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Nate Silver Resurrects Burrito Bracket, Takes It National

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 5, 2014 8:30PM

The Motherclucker at Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill. (Photo credit: Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo)

Remember before Nate Silver became a national sensation using statistical analysis to predict the outcome of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections (and running a 50-state sweep in his predictions two years ago, mind you) when he used his knack for numbers in an attempt to find the best burrito in Chicago?

Statistician that he is, Silver never forgot and now he's resurrecting the Burrito Bracket with a loftier goal than simply finding Chicago's best burrito. Over at Five Thirty-Eight, Silver writes he's looking for the best burrito in America.

We’re launching a national, 64-restaurant Burrito Bracket. We’ve convened a Burrito Selection Committee. We’ve hired an award-winning journalist, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, to be our burrito correspondent. She’s already out traveling the country and sampling burritos from every establishment that made the bracket.

It’s a little crazy, but we think it needs to be done. And we think we’re the right people to do it. One reason is that narrowing the field to 64 contenders is a massive problem of time and scale.

Because there are over 67,000 restaurants in America that serve a burrito, Silver and his team at Five Thirty-Eight will use data mining and his Burrito Selection Committee to select a list of 64 based on Value Over Replacement Burrito (VORB) and select 16 contenders in brackets divided into the northeast, western and southern regions of the country, while California gets its own bracket. Barry-Jester, a former ABC News and Univision correspondent, will then taste burritos from all the contenders and file reports.

"This project involves a mix of seriousness and whimsy," Silver writes. "Anna and I both have a lifelong obsession with Mexican-American food. We also know that burritos are not a matter of great national importance."

Except when it is to someone else.

As for the aborted attempt at the Chicago Burrito Bracket, Silver finally divulged the one he felt would win.

"I think of La Pasadita, the No. 1 seed, as the unofficial champion," he writes.