New website spotlights local eateries in ‘best small town’ for food 

The city of San Mateo has rolled out its own food website to showcase local eateries and capitalize on being declared "best small town" in the U.S. for food by Rand McNally's 2013 Best of the Road competition.

The new site -- sanmateobestfood.com -- features a map interface with clickable icons identifying food and drink hot spots and allowing users to zoom in and see all the dining options in any given neighborhood. The map tool can also be used to locate the various free and paid parking lots and garages in the city's downtown area, and the website also features a food blog and user-generated restaurant reviews.

San Mateo economic development specialist Rebecca Zito said the site's primary purpose is to attract foodies from around the Bay Area, especially those who might not be familiar with San Mateo and its offerings. She noted that out of all Bay Area cities, San Mateo boasts the third-highest number of restaurants that have earned Michelin stars from the reputable Michelin Guide.

While the new San Mateo website caters mostly to destination diners from the Bay Area, Rand McNally's Best of the Road competition spotlight could raise San Mateo's visibility among tourists from the U.S. and abroad. Zito called it a huge achievement to win the award, and the city features prominently on Rand McNally's home page.

A few user reviews of restaurants have already appeared San Mateo's site, but Zito said the city isn't trying to compete with the ubiquitous review site Yelp. She added that because the sites fill different niches, a direct comparison to Yelp wouldn't make sense.

One important difference between the restaurant sources is in how user reviews are handled. While Yelp has received some criticism for using a secret algorithm to filter user reviews, all reviews appearing on the San Mateo site are curated by actual people. Zito said city staffers receive alerts when reviews are submitted, and then determine whether the reviews seem genuine and appropriate.

Zito says the city is considering inviting popular food bloggers to submit guest posts to its blog, and it might even look to San Mateo residents for additional content.

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