10/12/07

Tecalitlan [#3] defeats Carnicerias Guanajuato [#14]

This feels kind of lame.

When I started the Burrito Bracket a couple of months ago, I declared the following about the judging criteria:

"[T]he scoring will be determined almost exclusively based on the taste and quality of the food; things like service, "atmosphere" and price will only be used as tiebreakers".

Since then, I've altered my focus a bit, writing extensively about the non-food portions of the burrito experience, and introducing the Burrito Breakdown, which attempts to put things into slightly more scientific context.

The bottom line is that the way I'm striving to evaluate this contest is something like this. A stranger walks up to me on the street. He tells me he wants a burrito. He tells me he's trying to decide between two places, and they're exactly the same distance away. He asks me for a recommendation.

If that stranger walked up to me today on the corner of Division and Wood, and told me that he was trying to decide between Tecalitlan [review] and Carnicerias Guanajuato [review], I'd hesitate for a bit, and tell him to go to Tecalitlan.

Now suppose I knew this person a little better. Suppose this person was a friend of my mom's, who hadn't eaten at a Mexican restaurant apart from Chi-Chi's in the past five years. I'd tell her to go to Tecalitlan without hesitation. Suppose instead that it was my burritophile friend who didn't give a shit about service. I'd tell him to go to Guanajuato. But by the "passerby test"? The reasonable man test? It would be Tecalitlan by a nose. The food might be a little better at Guanajuato, but just not quite enough to outweigh Tecalitlan's other advantages.

I do think, however, that the Burrito Breakdown needs to be brought slightly more into proportion with this subjective sort of judgment. Therefore, I am introducing a new category which slants things slightly more toward the food side. This category is called "Construction/Balance", and it deals with how well the burrito is put together. Maybe all the ingredients themselves are pretty good, but they're not put together in the right proportion? Maybe the way that the burrito is structured, it's inherently going to be pretty messy? Maybe one burrito is more than the sum of its parts and another one is less so? That sort of thing goes into Construction/Balance. And it's sort of an important category here, in that it was something of a problem at Tecalitlan; their burrito was overstuffed with meat, and harder to consume as a result.

Add all that together, and Guanajato gains some ground, but it still loses to Tecalitlan by half a chili pepper, confirming my intuition from the passerby test:


You'll see, by the way, that I've introduced half-chili scores to provide for a bit more discretion in my rating formula. I've also assigned letter grades -- if you're really curious about how these are derived, please see the comments section.

Anyway, Tecalitlan stays alive -- by the thinnest of margins. It's going to have it's work cut out for it if it wants to beat Irazu/Lobos in Round 2.

3 comments:

Nate said...

How we get the letter grades:

1. Take the score and turn it into a percentage. For example, 35/50 is 70%.

2. Average this percentage with 100%. For example, the average of 70% and 100% is 85%.

3. Take the result #2 and assign it to a standard American grading scale. 85% on a standard US grading scale is a grade of a straight-B.

That's it.

Quality said...

Nate, as long as the burrito breakdown continues to be a work in progress, I suggest you consider making "price/value" into at least a five-chili criterion.

Compare price/value to efficiency, hospitality and decor. For example: Two taquerias have equally delicious food. The first features fast service by nice employees in a pretty dining room and charges $10 for your order. The other one is slower, less friendly and more Spartan, though they charge only $5 for the same plate.

My guess is that your readers would overwhelmingly choose the second taqueria for any meal short of a first date.

Hence, "price/value" should be count for more than a third of the combined significance of efficiency, hospitality and decor. Keep up the good work.

Nate said...

Q,

I can see that viewpoint, but I've also had some friends argue that I should include price in the judging criteria at all, so I'm trying to strike a balance.

Besides, I'd say that if a place deeply offended me to the point where I was going to give it a zero rating in the value category, it would probably have pissed me off for a lot of other reasons too. Sometimes there are weird exceptions, like this Vienna beef joint I used to live near that was fine except that all the prices were set 40% too high, but usually I'd guess there's a high correlation between price/value and the other service categories.