Thirty-one years ago, this magazine pioneered the city magazine “Best
Of” staple. The brainchild of editors Alan Halpern and Maury Levy, the
May 1974 issue was the best-selling in Philly Mag history. Beginning
then and there, the annual Best Of issue sat on coffee tables
throughout the region — year-round. It became the road map for how to navigate the city.
I know, because it was on my coffee table as I was growing up. When
Philly Mag bestowed a “Best Of” on a cheesesteak or a restaurant or a
shop, it meant something. It was the closest our town came to having a
widely understood seal of approval.
Now, 31 years later, we still take the Best Of brand seriously, even as
we update it for our times. You'll notice a lot of new stuff this year.
We've got more winners and categories than ever. And we've decided to
be even more relevant; we've added a “Help” section to make your life
easier — by highlighting handymen (remember them?), furniture repairers
who make house calls, and people who will clean out the junk in your
basement. What's more, because the city isn't the center of all of our
lives every day, we've included more regional winners than ever. (See
page 141 for a handy chart of service providers broken down by county,
and page 157 for a complete index organized by region.)
Also for the first time, in partnership with CBS 3, we've recognized a
Best Philadelphian. We did this because our chronicle of the best of
this region has to be more than simply a compendium of where to eat and
what to buy. It should also touch on what moves us. We're an emotional
city. (That's what all the booing and self-hatred is about. Duh.) So,
as Vicki Glembocki points out on page 144, we were touched by little
Alex Scott and her dream to raise money for cancer research by selling
lemonade, and now we're inspired by her parents, who have refused to
let the dream die with their daughter.
Finally, one thing hasn't changed in Best Of's more than three decades:
this magazine's commitment to editorial independence. Yes, our list is
totally subjective. But — contrary to widespread belief — it is never
influenced by who advertises, or doesn't. That cynical perception is
one of our great frustrations. I still get inundated with calls from
advertisers wanting to know why they weren't recognized. I tell them
what I tell you: Our opinions aren't for sale, and we call them like we
see them, in a media universe where straight-shooting is in short
supply. As Halpern and Levy did three decades ago, we let things fall
where they may.
In the magazine business, there is an age-old argument between
writers and editors. Writers want more space; editors look to restrain
the wordsmith's more florid tendencies. I've now been on both sides of
the divide. We've had one such tussle here of late, and I'm hoping you
can weigh in on the matter. On page 116, check out Bruce Buschel's
wondrous piece, “The Ghosts of Broad Street.” Buschel — a Philly Mag
staffer back in the '70s — is a brilliant writer, and his walk down our
most iconic street is at once moving and entertaining. Alas, he wanted
more space. As in, twice as much space. As in, 12,000 words.
So we're running a condensed version of Bruce's article here — at a still-hefty 6,000 words — and we've put the full version
up at our website, phillymag.com. Do me a favor, if you're so inclined
and have a spare, I don't know, six or seven hours: Read them both, and
let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I erred in not running all of
Bruce's ruminations in the pages of the magazine. He's a terrific
writer, so I'm guessing it's worth your time.