First of all - if it's a vote on the matter, the winner isn't the "best," it's the most "popular." You are the "best" when you compete for your spot. You are "popular" when you are well liked by many. Sorry to be a dick about that, but it has always irked me.
So... I’m not saying that I know that the City Paper’s “Best of DC” is rigged to reward advertisers or to flatter certain businesses into advertising with them. What I am saying is that it’s likely. I’m saying that because I do have some carnal knowledge of the “Best of” movement in America.
First off, the rigging of the results… These things are always supposed to be the results of a “vote of the people.” In many categories, that’s probably true. I don’t think Chipotle gives enough of a shit about the “Best Chipotle” category to buy a victory for one location over another. Same thing goes for the “Best Go Go Band” category. Those contests are won by good ol’ fashioned social media promotion – something we’ll talk more about in a second.
Having been close to three of these “Best of” contests in other cities, I can tell you that some categories aren’t decided by the voters. A bar does not spend tens of thousands of dollars advertising with a weekly arts and entertainment magazine only to have them name a bar that doesn’t advertise with them the “Best Bar.” That’s a bad way to please an advertiser. So, you know and I know that in at least a few categories the City Paper likely went with their prized advertiser over the vote of the public. You can’t blame them for doing it even though they’ll lie and say they didn’t. Again, I’ve been on the inside and I know how these things work – or don’t.
The second thing about these contests that make them suspect is the way in which voters are gathered to vote. In a perfect world people would be inspired to vote in the contest via telepathic waves of encouragement from the editorial staff at the Washington City Paper. In reality it’s a contest of which business can browbeat the greatest number of their friends, relatives and customers into going to the ballot and picking them. Social media networks and email lists are much more important to winning in these contests than whatever actual service or product the business provides.
Knowing that all of this likely bullshit, let’s wade through my picks of their picks…
Best Restaurant: Sushi Taro – Never heard of it.
Best Asian Restaurant: Pho 14 – Personally I think Pho 15 is just a smidge better and Pho 13 just a tad less tasty. Glad we are following that “Asians all look the same” mantra with “all Asian foods are the same” attitude.
Best Bagel: Bethesda Bagel – It’s a bagel… it does not belong in competition with other bagels. It’s like having a contest to see who can walk the fastest. Bagels are eaten by people who want a doughnut, but have the self control not to order one.
Best Bakery: Sticky Fingers – I’m indifferent on baked goods, but the name of the place would better suit a popsicle stand.
Best Bar: Boundary Stone Public House – Is this the best bar in DC or the place with the most over the top trendy name? Great place to drink expensive bitter tasting beer and admire aged barn wood and strategically exposed brick walls.
Best BBQ: Rocklands – It’s DC so it’s not really BBQ, it’s some over-priced poor imitation of the real thing. We’re talking an Asian Elvis impersonator here.
Best Burger: Five Guys – Now we know this whole thing is full of shit. Five Guys isn’t the best burger in DC or anywhere. Its existence can be traced to the fact that the DC area just doesn’t have anything like it. Most cities have four or five competing chains that resemble the makeup of Five Guys. However, those places actually have good burgers. Case in point - you never hear of someone running out to a cab at Reagan and demand to be taken to the nearest Five Guys. This happens with In-N-Out burger and other truly iconic burger joints all the time. If you ran out of Reagan and demanded to be taken to Five Guys the cabby would simply ask “why?” And that’s why this is bullshit. DC has a bad burger culture. This will not change.
Best Charcuterie: Stachowski Market & Deli – We’re on minute 14 of Charcuterie’s popularity, so I could care less. All I know is that whoever is buying this crap is getting ripped off.
Best Cocktail Selection: The Passenger – Cocktails are for people who don’t drink very often. Basically this contest was like cat owners judging a dog show.
Best Coffee Shop: Peregrine Espresso – Same coffee scam, different feel.
Best Contemporary American Restaurant: Founding Farmers – This whole “farm,” and “farmers” thing is getting a little old, but I’ll play along for one more year before I get hostile to the lie they are pedaling.
Best Craft Beer Selection: ChurchKey – This is the beer drinking assholes category and you had no doubt who would win. Having a lot of something does not make it better.
Best Culinary Event: Turkish Restaurant Week – Sure… whatever you say. I’m willing to bet I’ll find a unicorn in DC before I find a Turkish restaurant and I can bet the unicorn will taste better.
Best Dish: Palak chaat at Rasika - Now they’re just making shit up. I don’t know that is, but I’m almost certain Ben’s Chili Dogs weren’t invited to the competition.
Best Dive Bar: The Raven Grill – Rule #1 for dive bars = they don’t win popularity awards in magazines. Stupid wins again.
Best Downtown Lunch: Founding Farmers – No.
Best Food Blog: Eater DC – Never been. Bitches Who Brunch seem to be much more popular.
Best Food Truck: Rito Loco – I don’t work in construction, so I don’t buy my food from a truck. I’ll let you know if things change.
Best Gluten-Free Menu: Everlasting Life Café – Why not have a real category for a made up food allergy?
Best Gourmet Pizza: 2Amys – As far as snooty pizza goes, you can’t beat2Amys. Again – as snooty pizza goes. Two words on all other pizza – Italian Store.
Best Hangover Breakfast: The Diner – Hardly.
Best Happy Hour: DC Reynolds – Never heard of it.
Best Hookah Lounge: Chi-Cha Lounge – The best place to get mouth herpes participating in the last acceptable form of smoking. How proud they must be.
Best Irish Pub: Fado – I’m assuming nobody asked the Irish about their thoughts on this.
Best Italian Restaurant: Dino – Maybe next year, Pines of Florence.
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Ted’s Bulletin – Gentlemen, this is where you take your girlfriend to get her to shut up about marriage and kids.
Best Late Night East: The Diner – I’m noticing a trend, are you?
Best Local Brewery: DC Brau – Shocker given the half page DC Brau ad running adjacent to the announcement.
Best Margarita: Lauriol Plaza – It’s not necessarily that they have good margaritas; it’s just the only place people have them the one nice day a year they sit outside at the popular restaurant. The whole thing is obligatory.
Best Guacamole: Rosa Mexciano – This is funny because the City Paper’s verbatim on this is that it’s better because “they make it right at your table” – that’s not a testament to how good it is, but where it’s prepared instead. These idiots should take the table side prep and be aware of just how easy guacamole is to make and exactly how much they are being ripped off while they watch a dude mash an avocado together with some onions, tomatoes and salt.
Best Restaurant When Someone Else Pays: Komi – Now everyone will know you are trying to f*ck them over when you suggest Komi. BLT thanks you for this.
I was giong to comment more, but we're way too many words into this already, so I'll let you add your disgust below.