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International Smoke’s Yelp Page Is Still Full of Fake Reviews

The restaurant opens next week

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Glad To Waste Less Event With Ayesha Curry Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Glad
Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

One week after a slew of salty Houston Rockets fans blasted the as-yet-unopened Space City outpost of Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina’s International Smoke, the restaurant’s Yelp page is still stocked with completely fake reviews.

At present, nearly 700 reviews exist for the unopened restaurant, most of them basketball-related. On June 20, Yelp added an “active cleanup mode” disclaimer to the restaurant’s profile, noting that reviews that violated the review platform’s terms of service would be removed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that many — if any — of those bogus reviews have actually been taken down, and they continue to pour in. The restaurant’s most recent review, a “defense” of sorts from a Golden State fan, is from this morning.

Also at issue are the hundreds of inane, often offensive photos uploaded to International Smoke’s website, which range from memes featuring co-owner Ayesha Curry’s husband Steph Curry to images of James Harden manipulated to make his iconic beard look like an “L.” More disturbingly, photos of actual human feces are tagged as “food.”

In a 2016 post to the company’s blog, Yelp explained its “two-pronged process” for handling fake reviews. In addition to actual humans that comb through the reviews to remove reviews motivated by factors outside the restaurant, Yelp’s algorithm “highlights the most useful and reliable content and weeds out reviews that may be fake, biased, an unhelpful rant or rave, or are submitted by users we don’t know much about.” The site doesn’t, however, say how long that process takes.

Eater reached out to Yelp for more details on how its “active cleanup” process works, and how long it takes for bad reviews to be taken down, but the company didn’t provide a timeline.” “When businesses make the news, their Yelp business page can be affected. Media-fueled reviews typically violate our Content Guidelines, one of which deals with relevance,” a Yelp spokesperson told Eater. “Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news. Our user support team ultimately removes reviews that violate these guidelines.”

It could be that Yelp’s user support team, the group within the company tasked with managing fake reviews, is just too busy to handle International Smoke’s page at present. The company is also contending with a much bigger fake review situation involving Red Hen, the Lexington, Virginia restaurant that asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave during dinner. That decision inspired dramatic online backlash, including thousands of fake Yelp reviews, the restaurant’s owner being doxxed, and a protester throwing actual chicken poop at its building.

International Smoke is set to open in Houston on July 5.

Update, 12:08 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a statement from Yelp.

International Smoke

800 Sorella Court, Houston, Texas 77024