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The FUSSYlittleBALLOT Redux

June 11, 2010

Yesterday, at long last, the 2010 Best of the Capital Region poll results were published by the Times Union.  Mysteriously, given the fact that I am not a subscriber, a copy of the paper happened to be delivered to my house.

Curious.

If you may recall, a little over two months ago I posted the FUSSYlittleBALLOT.  And thus began my quixotic campaign to get chains like Subway off the annual reader’s choice survey and recognize those things in the region that are truly deserving of being called “the best.”

The idea
was that I was tired of complaining when the results came out, and instead I was going to try and do something proactive about them.

So while there is a lot to complain about, I’m not as despondent as some might think.

First, let me thank again everyone who took up arms in this movement and voted for the slate of businesses on the FUSSYlittleBALLOT.

The slate as a whole did pretty well.  It correctly identified over half of the winners and honorable mentions.  Fully 25 of the FLB picks came in at first place.

There are a few of these that were experiencing this recognition for the first time.  And I would like to think we played some roll in their success.  Notably Blue Spice for Best Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese and dp brasserie for Best Cocktails.

But also in that top spot are the very deserving Mahar’s for Best Beer Tavern, Troy Waterfront Farmer’s Market, Honest Weight Food Co-op for Best Health Food Store, and Professor Java’s for Best Coffee Joint.  Even though these are perennial favorites, they are well deserved, and it should be noted that the Times Union readers aren’t entirely without good taste.

The slate may have had some more influence on the results around the edges.

The Ale House took third for best wings, but apparently just edged out Ralph’s.  And while I do enjoy Ralph’s, a “Best of” list that didn’t include the Ale House in the wings category would be deeply flawed.

Oddly, the Schenectady Museum took third this year and displaced The Clark.  It is so odd that it is hard for me to believe that we are not entirely unresponsible.

But the edges also include things that got honorable mentions.  And these were Wegman’s for Best Grocery, Famous Lunch for Best Hot Dogs, Troy Night Out for Best Art Event, Graney’s Bar and Grill for Best Sports Bar and Uncommon Grounds for Best Coffee Joint (chain).

In the Best of 2009 Wegman’s did not receive any ink from the paper.  For that matter neither did Graney’s.  But I’m more excited about Wegman’s getting a mention, as sending a message to their corporate headquarters was one of the primary goals of this effort.

I think all of the above are a sign (if possibly a murky one) that your votes mattered.

Sure, there is a lot about the results that are appalling.  And mostly this still has to do with chain restaurants.  Pizza Hut made the list for Best Pizza, Subway got the top spot for Best Sandwiches, and Wings over Albany is number one in its category.

There are a lot of amazing places that got completely robbed: Mrs. London’s, where one can find truly world class pastries, Pasquale’s, which has won the AOA Tournament of Pizza two years in a row, and Katrinella’s Bistro, which is so much better than the Olive Garden it’s not even funny.

But there was one chain on the list that I can’t get too worked up about.

Chipotle pulled a bigger coup in this year’s survey than I could ever have imagined.  I campaigned for them under the Best Restaurant for Kids.  But they got the number one spot for Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year.

Besting upscale Pasta Pane and 4*-Times-Union-reviewed Dale Miller.

I knew Chipotle was doing well here, but I had no idea it was doing that well.  Perhaps there is hope for this town yet.  Keep your eyes peeled for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 2.0 early next April and maybe 2011 will be the year we knock Subway off its pedestal.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 11, 2010 10:14 am

    I love Chipotle but for them to get “Best Rest. to Open in Past Year” is ridiculous. Yes, technically, they did open in the past year, but as a chain, i.e., a cookie-cutter restaurant, they are not really “new,” if you see what I mean. What if a new McD’s opened in, say, Colonie? Would that be eligible for “Best New”? Silly. Re Mrs. London’s, Saratoga places never make the T-U list because they simply aren’t very well-known to Cap. District folks.

  2. Elyse permalink
    June 11, 2010 10:58 am

    I find Chipotle as “Best Restaurant to Open in Past Year” as terribly depressing. Really?? We need an infusion of culinary excitement here pronto!!

  3. StanfordSteph permalink
    June 11, 2010 11:15 am

    Still pretty damn depressing.

  4. Chris permalink
    June 11, 2010 11:49 am

    It seems like the only time that local establishments took up the top 3 spots was when there was no chain to compete with (wine store, farmers’ market, etc).

    I am not anti-chain. They have their place. Jumbo portions, consistent quality, familiar prices. But come on… Subway? Pizza Hut? In an area that is pretty sentimental about its pizza (or maybe not???) and things like the yearly AOA pizza tournaments, mom-and-pop pizzerias on every block, there is no excuse for this.

    I don’t have any real issues with the results since they look pretty similar from year to year. But I would love polls like this to be split up into 2 categories: Best Chain, and Best Local -or- “Best Quality” and “Favorite Value”, which I suspect may also help separate the chains and local establishments. At the very least it would introduce local establishments to the general public who may not keep up with the daily updates on Steve’s blog or be aware of them otherwise, and that’s important.

  5. June 11, 2010 4:29 pm

    Perhaps time to fire up our own “Best of” list via Survey Monkey? Maybe do it by city in the District?

  6. mirdreams permalink
    June 21, 2010 10:03 am

    Daniel, I really cannot believe you’re excited that Chipotle beat out Dale Miller, a place that has reasonable portion sizes (you can even choose how big a serving of their proteins you’re in the mood for), seasonal dishes, chief driven creativity and just about everything else you’ve asked for and complained doesn’t exist in the Capital District. Chipotle is a fine place to grab a lunch but I think saying it’s the best new restaurant is just as depressing as any of the other things you found to actually be depressed about.

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