Le Nouveau Duluth: The Five-Star Montreal Restaurant That Doesn't Exist

Saint Paul Street in Montreal at night.
Saint Paul Street in Montreal at night. / Henryk Sadura/Moment/Getty Images

According to Tripadvisor, the restaurant formerly rated as the best in Montreal had a lot to offer. Le Nouveau Duluth boasted a buffet, sports bar, live music, outdoor seating, and valet parking—not to mention 85 five-star reviews. The too-good-to-be-true listing on the travel site turned out to be just that. As CBC reports, Montreal’s top-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor never existed.

Upon closer examination of Le Nouveau Duluth’s page, it became clear that something was off. There was no menu, and the link to the restaurant’s website led nowhere. Several of the listed features contradicted each other. The establishment accepted credit cards but was cash only; it was BYOB but had a full bar. The handful of photographs appeared to show a windowless room in someone’s home.

CBC confirmed that the listing was fishy. The owner of the flower shop Le Spot St-Denis, which is around the corner from Le Nouveau Duluth’s supposed location, told the outlet she had never heard of the place. When CBC reached out to Tripadvisor for comment, the restaurant vanished from platform.

The travel site said that fake listings are uncommon, and they usually don’t stay active long enough to gain attention. “On this occasion, a failure in human moderation practices meant the fake listing remained live on the platform longer than it should have,” a representative for the company said.

The bogus page originated as a prank. Quebec comedian Charles Deschamps admitted to setting it up using pictures of his friend’s finished basement. The final product was convincing enough to fool at least a few hungry tourists. Deschamps reportedly received “one call a month” asking to make reservations, and one person showed up at his friend’s house after it had been tagged as the location.

In addition to the strange photographs and conflicting details, Le Nouveau Duluth’s perfect score should have raised red flags. It’s fairly easy to use bots to inflate a page’s rating, which is why users should be suspicious of businesses that don’t have any negative reviews at all. Vague, repetitive praise could be another sign of fraudulent activity. And if a restaurant claims to have a playground and a jazz bar, you should think twice before calling to make a reservation.