IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Montreal’s No. 1 restaurant on Tripadvisor doesn’t actually exist

Le Nouveau Duluth beat out 3,677 other restaurants for the top spot — despite not being real.

A top-ranking restaurant on Tripadvisor is getting a lot of attention, not because of its imaginative menu, but because it is imaginary.

On Feb. 1, CBC published a report that investigated a listing for a restaurant in Montreal, Canada called Le Nouveau Duluth, which turned out not to be real. According to a now-deleted Tripadvisor entry, the nonexistent restaurant, which claimed to serve both “Canadian” and “Deli” cuisines, somehow made it to the No. 1 spot out of 3,678 restaurants in Montreal — most which are probably real, one would hope.

According to the report, the top review for Le Noveau Duluth was titled, “Can’t believe this place really exist,” and most of the 85 reviewers of the fake eatery left only one review on Tripadvisor.

CBC confirmed that Le Nouveau Duluth was not listed in Quebec’s registrar of companies, nor does its brick-and-mortar location exist at its purported spot on the corner of Duluth Avenue and St-Denis Street in Montreal.

CBC also asked four neighboring businesses if they'd ever heard of Le Nouveau Duluth, who all said they hadn't. This includes Yoo Jeung, owner of flower shop Le Spot St-Denis, who said, “on Duluth there are no high ceilings ... it looks fake,” regarding the images in the listing.

Before it was taken down, the listing for Le Nouveau Duluth showed four images: two showing the interior of what looked like a residence, one of a sports bar and the last of a man. That man, comedian Charles Deschamps, happens to own the restaurant’s listed phone number, which also uses iMessage, confirmed.

“It started as a joke,” Deschamps told CBC in a radio interview about the listing. The comedian admits it was a prank that started in his friend’s basement, the location that also served as the source of two of the images of the fake restaurant listing.

Deschamps said he posted the fake listing “10 months ago” and that reviews came from listeners on podcasts that had plugged the prank during that time. “We didn’t think it would work or that so many people would do it,” he said.

The prankster claims he received one call a month to book, and he would tell callers the imaginary eatery was booked solid for two months.

“When people would ask for the menu, I would respond with, 'We make tapas!'" said Deschamps. Even though tapas are neither Canadian nor deli cuisine, people would actually try to visit the restaurant, so he said he removed the pin showing the exact location of his friend’s apartment.

As to why he decided to pull this prank, Deschamps said he finds sites like Tripadvisor to be “problematic,” claiming that one person “destroyed” a friend’s restaurant on social media, asking 22 people to leave a one-star review “just because a wine glass was spilled on a dress.”

“It’s not the right way to find a good restaurant,” he said.

Brian Hoyt, head of global communications and industry affairs for Tripadvisor, tells, "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. On this occasion, a failure in human moderation practices meant the fake listing remained live on the platform longer than it should have.”

Hoyt also says that Tripadvisor’s detection and moderation practices will be strengthened and improved in response to the fake restaurant listing.

“For 23 years, Tripadvisor has been a leader in content moderation,” says Hoyt. “While no review platform is perfect, in 2021 alone we reported removal of almost one million fake reviews from our platform due to our industry leading fraud detection, practices and methods.”

According to a 2021 Tripadvisor transparency report that shares stats on fake reviews, just 3.6% of all review submissions — 943,205 in total — were determined to be fraudulent in 2020. Tripadvisor claims that 67.1% of all those fake review submissions were never published on the platform.

Despite these anti-fraud measures, Le Nouveau Duluth isn't the the only fake restaurant to make it to No. 1 on Tripadvisor. In 2017, Vice writer Oobah Butler made headlines when he "opened" a fake eatery called "The Shed at Dulwich," which was really just his shed, and turned it into London’s top-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor.

After both writing an article and making a documentary about it, Butler served frozen dinners in the shed to a small group of (lucky?) patrons before the listing was removed by Tripadvisor.

If you’re wondering where that prankster is today, in a bit of kismet, he currently is one of the hosts of "Catfish: UK," the show about people in relationships who lie online. Yes, really.

And if you're wondering which eatery holds the top spot on Tripadvisor's list of Montreal restaurants now that Le Nouveau Duluth has been eighty-sixed, it's Bistro 1843, a family-run French Canadian business we can confirm is, in fact, real.