Yelp’s Top 50 Places to Eat in Jax Sucks and Here’s Why

This week Yelp released their list of the Top 50 Places to Eat in Jacksonville. A lot of different magazines and publications create similar lists and we’ve been known to release our own lists by category (Best Burgers, Best Pizza, etc.). Usually those places on top 50 lists include a smattering of the usual suspects and consensus favorites plus frequent advertisers interspersed in the mix, sometimes deservingly and sometimes not. Yelp’s list appears to me to be very clearly algorithmic. There are places on the list that not a single food writer or blogger in Jax would put on their list. There are also places on the list that will frankly make you laugh that they somehow made this list (A shaved ice place, really?). The order of this list will also make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck they were thinking. Except there is no they. There’s a computer and computers run algorithms, they don’t quite think. While algorithms can be helpful they are also the bane of our existence. Communities across the country where Yelp launched these Top 50 lists would have been much better served if Yelp had gotten together their top reviewers with their community manager, used the algorithm to narrow the field to the top 150 places with food and then let the team build a list. Yelp’s community manager in Jax has a very good feel for our local food scene and could put together a list our community would actually benefit from. Instead we get this bizarre hodge podge where a fast casual biscuit spot is named the top restaurant in Jacksonville. Then we’re told that a juice bar is the 3rd best restaurant in Jax. It is quite good, but it’s not really a restaurant. Then a Westside sushi spot that doesn’t even offer toro on its regular menu (one of the key measures of whether a sushi spot is top notch according to sushi chefs) comes in at number 5. A food truck that’s not even in business any more comes in at 13. Finally at 15 you’ll find Orsay, the restaurant that among food writers in Jax ranks as the consensus best fine dining spot. This list is laughable way to rank the top 50 spots in Jax (at best!).

Here’s what the Yelp list is good for: Use this list to find new places to try. This list does succeed in including some of our favorite spots that have for far too long flown under the radar for folks who don’t read our blog regularly. Here are some of the more under the radar spots from this list that you should try:

Doro: This place is truly top notch and would likely rank very high on our list. Chef Chris Polidoro cooks in a style found nowhere else in Jax.

Balkan Cafe: Ever had Cevapi or Sudzuka? There is quality Eastern European cuisine in Jax and this is it.

Empanadas Factory: Love empanadas? This is the spot.

Soto’s Kitchen: Love arepas? This is the spot for that and more in Venezuelan cuisine.

Yafa Grill: Fresh affordable Mediterranean cuisine.

Southern Roots Filling Station: Solid vegan lunch anyone can love.

  1. Cevapi or Sudzuka? arepas? Mediterranean cuisine? While I’m somewhat familiar with some international cuisines, I am sure I’m very much like a lot of people in Jacksonville, im food curious but not fluent in the terminology used to describe dishes, styles, fusions, etc… and you are like a lot of other food bloggers that use jargon and hipster food knowledge to shame and confuse your readers. I agree with your assessment of yelp and their use algorithmic voodoo to compile lists for clickbait content instead of ingauging in actual human experience and first hand knowledge. You made no effort to even describe the few restaurants you have listed, is space a premium. No doubt some responders will says a simple search for the terms and places would reveal a plethora of results, no doubts it would, but I’m here why not keep me here.

    • Thanks for your feedback. None of this is hipster food knowledge. Each of the names of the restaurants are clickable in this article and will take you to a full review of the restaurant where we describe the dishes you mentioned like cevapi and sudzuka and arepas in detail.

  2. Yelp promotes those businesses that subscribe to their services, their paying customers. I read an exposé about their practices and how their ratings are biased in favor of their paid subscribers, to the detriment of businesses that are not.

    My brother has worked in the food service industry for many years, and he was pressured by his superiors to find ways to boost their Yelp ratings. They were unaware of the fact that Yelp’s ratings are not objective, and are not an accurate barometer of customer satisfaction. This is what drives businesses to subscribe to their services.

    So it’s not surprising that many quality places are left out, as indicated in your article. I stopped using Yelp after I found out about how they operate. The question I have now is which ratings sites to trust. I try to read reviews from a variety of sources in order to get a more realistic picture of anywhere I’m considering to visit, but it’s not always convenient to to do so…

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