I like to read Todd Kliman the Washingtonian's food critic's weekly chat about places to eat in the DC area.
This week in answering a question about a local restaraunt Kliman said
"For years my wife and I have assigned "minute-marks" to restaurants as a way of rating them -- not stars.
"In my book, I would drive an hour-and-twenty minutes to dine at Komi. Nooshi, on the other hand, I would consider a 6-minute restaurant.
The Source: a 45-minute restaurant. Sonoma: a 15-minute restaurant.
2 Amys: a 40-minute restaurant. Dino: a 20-minute restaurant."
(link to chat)
I love this method. Economists favorite example is the free lunch. Whenever we eat out one place we give up eating at another place, so even if we get free sushi we give up eating Indian food.
Now if I set a minute rating on local restaraunts several things should be taken into account.
1. Obviosally how good is the restaraunt in terms of food quality and service. The highest drive time on Kliman's list is also a restaraunt he ranks in the Top 5 in his yearly dinning guide. I haven't been to Komi yet but I have been meaning to do it.
2. Second is price. There is an Indian restaraunt a 10 minute walk from where I live. But I always seem to spend 20% more than I think I should.
3. Other available restaraunts play a factor. When I lived in Grinnell, Iowa in undergrad the Indian restaraunts 1 hour away in Iowa City were rated 1 hour restaraunts. Indian restaraunts of the same quality as those in Iowa City would be much lower as now that I live with in 10 minute walk of at least 2 (Indian Thai, Vietenemess, Ethopian, Italian, Peruvian Chicken, Sushi)
4. There ability to not put cilantro in my take out order. This may not factor into your ratings but my wife really hates cilantro. So that Indian restaraunt within 10 minute walk of my house I never go to (well that and see #2). Instead I drive 15 minutes to another place, which is really good.
Final thought when recommending restaraunts I don't know if Silver Spring where I live and has a lot of good places to eat has any restaraunts I would say are 30 minutes or more places for people in the DC area.
I would like to give a thought that my favorite place in Silver Spring right now 8407
is getting close to a 30 minute place. So Bethesda and Rockville should try it, Arlington I'm not sure it is worthy of getting on the beltway.