Considering The Best of 2016
In the first few years of this blog, I put a lot of stock in the Times Union’s Best of the Capital Region readers’ choice poll results. In part because when visitors or new arrivals to our region would search online for the best places to eat, this annual list would serve as an insight into the tastes and preferences of the area.
When I arrived in Albany, what that list said about the region was both embarrassing and disheartening. Because either Pizza Hut was one of the three best pizza shops in the region, or a plurality of locals believed that to be the case.
Well, we’ve come a long way, baby.
Not only has the food culture greatly improved in the Capital Region year after year, but Yelp has become a more reliable resource too. And on the flip side, the TU Best of the Capital Region poll results now reside behind a paywall. I actually had to go out to the store yesterday and buy a few hard copies to take home and study.
Oh, yeah. There was some good news for the FLB in this year’s results. The Fussy Little Blog took fourth place in the Best Local Blogger category. The first three finishers all write for the Times Union Blogs. That means I was the top independent blog in the region! Woo hoo.
Thanks to all of you out there who voted for me. This is really cool.
So I bought a few copies of the paper. One to send to my grandmother. One for my mother. And the other will go in my scrapbook. Well, at least it will go into a box of things that I consider my scrapbook. Maybe one day I’ll take it out again, dust it off, and think of all the time I could have been sleeping instead of writing.
But there’s work to be done. Because as good as the poll results have gotten, there continue to be some notable omissions, a few areas in need of improvement, and a handful of head scratchers.
Like Best Pizza. How did Purple Pub make the top three? I’ve done a cross comparison of tavern pies, and I’ve been hosting a rotating tavern dinner every month for over a year now. I now have a keen understanding of tavern pies. And Purple Pub’s offering isn’t even the top half, much less the top few of those in its category.
I’m thrilled Subway is off the list for Best Sandwich Shop, but somehow DiBella’s has made the list. In a region with so many great Italian delis, the presence of a chain is an injustice.
Parivar was once again jilted in the Best Indian/Pakistani category. It didn’t even make Best Vegetarian, which it also should dominate. And La Mexicana in Schenectady still didn’t rate under Best Mexican. But at least Bombers didn’t appear in the Best Mexican category either.
Speaking of jilted? The Memphis King is probably the best Barbecue joint we’ve got in the region these days. And it clearly isn’t on the radar of Times Union readers. But apparently there are enough people who like the chain experience at Smokey Bones to have that place make the cut.
How did The Bears get left off the Best Steakhouse list? And neither Madison Pourhouse nor The Belly made the cut for Best Bar for Beer? Actually, that last category is just chock-a-block with strong contenders. So perhaps the omission of a couple great options is a bit more understandable.
And it does make sense how a small wine store like 22 Second Street and small—but excellent—beer stores like Brew or The Cheese Traveler didn’t make the cut in these competitive categories which include many large players.
What I don’t understand is how neither Mrs. London’s, Crisan, nor TC Paris make the list for Best Bakery. That feels like a crime. Bakeries can be European without being Italian, you know.
One category where the TU readers really had a lack of imagination was Best Cheap Eats. I applaud the number one pic of Gus’s Hot Dogs. But that was followed by McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. This was the most upsetting category of them all. And I plan to tackle this subject in a separate post next week, dedicated to the subject. That is, after I take a few deep breaths and maybe a fist full of valium.
But it’s not all bad news. Let’s hear it for Stacks Espresso Bar, which finally got a spot on the list for Best Coffee Shop! And kudos to the TU readers for including Nick Ruscitto on the list for Best Chef. His food may not be for everyone, but if you asked me the name the best chef in the region, the answer would be Nick. There’s no question about it.
And big props to Lady Welshofer for killing it on the YouTube. The TU readers choice voters love what she does. So really, how bad can they be.
Maybe I can convince her to do a Cheap Eats video with me sometime. You know, in my copious free time. Actually, I suppose when it comes down to it, all my time is free time. I just choose to put it to use in the service of food. Who would think that writing about food on the internet would be such a time commitment.
It does make me feel a little better that the investment seems to be paying off. Thank you all again. Have a great weekend.