There are plenty of ways to rank restaurants, from Michelin stars to enthusiastic reviews by a beloved food critic. One person’s fine dining might not suit another diner’s taste — both figuratively and literally. But Yelp’s annual ranking of the top 100 places to eat in the United States seeks out something like an overall consensus choice, an intriguing cross-section of what people are savoring across all 50 states.
More specifically, across most of the 50 states. Some states — as you’ll see shortly — are well represented. But if you were pulling for your favorite restaurant in Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota or Rhode Island, you may be disappointed. Those states were among those without a single eatery represented on Yelp’s list.
While some of the names on the list will be familiar to people who regularly track Michelin stars, others feel more modest — burger joints, acai bowls and Korean fusion are all represented on the list. At its best, it feels like a fascinating distillation of the nation’s dining habits circa now: a blend of elevated fare and food that would be horrified to be called “plated.”
As for how the results were tallied, Yelp’s website includes some details there. Short version: the recipe is a secret. The longer version: “Yelp’s data science team analyzed user submissions to determine the top restaurants by ratings, number of reviews, and volume of submissions, and finalized the rankings with the expertise of our Community Managers.”
Here’s a look at three initial takeaways from the list:
Southwest Is Best
An impressive 28 of the 100 eateries on the list are located in just two states: California and Arizona. That includes the #1 selection, Tucson, Arizona’s Tumerico. This isn’t the first time Tumerico has gotten attention from Yelp users; it also topped a list of best eateries in the Southwest last year. Tumerico owner Wendy Garcia also owns another Tucson establishment on the list, La Chaiteria. (Tumerico seems to focus more on vegetarian fare, while La Chaiteria adds meat into the mix.)
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Creativity Gets Points
As someone who grew up in a state with restaurants that serve Indo-Chinese pizza, I’m always happy to see unexpected combinations of cuisines, when done well. Yelp’s list does not disappoint in that respect, with Bethesda’s M & N’s Pizza featuring a pie inspired by dumplings from Afghanistan on their menu. A glimpse at the menu of Reno’s Arario Midtown reveals a restaurant willing to combine Korean cooking traditions with other styles, including pasta and an intriguing cheesesteak.
Yelp Users Are Bearish on NYC
This one stung: New York State has all of three establishments on the list. Only one is in New York City, however: the Manhattan restaurant Chili. To be fair, the three New Jersey restaurants featured here are in the New York metropolitan area; even so, given New York’s deserved reputation as a great restaurant city, it seems that some Yelp users are not so convinced. Omaha, for instance, has two restaurants in the top 100.
There’s a lot more to explore in this list — both in terms of notable places to dine in the future and getting a clearer sense of what people around the country are eating.
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