Montreal's No. 1 Ranked Restaurant on Tripadvisor Actually Doesn't Exist

Sorry, Le Nouveau Duluth isn't real.

Empty restaurants

Inti St Clair / Blend Images / Getty Images

The Tripadvisor website lists over 4,100 eateries in Montreal, Canada, and until recently, the city’s top-ranked restaurant was a spot called Le Nouveau Duluth. The restaurant, which described its cuisine as “Canadian” and “Deli” received 85 five-star reviews, despite its non-existent website, the four strange photos on its Tripadvisor page, and the lack of any real information about its menu, staff, or location. 

The CBC investigated how this place that no one seemed to have heard of reached the top of Tripadvisor’s rankings and, as it turns out, Le Nouveau Duluth doesn’t exist. 

The broadcaster checked Quebec’s registrar of companies and found no listing for Le Nouveau Duluth. It went to the address listed on the Tripadvisor page, and found nothing resembling the restaurant — and none of the adjacent businesses had heard of it. 

“Nouveau Duluth? No," Yoo Jeung, the owner of a flower shop that should’ve been right beside the restaurant, told the outlet. "There's a very high ceiling [in the photos]," she said. "On Duluth [Avenue] there are no high ceilings ... it looks fake.” 

The photos on the listing are suspect: two of them were of what the CBC described as “what looks like a living room,” one was a sports bar, and the other was of a Montreal-area comedian. 

Tripadvisor has since removed the listing, and a spokesperson for the company told Food & Wine, despite promoting a fake restaurant, the company didn’t consider it to be an example of fraud. 

“Publicity stunts like this one are uncommon occurrences and do not share the characteristics of genuine instances of fraud, making them more challenging for Tripadvisor’s moderation teams and automated systems to detect,” Brian Hoyt, TripAdvisor’s head of global communications and industry affairs, said. “On this occasion, a failure in human moderation practices meant the fake listing remained live on the platform longer than it should have. Tripadvisor’s detection and moderation practices will be strengthened and improved in response to this stunt.” 

Although there aren’t any stats about who might’ve fallen for this — or whether any tourists spent a frustrating evening walking up and down that block — the really annoying part is that it’s not even an original idea. In 2017, then-VICE writer Oobah Butler put a lot more effort into his own fake listing, when he turned the shed where he was living into Tripadvisor’s No.1 rated restaurant in London. 

Butler designed a website, created a menu, and took impressively fake photos of the “cuisine” served at The Shed at Dulwich. Over the course of several months — and thanks to a significant number of outsourced fake reviews — The Shed at Dulwich had climbed from a ranking of 18,149 to the top spot. 

After claiming No. 1, Butler even hosted a handful of actual diners, serving them neatly plated frozen meals that he was hastily microwaving inside the “Shed.” (Now THAT is commitment to the bit, Mr. Le Nouveau Duluth.) That was the Shed’s only actual seating — and the Tripadvisor listing was removed after Butler chronicled its existence on VICE. 

As for Montreal, the current No. 1 restaurant on Tripadvisor is Bistro 1843. And yes, it’s totally real. 

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