National: MenuPages Restaurant Search 101

It was fun to read this morning’s post on MenuPages in Portfolio’s Odd Numbers blog. Writer Zubin Jelveh seems to grasp, intuitively, the most effective technique by which MenuPages ratings can be ranked. But he doesn’t explain it explicitly. Nor do we, on the site, so let’s do that now:

Basically, your restaurant search, like any inroad into a huge pool of data, will narrow its focus with each condition you apply. Say you start with a neighborhood — we’ll use the New York site, since that’s what Zubin writes about — so say you start with the Upper East Side. There are 587 restaurants listed in that neighborhood. How to choose where to eat?

Well, if you know what kind of food you want, that makes it easier (you can search by cuisine), but often times you don’t. Often, you’re thinking in terms of quality, price, and location, and you want a few options.

The best way to search is to first sort by rating. Then scroll down and scan with your eyes the number of dollar signs and number of reviews. The more reviews, the more you can trust the stars, which are created by readers like you. A restaurant with four and a half stars based on three reviews is not as solid an option as one with three and a half stars based on 50 reviews, but it may still be worth a shot.

It also may be worth your while to sort by the number of reviews. In our example, the restaurant with the most reviews is Pio Pio, which gets an average of four stars for food and four and a half stars for value, based on 123 reviews. That means it might be a good, mid-priced choice for, say, a weeknight. A theme among the most recent five reviews is inconsistent service, so it may not be the kind of place you go if you’re in a hurry or trying to impress someone.

Depending on what you want, you can narrow your overall search based on type of cuisine and features required (delivery, al fresco, and so on). If you’re a veteran user, you probably know all this already. Do you have your own special techniques for mining the vast reserves of raw MP data? Please share!

The Best and Worst Restaurants in Manhattan [Portfolio]
Pio Pio [MenuPages]
Pio Pio [Official Site]

National: MenuPages Restaurant Search 101