Kittery’s Loco Coco’s Tacos to represent Maine in FiveThirtyEight’s national burrito bracket

Last week I wrote about statistician Nate Silver’s quest to find the best burrito in America and marveled that there was a Maine location included on the list. Silver’s strategy to build the 64 seeds in the bracket had been to start by weighting all 68,000 burrito-selling establishments in the country, then inviting in a group of chefs and food critics to vote in the establishments they thought were worthy in NCAA style. It was a mix of data and professional opinion.

So we set out to do they same by weighting all burrito places in Maine, then asking you all your thoughts. Here’s the list we came up with:

FiveThirtyEight Burrito Correspondent Anna Maria Barry-Jester revealed the pick in a piece published Friday detailing the Northeast contenders:

Loco Coco’s Tacos in Kittery, Maine, won my early support; it’s described on Yelp as a burrito destination in a town with a population of 9,000.

Loco Coco’s is indeed one of the best-rated and most-reviewed burrito-selling establishment in Maine, beating out El Rayo for the most reviews with 144 (among places that burritos are a primary draw). We know Silver’s algorithm took into account the number of reviews (probably much more heavily than we did).

And the reviews are generally great: Nine reviews use the phrase “best in New England.”

As for the one-stars, chef David Chang, owner of Momofuku, explains why Yelp often fails this way:

When a restaurant becomes popular enough, the reviews become way more negative. It could be that the food made the place popular, but then this is what is interesting about Yelp — the reviews will say, “This is the best burrito I’ve ever had!” It’s in Detroit, Michigan, and then it becomes world famous and people go out of their way to go to this burrito shop that was never supposed to be a tourist destination. Then all these people leave a little unhappy because it’s not the best burrito they ever had.