Often imitated, but never duplicated. That’s how I like to describe our annual Best of the West reader survey results, which you will see starting on page 35. A reader favorite since its debut in the magazine 23 years ago, Best of the West offers an intriguing list of west suburban superlatives in more than 80 wide-ranging categories — from best festival, to best pizza, to best movie theater, to best place to buy an appliance.
Over the years, a number of other local publications have begun publishing their own "Best of" features, but none have the breadth and depth of Best of the West. That’s partly because we cover a much broader geographic area — there are more than 50 communities within West Suburban Living’s circulation area. It is one of the reasons that in addition to the top three finishers in each category, we also publish a list of "Other Favorites."
By way of explanation, let’s take our Best Breakfast category as an example. When we first started our Best of the West reader surveys, going out for breakfast pretty much meant a stop at Denny’s or a local nondescript diner. Then one year, along came Egg Harbor Café, the first restaurant in the area to not only specialize in breakfast, but to not even offer dinner. It dominated our Best Breakfast category for several years until gradually — and then very quickly — a number of other specialty breakfast restaurants sprang up. And now, to be honest, there are so many great places to go for a great morning meal, to just print the top three vote-getters would be a disservice to you, our reader. We want to let you know ALL the top breakfast places in the area. That way, if convenience is a priority, you can go to the closest one, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can try a new breakfast place in a neighboring community. And if you are a true breakfast aficionado, you can try a different breakfast hotspot each morning for weeks at a time.
Another great thing about our Best of the West is that if you review it closely, it will undoubtedly inform you of something worthwhile that you didn’t know. Perhaps a great new restaurant you had not heard about or an interesting specialty store. I learned about a great TV series — one of our "extra" non-local categories we throw in just for fun and sake of argument — after noticing it was the top vote getter several years in a row. It became my first binge-watching experience.
And now for the secret why so much of the information in our Best of the West is so useful — because it all comes from you. So for all of you who voted, a sincere thanks. And for those who didn’t, if you disagree with any of the results or think we missed something, drop us a note and/or be sure to vote next year.
Have a great month, think spring, and as always, thanks for being a reader!