For food and dining enthusiasts, 2009 has been a banner year. Despite a crappy economy, a host of new, enticing restaurants have opened in the communities this paper serves—indicative, hopefully, that the independent restaurant is not quite dead. In fact, the gaggle of interesting new eateries seems to be proof that indies aren't even wounded, much less dead or dying.
Particularly exciting is the resurgence of Main Street restaurants downtown. Some, such as Vienna Bistro, Bambara, Shogun, Lamb's and Atlantic, have withstood "Downtown Rising," while others—Eva, Bayleaf Café, Barbacoa, the Beerhive and Vasuvio's Organic Café, for example —have recently opened, breathing new life into downtown dining. Kudos to the former for their endurance, and to the latter for their optimism.
Visit CityWeekly.net and you'll find upward of 1,600 restaurant listings. Of those restaurants, I'm charged annually with naming my top 100. I both relish and dread this challenge, knowing that for every restaurant I champion, 16 others will feel dissed. It goes with the territory of being a restaurant critic.
However, I do feel I should explain some ground rules. First and foremost, Ted's Top 100 is exactly that: It's a list of my favorite eateries, at this point in time. These are the places that I visit "off the clock." What the top 100 is not, necessarily, is a list of Utah's best restaurants. I'll let someone else make those selections. Again, these are simply my faves. Some will be predictable; others may surprise you. Another thing Ted's Top 100 isn't is a compilation of City Weekly advertisers. I'm proud of City Weekly for maintaining a thick wall between sales and editorial (our offices are actually on completely different floors). I couldn't even tell you precisely who advertises in the paper and who doesn't.
There are new restaurants in this year's top 100 which weren't in last year's. That means some restaurants have fallen off the list. Feelings will be hurt. However, a number of excellent eateries didn't make my top 100 not because they've slipped or deteriorated, but simply because I haven't visited those places in well over a year. So, how could I honestly count them as my "favorites?" And, for restaurants with more than one location, I've listed my favorite one.
As I am wont to say regarding all of my restaurant reviews: Your mileage may vary. Dining is a uniquely subjective experience. I can't taste your food or wine for you. I can only steer readers toward places I think are deserving of their hard-earned buck. As far as I'm concerned, my 100 is a starting point—nothing more. Your own list is certain to be different than mine. And, I'd be interested in knowing about restaurants I may have missed.
The top 100 is not about winners and losers. To me, everyone in the business of feeding and nurturing customers is already a winner. I urge all of you to support the restaurants in your community, whether or not they appear in this top 100 listing. We live in troubled times and now, more than ever, we need to support local businesses. So, break bread with someone you love, early and often.