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The "Best Of" Primer

Each year, upon issue of New Times' Best Of edition, readers, bloggers, and foodies greet our restaurant and food selections with catcalls of derision. Which is just as it should be. But if we are to end up with differing conclusions, let's at least start from the same page. Here are a few notes that might help:

1.We do try to choose what we think is the best in each category, but with the same set of unofficial caveats that Oscar voters abide by. For instance, we are just as hesitant to name the same winner for the same item two years in a row. Do our readers need to read that Garcia's makes a great fish sandwich year after year after year? We think not. Plus nowadays every publication and online food site has their own set of bests -- do we really need to read that Garcia's makes a great fish sandwich 20 times a year?  

On the other hand, you can't put together a credible overview without giving nods to those establishments that everybody knows are deserving. So we mix it up -- best actor this year, best supporting the next. And we are also extremely unlikely to give more than one nod to any restaurant in any one year -- so if your favorite steak house didn't win Best Steak House, it may be because it won Best Restaurant In South Beach. Or vice versa. Or else it's because you just don't know steak.

2.There are always a few Best Of-worthy places that open after deadline, which was awhile ago. This year there were more of these than usual, so if you don't see Eos, or Naoe, or whatever -- that may be why. Also like the Oscars, a great performance by a newcomer can overcome nostalgic feelings for a contending veteran.

3.This is for those bloggers -- and I'm talking to you, Chowhounders -- who annually blather on about how our more questionable picks just have to be attributed to an attempt to please advertisers. Let me say, once and for all, that this is simply not the case, and never has been -- both in terms of our Best Of issue, and all other writing. Period. And if you want a bit of evidence to back this up, check out the Best Of issue of 2007. My numbers may off by one or two (it's been a couple of years -- I did the count as a matter of curiosity after reading aforementioned Chowhound posts), but I believe there were 74 food establishments that advertised, and 70 of them went home empty-handed. This percentage is more suggestive of a conscious effort to not include advertisers -- which is also not true, but does explain why a cluster of people glared at me from across the room that year at the New Times' employee Christmas party.

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