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Rating the Raters

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As always, your Reader Rater Favorite Restaurants ["Your Top 50," March 9] demonstrates the shortcomings of a system which pretends that the ability to enter a restaurant qualifies a person to offer an informed opinion regarding what happened there. It's certainly true that nobody stays on top forever, and no doubt Grant Achatz is truly a genius exercising his talents not only in cuisine but in gadget-laden presentation as well. Still, it is hard to believe that, were Charlie Trotter to be included in this list (his omission was an oversight, wasn't it?), we would find that, based on food score, 24 chefs do what they do as well as or better than he. When limiting the list to $$$$ and $$$$$ restaurants, he winds up tied for 13th. It's a good bet that if you just asked the raters what the best restaurants in town are none would list 12 before getting to Trotter's.

Here's an equally egregious example in the $ category. Hot Doug's, where Doug Sohn has hit upon a gimmick that he executes fairly well although he still can't come close to making the best hot dog in town, outscores the superb and sublime Lula, where creativity is ongoing not stalled.

Based on the written reviews, which often contradict the Reader Raters, your staffers seem to agree that the raters frequently miss the mark.

Russell Bliss

Chicago

The editors reply:

There's no shortage of expert opinion on the finest restaurants in town, and plenty of publications and Web sites praise the same excellent chefs, so we try to do something different--namely list the restaurants that our readers most enjoy. We consider it a plus that their list includes inexpensive places like Hot Doug's alongside extravagant shrines like Alinea. We mean for the listings to be useful not only to foodies on a splurge or an unlimited budget but to regular people on a regular night out.

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