California man compares price vs. taste of LA taco, Korean BBQ spots

Can't decide where to grab lunch or dinner?

A California man put together a handy-dandy chart that compares taco prices with the average ratings the said restaurant or truck got from their customers.

In the chart created by Rajesh Niti, a biomedical engineer who used to live in Los Angeles but moved to the Bay Area, the data shows popular taco spots being placed in four different categories: Cheaper than average and tasty, more expensive than average but tasty, cheaper than average but less tasty and more expensive than average but less tasty.

His analysis lists more than 280 taco spots in Los Angeles County.

On Wednesday, FOX 11 will have a crew visiting some of the sites included in Niti's chart to check out the best cheap eats Southern California has to offer. The taste test will air during the 5 p.m. newscast.

Prior to publishing the neat taco chart, Niti went viral for his work with all-you-can-eat and non-all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue spots in Los Angeles. Niti's work has also been featured in KIIS-FM's On Air With Ryan Seacrest.

How it started and how it works

So how does a biomedical engineer with SageMedic Corp. figure out a way to help Angelenos decide where to go for lunch or dinner? Niti explains he picked up analytics as a hobby because of his girlfriend Aditi, who is a data scientist.

"I started doing it for fun," Niti said.

He started off doing sports analytics and then during a trip to India, Niti wanted to find the best biryani in the area. After he started collecting data for restaurants like LA's Korean barbecue or taco spots and New York City's pizza places, his work started to make rounds on social media.

"I was like ‘OK, maybe I’m onto something,'" Niti racalled. "It's been pretty awesome to see how much people appreciate it."

Here's how the analysis works – Niti will collect data, or in this case reviews and ratings, from up to five different websites for each restaurant or truck. To go along with the customer reviews, he'll look up the prices from the restaurant's menus.

He said the toughest part was figuring out the price of the food spots.

"Some restaurants do not have their menu anywhere on the website. And I would have to use some obscure random scan of their menu," Niti said.

Even if he does get a hold of the menu, there's no guarantee the PDF or JPG files have the prices visibly listed.

"It'll be at like a really weird angle and after like really focus to see what the cost is," he said.

After he collects the numbers, he'll drag the data into a data visualization software called Tableau to get a scatterplot showing each restaurant and where they stand in terms of price and taste.

Looking up the data and organizing these numbers into a chart is a lot of work, but Niti said the feedback he gets from friends, family and fellow foodies on social media makes it rewarding. 

"I think the most rewarding part about this is just how excited people get," he said. "People love charts. I realize that charts are being used for every part of the industry. Just people enjoying it."

We asked Niti for his favorites, and he said he's a fan of La Barca near downtown Los Angeles. He said he hopes to try Villas Tacos next time he visits LA.

For more information on Niti's work on food analytics, you can click here or follow him on social media.