We all have our favorite places to eat, drink, and shop for food and drink. Every year the Times Union asks us which are the best in the Capital Region, and we dutifully submit our picks to the paper. And you know what happens? Every year the results of the poll are disappointing.
Some of you may be so fed up with the poll that you’ve stop submitting it entirely. I was frustrated too, but instead of giving up, or simply accepting it, two years ago I decided to do something. I created the first FUSSYlittleBALLOT, which was a slate of excellent businesses from around the region, that I culled from multiple sources including the Times Union’s own reviews and trusted online sources (tempered with my own judgement). Never has the ballot been just one person’s opinion.
But even back then when the blog was smaller, the effort still seemed to have some impact around the edges of the poll results. You see, not that many people actually respond to the Times Union survey. In 2011 it was fewer than 15,000. So even if just a few thousand people cast their votes for a common slate, those amazing hidden gems in the area can be propelled into the spotlight. And despite this being the internet age full of sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, people still take notice of the paper’s poll. Cracking the top three is huge.
This year the FUSSYlittleBALLOT is a bit different, as I’ve limited its scope. No longer does it try to be all encompassing. Now it focuses just on food and drink. Also there are no protest votes for a Wegmans or Whole Foods. Most importantly, I looped readers into the process early. We have been having ongoing conversations here about the best things in the region since early February.
I’ve synthesized all of those conversations and comments down into one list, and I’m happy to present it for your consideration today. My sincere hope is that you will join us in this effort. You do this by not just voting for the full slate of businesses below, but by forwarding this ballot to your friends, relatives and colleagues all over the globe and asking for their participation too.
It sounds ridiculous, but I’m not joking.
The point here isn’t to help out great, small independent restaurants. That’s a side benefit. What I’m hoping to do is change people’s minds about Albany, both internally and externally. There is good food here. And the more successful and well known the good places get, the better the next wave of competitors will be. The point here is to raise the bar. The point here is to instill some regional pride. The point here is to make a difference.
I’m excited because we are starting out on the right foot. After a fair bit of nudging from our Open Letter to the Times Union and the dozens of co-signers, the paper made some significant structural changes to the 2012 Best of the Capital Region questionnaire. It just goes to show, that sometimes when you participate in a crazy grass-roots campaign things happen.
Now without any further ado, here is the slate for your consideration.
Page 1 – Goods and Services
1. Best Local Grocery Store – Hannaford
2. Best Wine Store (single location) – All Star Wine & Spirits
3. Best Beer Store (single location) – Write in: Hoosick Street Beverage Center, 2200 19th St. Troy, NY
4. Best Bakery (single location) – Mrs. London’s
5. Best Italian Market – Cardona’s
6. Best Ethnic Market That’s Not Italian – Asian Supermarket
7. Best Farmers Market (single location) – Troy Waterfront Farmers Market
8. Best Health Food Store (single location) – Honest Weight Food Coop
9. Best Standalone Butcher (single location) – Roma, 9 Cobbee Road, Latham
Page 2 – Dining
1. Best Restaurant to Open in Past Year – All Good Bakers
2. Best Family Restaurant (single location) – Write in: Jumpin’ Jack’s, Scotia
3. Best Fish Fry (single location) – Write in: Off Shore Pier, East Greenbush
4. Best Hamburger – Write in: Max London’s, 466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
5. Best Pizza (single location) – Defazio’s Woodfired Pizza
6. Best Sandwich Shop (single location) – Andy & Son’s Importing
7. Best Chinese/Japanese/Korean Restaurant – Ala Shanghai
8. Best Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese Restaurant (single location) – Kinnaree
9. Best Indian/Pakistani Restaurant (single location) – Write in: Aashiana, 31 Central Avenue Albany
10. Best Mexican/Central/South American (single location) – Mr. Pio Pio
11. Best Italian Restaurant (single location) - Café Capriccio
12 . Best Ice Cream – Write in: On the Farm, Latham
13. Best Hot Dog (single location) – Famous Lunch
14. Best Sports Bar (single location) – Write in: Wolff’s Biergarten, 895 Broadway, Albany
15. Best Coffee Joint (single location) – Caffe Vero
16. Best Diner – Write in: Dan’s Place Two
That’s really all there is. If you enter all of those businesses into the poll, you will have answered enough questions to win that spiff iPad the paper is giving away.
Now if you wanted to see something really amazing you could check out page 5 of the survey that covers local media.
One of my regular readers and occasional commenters is the answer to question 1, Lydia Kulbida.
Down at question 6 you can vote for All Over Albany, who have supported the FLB tremendously.
And look there at question 7. My name is right there. You don’t even have to write it in? Holy moly.
Honestly, I’m a bit stunned. Pleased, but kind of amazed. Still, if you like what I do, I’d love your vote.
Thank you for your consideration.
If you have any questions or concerns, please ask. I’d rather have the chance to win you over, than to have you just shake your head and leave. And over the next few days and weeks, I’ll explain how we got to some of these decisions. However, they are all pretty much consistent with the comments left over the past few months.
Online voting is open until noon on April 20. I hope you’ll vote for the above slate here and use the nifty little buttons underneath this post to spread the word.
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Here’s the full text link to the poll for those who like to cut and paste: http://www.timesunion.com/best_of_2012
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And after you’ve voted, maybe you would be interested in sending an email to your friends, colleagues and family and ask for their support with this initiative too. You can send your own thoughts, or use the letter I’ve drafted for your convenience.