Wednesday, December 7, 2011

...Pittsburgh City Paper's "Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant" (a rant)

I hate popularity contests.

I had seen awhile back that Pittsburgh City Paper had opened voting for their "Best of..." edition, which seemed dangerous because ANYONE could cast their vote.  Of course, it was limited to businesses in the Pittsburgh area (as it should be), but it was scary to me that anyone could vote for anything - and that there were about 3582492 categories in which to vote (ok, maybe not that many, but close).  And THEN there was the option to add your OWN category...


Anyway, I admit, I voted - but not in every category.  I didn't think that it would be fair for me to vote in categories such as "Best Local Music Venue" when I don't go to see live, local music, nor would it be fair for me to vote on "Best Bicycle Shop" when I don't even own a bike.  However, I'm sure that there are people who voted in categories that they know nothing about, simply because they know the name of a person or business who promotes himself/herself/itself well.

Today, the results were revealed.  Knowing that people vote because they know names, but have not experienced the actual business themselves, it is difficult for me to take this poll seriously, at least in some categories.  For example, in the category of "Best Car Dealership", guess who won?  Just guess.  Think of a car dealership who has ads on TV, radio, etc. CONSTANTLY. 

Yup.  #1 Cochran.  Shocker.  I mean, how often do people buy cars?  Personally, I'm 31, and I've NEVER gone to a dealership myself to buy a car.  I just bought my grandmother's car from her estate last year, and before that, I drove the same car that my parents purchased (but didn't completely pay for) for me when I was in college and had to have a car to do my pre-student teaching.  There are people who lease cars, so they get a new one every 2 years or so - but let me ask you this: If they're using the same dealership repeatedly when the lease is up, how can they compare it to any others?

That's what I thought.  They can't.

Anyway, my point is that this was not a scientific poll - therefore, it can only be taken with a grain of salt.  So when I saw the winner(s) of "Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant", I had to remind myself repeatedly that this wasn't that serious.
But some people will take it seriously.  That's scary.

The winner?  Mad Mex.  The one restaurant that I was on the fence about when creating my "Authentic Restaurant List" for my students' extra credit project.  I had been to Mad Mex, and don't get me wrong - their food is really tasty - but I would hardly call it "authentic Mexican".  So for this restaurant to win in this category, to me, is a disgrace.

And that's why I write this blog - awareness.

Coming in second was Mexico City, the restaurant with the Black and Gold Burrito that I wrote about and whose picture I use as my profile pic on Facebook.  I was happy that they were in the top 3, so no argument there.

Black & Gold Burrito, Mexico City Restaurant

The third place winner was El Campesino, the first authentic restaurant that I ever tried here in Pittsburgh, back when I was in college.  This was the time of Chi-Chi's, so I was happy to try some "real" Mexican food at the time.

But wait - all 3 of these restaurants have something in common...

...multiple locations.

Of course.  Visibility.  Mad Mex has SEVEN Pittsburgh locations, PLUS locations in State College, Columbus, and Philadelphia.  The first time I ever had food at Mad Mex was when I was in college, at Penn State - they had just opened adjacent to the Days Inn in downtown State College, and every weekend night especially was PACKED.

You can probably guess why...and which is probably why Mad Mex won in two other categories: "Best Happy Hour" & "Best Late-Night Menu".

In addition, Mexico City has two downtown locations (a prime place for Pittsburgh City Paper readership), plus a location on the South Side (another high-readership area), and El Campesino, like Mad Mex, has 7 locations - one as far away as Altoona.

You're probably wondering who got my vote in this category.  Of course, it wasn't any of the winners.

Click here to find out.

I say to you Pittsburgh - it is time to challenge yourselves.  Discover AUTHENTIC Mexican/Latin American food in this city - it exists.  Next year, I want to see restaurants with one, maybe two locations dominate the top 3 in the "Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant"category.  On Urbanspoon, Smoke BBQ and Taqueria is in the top 10 for all of restaurants in Pittsburgh - that says something, don't you think?  If you need help figuring out what is "authentic", read this great blog post about that very topic by the owners of Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina (a NEW, AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurant!)

Follow this blog.  You'll learn about many of them.

Pittsburgh City Paper Website:

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about these 'Best Of' polls. We always get a good chuckle when we look at the winners. As someone with a masters degree in a field that involved research design and collecting/analyzing data, I am horrified at these kinds of polls!