s the “next best thing” that San Franciscans may not know about?

NN: The next best thing is actually not in San Francisco, but up in Healdsburg, CA: the Prohibition Speakeasy Wine Club! Look for the phone booth… and I’ve already said too much.

HL: Yelp is powered by consumer reviews by regular people. Should restaurants or bars respond directly if someone gives them a low number of stars?

NN: They should actually respond to both negative and positive reviews. We’ve made it easy (and free) for business owners to privately message and/or publicly comment about reviews, both good and bad. People have taken the time to say something about your business — you’re not going to find a more personal and interactive way to reach out to them.

HL: For foodies on the go, or for first-time San Francisco visitors, the Yelp mobile application comes in pretty handy. What other apps do you use to scope out the scene?

NN: Pretty handy? Our app can make anyone feel like a local no matter where or who they are! That said, I do like Open Table for the slickness of reservations, and My Drunk Texts so that I’m always reminded that there are bigger fools than myself out there. ;-)