How being Yelp Elite burst my Notre Dame bubble
Teagan Dillon | Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Last summer, while living in New York City, I posted my first Yelp review ever. A slightly satirical and exaggerated review, I graciously gave Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer five stars.
Fifty-eight reviews, 56 check-ins and 236 friends later, what started out as a joke quickly turned into an obsession that only continued when I returned to South Bend last August.
In January, I was finally invited to join the cream of the crop: the Yelp Elite Squad of Mishawaka.
Being Yelp Elite has many perks. From invitations to restaurant openings, increased credibility that pushes my reviews to the top and, perhaps the most coveted, the beautiful “Elite ‘18” badge that is emblazoned on each of my reviews, it’s truly an honor to be Yelp Elite.
But aside from these perks, being Yelp Elite has really immersed me in the South Bend community in ways I’ve never experienced. Last February, I was invited to join the Mishawaka squad at Chicory Cafe for a Mardi Gras-themed murder mystery party.
Free food, entertainment and a chance to finally meet my fellow Yelp Eliters in person? Yes, please.
I eagerly RSVP’d to Jessica B., the Yelp Elite Squad’s fearless leader, confirming my attendance, as well as four of my close friends.
Full disclosure, my friends think this obsession of mine is extremely weird. I signed them up for this event without their knowledge and forced them to come when it finally rolled around.
The joke was on them, though, because the party was a smashing success. We arrived, treated ourselves to some delicious (and free) seafood gumbo and Cajun sausage mac n’ cheese, and got into character. I was Ophelia, a professional bowler who liked to refer to dollar bills as “biscuits.”
Donned in masquerade masks and Yelp stick-on tattoos, we set off with 15 other Yelp Eliters to uncover the murderer. Things got heated at times, but what better way to get to know a group of middle-aged South Bend natives than by accusing them of murder?
We were all confident Leon was guilty, but by round three it turned out that he was actually the one murdered. This threw us all off, and no one was able to correctly guess the murderer. Either way, we still had a blast.
By the end of the night, we said goodbye to our new friends who we didn’t actually know the real names of — Leon and Zenobia, if you’re reading this, I’m hoping to see you at the next Yelp Elite event — and drove back to the Notre Dame bubble.
I think what made this experience so special, aside from the good food and interactive game, was that we had absolutely nothing in common with the people that we were playing with other than our passion for Yelp.
We never once mentioned Notre Dame, or even the fact that we were college kids. We just showed up and jumped right in. We had so much fun in the most random way possible.
Earlier this month, there was another Yelp Elite event at O’Rourke’s. It was a spelling bee hosted by Fireball, and even though I wasn’t able to attend, a bunch of my friends did and had an amazing time.
My friends still make fun of me from time to time, but at the end of the day I know they’re benefiting from my odd hobby. These Yelp Elite events have added nothing but value to our lives in the last two months, switching up our usual routines and allowing us to meet people we would never have otherwise. Now we’re all eagerly awaiting the announcement of the April Yelp Elite event.
But you don’t have to be Elite to have these same experiences. Whether you’re volunteering at a homeless shelter, going out to eat or just doing homework at a cafe off campus, I think it’s important to take the time to explore the South Bend community. I wish I had more in the last four years.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.