Garbo's Grill of Key West falls in national burrito contest but still ranks pretty high

June 18, 2014 

Customers line up at Garbo's Grill on Greene Street.

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM

Two days before the Miami Heat fell in the NBA Finals in spectacular fashion to the San Antonio Spurs, three games to one, Garbo's Grill in Key West was bounced from the Field of 64.

The burrito cart at 603 Greene St. in Key West had been in the running to be named the place that produces America's best burrito, as rated by Nate Silver's www.fivethirty-eight.com.

Friday, Garbo's Grill, owned by Eli and Kenna Pancamo, was bounced from the southeast bracket that included Mr. Taco Mexican Food in Miami Beach; Little Donkey in Homewood, Ala.; and Pedro and Vinny's in Arlington, Va.

Still, being among the nation's Top 64 burrito joints is not too shabby at all, considered more than 67,000 burrito places were in the running – and especially considering Garbo's operates out of what amounts to a trailer.

Silver is an editor of a stats blog for ESPN and a correspondent for ABC News, and a big fan of sabermetrics, a tool for measuring the value of baseball players.

In 2007, he began publishing analyses of the 2008 presidential election and created his website to expand the work. Unlike most commentators, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states in the election, missing only Indiana. He also correctly predicted the winners of all 35 Senate races that year.

In May, Silver decided his organization had to decide who makes America's best burrito, because no one had attempted to do so before.

Using Yelp.com diner-review data from 67,391 businesses that offer burritos, Silver's team narrowed its selection using a rating called Value Over Replacement Burrito, or the VORB.

"The formula I developed, VORB, is inspired by the baseball statistic VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player," Silver wrote. "Just as VORP measures both the quality of a baseball player's performance and how often he plays, VORB accounts for both the quality and the quantity of a restaurant's reviews."

Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Silver's chief burrito correspondent, sent Garbo's Grill packing Friday.

She gave Garbo's tortilla and fish each a score of 14, "other ingredients" a 16, presentation a 15 and "flavor profile" an 18 for a total of 77.

Little Donkey, the bracket winner, got 16s all around for a score of 80.

Mr. Taco got 12s for its tortilla, other ingredients and flavor profile, a 14 for presentation and a 10 for its al pastor for a score of 60.

Pedro and Vinny's got 13s for its steak and other ingredients, an eight for its tortilla, 12 for presentation and 14 for flavor profile, also good for a 60.

The burrito competition for those still standing continues.

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