Mouse over the dots to see the restaurant, price point and cuisine. (Washington Post)
Here’s a free idea for some eccentric restaurateur: Open a sandwich shop in California that serves Mexican-Japanese fusion at a low price point.
It might sound zany, but that is — according to a recent release by the massive restaurant review-site Yelp — the type of restaurant most likely to earn a solid Internet buzz these days.
Yelp this week put out a list of its “100 top places to eat in the U.S.,” compiled using the network’s internal data and something called the Wilson score — a very technical way of parsing probabilities in an abnormal data set. So essentially, these 100 restaurants are the ones that have gotten the most good reviews from the most people. That means they don’t lend themselves to say, artisanal offals or anything that might appear on Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” — this is a matter of mainstream consensus. Which makes the list, among other things, a fascinating snapshot of America’s modern tastes.
Those tastes are generally cheap — and international. Surprisingly so! The Internet’s ideal meal, per this ranking, would be a Mexican-Japanese fusion sandwich that costs less than $10. (What Mexican-Japanese fusion would look like, I have to leave to you.)
But what the heck is going on with the geographical distribution of these restaurants? Nearly half are in California; a further six are in Hawaii, not typically renowned as a foodie hotspot. Meanwhile, Chicago and New York get only a handful each, D.C. can claim only Komi, and most of the midwest is totally bereft.
Perhaps this means that D.C. truly is the culinary no-man’s land some claim it to be. Or maybe — and more reassuringly, for local foodies at least — the stats are skewed slightly by factors like where Yelp has the most users (California) and which parts of the country have the most good, affordable food (since users clearly favors cheap, one-$ restaurants) and the demographics of people who use Yelp.
While the methodology may not be 100-percent precise, the list still makes a pretty compelling portrait of what Americans like to eat now. And the mere fact that this data exists holds a lot of promise — imagine, for instance, how it might change over the next decade or so.