I wanted to know is what the most-reviewed restaurants on Yelp were. At 1:30 in the morning. Who hasn’t wondered this in the depths of insomnia? I assumed a quick Googley search would take me to the content that I was looking for. Unfortunately, it didn’t yield the info, so if someone tells you that there are no fresh ideas on the internet, I give to you this post as exhibit A.
Searching for the Most-Yelped Restaurants in NYC
When I searched “the most reviewed restaurants on yelp in New York City” on Google, nothing recent popped up so I scrolled down to the first Yelp result. What I got was this confounding list with a heading of “The Best 10 Restaurants in New York, NY”, which if you quickly-scan the list, isn’t the most-reviewed.
The list, much less the top ten, is a mixed bag of restaurants with as little as 11 reviews and 20 reviews along with restaurants with 1500 reviews. I’m not an algorithm expert, but I’m certain that 11 reviews isn’t statistically-significant enough to be placing a restaurant with 20 reviews in a top ten list of a city with as many restaurants and as many reviews as New York City.
(It’s clearly a search result that dynamically changes depending on their internal algorithm — fix it, Yelp!).
And actually searching on Yelp didn’t help either — which is not a surprise, their app is kinda terrible. When I directly typed in “most reviewed” into the search box, I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t satisfied with the results. So I decided to create that list I was looking for. In terms of quantity, these are the restaurants/ food places with the most reviews on Yelp for New York City in February 2018. We’ll start out the top five.
|1. Ippudo||9158||4||East Village||Manhattan|
|2. Halal Guys||8668||4.5||Midtown||Manhattan|
|3. Katz's Delicatesen||8474||4||Lower East Side||Manhattan|
|4. Levain Bakery||6052||4.5||Upper West Side||Manhattan|
|5. Shake Shack||5352||4||Flatiron||Manhattan|
There’s Something Clearly “Yelpy” About Ippudo
We wouldn’t have been surprised that Ippudo was in the top five, but the fact that it tops the list as the most-reviewed restaurant in New York City was unexpected. The original NYC location will celebrate its ten-year anniversary in March 2018 and has approximately 400+ reviews over the number two “restaurant”. Not to mention it ranks above New York City institutions that have been around decades, so please do color us a bit shocked.
Apparently, there’s clearly something Yelp-friendly about Ippudo. We say that because we feel that the Japanese import isn’t nearly as well-known as the other four restaurants in the top five. Case in point is Ippudo’s second location in Hell’s Kitchen that opened just four years ago, That west side Ippudo already has nearly 3000 Yelp reviews — meaning they barely missed making the list, but it would be in the top-25 or 30 most-Yelped restaurants in the city. We think it’s garnered so many reviews due to the hype that Ippudo came into the city with in 2008, along with the fact that they do put our tasty food. That made it the popular hip place for both New Yorkers and visitors alike. On top of all that, the original restaurant’s decor and atmosphere is beautiful and warm, and the food is social media-friendly.
Popular New York Mainstays at #2-5
The rest of the top-five wouldn’t surprise any New Yorker.
In second place with nearly 8700 reviews is Halal Guys. The well-located, humble food cart serving up the city’s best chicken rice plates with their popular “red” and “white” sauce. Started in 1990, Halal Guys has expanded past their midtown location at 53rd Street and Avenue of Americas into dozens of locations in the United States and all throughout the world.
At number three is Katz’s Delicatessen with ~8500 reviews. Katz’s is a no-doubt a city institution that’s just one notch lower than the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in terms of NYC-recognizability. Located in the Lower East Side since 1888, the deli still serves huge portions of their famous pastrami and corned beef sandwiches .
In fourth place with just over 6000 reviews is Levain Bakery. The popular, always-seems-like-there’s-a-line neighborhood bakery opened in 1994 in the Upper West Side. Levain has great items but they’re most well-known for their large, delicious chocolate chip cookies that were both gooey and crispy. Their cookies were Instagrammable before Instagram was a thing.
Fifth place shouldn’t shock anyone. The only shock one should feel seeing Shake Shack at #5 is that they’re not much higher or have more than the relatively-low 5350 reviews they have as of this post. Maybe that’s because the famous Danny Meyer-backed burger joint now has more than 25 locations in New York City alone. If there wasn’t more than a handful in the city, we’d bet $20 (enough for a big meal at SS) that the In-and-Out of the East Coast would be much higher on this list.
The New York City Restaurants with Most Yelp Reviews (2018)
Here’s the rest of the most-reviewed restaurants and food places (like Eataly) in New York City with a minimum of 3000 Yelp reviews. Last Updated: 02/12/2018
|3||Katz's Deli||8474||4||Lower East Side||Manhattan|
|4||Levain Bakery||6052||4.5||Upper West Side||Manhattan|
|9||Totto Ramen||4653||4||Hell's Kitchen||Manhattan|
|12||Burger & Lobster||4066||4||Flatiron||Manhattan|
|13||Max Brenner||4011||3.5||Union Square||Manhattan|
|14||Clinton St. Baking Company||3942||4||Lower East Side||Manhattan|
|15||Momofuku Noodle Bar||3785||3.5||East Village||Manhattan|
|16||Artichoke Basile's Pizza||3545||4||East Village||Manhattan|
|17||Serendipity 3||3416||3||Upper East Side||Manhattan|
|19||Junior's Cheesecake||3269||4||Midtown West||Manhattan|
|21||Milk Bar East Village||3003||3.5||East Village||Manhattan|
Max Brenner — really? Not to be a food snob, but that’s lame. ! Did I miss some weird food trend or something because I’ve been to Max Brenner and it’s no Momofuku Noodle Bar.
We’re surprised to not see the Cronut-making Dominique Ansel Bakery or Jing Fong (the default dim sum restaurant for tourists) on the list as they seem to be popular with both locals and visitors. We’re also surprised not to see hip local favorites like Roberta’s Pizza, Cafe Mogador, Beauty & Essex, Veselka, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, The Meatball Shop, and Westville on the list.
Does Most-Reviewed Mean It’s the Best Restaurant?
This should go without mentioning, but the restaurant with the most reviews aren’t always synonymous with the “best restaurant” in any given city. There’s some overlap, but there’s a reason you don’t see the NYC big names like Gramercy Tavern and Daniel or foodie-centric places like Cosme and Wildair. In Eater’s list of 28 Essential NYC restaurants, only two from the list above (Katz’s and Peter Lugar) make the cut.
That’s because are so many factors to why a restaurant gets more Yelp reviews than others, and the quality of food, which is already subjective, is just one of those signals. Other considerations that impact the amount of reviews are whether the restaurant is on the tourist-path or not, the cost of the food, the age of the restaurant, how many customers walk through the doors on any given day, the demographic of the customers, whether they’re located in Manhattan or not, as well as the the willingness of the customers to use Yelp, Instagram, TripAdvisor, etc.
Just as there’s so many factors as to why a handful of restaurants gets so many Yelp reviews, Yelp should be just one of your factors when picking out a restaurant. The hated-by-chefs website shouldn’t be used for your entire decision-making when picking out a restaurant. It should be just one piece of the pie, so to speak.