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This Engineer Aggregated Every Important Restaurant List in Portland

Here’s what happens when a software engineer gets into restaurant data

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Nicolas Woo
Michael Nowakowski/Facebook
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Laika software engineer and food blogger Nick Woo has created a new kind of Portland restaurant list that’s solely based on metadata. Woo used his mathematical background to pool data from what he deems to be the 11 most important top restaurant lists in the media, including the Eater 38, to create a ranked, aggregate list — think of it like a renegade, one-man-show Rotten Tomatoes, but for Portland restaurants.

Here’s how it works: Different publications and websites have different weight based on style of list and potential biases, and certain restaurants can get “prestige points” for industry awards. The finished product is a list of ten spots, with Le Pigeon in first place and Ataula in tenth.

Eater Portland interviewed Woo to find out why he nerded out on restaurant rankings, which restaurants he wants to see rank higher, and what he’s planning for his next project.

So what made you want to start food blogging as a side-hustle, and what made you decide to create this list?

I’m fascinated by doing research for trips, and people always ask me for recommendations. I wanted to try to figure out if there was a way to quantify (restaurant rankings), using the kind of research I do before I go somewhere. I thought, “Why don’t I start with the place I live?” I thought I’d test the method out to see if it works.

And do you think it works?

I mean, the list is good. You miss things. If someone goes on Yelp, they’ll never leave the West side, which is a colossal mistake. Each list has [its own] rules, plus the Eater 38 is a flat list, meaning it’s unranked. I had to weigh it differently. Every restaurant from the 38th one to the first one that you picked [has the same score]. Han Oak has the same rank as Hat Yai. But [Oregonian food critic] Michael Russell’s is ranked, so it’s pretty clear that Coquine is his favorite.

What about amateur-based, non-critic sites, like Yelp or Trip Advisor?

They have a much smaller weight. The people that are actual critics have eaten at almost every restaurant. To me, their opinion is worth a little bit more. Especially with local newspapers, they’re going to know their town. While on Yelp, the highest rated restaurant in town is Screen Door. The minute you look through [Screen Door’s reviews], you realize the majority of people writing are tourists.

What surprised you about the current list? Anything you expected to see higher, or on this list at all?

I mean, the top [of my list] is pretty solid, although Han Oak isn’t on the Portland Monthly [list], which is kind of crazy. [Editor’s note: Han Oak was Portland Monthly’s Restaurant of the Year in 2017.] Maybe next year. That’d be my guess, because Karen Brooks likes it (laughs). The other night [I ran into her at Canard and] she was talking about how much she likes [Han Oak’s] wings.

In terms of your personal preference, what’s missing from this list?

Oh, I mean, Rose VL would be much higher. (It’s 17th.) A lot of these lists tend to skew [toward] fine [dining].

You mentioned doing something chef-based next?

The project I’m working on right now is [analyzing] the relationships between restaurants and chefs in town. For example, tons of chefs have come out of Paley’s Place, like Gabriel Rucker and a bunch of others, and he’s opened Le Pigeon, but he also worked at Gotham Tavern, which had Naomi [Pomeroy] — They’re all pretty much connected. So I’m working on a way to visualize that, so you can click on a chef and (see) all the restaurants in town they’re associated with. And vice versa — You could click on a restaurant and see the chefs that came out of it. There’s a lot of them that are pretty big: Nostrana, Genoa, stuff like that. The classic ones are really influential.

Which restaurant deserves more attention, do you think?

One of the things that really surprises me is that Broder is 46th, which is one of those places I think people should go. And Country Cat is 52nd! Portland is such a brunch place; how are those so low? Actually, if I had to pick one that should be higher, it’s Lovely’s 50/50. That’s my favorite pizza place. It might not be everyone’s, but it’s definitely the most Portland pizza.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
Disclosure: Nick Woo has contributed to Eater Portland.

Aggregating the Top-Rated Restaurants in the City of Roses [Feast Meats West]

Le Pigeon

738 East Burnside Street, , OR 97214 (503) 546-8796 Visit Website