The 10th annual Best Of Dining poll on OnMilwaukee.com is up and running, and based on the votes so far, it will break our record for most reader participation.
As you peruse the 50 questions and almost 750 voting options, you might find yourself asking, "Why did OnMilwaukee.com include this restaurant but leave out another?"
I love a good conspiracy theory, but in this case, it's pretty straightforward. To determine whether a category remains on the list from last year's poll, we consider how many people voted in that question, and how many skipped it.
If the question passes that test, we look to see if it was a blowout or a close race, since ideally, we don't want to include too many questions that have such an obvious answer that the same place wins every year (of course, sometimes that's inevitable).
Finally, we look for ambiguous, similar or outdated questions, and tweak them as needed. "Best Ribs" became "Best Barbecue," for example. "Best Breakfast" and "Best Brunch" were separated, and "Best Beer List" was dropped because being a dining poll, we didn't include stand-alone bars.
In terms of selecting the nominees on the list, we get a lot of feedback. Our editorial team selects our collective top 15 (unless a category literally doesn't have 15 options). We also look at last year's poll, and if we want to swap in a restaurant, we'll drop the lowest vote getter.
Similarly, we try to offer as few duplicates as possible, so even if a restaurant could qualify for many categories, we attempt to place it in just a few, max.
Of course, to those who say we got it totally wrong (and we hear that occasionally), we offer an "other" category. Notably, no restaurant has ever come close to winning as a write-in vote, though you can argue whether that's because people only vote for places they've heard of and can click on, or because our offerings are spot on. Probably a little bit of both.
And yes, we know it's a "popularity contest."
Finally, some ask why we don't have a totally open-ended system, like some other polls. We find when you offer absolutely no curation, you can get some crazy responses. As much as we enjoy all-you-can-eat breadsticks, you'll note we didn't include national chains like Olive Garden in "Best Italian." (We, too, laugh when the readers of a certain Milwaukee newspaper vote that as the city's best.)
Obviously, the system isn't perfect. Inevitably, we miss some places, and over the years, we've included a few stragglers that had even closed before the poll began. It's a huge task to get it right, and when you're talking about considering almost 750 different area restaurants, we'll make mistakes.
But this year's list is a good one. Whoever wins, it will become a definitive list of the best of the best.
So please take a moment to vote. Thanks, as always, for helping make OnMilwaukee.com Milwaukee's best daily magazine.
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