Best Bets Beef

As predicted, the prevalence of chains in the Washington Post's reader's choice awards ruffled more than a few feathers. The Going Out Gurus posted this rundown of the controversy, reminding readers that they designate their own personal favorites with "editor's choice" labels.

I apparently wasn't alone in my trouble with Starbucks winning best coffee shop. "Readers were upset by a number of things, but what seemed to raise the most concern was the near-ubiquitous Starbucks usurping Adams Morgan-favorite Tryst as 'Best Coffee Shop.' Tryst, a winner in previous years, fell to second place."

One commenter suggested that the votes chains receive be divided by the number of locations. Seems like a great idea, but the gurus weren't going for it. "These corporations tout a consistent product in a consistent setting, so it doesn't make sense to break down the results to include every single branch."

Eliminating chains altogether would certainly make the results more representative of what Washington, uniquely, has to offer. But as Rhome commented, "Outrage over our perceived collective lowbrow tastes ignores the fact that most folks are followers and only a small minority are leaders. This means that in our fast-paced lifestyles where we're bombarded with multi-million dollar ad campaigns and crave convenience, people generally go with what they know well and don't have to think much about. It takes extra effort to seek out the unique."

Well put.

Here's my extra effort, replacing the winner for a few categories in which chains won with my choices:
• Best Coffee Shop: Tryst (actual winner: Starbucks)
• Best Italian: Ristorante Tosca or the new Dino (actual winner: Maggiano's)
• Best Ice Cream: Max's (actual winner: Cold Stone Creamery)
• Best Sushi: Kaz Sushi Bitsro (actual winner: Meiwah, which is not a big chain but it's also Chinese, not Japanese)

I feel better now.