The 100 Best U.S. RestaurantsJan 01, 2012
Recently on Forbes.com
Now Plotnicki is back in the spotlight with his 2012 comprehensive list of America's 100 Best Restaurants, updated for 2012. The opinions are not Plotnicki's alone, and like Zagat, the list is based on a survey, with about 3,000 raters covering some 70,000 eateries. The difference ostensibly is that these panelists are somehow qualified, or in the words of the press release I got, "including many of the top food bloggers in the country."
Since I can't speak to the nameless raters, I'll address the list itself, which suffers from the same strengths and weakness as the book. Strengths are that it mostly hits the mark with a lot of great restaurants, and covers some (but not enough) interesting geography often overlooked by urban centric mainstream food media, from Princeton, NJ to Birmingham, AL to Portland ME. On the other hand, the list skips large swaths of the country and many entire cuisines and is distressingly NY-LA-Chicago-San Francisco Bay Area centric, while preoccupied with trendy Urban "localvores," molecular gastronomy and sushi. Fourteen of the top Twenty restaurants are in New York or California.
But the overall list is helpful for picking places to eat or finding new interesting options, like the acclaimed Husk in Charleston, SC which opened last year. The list occasionally gives into food media hype, which is not surprising, because many of the survey's participants are presumably the authors of this hype. For instance, New York "insiders" can continue to praise Momofuko all they want, presumably because their competition already has and they don't want to be left out, but the idea that it is the 22nd best restaurant in the country, or even the 22nd best restaurant in Manhattan is patently absurd. Peter Luger is another example, and while I am well aware that for some bizarre reason it has many fans, I don't know why, except to guess that they went for the hype and haven't actually been to other high-end steakhouses. It's probably not the best steakhouse in Brooklyn, certainly not in New York City, and a far cry from best in the nation, yet here it is, the highest rate on the list.