Which San Francisco neighborhood has the best-rated food scene?

  1. Which San Francisco neighborhood has the best-rated food scene?
  2. Foodie heatmap: Seattle
  3. Foodie heatmap: Philly

By: Patrick W. Zimmerman

Header image credit: T. Tseng

Yelp is a great tool for evaluating individual restaurants, or looking for particular cuisines.  Best cheeseteak in Philly? Best crabcakes in Baltimore, best burritos in San Francisco, fish tacos in San Diego. It doesn’t get to obsessive Chowhound-level foodie minutiae (usually), but you can usually expect the wisdom of the crowds to at least steer you to a decent result.

What it’s not good at, however, is pulling back and looking at an area holistically.  Yelp (for reasons only they and their advertisers know) will show you 10, and only 10, results at a time in any search, meaning that it is really hard to visualize food scenes. Where do restaurants that get good reviews cluster?  In what neighborhoods is it impossible to go 2 blocks without tasting something noteworthy, and which ballyhooed areas are simply mediocre (even if they don’t charge like it)?

First up, San Francisco. Land of fog, dungeness crab, and burritos the size of your head.

The question

What neighborhoods in San Francisco have the highest average restaurant rating?

The map

We collected the 1000 recommended Yelp pages (the results of filtering for restaurants in any given Yelp city page), and decided to make a zip-code based heatmap. The average ratings were averages calculated from the detailed ratings left for each of the restaurants in the list (rather than Yelp’s star number, rounded to the nearest 0.5), and then averaged for each zip code. To eliminate small sample sizes, we did not include any restaurant with fewer than 50 reviews.

The quick takeaways

1 – Huh, the southern part of the city gets some real love.  Although the sample sizes are much smaller, Glen Park, the Outer Mission, Visitación Valley, and the Bayshore get much higher average ratings that we would’ve guessed, given that they’re some of the SF neighborhoods that have been less subjected to gentrification (compared to, say, the Castro or the Mission.  Not compared to the rest of the non-SF universe).

2 – The best of the restaurant corridors: Polk Gulch.  With 75 restaurants in the recommended sample and an average rating of 4.08 (n=67,498), it beats out the Mission, North Beach, and South Beach / Potrero Hill for the top zip code in the city.

3 – Mediocre: The Outer Richmond, The Embarcardero, and SOMA (Rincon Hill).  While an average rating of 3.87 doesn’t sound that bad, remember, grade inflation is a thing.  While at least in the Richmond, you probably won’t be paying as much, if you find yourself in the Embacadero looking for food, probably best to not waste your money and sidle on over to another part of the city.

The caveat

Yelp limits these samples to restaurants, which is a little under 1/8 of the total rated restaurants in San Francisco.  If there is an uneven geographic distribution of Yelp’s sample, that would affect the map significantly. 

What’s next?

Maps are fun.  We should do more of them. We might have a bit of a problem there.

Coming up: Seattle, Philly, Chicago, LA, & New York

About The Author

Architeuthis Rex, a man of (little) wealth and (questionable) taste. Historian and anthropologist interested in identity, regionalism / nationalism, mass culture, and the social and political contexts in which they exist. Earned Ph.D. in social and cultural History with a concentration in anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University and then (mostly) fled academia to write things that more than 10 other people will actually read. Driven to pursue a doctorate to try and answer the question, "Why do they all hate each other?" — still working on it. Plays beer-league hockey, softball, and soccer. Professional toddler wrangler. Likes dogs, good booze, food, and horribly awesome kung-fu movies.

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