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Posted at 5:09 PM ET, 08/14/2006

Popularity Contest

By Anne Kenderdine

You voted in droves, and today we announced the winners of our fifth annual Best Bets awards, the contest where readers name their favorite places in 48 categories.

In a blog post after last year's contest, we addressed the fact that many of those results were not unique to the D.C. area and asked you to comment. This year, we added new categories and renamed others to encourage nominators to think locally.

For example, options on this year's ballot included New Restaurant, Neighborhood Spot and Vintage/Thrift Store.

Did our updates refocus the nominations? Yes and no. We tailored last year's category Women's Clothing Store to become Women's Clothing Boutique this year, and while there are many boutiques among the finalists, guess who won? Not a business that fits that definition, but one that earned the most votes, nonetheless.

This year, we also named the Gurus' Favorite Spots in the same categories, so you can see which finalists fall on both lists.

Like many Washingtonians, we're interested in voting trends - especially when the election measures public opinion about establishments in the D.C.-area's entertainment scene. So what do you make of this year's results? Was your neighborhood bar nowhere to be found? Or did the coffee shop you frequent shine brightly above the competition?

By Anne Kenderdine  | August 14, 2006; 5:09 PM ET
Categories:  Misc.  
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Doesn't it make sense to just have two categories for each "Best" -- indie AND chain? That would seem pretty clear-cut to me.

Posted by: kathy | August 16, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

The people who chose Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse as best movie theater must hardly be interested in films. Jeez.

Posted by: Cinephile | August 17, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

In response to the suggestion in the chat, I'd say limiting suggestions to local places/local chains sounds reasonable. Or perhaps include a national chain only if the person submitting the nomination backs up with a really good reason. I've never submitted a nomination, so I'm not sure if the format allows for including why you're nominating something, but maybe that could be included next year.

Posted by: tami | August 17, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The fact that PF Changs won in the Chinese category and Starbucks in coffee shops completely invalidates this ridiculous popularity contest. Barnes and Noble for Best Bookstore?!
Either DC is entirely bereft of local businesses, or Washingtonians are entirely bereft of taste. Next year please limit the survey to LOCALLY OWNED businesses!

Posted by: Ian | August 17, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I think perhaps let people nominate whatever they want but then only pick the top "local" places. I've lived in Houston and Chicago, so I'm not interested in knowing about PF Changs really. But as a new resident, I really want to know what local places people like.

Posted by: new to DC | August 17, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Just read the commentary on the GOG chat and I agree that the nominations/winners should be limited to local establishments, it is afterall what is supposed to be the best in the area. And while I do enjoy a meal at PF Changs, I have enjoyed it in DC, Florida, Atlantic City...should I go on? Why not have the GOGs list their favorites and readers vote? There could even be a write-in section if there is something the GOGs missed. Because seriously people, do they really have chicken lettuce wraps in China??

Posted by: Laurie | August 17, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

consider this though... the Post covers the washington REGION. While it may shock the hipper-than-thou folks who never venture out of the District to know this, but there are people who don't spend much time in DC. Therefore, many of these locally-owned establishments could be completely foreign to someone who lives in Falls Church and works in Tysons. Maybe the DC types consider us style-less, taste-less and worth-less because we don't know every shop on U Street... but we are still part of the Washington region

Posted by: suburbanite | August 17, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

But even the suburbs have non-chain restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. (think Urban BBQ in Rockville, e-City in Tyson's and Misha's in Old Town).

Posted by: NE Chris | August 18, 2006 5:26 AM | Report abuse

The problem with "limits" is that how do you decide? What is the difference between a local and a national chain? Its not always clear. Is an east coast only chain local or national?

Also what about outposts that only have a few locations (Like BD's in Bethesda .. all the others are in the midwest). Not everyone knows they exist, even though they are chains.

I think the posters idea of dividing the number of votes by the number of locations makes a lot of sense. If a chain is doing it right, then it should get credit. They just should win by sheer volume of outposts.

Posted by: amelia | August 18, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I think it's just that the DC area is too spread out. When you talk about the best of NYC or the best of Chicago, you rarely see the suburban haunts pop-up.

Many DCers wouldn't consider going to Falls Church for a good burger or great cup of coffee - the distance makes it's unreasonable.

Perhaps the best bets could be broken up by DC, VA and MD and then local joints of all areas could be better represented.

Posted by: Jackie | August 18, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Why does there always seem to be the presumption that "national (or regional) chain" automatically equals mediocre quality? Originality, good customer service, and eclectic wares are not the sole providence of locally-owned neighborhood merchants. While I might prefer to frequent a locally-owned establishment, it's still a matter of personal choice. Why should "Best Bets" exclude chains from the voting? People take many factors into account when making their choices for Best Bets. Let the readers who are interested enough to vote have their say. No stacking the deck to favor or disfavor chains.

Posted by: Adrian in Alexandria | August 19, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

i find it funny that suburbanite refers to "someone who lives in falls church and works in Tysons" as someone who isn't interested in downtown DC... Hello, my condo in Falls Church is less than 10 miles from the district. if you want to talk about "The Region" - refer to Stafford or Frederick. People in Falls Church better be venturing into the city on a regular basis to check out cool LOCAL stuff.

Posted by: janiceelaine | August 23, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

and I feel equally bad for Jackie, who won't leave DC for Falls Church. Elevation Burger is AWESOME.

Posted by: janiceelaine | August 23, 2006 5:46 PM | Report abuse

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