New Haven Advocate Reader's Poll: 2008 results
Just looked at these and while some are no surprise, others amaze me. Does anyone know how the results come out the way they do? Who votes? Is there ballot stuffing? Do any restos encourage customers and customer's friends to vote for them? Does anyone care?
This is an annual thing so I guess the Advocate thinks it's worthwhile.
Anomolies (IMHO) I've noticed:
A Jamaican/Caribbean restaurant called "Mother's" that I've never heard of and seems to have almost no internet presence and certainly not on CH.
Aunt Chilada's: I think any Mexican food afficianado would gag at the thought of eating there. Do they sell beer to underaged Yalies? I just don't get it.
Miya's: ate there once; terrible service and mediocre food. Seemed cliqueish with some getting good service. They do have a bar "vibe".
Mamoun's: ate there a couple of times and thought it was nothing special.
Temple Grill for outdoor dining. I guess I need to see what that's about... Scoozi and L'Orcio are awfully nice. They got second and third...
Can Barcelona really have a better wine list than Central Steakhouse? It didn't even make the list. Bentara and 116 Crown came in second and third. I've not tried 116 Crown.
I've never heard of Sitar, which came in third for Indian food!
Som Siam is very good but The Rice Pot didn't make the list and here, on CH, it is favored over Thai Taste, which was third.
I've never heard of the Greek Olive. Are there any other Greek restos in NH? Same for Athenian Diner on Whalley.
I agree with most of the rest and think Geronimos is best new resto. Don't know Caseus...anyone? Looks very interesting.
Lenny's and Chowder Pot in Branford? Are they that good (first and second)? Pacifico was third, and I think it's pretty good.
Can anyone enlighten me about any of this or any of the one's I've never heard of?
Since this discussion is mainly focused on the balloting and methods for the contest, we've moved it over to our Food Media board. However, if people are interested in discussing the specifics of the food at the local restaurants mentioned on the list, we'd encourage you to start a new thread on New England with more of a focus on chow.
Scargod, lighten up, and refocus your post if this is so important to you. I am on the other side of the fence, with my two very personal local posts now splayed all over a worldwide "Food Media and News" board. And I am fine with that. I may bore others, but I weigh in as my heart calls. And I DO like good groceries, and I've eaten well around the world, way beyond any expectations that that 10 year old kid on the golf course ever dreamed about. It's been a great voyage.
Actually, weirdly skewed "best of" awards *are* a kind of national issue. At least, most towns and cities have them and most knowledgeable foodies wring their hands wring their hands over the results and gossip about the ways and means...
I think popularity, longevity, (or, on the flip-side) novelty and scene play a large role, even if advertising doesn't. And it often does. It's *never* just about the food. I'd like it if local awards reflected this a bit more, rather than just making vague "best of" claims...but then I'd be tempted to pay attention to them, which I don't now.
That said, thanks for bringing the NH Advocate's results to our attention, Scargod!!
On the topic of the NH Advocate's food coverage - what does everyone think of Murumba and Goldstein's The Menu? Reliable? Dated? What?
re: zoe p.
You're welcome. I just get hot about this because I remember when I first tried to understand the new Chowhound website and tried to navigate my way around and use the features and options. To be stuck in a news area is like being exiled to Siberia. Many don't know how or have the inclination to search. They know to click on New England and that may be as adventurous as they get.
When I started doing research for this topic I came across one paper's list where one category was "the best place to have sex in public". Texas Monthly magazine's "best of" barbeque places is causing heated debate on eGullet. Food is a passion of mine. Dining experiences are partly subjective and, like Q (for instance), if you don't have a good piece of meat and the right temperature then people experiencing the Q that day can get the impression that the restaurant doesn't know how to do good Q; just from that one piece of meat.
It's a fascinating subject to me as to how many people really eat at a place when they mark their ballot in favor of it or how many times they ate there before forming an opinion, etc.
RE, The Guide: I have followed it through several editions and it used to be my bible, till I started spending more time on the internet ferreting out fresh data on places like CH. I think it has been very reliable and accurate for a snapshot of a restaurant, when the review(s) took place. If done accurately they would need to go more than once or use a number of people's input. It has generally coincided with my views. I would use it as an excellent reference and then see if I could find newer data on the internet. Only a handful of restaurants seem to stay stable and predictable. If "The Menu" were available on-line, by subscription, then it could be updated if, say, a chef were to leave or a place has new owners.
Bravo, Aunt Chiladas! That in my youth I toted a golf bag around those adjacent 9 holes of the Sleeping Giant Golf Course more than any human who ever lived has only slightly formed my opinion. But a deck table for lunch on a pleasant-weather day with the perfect view of Sleeping Giant mountain, whether in the spring as things are leafing up, or toward autumn with its majestic red and gold hues, should get some credit, apart from the captive Quinnipiac and Cheshire crowd.
My last meal there might have been cat turd with salsa verde; I can't recall, and it would not have mattered. It was a splendid afternoon. There's more to being a foodie than what's on the end of your fork at any one moment. This one clearly is not for everyone, but it strikes a tender chord for some.
OK, you certainly have a right to your opinion that a cat turd and a view can be heavenly. I've picked spots in Spain, France and Italy to have lunch, based solely on the view and as we sat on the ground eating the cheese, sardines and day-old bread, we were having some fine dining. We're not talking restaurants with a view (that went to Sage), we are talking Mexican food. Yes, you can overlook some things because of outside ambiance and good margaritas but that restaurant shouldn't have made the cut, let alone came in first. We had stale, greasy chips, tasteless, dumbed-down food and poor service. Many have made similar comments.
I keep going back to Leon's because my SO and I met there for our first date (when it was the scupper). I like watching the sea birds, those nasty tankers and gazing on the "industrial view", but I'm not giving it my vote for anything but being by the sea.
Scargod, I know nothing about you except that I have seen, spottily, your posts and thought "wow, there's a scary-bright, fiercely opinionated C'houndress in New Haven: I'll shut up and listen." But I see you are human, also. I grew up in the area, at a time when Leon's was the best we had. You love it, not for what it is today, but for the beautiful memory of your day 1 with Mr. right, and its later associations. And you remember "every detail", as Rick said in Casablanca at a romantic moment in a wretched place, "the germans wore grey, you wore blue". Romance is infinitely more important than golf, but I would toil on the green in front of Aunt Chilada and commit to myself that I would not leave that golf course, long after all others were gone, until I made a certain putt 3 times consecutively, regardless of impending darkness or castigation for missing dinner. And during a rare visit 4 decades later, recalling the reckless determination of youthful tenacity 43 years earlier made that cat turd lunch a banquet.
The ballots are not stuffed. Nor are the results skewed by the Advocate to favor advertisers. That said, you have to realize that this is voted on by the general public, not by a bunch of foodies. a more accurate name than "best of" would be "place with the most name recognition" Also for ballots to be counted, there is a minimum number of categories that must be filled in, so if someone doesn't really know a good african restaurant, but sees an ad for one on the same page in the paper, they will tend to just put that in, hence advertisers winning more. (on the other hand places like miya's and barcelona never advertise) Some restaurants do encourage customers to vote, but that really only skews the more obscure categories.
now onto scargods anomolies:
Mother's is a tiny hole in the wall jamaican place on Norton St., it is good. There also aren't many other jamaican places to compete with it.
Aunt Chiladas sucks, and appeals to bland suburbanite tastes. New Havens votes are split between a dozen places, but everyone in hamden, chester and north who likes fajitas and nachos votes for the only place they know. And they sell beer to QU kids not Yalies.
Miya's is the oldest sushi bar in NH. Their food is constantly changing, with some really amazing highs, and some really low lows.
Mamoun's is comfort food to many including myself, but is certainly not high end.
Temple makes good sandwiches, but is not even in the same league as L'Orcio
116 does have great drinks.
the greek olive is a diner, it just has greek in the name and pops into peoples heads when they vote.
Caseus is a delightful bistro with classic french fair and a cheese shop. You should give it a try.
Chowder Pot is NOT good.
Think of the Reader's Poll like you would politics, just because someone gets the most votes doesn't mean they are the best. It is interesting to read, and it can be useful in finding new places to try if you take it with a grain of salt.
Thanks (and to all). Your comments seem the most succinct on the subject, yet I know of at least two places that encourage vote "stuffing". These don't have to do with food. I'm told it is time consuming (as you are confirming) to fill out the form and if you don't fill it out it will not be counted. That does weigh heavily in favor of advertisers and name recognition for categories you care nothing, or know nothing, about.
I have to experience Temple Grill, outside. It is going to have to be some hot shit place to beat L'orcio!
Aunt Chilada's doubly puzzles me. They are in North Hamden, not that close to New Haven, and my one or two experiences were terrible. One out of 10 revues I've seen thought it was good. I think Ixtapa (not too far away from A C)is light years better for food quality and taste, and I think Ixtapa actually has Mexicans running the place and preparing the food. I suspect Aunt Chil does not.
Su Casa, all the way into Branford, is "barely even Tex-Mex" (and not that good) according to one person and Baja's is supposed to be California style Mex; which implies "Gringoish" style, to me. I'm speaking from what I have read, not what I have experienced, with these two. So nothing close to "real" even placed! Perhaps that is how the voters like their "Mexican food". Oh, the humanity (what they are missing)!
This is not closed yet.
Baja's is DECENT Mexican food. We've been going to it since moving here from the West Coast close to 17 years ago. Back then, Baja's was a tiny taqueria then the owners expanded leasing/buying the space next door. They have fish tacos - a specialty in SD (SanDiego); Carne Asada is tasty and the tortillas are real.
Ixtapa, like Aunt Chiladas is GROSS. Eventhough it is owned by Hispanics, the food is barely edible. If you want something casual, try LaCarreta on State Street. It's a hole in the wall- typical taqueria; good food; also LaPoblanita.
I think outdoor dining at a moment with perfect weather and equivalent scenery, cannot be duplicated by anything indoors, as a starting point. If everything must be reduced to a simple number on a scorecard for the purpose of compiling a scorecard (and why? and for whom?) of grading the perfect gastro experience, it's a feckless task. I would rather sit on my dirty golf towel and quietly eat a ham sandwich alone under the tree on the corner of 18 at Pebble Beach, than dine on duck confit with Petrus in Versailles with the Geneva boys choir and harpsichords playing.
First let me define what I mean by stuffing. I am talking about one person filling out more than one ballot using different names. I am not refering to places encouraging customers to vote for them, which I consider smart business not cheating. As for real stuffing, I didn't say that people don't try, but they get caught by the people doing counting.
Aunt Chilada's and Su Casa are both terrible, but the majority of gringos in the north don't know and/or don't like authentic mexican food. Baja's is decent.
LOL! TOTALLY agree with you about Aunt Chiladas. I am gagging as I write this. I actually emailed The Advocate about 'voting methods' as some of the results seem so skewed. Also in agreement re: Miya's, Mamoun's. I also can't stand Kudeta - too much hype and the food is mediocre at best.
Mother's is actually near the Yale MedSchool. Suppose to be a 'hole in the wall' but great food which is what matters.
Sitar is near Judie's. Nice Indian food - good for lunch but that's about it. I personally prefer Tali or Zarooka if I am staying in town.
L'Orcio is lovely. Just went there for dinner last week! I like Scoozi - it's consistent.
Caseus is a tiny cheese shop/bistro on the corner of Trumbull and Whitney. You can get things like tarte du jour, poutines, charcuterie board, nicoise salads etc...http://caseusnewhaven.com/index.html Outdoor seating which is nice though a bit noisy as it's on Trumbull
Surprised Rice Pot didn't make the list for Thai as it's the most solid Thai restaurant around here...
Geronimo's is fun - good food but I don't think it's worth being totally overcharged for Guacamole
Good input from everyone. Went by Mother's. Might be sketchy neighborhood in the evening. Not sure...
Had lovely lunch at L'orcio a couple of days ago. Will do review as new topic or under a recent L'Orcio topic.
Again my pictures are not posting. DAMN YOU CHOWHOUND! (as Jon Stuart would say)
I always thought there was some ballot box stuffing. Aunt Chilada's?? Please Taco Bell makes better mexican food. I agree with you on Mamoun's. Always feels like walking into an opium den
The Greek Olive is a very good diner The veggies are always fresh. They do have specials lamb and fish that are tasty. It is next to Ikea
The Athenian is very standard diner food, one of several in the area,. I have been wanting to check out Caseus.
Interesting. Especially as I have just been reading CH posts about the strengths and weaknesses of Yelp; most of these places have been reviewed there and most get mixed reviews.
I think "Mother's" is also reviewed in The Menu, and it seems like an old NH hole-in-the-wall favorite. I've been meaning to investigate but would take other Jamaican suggestions too . . .
And here's my own knee-jerk reactions to the places I'm familiar with on your list/Advocate Poll:
Miya's: Expensive, and, for my tastes, a little gimmicky.
Mamoun's: An unreliable standby.
Temple Grill: Outdoor, yes. Dining, no. Sandwiches and salads, a young crowd, a nice courtyard.
Bentara: Check out recent Yelp reviews. Maybe their wine cellar has been depleted and isn't getting replenished? So the list is great, but not so much the cellar . . . this was my experience too.
116 Crown: Excellent mixed drinks.
Som Siam: I like it, but . . . I'll choose take-out from Thai Taste over a drive to Guilford any day of the week.
Athenian Diner: Gyro and souvlaki are sub-par, but it's a decent diner.
Caseus: Uneven, but you should definitely try it for yourself.
Lenny's Indian Head: Worth the trip, because there's nothing comparable in NH. But it's casual fried seafood, nothing like what I imagine Pacifico to be doing.