Methodology: How The 50 Best Restaurants List Came To Be

See that little dancing picture up there? That’s how the list of Philadelphia’s 50 Best Restaurants came to be. That’s one wall of Foobooz World HQ, covered completely with 170-odd Post-It Notes, representing every single restaurant that was in contention for a spot in the 2012 rankings. That’s what we lived with for roughly three months–a constantly shifting and evolving representation of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene to be stared at, debated, argued over, torn down, rebuilt and obsessed over until me and Art and the rest of this year’s 50 Best Restaurants crew had gone all A Beautiful Mind and saw the thing in our sleep.

How did Stateside end up at #1? Why didn’t Fette Sau or Rittenhouse Tavern make the list at all? And what were we thinking with Marigold Kitchen? There are answers to all of those questions, and it all began back in August with a deceptively complicated question:

What are your favorite restaurants in Philadelphia?

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Philly’s 51st-Best Restaurant

Picking the 50 best restaurants in a city shouldn’t be this tough. So what does it say about Philly that it was?

Rex 1516—the modern Southern restaurant on South Street whose kitchen entices diners with crawfish potpies and creamy low-country grits—is Philadelphia’s 51st-best restaurant.

This place, which is loved so dearly for lingering brunches of sweet-potato biscuits with chorizo gravy, for collard greens and cabbage salads with pork fat vinaigrette, never really made it onto the Big List. Oh, it had a brief rise into the high 40s during one pissed-off afternoon in which we scrapped almost everything from number 26 on and rebuilt the entire low end of the list from scratch. But almost since the start of our research, Rex has held tenaciously to its spot at number 51, fending off better-known challengers (Ela, Distrito, Rittenhouse Tavern) and scrappy upstarts (Hot Diggity, Russet, Bar Ferdinand under the command of David Ansill) alike.

More on number 51 »

Please Ignore This List – Our Insatiable Obsession with Philadelphia’s Restaurant Scene

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to Philadelphia’s restaurant scene? Our insatiable obsession with Philadelphia’s restaurant scene 

I can pinpoint the exact moment when I went from zealot to naysayer. I was out to dinner in the city with a group of friends, and the talk at the table—as it inevitably does these days—turned to restaurants. You know … have you been here, who just left there to open that, and so on. The conversation lasted for 30 minutes, right through our just-muddled cocktails, past the warm house-baked bread, beyond the first round of seasonal small plates. No one paused, not even for a second, to comment on the food we were eating or the restaurant we were in. And that’s when I became a culinary curmudgeon. I realized that all of the excitement surrounding our food scene suddenly seems to have very little to do with the actual food. Talking about restaurants—whether you’ve actually been there or not—is now our city’s favorite topic du jour.

Backlash is an integral part of the trend curve. Things become cool, then popular, then saturated, then overwrought, and then over (cupcakes being the quintessential—and still  inexplicable—exception). I’ve been writing about food in Philadelphia since interning at this magazine in 2004—I eventually became food editor—and was fortunate enough to be on the upslope of that curve. When I began covering food, Marc Vetri had one restaurant, and Jose Garces had none. But the hits kept coming, and fast. My food friends and I would rehash the progressions of courses and get giddy over perfected techniques, smart interpretations of classics, novel presentations, increasingly creative concepts. We were participating in a food scene that was getting richer, denser and more exciting by the minute.

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The Philadelphia Magazine 50 Best Restaurants for 2013

These are the restaurants we want to eat in right now. Not yesterday. Certainly not last year. Maybe not even tomorrow. But right now.

Philadelphia, at this moment, is in a state of flux that mirrors (and in some cases heralds) the changes happening in the restaurant industry at large—a movement toward a new casualness, where the best meal you’ll ever have is one you eat in blue jeans while sitting at a rough wood table in a neighborhood you wouldn’t even have driven through a decade ago. In this brave new world of cuisine, the restaurants our parents and grandparents knew—those temples of white-tablecloth haute cuisine—are struggling to find or recapture relevance. And in many cases, the cooks who trained at them are now the chefs who are taking their trade away.

Check out the 50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia on Phillymag.com

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50 Best Restaurants Being Announced

We will be announcing the Philadelphia magazine 50 Best Restaurants list on Wednesday, December 26th. The Top 20 restaurants will be tweeted in reverse chronological order starting at 11:45 a.m. The full list will be revealed on Foobooz at 3 p.m.

Follow along with the hashtag, #50BestPHL or head out to your local newsstand or bookstore Wednesday afternoon to get a copy of the magazine.

The tweeted list so far »

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Alla Spina

Photo via Bon Appetit | Jason Varney

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

 

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

Photo by Jason Varney

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Talula’s Garden

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Stateside

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Blackfish

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Ela

Ela - Photo by Jason Varney

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

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