Restaurants

Boston’s Best Yelp Reviews Are Written by Third Graders

See Boston's dining scene through the eyes of eight-year-olds.

Planning your next night of dining out in Boston, but can’t decide where to eat? Sure, you could consult Boston‘s restaurant section for the hottest new thing, or stay in the loop with our twice-weekly newsletter, the Feed.

Instead, though, let me suggest you take some pointers from the third graders at the Boston Teachers Union School in Forest Hills, who for the last three years have been sharing their local restaurant takes on the city’s most heartwarming and endearing Yelp page.

“I just want you guys to know that if you are looking for a place to have fun and eat good food, you should go to my favorite restaurant Bertucci’s,” writes Amiyah, one of 25 pupils in the classroom of BTU teacher Taryn Snyder who penned reviews in 2017. “My favorite is the pepperoni pizza because they give you a full pizza.”

When was the last time you appreciated the fact that your pizza was full?

Of course, these Yelp reviews aren’t just for fun. State curriculum standards require that teachers instruct students on opinion writing, and as a teacher in one of the city’s “pilot” schools, Snyder says she has some flexibility to get creative. For three years now, she’s worked the online restaurant critiquing service into her lesson plan—coaching her students over several days to really think about their unique takes on, say, the 99 in Charlestown, then structure their arguments and write with passion. Without fail, Snyder says, her students offer unique insights into the surprisingly complex and nuanced experience of being an eight-year-old and enjoying a good meal.

“My students are much smarter than most of the grown-ups I know,” Snyder tells me. “Their opinions on things are so honest and candid and well-informed, and they’re just really thoughtful, smart little people. I’m blown away every single year by their opinions and thoughts.”

This year’s class will start drafting another batch of reviews this week, to be published sometime in March.

To these young diners, there is something to love in even the most ordinary of places. The restaurants they review are always their favorite, and the eateries almost always receive five stars. If you’re looking for “the best restaurant in the world,” for example, then third grader Maddie says you should look no further than the Panera Bread in West Roxbury. Why, you might ask? “[T]he food is still hot when they give it to you,” she writes. “They do not burn your food at all, not a little.” Another perk, she says, is that if they “are out of something they do not yell at you.” The West Roxbury Panera also gets high marks for its bathrooms (“amazing”), as well as its music, which she says is “not too loud and not too soft it is just right.”

Another young Yelper named Anthony gushes about the plastic grass inserts that come with orders at Village Sushi & Grill in Roslindale, even if some of the other accoutrements can be confusing. “The red/pink and green stuff is really spicy,” he writes. “I do not know what it is for.” Village Sushi & Grill also has something else going for it, Anthony writes: “The best part is that they’re down the street from my house.”

Unlike many Yelp reviewers out there, these third graders are not at all jaded about Boston’s restaurant scene, have no qualms about dining at chains, and are often impressed by the little things that might go unnoticed by grown-ups, like how cold a restaurant’s lemonade is, the flavor profile of its ketchup, or the superior fluffiness of its chairs.

“They say really funny things,” Snyder says. “Outdoor/indoor seating, they like that.” Do not even get them started on the fish tanks at the JP Seafood Café.

Noticing something the rest of us have maybe taken for granted, third grader Quentin writes that he is moved by the sense of community at the Galway House in Jamaica Plain when a local game is on. “If you don’t like sports very much, maybe this will get you to like it so you see how sports can bring people together,” Quentin says.

Michael, meanwhile, has some very exciting news about what they’re doing over at Chau Chow Chinese Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant in Dorchester. “They have this food called Pork Bun,” he writes. “This is how I think it is made. They have a sweet piece of bread and this is called Pork Bun for a reason! They stuff pork in it.”

“Being honest,” writes Lucas, in his ode to the Rainforest Café in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, “there’s just a variety of drinks that are great to choose from to quench your thirst.”

The third graders in Snyder’s class had lots of nice things to say about the beverage selection at Chili’s in Braintree (“Lemonade is fresh and cold so when you already ate that hot and smoking food you can cool down,” writes Giannyl), the mac and cheese at Dedham’s Wicked Restaurant and Wine Bar (“divine,” writes Ava), the décor at TGI Friday’s in Dedham (“so cool,” writes Danielle), the burgers at the Legacy Place Kings (“I love the lettuce, the cheese, and the actual meat,” writes Aidan), and the pancakes at Redd’s in Rozzie (according to Genevieve, they “give you the right amount of syrup”). The Cheesecake Factory at the Prudential Center is a must-see (it “looks awesome,” writes William).

And if you haven’t been to the Chili’s in Dedham, says Thierrence, you are really, really missing out. “When I go to Chili’s, I’m not sure if I go to heaven because when you go there, you can literally smell the food in the parking lot,” he writes.

The restaurants reviewed by Snyder’s students, naturally, have been getting a kick out of the effusive praise from the young customers. After all, most restaurant owners and managers have long ago made scanning the site for reviews part of their routine, and many are used to fretting over hatchet jobs from unhappy patrons. So Snyder says her students have gotten several messages thanking them for their kind words, or offering them a meal on the house. Ultimately, says Snyder, those interactions remind students that their writing can have an impact. “When they actually see their work somewhere, it brings to the real world the things they’re doing in the classroom,” she says.

For the rest of us, I think there’s something we could all learn from Snyder’s third grade class. Maybe a restaurant doesn’t need a trendy concept or a James Beard Award-winning chef in the kitchen for us to have a good time. Maybe heaven was at the Dedham Chili’s all along.