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Trump Grill’s star rating is plummeting, and Yelp is trying to save it from the trolls

The Trump Tower Grill.
The Trump Tower Grill.JIM WATSON/AFP

The Vanity Fair review was bad enough. A chunk of decor fell on the magazine’s critic as she dined at Trump Grill, she wrote. The menus were misprinted, and the reviewer used the word ‘‘flaccid’’ twice in one sentence describing the Szechuan dumplings.

As for the filet mignon, it ‘‘came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it . . . The steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan.’’

But the real damage to the reputation of President-elect Donald Trump’s titular steakhouse may come not from the magazine, but the masses.


The New York restaurant’s Yelp rating has lost an entire star since the Vanity Fair review published Wednesday afternoon and continues to suffer as a Twitter spat between Trump and the magazine keep it in the news.

The rating hovered just above 2 stars by lunchtime on Friday - and some of the new negative reviews looked fairly suspect.

‘‘I tried to get in but there was a giant wall around the building,’’ read one, posted on Thursday and appearing to describe the Mexican border Trump promised to fence off rather than Trump Tower, where the restaurant is housed. ‘‘I was asked to pay for the wall. So, I tried to pay with my WomanCard, but they wouldn’t accept it.’’

Now Yelp itself is trying to rescue Trump Grill from the trolls, deleting reviews its employees think have less to do with the food than the furor around its namesake.

The online review giant has tried to clean up skewed reviews before.

After a tow-truck driver turned away a Bernie Sanders supporter and went viral, for example.

But Yelp’s relatively new ‘‘cleanup’’ program might face its biggest test with the attack on Trump Grill, which held a 4-star rating before the political rise of its landlord.


To be fair, it was Vanity Fair that first mixed food and politics.

Sitting in an overflow table outside the restaurant, critic Tina Nguyen scorched the grill’s ‘‘French-ish paintings,’’ the Ivanka’s Salad and a chocolate cake ‘‘that tastes like Tums.’’

But Nguyen’s review also wondered what her dining experience ‘‘says about the Trump presidency.’’

‘‘Perhaps it’s a sign that Trump is in over his head,’’ she wrote, ‘‘and a shallow, mediocre man who runs a shallow, mediocre business empire.’’

The review went viral on Wednesday.

Trump, in typical style, responded the next morning in a tweet:

‘‘Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!’’

The tweet led, inevitably, to more stories about the grill. And about Trump.

A Los Angeles Times gossip column detailed a quarter-century old feud between Trump and Vanity Fair’s editor, Graydon Carter, over the mogul-turned-pol’s allegedly short fingers.

Trump Grill’s average rating had fallen one star in the weeks between Trump’s election and the Vanity Fair review.

It has fallen another full star since, teetering near a rating of 2.1 by mid-Friday.

Vanity Fair had claimed Trump Grill ‘‘could be the worst restaurant in America,’’ and the public seemed to agree.

But many of the new Yelp reviews seem to bend political.

‘‘First thing that hits you is the horrible decor,’’ reads one captured by Uproxx. ‘‘I guess you’d call it Trump Tacky.’’


At some point on Thursday, as the grill’s Yelp star sank, a red box popped on the review page. An ‘‘Active Cleanup Alert.’’

‘‘This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news,’’ Yelp warned.

‘‘As a result, your posts to this page may be removed.’’

A Yelp spokesman said the cleanup may not actually begin for a day or so, ‘‘because we sometimes receive hundreds and even thousands of photos and reviews in response to media attention.’’

An executive explained the cleanup program’s purpose in October, after launching it last year.

The online review giant’s vice president for corporate communication cited a pizza parlor owner who hugged President Barack Obama in 2012, leading to ‘‘a mishmash of thousands of political viewpoints’’ on the review page.

‘‘Our goal is to be transparent with the actions we take to protect the quality of content on our site, preserve consumers’ freedom of speech, and shield businesses from online harassment,’’ the exec wrote in a blog post.

It’s not clear how many other review pages are being scrubbed. But disclaimers that ‘‘this business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team’’ still appear on the pages of those targeted by trolls in the past.

One is Amyx Hardware, a Tennessee store that made national news last year after a ‘‘No Gays Allowed’’ sign was seen in its window.

Today, the store’s page features four reviews, all for one star. ‘‘I found myself being badgered for being a woman with short hair and dressing ‘like a demon,’’’ one complains.


That’s nothing compared to the wrath against Ken Shupe, a South Carolina tow truck driver who told a local news station that he refused to tow a stranded driver with a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker earlier this year.

Shupe’s story went national. (“Why a Trump-backing tow truck driver says he refused service to a Sanders supporter,’’ read a Washington Post headline.)

A Google search shows that his company’s Yelp review fell to a single star in the aftermath, and the site now lists the business as ‘‘closed.’’

Could the same fate befall Trump Grill, or can Yelp weed out the fake reviews from the real ones?

The steak shop didn’t always face such existential questions.

Its first Yelp review appeared in the early weeks of the Obama administration, when Trump was just a reality TV star with a catchphrase.

‘‘You’re Fired! hahaha,’’ Lynn N. from Oklahoma wrote in 2008, as she gave three stars to Trump Grill’s sorbet trio and brownie a la mode.

‘‘Both desserts were too expensive,’’ she wrote. ‘‘But c’mon . . . how many can say they ate at a ‘grill’ named after Trump!?!’’

The answer, as Yelp now knows, is anyone who wants to.