Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Best Eatery in the Country (According to Yelp)

Last year, Yelp released a list of the Top 100 Eateries in the Country based on "data". The eatery that holds the top spot and distinction of "Best in the Country" is a little place called Copper Top BBQ located in a tiny town called Big Pine, California. Big Pine, situated in Inyo County (say that out loud) with a population under 2000, rests along U.S. Highway 395 en route to the Sierras. I haven't done the research, but a fun fact is that it may be the only place on the list of 100 that's not a city, but rather a "census-designated place." Another fun fact is that although many entries on this list are in California, Copper Top is the only one I've been to. I haven't visited the others because I suck.

Getting to Copper Top BBQ

So the Sierras are a somewhat regular vacation spot for my uncle and I and the 395 is the artery we take to get there. It's a beautiful scenic drive and, at times, it feels like going back in time. This past October we made a visit to the now famous Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, but we stopped at Copper Top along the way based on this distinction. How often do you get to eat at the best restaurant in the country? In ANY country?

Typical scenery along U.S. 395

What Constitutes Number One?

On the surface, Yelp seems like a very black and white website; companies with 1 star ratings suck and those with 5 are awesome. But it's a lot more complex than that, and the fact that Yelp's explanation of these ratings is simply "from lengthy reviews to photos and searches, there’s a lot that our data can tell us about small businesses and consumer preferences" is proof.

The truth is, NO ONE understands Yelp's system of doing anything. I tried to understand once upon a time but then made a butthole of myself so that was that. Try figure out Yelp's filtering system; you may learn a few interesting things about how the website works.

My guess is that this list puts more weight onto people with an exuberant amount of total Yelp reviews and those who are Elite status. I applied for Elite status twice in the past and Yelp denied me twice because they suck. In fact, I think that alone is grounds for giving them a 1 star rating on their own website. Seriously, you can actually write a review for Yelp ON Yelp.

The Actual Experience

I gotta say: this really was an experience. We were already on a road trip and this was one of our first destinations and we were truly excited to try the BEST eatery in the country. The actual eatery (notice I'm labeling it an eatery, as it's not really a restaurant, per se) is kinda small but they cook everything outside on their grill or whatever the hell it is so you can see everything as it's being prepared. Big bonus points considering you can actually watch how they do it.

Because we were stupid and didn't bring a cooler, I wasn't able to order what I REALLY wanted, which was the sampler plate that consists of tri-tip, pork ribs, and a quarter chicken. Believe it or not, I just didn't have the stomach for something that big. Look, guys, even Michael Jordan had off games. We went simple and ordered tri-tip sandwiches. While the picture is kind of anti-climactic, it was really very tasty:

You're not gonna find this kind of craftsmanship at a chain, that's for sure. The way they run things here really does make it an experience more than anything else. 

Send in the clowns

Worthy of Number One

The reality is you have to ask what, exactly, are the qualifications of a number one eatery. Everyone may have a skewed opinion of this, but here you have a nice little location that's well maintained, the food is fresh and delicious, and the staff is very nice. The owners here take a lot of pride in what they do so that, I think, makes it worthy of the distinction of number one. I just hope next year we bring a cooler so we don't have to hesitate about making a large order.

Conserving resources is what successful businesses do

And just for fun, here's our vlog from the trip which features Copper Top:

Copper Top BBQ: Greg's Gourmet Approved!