Seattle won five spots on Urbanspoon's list of the nation's most popular 100 cheap eats. Our cheap eats champs: Bakery Nouveau, Paseo, Red Mill Burgers, Salumi, and Zippy's Giant Burgers.
To my surprise -- because this assessment is considerably more rigorous
than most online lists -- Portland only scored one win, for Voodoo Donuts. (Have these people never heard of Waffle Window? Pine State Biscuits?) Florida came out on top with 10 listings, followed by Texas with 9.
I asked the Urbanspoon folks
just what they meant by "most popular," and how they did their
measurements. The answer: They churned their considerable masses of
restaurant data through an algorithm weighing blogger posts, consumer
reviews, critic reviews, page views, and up and down votes. (Critic
reviews, for instance, got extra points.) They also made sure they
didn't "double count," that is, give credit for both a positive written
review and that reviewer's "thumbs up" vote.
Beyond the math, the final results also passed the "bull test,"
said marketing manager Conrad Saam -- all of the listings made sense, to
his view, and reactions have mainly centered on whether a listing
qualified as "cheap," not whether it deserved to be on a national
best-of list. With 25,000 to 30,000 points of data about restaurants
coming in to the site every day, he said, it "starts to build a very
accurate picture of the overall market."
As Urbanspoon is based in Seattle (it was founded here and later acquired by IAC),
I also wondered if Seattle won extra spots on the list because we might
be heavily represented among Urbanspoon users. Saam said no.
"We're actually really evenly distributed around the country. We
might have a slightly higher penetration in Seattle, but it's not enough
to skew the numbers in the lists we've done," he said.
The biggest issues he's seen with skewed data, actually, comes from
restaurant reviews in vacation spots like Cape Cod and Vegas and large
swaths of Florida. That's one reason they do lists like this based on
annual data, not monthly numbers.
Saam's take on why Seattle did pretty well:
"This is not mathematical at all, but my guess is (it's because)
Seattle has a really cool, progressive cheap eats scene. Rattle them off
the top of your head -- there are a ton of very, very cool lunch places
that are under ten bucks...
"My favorite is Tat's. I love Tat's, that is the best place to get a cheese steak, better than Pat's and Geno's in Philly."
Now, that sounds like a debate. Any other spots that would be on your
own best-of list? Tacos El Asadero? Slim's Last Chance? Dick's or
Ezell's (or Heaven Sent)? Little Uncle, even? If Bakery Nouveau, why not
Besalu? Put ideas in the comments, and we'll see if they'll do a top
200 next time.
Courtesy of The Seattle Times