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Checking in with Tripadvisor about Houston dining

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A couple of years or so ago, the proprietor of one of the best restaurants in Houston told me that, though online reviews from Yelp and similar sources could be safely ignored because their contributors were not the savvy or well-heeled customers he was chasing, reviews from Tripadvisor were very important, as the site attracted a different type of reviewer. I have similarly long ignored Yelp and Urbanspoon, etc., but Tripadvisor has proven very helpful in planning my most recent trips overseas, so I certainly share a belief in the site’s utility.

I thought I would check Tripadvisor for what it currently reports about Houston dining. What make this interesting for me, is that what Tripadvisor shows, generally, is where visitors are dining and which restaurants they enjoy the most. Scanning well over 200 reviews for about ten different restaurants – not exactly a scientific sample, but certainly somewhat representative – I found that about 45% of the Houston restaurant reviews are from out-of-towners. Compared the percentage of meals actually consumed at Houston restaurants by visitors, this is an extremely high number. The input of these travelers, likely largely those traveling for business, heavily influence Tripadvisor’s rankings for the city.

The top twenty restaurants in Houston according to Tripadvisor from among over 7,200 that it lists are (with numbers current as of this morning) are:

1. Uchi – Japanese – Montrose – 274 reviews
2. Chama Gaucha – Churrascaria – Galleria – 137 reviews
3. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse – Steakhouse – Galleria – 452 reviews
5. Taste of Texas – Steakhouse – CityCentre – 692 reviews
6. Americas – Pan-Latin – River Oaks – 74 reviews
7. Brennan’s – Creole – Midtown – 371 reviews
8. Masraff’s – New American – Galleria – 162 reviews
9. Vic & Anthony’s – Steakhouse – Downtown – 294 reviews
10. Saldivia’s – Steakhouse – Westchase – 65 reviews
11. El Tiempo – Tex-Mex – Montrose, etc. – 120 reviews
12. Fogo de Chao – Churrascaria – Briar Forest – 422 reviews
13. Eddie V’s – Steakhouse – Upper Kirby District, CityCentre – 126 reviews
14. Capital Grille – Steakhouse – Galleria – 137 reviews
15. Phoenicia Deli – Lebanese – Downtown, West Houston – 74 reviews
16. Breakfast Klub – American Breakfast – Midtown – 289 reviews
17. Pho Saigon – Vietnamese – Midtown, etc. – 28 reviews
18. Bombay Pizza Co. – Pizza – Downtown – 71 reviews
19. Kenny & Ziggy’s – Jewish-American – Galleria – 333 reviews
20. Baby Barnaby’s – American Breakfast – Montrose – 50 reviews

You will notice that half of their top restaurants are steakhouses or restaurants where steaks make up a substantial portion of their orders. These are also restaurants typically close to the hotels in the Galleria area or downtown. The list above is quite a bit different than what you will find on top local critics’ best-of lists or what most frequent-dining Houstonians believe. Here are some of the most critically acclaimed restaurants and their Tripadvisor ranking:

#31 – Mockingbird – New American – River Oaks – 116 reviews
#32 – Reef – Seafood – Midtown – 207 reviews
#39 – Hugo’s – Mexican – Montrose – 316 reviews
#45 – Mark’s – New American – Montrose – 281 reviews
#173 – Indika – Modern Indian – Montrose – 83 reviews
#209 – Da Marco – Italian – Montrose – 209 reviews
#224 – Underbelly – New American – Montrose – 187 reviews
#255 – Kiran’s – Indian – Galleria – 255 reviews
#266 – Tony’s – Italian / New American – Greenway Plaza – 87 reviews
#288 – Latin Bites – Contemporary South American – Galleria – 26 reviews
#328 – Caracol – Mexican Seafood – Galleria – 41 reviews
#422 – RDG + Bar Annie – New American – Galleria – 82 reviews
#466 – The Pass & Provisions – New American – Montrose – 61 reviews
#485 – Oxheart – New American – Downtown – 45 reviews

The restaurants that garnered the most reviews provide another interesting set of data. These are:

1. Taste of Texas – Steakhouse – CityCentre – 692 reviews
2. Pappadeaux – Seafood – Briar Forest, etc. – 496 reviews
3. Cheesecake Factory – American – Galleria, etc. – 457 reviews
4. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse – Steakhouse – Galleria – 452 reviews
5. Goode Co. Barbecue – Barbecue – Upper Kirby – 445 reviews
6. Fogo de Chao – Churrascaria – Briar Forest – 422 reviews
7. Niko Niko’s – Greek – Montrose – 375 reviews
8. Brennan’s – Creole – Midtown – 371 reviews
9. Kenny & Ziggy’s – Jewish-American – Galleria – 333 reviews
10. Hugo’s – Mexican – Montrose – 316 reviews

Having some tenure is a key to getting a number of reviews, and seemingly a top ranking. Convenience in travel from the Galleria, downtown or from Energy Corridor offices is another factor. Having gained some national attention is helpful, as in the case with Niko Niko’s, Hugo’s, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, and Kenny & ZIggy’s. (Deserved, too, I believe.)

And, then, Taste of Texas, Pappadeaux and the Cheesecake Factory certainly have their fans.

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