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Six Days

April 17, 2011

It’s time to rally. We are in the last stretch of voting for The Best of the Capital District, the Times Union’s annual reader choice poll that I’ve found to be infuriating since moving to the region.

Last year I decided to try and do something about it.
And it may have made a small impact around the edges.

This year, I’m trying again. And I’ve been very excited about the feedback. Already, with still six days left to go, the FUSSYlittleBALLOT 2.0 has received more exposure than last year’s initiative. But it still has not yet taken off.

Kristi Gustafson featured it.
Kevin Marshall spoke about it.
Sue Rock pointed readers towards it.
DerryX commended the thoughtfulness of the effort.
All Over Albany linked to my story on what makes something “The Best.”
Albany Kid even endorsed Chipotle as the Best Restaurant for Kids.

And there has been more on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ve sat down with people like Ellen Whitby as she filled in every answer on her ballot in support of the effort. I’ve sent out a batch of emails, with more batches to come.  And I have even started a small-scale Facebook ad campaign.

But none of this matters if I can’t get you to vote and ask your friends to do the same. If you have been reluctant to support this effort, perhaps this will change your mind.

Maybe the whole slate is too daunting. The point of compiling a full slate of answers to the “Best of” question is twofold.

1)    Identifying great places and things is a service to readers.
2)    Some of the esoteric answers in small categories are easier to influence.

It’s true. Everyone has an opinion on the best local supermarket, but surely many more skip best local hotel.

But I also know there are people who want to support this scheme who are disinclined to give up all of their votes in the service of the FUSSYlittleBALLOT. I try to get around that by bolding the entries I care most about, but even those take up over thirty selections.

With only six days to go, if I were going to name my top six categories for your support, what would they be?

1) Best Bakery: Mrs. London’s
It absolutely, positively is. Yes, it’s far away. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, it’s more than just a little bit precious. But it’s worth it, and without a doubt it’s the best bakery in the area, one of the best bakeries in the country, and could absolutely compete with the best bakeries around the world. The fact that it’s not in the top three is a travesty.

2) Best Restaurant to Open in the Past Year: Garden Bistro 24
We need more restaurants like this in Albany. Is it perfect? No. But GB24 is delightfully different. It rises above the mediocrity of places that try to be all things to all people. This is a bistro. A place to get steak or moules frites. Their focused menu of just a few items keeps food costs down, and allows them to operate without a freezer. Wow and wow.

3) Best Sandwich Shop – Andy & Sons Importing Co
This is at the heart and soul of the FUSSYlittleBALLOT. It’s not that Andy & Sons is necessarily The Best, but inarguably it is one of the best. So instead of voting for the neighborhood place that you think is just as good or better than Andy’s, splitting the vote and letting Subway and Panera walk away with the gold, maybe this year you consider showing the world we’ve got something better. And maybe next year we can vote for your sandwich place. Ok?

4) Best Chinese/Japanese/Korean Restaurant – Ala Shanghai
First, this category is ridiculous. But sadly it reflects the nature of Asian restaurants in the Capital Region. Too many try to be all things to all people. And all three winners last year now serve hibachi. Whether you call it hibachi or teppanyaki, it is a crime against food. But there is a ray of light. We now have a Chinese restaurant that’s exclusively Chinese, and that even specializes in the food of Shanghai. Do not come looking for sushi or teriyaki. But the brave are rewarded at what is clearly the best Chinese in the area.

5) Best Coffee Joint (single location) – Caffé Vero
You may like a bit more foam on your cappuccino. That’s fair. They make theirs the way they were trained to by David Schomer. Which isn’t to say they succeed all the time. But without a doubt, these are far and away the best espresso drinks available to the people of Albany at this time. They take espresso seriously and it shows. It’s time for everyone else to step up their game.

6) Best Diner – Dan’s Place Two
This may surprise you, because my favorite diner is actually Dewey’s. But dammit, best is best and diner is diner. Diners shouldn’t be these gussied-up things that pass for diners nowadays. Diners are dingy little pits, frying up greasy plates of hearty and satisfying food, served with coffee at low low prices. They should also be open past 2 o’clock in the afternoon and on Sunday. That’s what sets Dan’s above my beloved Dewey’s.

That leaves out a lot. Including my dark horse run for Best Local Blogger. More importantly it leaves Five Guys to capture Best Burger, Pizza Hut to grab Best Pizza, Olive Garden to persist as Best Italian, Friendly’s to reign at the top of Best for Children and a host of other offenses.

These are the reasons I ask for your support in the bolded categories. Together we can drive these scourges off the Best of List. Maybe not this year, or the year after that, but soon and for the rest of our lives.

Please consider voting for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT. Please consider emailing your friends and relations asking them to do so as well. If you have a blog, please blog about it. If you tweet, please tweet about it. If you talk to people, please tell them about it. All they need to remember is three words: fussy, little, ballot. When they get home and Google them, the slate will be right at the top. Easy peasy.

Tomorrow I’ll write about something else. I promise.

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