Probably many readers are familiar with the Zomato web site, but I would like to write a few comments about this and other food related web sites. In 2015 Zomato bought Urbanspoon and included the former Urbanspoon restaurant reviews into its own web site. At the time I had come to rely on Urbanspoon as a source of information for restaurants more than any other site, and I have continued to use Zomato since then. Both of these sites have had pretty spot on reviews of restaurants with which I am familiar, and I think this is a good way to judge the validity of the other reviews on the site.
I do not see that the basic reliability and honesty of the reviews have changed since Zomato took over Urbanspoon. I think Zomato has made an honest effort to publish fair reviews (all the reviews are written by diners, but Zomato has ways of screening them so that the objectivity of the opinions expressed remains fairly high).
The main problem I have had with Zomato has been with the functionality of the site. Urbanspoon used to have ways of looking up restaurants in a city by cuisine or other factors that helped me find specific ethnic cuisines or other specialized restaurants. Also their method of listing the “most popular” restaurants out of hundreds in the city was usually pretty useful, although not always the way I think it should have been done (for instance, there was never more than one or two Mexican restaurants listed among the most popular places in El Paso).
This is relevant to me because I started developing lists of places to try around the country, not because I thought I could eat at many of them but because I knew that at times this list would be a good resource for me, and because friends visiting other cities also wanted to have a similar list. I was shooting for having eight to ten good choices in moderately sized cities, more in larger cities, and a few especially good restaurants in smaller areas. I thought this would be a good resource to provide for readers in addition to the restaurant reviews which make up the the bulk of this site.
What developed from this list is what I am presenting on this blog as the “Restaurant Guide.” These are listed for a number of states in the Southwest and West, and of course I am relying on the information I get from other sources for most of the restaurants listed.
I was working my way eastward across the country in doing the preliminary research when Urbanspoon suddenly was no more, and became Zomato. The new web site still had the same reviews, but I could not find a way to query their large database to find the restaurants I wanted. This can lead to much more detailed discussions about other web sites that do provide some limited information about certain cities, and I do try to use these. But what is now missing, as far as I can tell, is a standardized way to find restaurants all around the country using what I consider to be a reliable methodology. The problem is that several web sites can provide good reviews of restaurants if you type their name into the index, but Urbanspoon was the best way to find the best restaurants out of a large list. Zomato has just been more difficult to work with than Urbanspoon used to be.
This means that it will be quite difficult to expand the Restaurant Guide from the areas that are already covered. I did get some information from Urbanspoon for the Midwestern states from Kansas to Indiana, and I will try to add these when I get time. At this time, though, I do not have a good methodology for adding more states that would not be horrendously time consuming.
I do want to remind readers that if you find this type of list useful, please add your own suggestions to any of these lists. I do not want these lists to become much longer, but I want them to become better (if you think there are better suggestions than the ones listed).
The Restaurant Guides have a list of sources at the bottom, and nearly all include Zomato. I do want to explain, though, that in most cases Urbanspoon was the actual source of information.
Of course in some cases Zomato is still a good source to get updates, verify information about restaurants and whether they are still open, and find out if the reviews are still positive. Mostly, though, I have moved to Yelp for this.