How to Determine the Best Restaurants?

Our editorial director reflects on the stomach-churning worry and care that went into this year's sp

By Rachel Hart April 8, 2012


This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Seattle magazine.

Three things are very important when we produce our Best Restaurants issue: 1) The story must reflect how we dine out locally now, (oh, how fun it would have been to cover the 50s and 60s eras of wedge salads and fancy Jell-O desserts!); 2) it must include a mix of affordable and fine dining experiences; and 3) this one will seem obvious, but it’s trickier than you think when the aim is to get to the core of a much-buzzed about restaurant: The food must be consistently good.

When it comes to restaurants chosen as reflecting how we dine this year? One on our list isn’t even a traditional restaurant. Point number three was especially important in determining the best happy hours; anyone can serve up a plate of fried calamari, but when you leave a restaurant feeling like you’ve had a great meal, scored the deal of the century—and get home by 7 p.m. on a weeknight—you’ve really won.

This year, though, we take the conversation beyond superstar chefs and wait-list restaurants with our first annual story on the power players in the local food world. These are the companies, institutions and people—restaurateurs, financiers, developers, architects, lawyers, product developers, retailers and others—who are relevant and influential; they’ve made a significant cultural impact and continue to make a difference on the local (and in some cases, global) food scene.

To say that the thought of leaving someone critical off this list kept me awake a night or two would be an understatement. But despite the churning stomach, after hours and hours of meetings, research (thank you, editorial assistant Shawna Leader!) and debate amongst the story team (myself, dining editor Allison Austin Scheff and James Beard Foundation Award-winning food writer Rebekah Denn, with input from our entire team of food and spirits writers), we feel we’ve accomplished our goal. Of course, we expect—and welcome—disagreement (“How could so-and-so not be on this list?!”), but one’s absence from this list doesn’t diminish his or her fine work. Next year’s list could be an entirely different story.

Dive into this issue and plot out your upcoming dining—and sipping—adventures. With recommendations from Allison, as well as our local spirits and bars expert A.J. Rathbun; Kendall Jones, our go-to beer guy (; Shannon Borg, our longtime Washington wine writer; and James Beard Award winner and former Seattle magazine food editor Sara Dickerman, you couldn’t have better dinner companions—Seattle’s dream team of food writers—to whom I’m grateful for sharing their expertise.

Also this month, our unabashed love affair with the Space Needle and World’s Fair 50th anniversary continues with our story on the lasting architectural impact of the fair. Celebrations kick off on April 21 and one of the must-have souvenirs this time around will be editor-at-large Knute Berger’s new book, Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle. Knute is as masterful a storyteller in person as he is on paper, and he has great tales to tell about the Needle. See you at a reading!

Until next month,


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