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Adventures in Shilling #23: Agave, Totally Baked, Ciaobella, Mambo Express

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It's time for another edition of Adventures in Shilling, in which we fight shilling the best way we can, by shaming tasteless, unscrupulous shills into submission. Well, that's the plan, at least. Fight shills yourself by dropping offensive links to

2008_04_totallybaked.jpgOh boy. We have some good shills today. As usual, this week's shills come from the usual places—the comments, the inbox, the Citysearch— and we have a new shilling venue for some bonus fun: Trip Advisor. The shills get progressively worse as we go on, but let's start with the a small time offender at Citysearch:

Agave is an interesting case. It could just be that a lot of first time reviewers are in love with it. Or it could be a Citysearch page filled to the brim with shills. You decide: "I am from Madrid but i lived in nyc for 12 years and i eat out almost six days a week . I have been to Agave now for the third time and i have to say that i always had a great time. I am so in love with the margaritas!!!!!!!!!!!...The prices are good and the portions are very generous, you definatelly get out of there full!!! I can't wait to try the outdoor seating because this restaurant has a great location and it must be a lot of fun to hang out there in a beautiful summer night sipping on one of the delicious frozen margaritas...Very personable staff, something that every restaurant should have!!! I will be back and spread the word."
Shill Probability: 38%

It's somewhat strange that Totally Baked would resort to shilling in the Eater comments section since they've already got a fair amount of press. But they didn't get as far as they did by sitting on their asses now did they? A PR rep speaks out for the place and identifies her shill as such, but this one is left anonymously: "This place rocks!!!! Best Experience I have had at a lunch spot in years. The staf, food & atmosohere is fantastic. Just wish there was one located in the UES. This place is worth the trip!"
Shill Probability: 62%

Here we have a shill from a new and unlikely source: Trip Advisor. The question here isn't whether or not the following review for UES restaurant Ciaobella is a shill (it is). The question is why they would pick such a venue for this shilling: "The food is reliably pleasing, starting with the meatballs over the perfect tomato sauce. I had the butternut squash ravioli that was handmade, that is truly original. At the end, tiramisu just like in Rome, even better. A definite surprise if you are in pursuit of the perfect Italian cuisine experience. The most enjoyable part of my experience, its downtown vibe and people watching scene.
Shill Probability: 76%

Not sure if this is a fair one to include because the shilling is so unabashedly obvious: Subject Line: MAMBO EXPRESS. Contents of email (it was all in caps but we'll spare you): "Check out this new take out enterprise in the 50's on the east side. Should be as spectacular as it's parent restaurant: Mambo Italiano in Bay Ridge!"
Shill Probability: 95%