Mullen | Best Regards: What Best means to us, and you 

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I knew we were on the right track with this year’s “Best of Utah” issue when I overheard music editor Jamie Gadette on the phone last week, fact-checking one of the 400 or so listings you’re about to tear into.

She was talking with a man at Julia’s, a little place at 51 S. 1000 West that won a staff pick this year for best menudo. Jamie was checking the name and phone number of the restaurant; the Spanish speaker on the other end thought she was asking to speak to

Julia. In her best rudimentary Spanish, Jamie kept asking, “

Que nombre? El restaurante?” Finally, they figured each other out. The man confirmed the name of the business, Jamie checked it off her list and all was right with the world.

I don’t think you’ll find Julia’s on many mainstream restaurant lists. And I hope that fact alone offers a clue to our mission with this edition: We’ve tried to recognize some off-the-radar places and people out in the community. Some places have no telephone. Some keep unconventional business hours. Some are accessible only by Website. We’ve tried to search out a number of quiet, untrammeled places for food, drink, recreation and consumer services. But some are repeat winners. If you do something right—and consistently—you ought to be rewarded for it, right? No need to reinvent the wheel.

There’s a rich history to the whole “best of” tradition. “Best of” issues are staples for most alternative newspapers around the country. That’s because they make money. Advertisers want to buy space, knowing the paper has a long shelf life and because so many people will see it. It’s our most widely circulated paper of the year. Best of all, unlike some “best of” features in other media, there is zero collaboration between our ad sales staff and the writers. Nobody buys an award. So whether an advertiser wins or not has no bearing on who buys space in the issue.

Just so you know how we run the traps around here, Best of Utah is composed of readers’ picks and staff picks. Readers’ choices result from online and print versions of a reader poll we ran for several weeks. We compiled the votes, and then ranked the top three winners in each category. A staffer then writes up a paragraph for each winner. We keep an eye open for people who try to stuff the ballot box, too. So if your office turned in 100 ballots for “best receptionist,” we caught on to it and eliminated your votes. (Don’t worry; there is no “best receptionist.”)

Beyond the fact that BOU helps pay our salaries, doing the issue is fun. As a staff that gets out and about in the community, we use the opportunity of BOU to put our stamp on something. We feel pretty strongly about that. If you’re lucky enough to call yourself “alternative,” you ought to stand behind that title by being proud of what you endorse. So the staff has picked bests in politics and media; night and day life; consumer services and food and drink. These are our opinions; we like them.

In writing this column, I took a little dip into the

City Weekly archives. We printed our first BOU in 1990. We were still called

Private Eye back then, founder John Saltas was publishing from a little spot in Midvale, and I was living in Minneapolis with my own subscription to John’s paper. BOU 1990 was a whopping 32 pages. It consisted of only readers’ picks back then—staff picks were yet to be invented because a full-time staff was still only a twinkle in John’s eye.

The pages of that issue are yellowed with age, and scores of advertisers have since shuttered up. Bill & Nada’s, the landmark diner that stood for decades in the Trolley Square neighborhood won for “best greasy spoon.” Bill & Nada’s—champion of a swell little breakfast dish called “brains and eggs,” held onto the title for years. Then it closed, and fell victim to an eventual bulldozing.

Options for dining have multiplied in 19 years. John took it upon himself to declare “no definitive Greek restaurant in this town,” though he did give a nod to several restaurants for their daily specials. Most on that list have long since closed or renamed themselves. Compare that to the 2008 list. We have Greek food broken down into

specific categories. That’s progress.

In the first BOU, KUTV reporter Rod Decker won “best news personality.” It’s a comfort to know Decker is still out there (though he didn’t make the readers’ cut this year and I’ll miss seeing him at the BOU party). In 1990, KUTV’s Michelle King was named “best news anchor.” Talk about the circle of life! King retired late last year and along with the other hyped-retirees in TV land, got her own special mention in this year’s issue. Look it up.

I hope you get a lot of use out of this issue. Keep in on the coffee table. You never know when you might want a bowl of tasty menudo.

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