It may only be April, but Yelp already knows where America likes to eat in 2018. The restaurant and services rating app tracked down the best restaurants of the year in the United States, and the results may surprise you.
Yelp employs internal researchers who are always working to develop new ways to make their treasure trove of reviews useful to diners. That’s why The Daily Meal was elated to get an exclusive look at a list of the most popular restaurants in America for the year to date, based on an algorithm that interprets a restaurant’s star rating and the volume of reviews devoted to it.
These are the restaurants that have been pleasing everyone over the past few months. Not many of them are fancy or complicated; most of them serve up classic American comforts, while some serve Thai and Pakistani flavors. You won’t find a Michelin star in most of these kitchens, but you will find lines out the door and happy customers who leave lengthy, glowing reviews on their Yelp pages. Don’t be surprised to spot a few chains on this list, either — 2018 could be the year fast-causal restaurants completely take over.
We pulled some of the most telling reviews — leaving in place the Yelpers’ sometimes-dodgy grammar and capitalization—and included them below, because the customer is always right. Find out which chains and standalones made the cut with the best restaurants of 2018, according to Yelp.
If you’re looking for brief escape from Vegas Strip prices and some pretty great Thai food, Satay Thai Bistro & Bar is your place. The attentive service, extensive drink menu, and quality of the food is what brings Yelpers back to this Thai spot time and time again. “Every single thing I have ever ordered here has been delicious,” divulged a Yelper. “I am trying to eat my way through the menu, but keep going back to my favorites; Pad Kee Mao, Pad See Ewe, Roti Canai, Beef Rendang, Yellow Curry....delicio-aweomse[sic]"
This Colorado gastropub gets high marks from Yelpers for its bottomless mimosas, chicken and waffles, and bison-based dishes. The great service was also one of the most frequently commented on things in the reviews! One Yelper described Odyssey Gastropub as a “Great place all around! The drinks are amazing and a bacon sampler plate just makes it all the better! The meal was well worth the money, and the friendly service makes the experience a great time.”
This beyond-fabulous review tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Texas’ Shoal Creek Tavern. “We started with the namesake bread which set the bar pretty high. Our family party of 4 loved each of their entrees (lollipop lamb chops, fish and chips, ranch chicken, and relleno). Everyone was telling each other to ‘try this, try this’! It's pretty common to get the main entree right, but the surprise was how good the sides were. The chunky lobster Mac n Cheese was one of the best I have ever had.”
This Tacoma food court station is a fish and chips mecca. People have driven in from Portland (like this Yelper) just to order Paya Thai Fish & Chips’ perfectly flaky and fresh fried fish dish. “Now, you have to understand that we are a bit of connoisseurs of fish and chips,” said a reviewer. “We order them pretty much everywhere we go, and living in the beautiful Pacific NW the fish and chips are pretty good. But, hands down, this place is off the hook good. I've NEVER had fish so tender and juicy and flaky.
This restaurant is probably not called 786 Degrees because it’s located in the LA suburb of Sun Valley where the weather is notoriously scorching, but rather for the temperature of their pizza oven. Yelpers go nuts for 786’s light and fluffy pizza crust and their fusion pizzas topped with Indian, Mexican, and Turkish flavors.
Some of the best Vietnamese food in North Carolina can be found at Mekong, a tucked-away restaurant that locals love. Mekong’s phởs, vermicelli bowls, and bánh mì offerings seem to be the major favorites at this spot. “Consistent in quality and authentic enough that you can't believe you found this place in a North Carolina suburb,” wrote a reviewer.
San Diego has some of the best Italian restaurants in California, and Salvatore’s Cucina Italiana just so happens to be one of them. Since 1987, Salvatore’s has been owned and operated by a Rome native who makes sure the restaurant dishes out authentic and delicious Italian favorites such as cannelloni con vitello e carciofi (veal and artichokes), ravioli al burro e salvia (butter and sage), and scaloppine alla marsala.
Corner Scone Bakery has been described as “quaint,” “delightful,” and “welcoming.” Beyond scones, the bakery also offers brownies, cookies, pastries, cupcakes, sandwiches, and coffees. Plus it’s family owned!
Rancho Cucamonga is famous in California for its car dealership commercials and famous everywhere else for being the location where the popular TV show Workaholics was filmed. But now, there’s another reason to remember Rancho Cucamonga: the sushi. Sushi Martini has an extensive à la carte menu as well as an all-you-can-eat menu with rolls called things like “The Shooting Star” and “Funky Monkey.” As one reviewer so eloquently said, “Best place ever if you're hungry for some sushi. Dooo iiiittt.”
MOD is a chain, with locations all over the U.S.; however, this Los Angeles spot is the one Yelpers love best. It’s the Chipotle of pizza shops. Guests can choose the thickness of their crust, and top it with whatever sauce, cheese, meat, and veggies they want before it goes in the pizza oven. What seems to set this LA location apart is the super-friendly and attentive staff. One Yelper wrote, “All the staff here is amazing and awesome. Very friendly and outgoing. They make the food really fast and it's a decent price. Thank you guys for being awesome you all deserve a raise.”
If you’re looking for great dim sum in LA but can’t make it all the way to Monterey Park or Chinatown, Tasty Noodle House on Third and Fairfax is a fantastic option. Although they’re pretty new, they seem to have cornered the market on Shanghai-style dim sum and noodle dishes just moments from The Grove and LA’s trendy Melrose Avenue. Locals say the pan-fried buns are a must-order.
“Located near Southcenter Mall, Arashi Ramen is a small spot in an underwhelming strip mall that serves up really, really delicious ramen. “The restaurant opens at 11:30, and make sure to show up right on time because within 10 minutes of sitting down, there were already people lining up and putting their names down,” advises one Yelper. This Washington ramen spot appears to have a hardcore following of fans who enjoy their straight-up delicious ramen.
Taste Cuba without ever leaving Miami at Havana 1957. The fun and festive atmosphere and traditional Cuban dishes like croquetas, pescado a la plancha, and ropa viega, cultivate a pleasurable dining experience. As one Yelper said, “Very Cuban, Cuban food with drinks worth the price.”
This Florida lunch spot is always packed, and for good reason. For $8 to $11 you can order a bowl, noodles, or a bento box filled with a ton of great-tasting food. They also serve boba drinks! “The food is great and pretty quick,” one reviewer said of Bento Café. “The long lines tell you how good it is. Love that I can get a poke bowl quickly. They have tons of other Asian food options like miso soups, sushi, poke bowls, Asian teas and sodas, etc. Would definitely recommend.”
Bibibop has tons of locations across the U.S., but its Chicago Loop location is the favorite for 2018 so far. While most restaurants and cafes in the Loop close at 7 p.m., Bibibop stays open until 9. Guests love the build-your-own bibimbop bowls and the free miso soup stand near the soda fountain.
Americans really love Thai food, and in the ATL, the go-to spot is Bangkok Station. “I have been to many Thai restaurants in different cities such as NYC, DC, Tampa, Miami and San Francisco, and Bangkok Station really impressed me,” commented a reviewer. Diners go crazy for their noodle dishes, curries, and spring rolls.
Called “The Crack Shack” for its chicken and egg fare, this California eatery promises that “we are not your average restaurant — and this is not your average chicken.” Yelpers totally agree: “The Crack Shack has EXCELLENT service, BIG portions, BIG flavors, BIG price. Small parking lot. I foresee lots of chicken sandwiches in my future.”
Everyone’s favorite thing about Lazy Dog is that their patio is totally dog-friendly. The second thing is their delicious food. Guests can enjoy menu items like burgers, sandwiches, hummus, fish tacos, calamari, and lentil soup, while your pooch can enjoy a dog-friendly menu of hamburger or chicken. According to one Yelper, it’s also an awesome place to meet singles. “Guys, you no longer have to waste your time on dating apps. If you want to meet a girl, bring a puppy to the outdoor patio and wait no more than a minute or two before you meet 10 new people."
Luxurious meals abound at New York’s Amélie. You can order a dozen oysters, charcuterie with smoked duck breast, sopressatta, great cheeses (Camembert, Tête de Moine, Savarin, goat cheese balls), charred Spanish octopus in a ratatouille, steamed mussels, and even a warm apple tart or banana crème brûlée. Feeling like a fancy cocktail or glass of wine? Amélie’s happy hour lasts until 7 p.m. every day.
Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen has location in Illinois and Texas, but its spot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the 2018 favorite. Yelpers love their outdoor patio and terrace area as well as their plethora of vegan offerings. “Doc B's never lets me down!” exclaimed one reviewer. “At the point of entering there's always a welcoming essence. They have a beautiful bar and the lighting sets the perfect ambiance.”
Located inside of the brand-new Restoration Hardware in the Gold Coast, 3 Arts Club Café will take your breath away. The tables are situated under a stunning chandelier that makes the perfect backdrop to any brunch Instagrams. Plus the food is really, really good. Their RH Burger is actually made with burgers from Chicago’s superstar burger restaurant, Au Cheval.
Located on a quiet block in the Meatpacking District, The Wild Son is a cozy brunch spot that caters to New York-types. Not the glitzy Fifth Avenue or Murray Hill wannabes, but real New Yorkers, like this one Yelper: “I enjoyed the talented eats offered during brunch/lunch time. It is refreshing to find a place in the MPD area of NYC that doesn't make you ‘over-wait’ like the rest of the hood and overcharge you. It wasn't filled with the usual snobs or bottomless brunch/Kardashian wanna be look a-likes or any of the peeps from across the river looking to have a party instead of breakfast types of places around the neighborhood.”
“Guddu is goodness Don't expect a fancy upscale experience, go for the food and genuine, passionate owner,” writes one Yelper of Kabab Hut. This Rocklin eatery (formerly located in San Francisco) is a Pakistani restaurant with an established following. Kabab Hut is hyped on Yelp due to its amazing owner, Guddu, and its delicious menu featuring chicken korma, lamb saag, and various types of naan.
As the name implies, this is not your run-of-the-mill diner. According to its Yelp reviews, Unconventional Diner has hip décor, a young and friendly staff, and super great diner food. “The food is scrumptious!! I've been here several times now - dinner and brunch. Everything on their menu is delicious!!” raved one Yelper. Standouts seem to be the cornbread muffins, fried chicken, and eggs Benedict over biscuits!
Little Sicily is lovingly referred to as a “hole in the wall” by its Yelp reviewers, who adore its pasta and cannolis. It’s also been called “charming” and “a little gem” in between gracious exclamations over its handmade pasta and pizzas. “Excellent food, absolutely homemade, we are fortunate to have a restaurant of this caliber in town. The lasagna, amazing, the spaghetti and meatballs are very tasty, calamari fried just right, I don't have one negative comment to make here. Oh and the cannoli. Order the cannoli,” advises one reviewer.
“I find Dave's Hot Chicken so off-the-charts awesome it's like it came into existence especially for me. I like to think that's why they call it Dave's Hot Chicken. Because it's mine. All mine,” commented a Yelper named Dave. Apparently Dave’s Hot Chicken does Tennessee hot chicken right. Reviewers love their seasonings, sliders, chicken tenders, and pickles. “Biggest issue is that I have to plan the rest of my night around eating here, due to the hefty onset of the food coma. Welp, it's worth it,” conceded another reviewer.
Like many great little places, Juan’s Flaming Fajitas & Cantina is located in a strip mall. Dozens of Yelpers have claimed that it is the best Mexican food they have ever had, the best margaritas, and the best service. A hot tip from one Yelper divulges, “Something unique to this restaurant was the option to get healthy options. Fajitas can be ordered with romaine lettuce instead of tortillas and rice and beans can be substituted for steamed vegetables. I love when restaurants offer healthy alternatives.” Looking for other ways to make your meals a little more plant-based? Check out these vegan alternatives so good you won’t miss meat or dairy.