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Adventures in Shilling: Best of Citysearch Edition

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Well, it's that time of year: Citysearch released the winners (reader and editorial) for the 2008 Best of restaurant awards. With the public voting as often as they want---ballot box stuffing encouraged---and most of the Top 10 winners in any category being advertisers, it's a recipe for some top-notch shilling. Here's a look at some some of the worst offenders across the "Best of" winners.

1) Best Brunch: Taste on Melrose
Out of the 36 glowing five-star reviews (most authored by one-review Nellys), this one stood out: "We went to Taste for the first time on Saturday night and LOVED it!!! The food was AMAZING! I got the pork chop with the mac n cheese. I've never tasted anything like it, I wish I could eat it all the time. Our server was great too. She was very attentive and helpful and funny. The decor was hip and the vibe was relaxing. I'm recommending this place to everyone I know, and a few I don't! I can't wait to go back!!" Shill probably: 68%.

2) Best Fireside Dining: One Pico at Shutters
Frankatthebeach loves three restaurants at the beach, thus only reviews the three: One Pico at Shutters, Gladstone's, and Coast, One Pico's sister restaurant at Casa del Mar. But One Pico is "an incredible blend of the finest of the West Coast and the best of the East Coast. Great food, terrific service, and such a PRETTY place. Dinner on the beach - what could be better? Try the caesar salad, it was so delicious, and they have real Coke in bottles!" Shill (and sales rep) probability: 75%.

3) Best Lunch Spot: Cafe Flore
Quoting the same contest from the year before really drives home a point: "We just ate breakfast there. Food was fantastic and delicious. We will go again and again. Go and try it. You certainly will love it. No wonder they were the winner of the best brunch in 2007." No wonder indeed! Shill probability: 89%.

4) Best Sushi: Hokusai
There aren't many reviews written in 2008 for Hokusai, so here's the very first "review" written for the Beverly Hills resto: "Went to what I thought was the old Continental Restaurant and was surprised to find that it had changed ownership and was now a swank new Japanese restuarant?Very knowledgeable staff that walked us through a superb sushi and cooked food menu...Last but not least, do NOT leave without having dessert. Amazing. Rarely have I had such great desserts let alone at a Japanese restaurant!" A publicist couldn't have said it better. Shill probability: 92%.

5) Best Waterfront Dining: The Penthouse
How does a 17th floor restaurant several blocks from the actual beach win the Best Waterfront Dining category? Your guess is as good as ours. August 25 was a particularly fabulous day, but this guy takes it because his review has almost nothing to do with dining at all: "I am Italian and very particular about dining out. I appreciate all types of cuisine and i would recommend The Penthouse to a food lover that would like to spend some memorable time in a excellent ambiance?.The Penthouse has a multidimensional setting that i believe it is versatile according to several social needs." Only an Italian can appreciate that. Shill (and event sales coordinator) probability: 96%.

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