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Last week, Y&H went on a rampage about noise in restaurants, which in turn stirred up a hornet’s nest of vitriol toward earsplitting eateries among readers and even from a forthright general manager. But this week, I want to talk about a different kind of noise: the din of public opinion littering the Web, whether on Yelp or Urban Spoon or Chowhound.

As you know, everyone with an Internet connection can praise or trash a restaurant, which may be great for the democratization of opinion. But the wealth of online opinions requires more work on your end. You must weed through all the available commentary on a particular restaurant and decide which ones to trust: the dude who swears he was served a pile of steaming rubbish or the woman who claims that the restaurant is second only to the French Laundry in quality.

It didn’t used to be like this, of course. For years, diners simply turned to the Zagat guide to learn a city’s top restaurants. It was quick. It was easy. It was based on (or so we were told) a survey of people just like us. The Zagat guide was, in other words, the pioneer of 21st century sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon. But for this week’s City Paper cover story, Y&H argues that Zagat’s time has come and gone. It’s a moribund business, as useful to most people as that outdated tome called the Yellow Pages.

But what has replaced Zagat? This is where you come in.

Where do you turn for the most reliable source of information and commentary on restaurants now? (Y&H wishes it were our Restaurant Rater database, but he’s no fool.) E-mail Y&H at hungry@washingtoncitypaper.com and let me know. I want to know which sites you trust and why. I’ll compile your comments into a future blog post to keep this important discussion going.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery