Today I am feeling optimistic. I’ve already seen some positive support for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 2.0 from some unexpected places.
What is this ballot? Well, let me tell you.
Every year the Times Union has a reader’s choice poll to determine the best things in the Capital Region. And every year the results are a combination of frustrating and embarrassing. In a region where there are magnificent sandwich shops, truly wonderful small family-run Italian establishments that have been fixtures for generations, Subway should never even be a contender. Except year after year it takes the first prize.
We are also fortunate enough to have a truly world class bakery that a major national food magazine once called the best bakery in America. And I’m with them. However, this temple of pastry and handcrafted bread didn’t even crack the top three of last year’s results.
So instead of getting angry at the results every year, I had another plan. What if a bunch of like-minded food lovers could put aside their trivial differences about which place was actually the best and agree to vote on a set of places that were among the best our region has to offer. This collective action could truly have the potential to sway the results of this poll. After all, in 2010 there were fewer than 19,000 ballots cast. A voting block of even a few hundred could have some influence around the edges, and a voting block of a few thousand or more could have a major impact.
The following is my attempt at a slate of businesses to rally behind.
While on some level my personal judgment was used to evaluate the criteria about what made the list and what didn’t, these aren’t exclusively my picks. I too have made sacrifices for the sake of the common good, and if I were voting on my own, the slate would look decidedly different.
Admittedly, there are a few entries that may seem a bit odd. Upon viewing them you may find yourself saying, “We don’t have a Trader Joe’s here. Why on Earth is Daniel B. suggesting I vote for them, twice?”
In the days and weeks to come, I will spend some time talking about the decisions that led to these choices. For now, if you have any hesitations about voting for this slate, let me know and we can discuss them here (or in private if you prefer).
Just remember, for this to work, we have to stick together and vote as a group. It also cannot just end at you. So please pass my message of hope and change along to anyone who will listen. And should you not want to vote for the entire slate, I can understand that. But the categories I care about most are highlighted below.
Thank you for your consideration.
1. Best Local Grocery Store – Write In: Trader Joe’s
2. Best wine store – Write In: Trader Joe’s
3. Best beer store – Oliver’s
4. Best Bakery – Mrs. London’s
5. Best Ethnic Market – Cardona’s
6. Best Farmer’s Market – Troy Four Season Farmer’s Market
7. Best Health Food Store (single location) – Honest Weight Food Co-op
8. Best Drugstore/Pharmacy – Crestwood Pharmacy
9. Best Men’s Fashions – Spector’s, Colonie Center
10. Best Women’s Fashions – Circles, Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave., Guilderland
11. Best hardware store (single location) – Write In: Pfeil Hardware, 63 3rd Street, Troy
12. Best nursery/garden center – Troy’s Landscape Supply, 1266 Loudon Road (Route 9), Cohoes
13. Best appliance store – John D. Marcella Appliances
14. Best pet store – Benson’s Pet Center
15. Best cigar shop – Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe
16. Best bookstore (single location) – Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza
17. Best used bookstore – Dove & Hudson Old Books
18. Best local hotel (single location) – Write In: Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga Springs
19. Best place in the region to gamble – Saratoga Race Course (flat track)
20. Best bank/credit union – SEFCU
21. Best jeweler – Frank Adams
22. Best auto dealer (single location) – Northway Toyota
23. Best auto service – Larry’s Foreign Auto
24. Best hospital – Albany Med
25. Best veterinary clinic – Parkside Veterinary Hospital
26. Best plumber – Farrell Brothers Plumbing Inc.
27. Best car wash – Broadway Auto Clinic
28. Best spa/salon – Write In: Townsend & Company Hair Salon and Spa
29. Best dry cleaner – Write In: Quality Cleaners of Albany, 1704 Western Ave
30. Best shopping mall – Colonie Center
31. Best two-year college – Hudson Valley Community College
32. Best four-year college – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
33. Best H.S. Teacher – Thomas McGurn, Albany High School
1. Best restaurant to open in the past year – Garden Bistro 24
2. Best restaurant for kids – Chipotle
3. Best Hamburger – Swifty’s Deep Fried Buffalo Burger
4. Best pizza – Marino’s, Schenectady
5. Best sandwich shop – Andy & Sons Importing Co
6. Best Chinese/Japanese/Korean restaurant – Ala Shanghai
7. Best Indonesian/Thai/Vietnamese restaurant – Kinnaree
8. Best Indian/Pakistan restaurant – Write In: Parivar
9. Best Mexican/Central/South American – Mr. Pio Pio
10. Best Italian restaurant – Write In: Katrinella’s Bistro
11. Best ice cream – Crisan
12. Best hot dogs – Famous Lunch
13. Best sports bar – Graney’s Bar & Grill
14. Best coffee joint (single location) – Caffe Vero
15. Best diner – Dan’s Place Two
1. Best regional ski resort – Gore Mountain
2. Best gym/health club – Rudy A. Ciccotti Center
3. Best public pool – Victoria Pool, Saratoga Spa State Park
4. Best H.S. coach – Dave Doemel (Christian Bros. Academy basketball)
5. Best high school athlete – boys (include name and school) – ?
6. Best high school athlete – girls (include name and school) – ?
1. Best concert in the past year – Neil Young, Palace Theatre
2. Best singer-songwriter – Matthew Carefully
3. Best band (pop/rock/country) – Sirsy
4. Best play or musical in the past year – To Kill a Mockingbird, Capital Rep
5. Best theater company – Capital Rep
6. Best local comedian or comedy troupe – Sandy Beach
7. Best art gallery – Write In: Kismet Gallery, Troy
8. Best museum – Tang
9. Best movie theater – Jericho Drive In
10. Best place for kid-friendly arts and culture – Children’s Museum at Saratoga
1. Best TV news anchorperson – Lydia Kulbida, WTEN Ch. 10
2. Best TV newscast – WNYT Ch. 13
3. Best print journalist – Paul Grondahl, Times Union
4. Best radio personality – Laura Glazer
5. Best radio station – WEXT 97.7 FM
6. Best local Web site – AllOverAlbany.com
7. Best local blogger – Daniel B. at the FUSSYlittleBLOG.com (if you please)
8. Best local tweeter – @PatrickDodson
Now, go and vote.