Second Helpings

 Gourmet Goofs: Every October, Gourmet magazine puts out its annual restaurant issue. Readers in North America's major cities are polled, and the results trumpeted across the pages.

As you might expect, the poll tells you a lot more about the readers than it does about the restaurants. I should know, since the magazine asked me to update its ballot of Valley restaurants earlier this year.

I don't know when the list had last been revised, but it must have been when the Hohokam were here. It still had chain places like the Olive Garden on it. It also sported several defunct restaurants, while leaving off the town's most interesting places.

This year's results are as predictable as summer heat. The top vote-getter was Pizzeria Bianco, which has also topped the southwest Zagat Survey for several years running. Now, I yield to no one in my admiration for Chris Bianco's pizza, salads and sandwiches. But the best restaurant in the Valley? Come on.

The rest of the Top Five showed the same lack of reader imagination. They're all swanky resort restaurants: the Marquesa, at the Scottsdale Princess; Mary Elaine's, at the Phoenician; the Palm Court, at the Scottsdale Conference Resort; and T. Cook's, at the Royal Palms. I can't really argue with any of these choices, except perhaps Mary Elaine's. Until very recently, this room had been rudderless for about a year, when readers were presumably doing their eating and voting.

But where on the list of reader favorites was Rancho Pinot Grill? Where was Restaurant Hapa? Where was Lon's? Where was Gregory's Grill? Where was RoxSand? Where was Vincent Guerithault on Camelback? Where was Convivo? Where was Michael's? Where were Mexican restaurants like La Hacienda, Such Is Life, Los Dos Molinos and San Carlos Bay? Did anyone who took part in the survey ever leave resort property?

Top picks in other restaurant categories, like Top for Wine, also seemed a little shaky. Vincent Guerithault has a fabulous, high-end wine list. But it pours only 18 wines by the glass. Christopher & Paola's Fermier Brasserie, in contrast, offers more than 100. The voters also favor chains: Z'Tejas was selected Top Moderately Priced Restaurant, while the wretched P.F. Chang's China Bistro was chosen Top for Fun. Durant's and Bistro 24 tied in the Top for Business category. El Chorro got the nod for Top for Drinks. And Blue Burrito Grille won Top for Family.

The Top New Restaurant? Readers liked Barmouche. I could make a case for it, too. But I don't get the voters' reasoning. They cite the European atmosphere, "a cross between a Paris wine bar and a London pub." So what main dish do they single out? The Scotch beef? The bouillabaisse? Nope, the hamburger.

Don't rely on Gourmet to help you call these restaurants for reservations, either. Somebody forgot to tell the editors about the Valley's area code changes. So the Scottsdale restaurants are still listed with a 602 area code. Barmouche got an even rawer deal. Its phone number comes with a New Jersey area code. -- Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at hseftel@newtimes.com or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.

 
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