In what might be by far the boldest play by any Curry in Houston this year, Ayesha Curry has chosen H-Town as the site for her next International Smoke restaurant. Curry, a celebrity chef and the wife of Golden State star Steph, opened her first restaurant in San Francisco in November. The Houston location isn't set to start serving its signature barbecue until July, but it's already aflame—on Yelp anyway.
Still salty from their Game 7 loss in the Western Conference Finals to Steph's Warriors, Rockets fans have swarmed the Yelp page for Ayesha's International Smoke's Houston location. As of this writing, the restaurant has amassed 181 reviews, averaging 2.5 stars. There are two three-star reviews and one two-star review. But the rest are either one-star, from the salty Rockets fans, or five-star, from the late wave of Warriors' supporters. Yelp, for its part, helpfully points out that its users' "trust is our top concern, so businesses can't pay to alter or remove their reviews."
But just because they can't be removed doesn't mean they can't be decoded. Enter B/R writer-at-large Dave Schilling and staff writer David Gardner, who are here to guide you through the truth behind each review.
We're starting off with a bang here. Leveling charges of various employment violations is pretty bad. Alleging that Steph's corporate sponsors are selling human beings is worse. But snakes and donkeys? In the kitchen? That's just wrong. I assume they're not cooking, since snakes have no appendages of any kind and donkeys are just kind of pointless animals in general, but what's really shameful is that the Currys are ignoring the possibility of opening an adjacent petting zoo inside their restaurant for the kiddies of Houston. Imagine getting to hold a giant boa constrictor right before your meal. I, for one, might borrow this idea if Ayesha isn't going to use it.
DAVID GARDNER: Dave, I will be damned if I'm going to let you sit here and speak ill of donkeys. They are smart and social creatures. You don't need a saddle to ride them. And they can live for more than 50 years! I, for one, do not patronize any restaurant that looks down on donkeys. Wait, what are we talking about again?
GARDNER: I live in New York City and I'm a tall man, and I can say with some frustration that I have been actually "run into by a fast moving person" and even once "kicked in the gentleman's area," and there were no penalties or repercussions. All of that to say that I sort of side with this reviewer. I wouldn't mind referees in restaurants.
SCHILLING: Why drag Kevin Durant into this, albeit subtly? KD isn't a silent investor, as far as we know, nor does his lanky frame make any of us think he's eating anything as heavy as barbecue. This is a lean fish, Dwyane Wade seabass kind of guy we're talking about. It's telling that this "Patrick B." fellow is using the name of a former Rockets player, which shows his or her lack of culinary awareness. Are we sure this isn't Russell Westbrook's burner Yelp account?
SCHILLING: Honestly, as a diner whose primary concern is nutrition, that burger looks pretty good to me. I see some kale, seaweed, broccoli, and a vegan aioli. Looks like something I could order here in Los Angeles with a side of flaxseed and a kombucha. Count me in for a gut-healthy meal!
GARDNER: It's possible Ayesha stole this recipe, because I see the same picture circulating on Twitter a lot.
GARDNER: CHRISTOPHER, YOU COULDN'T BE MORE CORRECT BUT YOU'RE ALSO TOO LATE…..HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF ANOTHER RESTAURANT THAT STARTED IN CALIFORNIA AND SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY?...I'LL GIVE YOU A HITN...I'M LOVING IT….IT'S GOLDEN…..THEY MADE A KINDA WEIRD MOVIE ABOUT IT WITH THAT GUY FROM PARKS AND REC….ANYWAY YOU HSOULD KNOW THAT MCSAUCE HAS ALREADY SPREAD THE LIBERUL AGENDA ACROSS THIS ONCE GREAT NATION. ADD THAT TO THE GOVERNMENT POISONING THE WATER TO TURN THE FROGS GAY AND IT'S TOO LATE.
SCHILLING: Who knows Texas values better than a Yelp reviewer from West Virginia?
SCHILLING: What is this, the Battle of the Alamo? I'm gonna need you to chill here, man. We're talking about a restaurant, not a struggle for independence. Besides, Texas might have great barbecue, but they also have plenty of Arby's.
GARDNER: I would hire Kiefer Sutherland to record an audio version of this for me, and listen to it before working out.
GARDNER: You can see here how the restaurant analogies really start to fall apart. I mean, what chef would want to focus on "healthy restaurant competition"? "Sure," the chef says to himself, "I could have all the business in town. But what would that mean for the community's culinary options?"
SCHILLING: Another snake joke. Glad you all got together to compare notes before setting upon this campaign of terror. I appreciate the intense focus on "healthy restaurant competition" while also trying to get this particular restaurant to close before it even opens. This is like when David Stern refused to let Chris Paul go to the Lakers—CP3's last chance to win a ring ever in his career. Sad.
SCHILLING: I looked at this photo and actually threw up. Well done.
GARDNER: I have so many questions but want no answers.
GARDNER: You can just feel the emotional conflict for the conservative readers of this review. Julian begins with a bang by making fun of both Golden State and Charles Barkley, but then he slides in a Donald Trump joke too. He reels them back in at the end, though, with the tried-and-true "don't waste your money" principle. Vote with your dollars.
SCHILLING: "Visit Houston! Plenty of Free Trash!"
SCHILLING: Oh, 3-1. Interesting. Very topical. Let me see if I can break down this reference. Three is the number of rings this Warriors team has won. The number one is how many more titles the modern Warriors have won in the last four years than the Rockets have won in their entire franchise history. What a self-own!
GARDNER: After ordering ribs and receiving a snake, after being accosted repeatedly by a busser, and after being given cupcake batter instead of a creme brulee … you were still going to give the restaurant a decent review?
GARDNER: What was useful about this review?
SCHILLING: Three people thought this was funny. I don't even know what to say here.
SCHILLING: Missed opportunity to say that the "glue guy" in this restaurant is putting actual glue inside the barbecue sauce. I'll never forgive this review for the missed opportunity. Sort of like when the Rockets lost to the Warriors in game seven.
GARDNER: Do you really think Draymond got the @draymond handle on Yelp?
GARDNER: I'm reasonably certain this is the plot of an Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode.
SCHILLING: "Everything tastes salty"—my Yelp review of this Yelp review.
SCHILLING: Finally, some fair opinions on a restaurant that isn't open. I especially enjoy the second one.
GARDNER: Actually, I would advise against putting that last part into Google translate.
GARDNER: I really don't think Benjamin is going to like this barbecue restaurant.
SCHILLING: I'll admit it. This was me.
And now for a few positive reviews...
SCHILLING: This review is more clutch than Nick Young shooting out of a triple-team with 10 seconds left in a tie game!
GARDNER: I got tired of reading the "salty tears" reviews here way faster than I would ever get tired of the Warriors winning NBA championships.
GARDNER: I have been looking for a tasty way to improve my three-point shooting.
SCHILLING: "A place for champions"? Can a restaurant discriminate based on such things? Sorry, Karl Malone. I guess you'll have to stick to Arby's.
SCHILLING: I appreciate the kindness, but "congrats on beating our team" is the saddest thing any sports fan can ever say. This is like asking to get hit in the face with a steel-toed work boot. Truly the work of a deviant mind.
GARDNER: Found KD's Yelp burner.
GARDNER: If James Harden's mom really isn't willing to buy him pizza rolls, I could think of a restaurant in Houston he might like to try.
SCHILLING: Shaun Livingston is not 50. They need to start fact-checking Yelp reviews. This fake news stuff is getting out of hand.
GARDNER: What is this, a website for honest reviews? PASS.
SCHILLING: I think this is Steve Kerr's burner account.