The December issue of New Orleans Magazine went live yesterday, and in this month's issue they share their picks for this year's Best of Dining. The panel of experts making these picks was comprised of their "food writers and editorial staff." In a city like New Orleans, approximately a bazillion different restaurants and chefs could qualify for awards like these, making selecting the worthiest winners a difficult task. Let's see who the Mag honored.
Keep in mind that New Orleans Magazine doesn't give out a Best Restaurant or Best New Restaurant award, so the marquee distinction is that of Chef of the Year. This year that went Tenney Flynn of GW Fins. Chef Flynn earned this distinction?his second, he won in 2005 as well?basically by continuing to cook at an exceptional seafood restaurant in the face of the BP oil spill. And not just cooking, but creating a very high quality product with local seafood at a time when that's got to be a terrifying proposition. So props to Chef Flynn; it's well-earned.
René Bajeux won the Chad Pennington Comeback of the Year for finally settling back in New Orleans and revamping the food at the Rib Room, while Ralph Brennan was named Restaurateur of the Year. Brennan's win there seems a bit surprising, considering other chef-restaurateurs like Adolfo Garcia, John Besh and Donald Link all oversaw expansions of their popular restaurant empires. And in a definite affirmation of Freret Street's explosion as a restaurant destination, two new Freret restaurants, The Company Burger and Ancora, won for best burger and best pizza, respectively. No complaints there.
Many of the other categories are fairly straightforward and the winners well-deserved. Katie's in Mid City won Best Neighborhood Restaurant, new Ethiopian restaurant Cafe Abyssinia won Best Specialty Restaurant and Courtyard Grill was named Best Middle Eastern. Which does raise the question: Why isn't Middle Eastern a "specialty"? (Answer: Probably because there's so many damn Middle Eastern restaurants.) But one award, Best Supermarket Makeover, is just so silly we have to assume it's a joke. And actually, the Mag's description of why the Rouse's on Tchoupitoulas won is tongue-in-cheek enough to suggest that they realized it was a silly award, but that it was also warranted considering the crazy improvements in the market.
What are your thoughts on the issue? Agree or disagree with their choices for these awards? Leave 'em in the comments.