I pretty much ignored yelp for the first year or two I was aware of it, but in the past year have become a frequent user. Each site has its place.
Yelp is vastly more useful than chowhound in terms of the following features:
- easily pinpoint locations (down to the building number or zip code) and search for restaurants/shops nearby
- search by map view
- addresses, map views, phone numbers displayed for all restaurants and food shops
- website addresses, photos, operating hours also available for many places
- MUCH easier/faster to locate opinions on specific restaurants/shops, as well as restaurants/shops of a particular category
- more user-friendly bookmark and annotation features
- very easy to send private messages to other users, which the users can be notified of having received via their regular email account, making it fairly easy to quickly communicate on topics that may be tangential (and thus discouraged at chowhound) to a specific review
- webpages load faster about 95% of the time
- the advertising *seems* less intrusive
- easier to trace other reviewers' reviews (when logged under a given account) for a specific place or a category of places (all of my reviews on wine shops in or near Dallas, for instance)
- webpage layouts just more attractive to me personally
- much more loosely moderated (comments about vermin don't immediately disappear from reviews, for instance)
- not just limited to food (the advantage is that you can easily find other shopping or attractions near to a food-related location you are researching; the disadvantage, obviously, is that people who are not particularly discerning when it comes to what they eat are more likely to submit reviews about food-related places than tends to occur at chowhound)
Chowhound is better for
- finding reviews (at least on some boards) that tend to be written by people who care very passionately about the finer aspects of food
- finding detailed discussions (not just isolated comments) about specific items on the menu at restaurants, as well as interesting discussions on many other food-culture topics
- getting tips on where to find hard-to-find food items
- searching for anything food-related outside the US and UK
- reading/viewing all of the other food-related content at chowhound (although I don't really use it)
Both sites are superior to the anonymous-comments websites because yelp and chowhound both make it easy to learn the food-related preferences of other specific users. Once you learn which users tend to share your tastes, you have a good idea of whose reviews you should pay the most attention to (or avoid, in the case of reviewers who tend to have very different tastes from your own).
The one feature sorely missing from both yelp and chowhound is a current-menu display for all the restaurants. And because of that deficiency, I regret that I still find myself scouring menupages pretty frequently.