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Gazette’s Reader’s Choice

November 1, 2010

The Kalamazoo Gazette’s Reader’s Choice came out yesterday.  I have to admit I cried a little bit when I read it.  Not because my choice didn’t win.  Because McDonald’s did.  Seriously.  It depresses me that either 1.) There’s apparently nothing better in Kalamazoo or 2.) People are that dumb.  I don’t know which one would actually depress me more.

I’ve lived in quite a few cities and all newspapers do this.  Most newspapers keep it local.  The Gazette opens it to every restaurant.  That’s fine if that’s what they want to do.  It’s just super depressing that people actually think McDonalds is the best Kalamazoo has to offer.

On that note, I may as well throw out my votes so you can lampoon me the way I just lampooned the masses.

Best Local Sandwich

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  B’Witched Deli – My Choice:  The Strutt Cafe & Bar

The Strutt was a surprise to me.  I had no idea what to expect but it actually became a favorite of ours.  The sandwiches are fanstastic.  The great crusty bread is what got me hooked.  No matter how good the filling, if the bread is to plain, the sandwich isn’t complete.  That’s not to say I don’t agree with the Reader’s Choice.  I actually really liked B’Witched Deli and it would probably be number 2 on my list.  We had a great meal one night at B’Witched and haven’t been back since, but only because we lived on the other side of town.  Now that we live near the place, I would bet we’ll be there more often.  As for the Reader’s #2 and #3 choices…Panera and Jimmy John’s…all I can say is, really?

Best Hot Dogs

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  Coney Island – My Choice: N/A

I got to take a pass on this one.  I don’t eat hot dogs.  Happy to see a local joint win, but I’ve gotten some feedback today that some people are surprised Ray Ray’s Italian Beef is not on the list.

Best Fries

Gazette Reader’s Choice: McDonalds – My Choice:  Ray Ray Italian Beef and Sausage

This is the one that got my blood boiling.   I don’t know anyone that thinks McDonalds fries are actually any good.  I like McDonalds fries, but I don’t go to McDonalds just to get them.  This one was tough for me because there are actually a couple places I really like.  Ray Ray’s were the best but Penn Station East Coast Sub (which is a chain, I know, but not something you can get at every small town in America) has fries that I crave.  Ray Ray’s fries are that perfect combination of fresh cut and greasy.  The runner-ups in the Gazette poll deserved to be at the top.  Smashburger came in #2 and they are good, but not great in my opinion.  Old Burdick’s (#3) is another truly local joint that serves up some great fries.  Another place I’d throw out there is Central City Tap House which serves Truffle Fries.

Best Hamburger

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  Red Robin – My Choice: Red’s Grill

I like Red Robin.  I do.  But it’s not the best burger in town.  Again, maybe my hatred for chains gets in the way here, but I still think there are better.  My pick is Red’s Grill in Portage.  It’s the most unassuming little diner on the edge of town.  The day we stopped in, the place was damn near empty.  I was very surprised to have a really great hand pattied, fresh, cooked on a flat top burger.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  The rest of the Gazette’s list includes Smashburger which I really like as well.  Been there several times since its opened.  Number 3 was Old Burdick’s.  Again, really like it.  My other picks for inclusion would be The Real Deal, Harvey’s on the Mall, and Central City Taphouse.

Best Mexican

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Mi Ranchito – My Choice:  Undecided

I haven’t eaten at a lot of Mexican restaurants in Kalamazoo and really haven’t had one that just jumped out at me as being fantastic.  We did eat at Mi Ranchito a couple weeks ago and really liked it, but it didn’t knock my socks off.  There are still a number of Mexican places I would like to try so I really don’t feel informed enough to make a decision.

Best American Restaurant

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  Food Dance – My Choice: Food Dance

I don’t really like this category.  What exactly is an American restaurant.  This one is a little broad and it’s like asking best restaurant with just a few exclusions.  I do like the reader’s choice of Food Dance.  It is by far one of my favorite restaurants in Kalamazoo and one I wish I could afford to eat at more often.  The food is fantastic but a little out of my price range. First runner up in the Gazette poll was Old Burdick’s.  Again, solid choice.  Number three was Applebees which is just a joke.  It’s on the same page as McDonalds but at least it didn’t win the category.

Best Desserts

Gazette Reader’s Chocie: Rykse’s – My Choice: Undecided

If I had to pick, I’d probably just say Rykse’s.  It’s the first thing that comes to mind, but I really don’t do desserts.  I save all my calories for the Pepsi that I’m addicted to instead of eating dessert.  We didn’t really do dessert in my family growing up so it’s something that has never entered my life as an adult either.  Runner’s up were Food Dance and Bravo!  Haven’t had dessert from either.

Best Family Restaurant

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Rykse’s – My Choice: Rykse’s

J and I actually just moved closer to this place and may become our go-to for breakfast and lunch.  The food at Rykse’s is all scratch made but it’s not a pretentious scratch made.  They don’t brag about locally grown, organic food.  They brag about home made comfort food and do it in an atmosphere that you’re comfortable bringing both your kids and your grandaparents too.  Runner’s up in the Gazette were Erbelli’s and Theo & Stacy’s.

Most Romantic Restaurant

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  Webster’s Prime – My Choice: Zazio’s

Our first Valentine’s Day here in Kalamazoo was spent at my first choice.  Zazio’s.  For some reason, we usually gravitate towards Italian when we do the romantic night out.  J’s not a beef eater, so a steak house is usually out of the question.  I’m not a big steak at a restaurant guy either as they tend to be really expensive, but I would like to give Webster’s a try.  #2 in the Gazette was Zazio’s and #3 was a three way tie between Bravo!, Rustica, and Martell’s.  Bravo! will probably be our next romantic night out and Rustica has been on my list of places to try since it opened.  We did lunch at Martell’s one day and really liked it.  I never really thought of it as a romantic place, but I’m sure at night it’s a lot cozier than when we went for lunch.

Best Pizza

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Erbelli’s – My Choice: Bimbo’s

This category has been a debate since we moved to Kalamazoo.  J and I have a very specific pizza we love in Chicago and unfairly compare all pizza to it.  We’ve actually found several that we like.  Bilbo’s and Martini’s both rate high on our list, but Bimbo’s is the one that stood out the most to me. Our one trip to Erbelli’s was a giant bust.  The pizza was ok, but they screwed up the order and we had an obnoxious group next to us in an empty restaurant that kind of ruined the experience.  We moved fairly close to the Stadium Drive location and will be giving the place a second chance soon.  When we order out, we almost always order Cottage Inn.  We accidentally found out while living in Lansing that they have a fantastic thin crust pizza.  Another place I’d be stupid not to mention is Fricano’s of Alamo.  We didn’t have the best experience the night we ate there, but the pizza was really good.

Best Italian Restaurant

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Erbelli’s – My Choice: Zazio’s

I don’t really consider Erbelli’s Italian, so that seemed like an odd choice to me.  I think pizza when I think Erbelli’s, so now I’m curious about their pasta menu.  My pick is Zazio’s.  Best lasagna I’ve ever had.  It’s not something I can afford to eat at every week….or even every six months, but it’s definitely great pasta.  Others on the list were Mangia Mangia which my whole family loved when we took advantage of their cheap pasta Monday deal and Bravo! which I haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet.

Best Wait Staff

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Erbelli’s – My Choice:  Don’t care

Not interested in this category.  I don’t go to the same restaurant enough to really be able to judge a waitstaff as a whole.  There’s only been a few places in town where we’ve had problems with the waitstaff, but on a whole, we’ve had pretty good experiences.

Best Chinese Restaurant

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Chinn Chinn – My Choice: Don’t eat Chinese

I don’t eat Chinese or really any Asian cuisine, so I have no opinion.

Best Vegetarian Food

Gazette Reader’s Choice – Food Dance – My Choice: Not a vegetarian

Another category I know nothing about.  I have never ordered a vegetarian option in my life.

Best Bruch

Gazette Reader’s Choice – Bravo! – My Choice:  N/A

Have not had brunch anywhere since moving here.  Not really my thing.

Best Place For Steak

Gazette Reader’s Choice – Webster’s Prime – My Choice:  My backyard

J’s not a beef eater and steak houses offer very few options for her, so we tend to avoid them.  Would love to eat at Webster’s one night, but haven’t been there yet.   The thing that bugs me about this category is that Outback Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse came in #2 and #3.  Are there no other places in Kalamazoo for steak?

Best Fine Dining

Gazette Reader’s Choice – Webster’s Prime – My Choice: Zazio’s

Just go ahead and read the description from Most Romantic Restaurant.  To me, these two categories are one and the same.

Best Sports Bar

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Old Burdick’s – My Choice – Old Burdick’s

I’m not really a sports bar guy anymore.  Well, I like the food at sports bars, but I don’t go to watch a game and drink beer like I used to.  Old Burdick’s is a place that I really enjoy going.  Both locations have great food and a really great atmosphere.  Other places I like include Fat Tony’s and Big Deal’s. Gazette reader’s chose Buffalo Wild Wings and Main Street Pub.  B-Dubs was a hangout for me for years.  Great place to watch a game.  Food is just alright.  Main Street Pub is also a pretty safe bet for me.  Very good food.

Best Wine Menu

Gazette Reader’s Choice: The Wine Loft – My Choice – Give me a beer

I don’t drink wine.  Wouldn’t know a good wine list if I saw one.

Best Locally Made Beer

Gazette Reader’s Choice:  Bell’s Brewery – My Choice:  Bell’s Brewery

I never really gave Bell’s a chance until moving here.  Now I love the stuff.  I have a six pack of Two Hearted Ale in my fridge right now and went through a lot of Oberon this summer.  Runner’s-up were Olde Peninsula and Arcadia Brewing.  Love both of their restaurants, but never really had much of their beer.

Best Martini’s

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Zazio’s – My Choice: Never had a Martini

Give me a beer.

Best Breakfast Place

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Food Dance – My Choice: Full City Cafe

I have eaten Full City a couple times and have never had something I didn’t like.  I do have to admit I’ve never had Food Dance’s breakfast.  I’m sure it’s fantastic, but I’m really a greasy spoon kind of guy when it comes to breakfast.  The first runner-up for the Gazette was The Daily Grind which I had never heard of.  It’s a place we’ll hopefully be checking out soon.  Second runner-up was East Egg.  Enjoyed our meal there, but man was it loud.

Best Coffee Shop

Gazette Reader’s Choice: Water Street Coffee Joint – My Choice: Dont’ Drink Coffee

No opinion other than there has to be better than Starbucks.  Little surprised Fourth Coast didn’t rank higher than it did as an honorable mention.

Best Place for Lunch

Gazette Reader’s Choice – Erbelli’s – My Choice:  Ray Ray’s Italian Beef and Sausage.

I’m still wondering how many people actually know about Ray Ray’s.  Being a Chicago-area transplant, Ray Ray’s provides incredibly authentic food.  J and I are more lunch people than dinner people anyway, so most of our experiences with all the restaurants on this site are actually from lunch trips.

So, there you have it.  That’s how I vote in the Reader’s Choice poll.  I know everyone has their opinions, but McDonalds?!  I’m sorry.  Still not over that.

One Comment leave one →
  1. MuddyG permalink
    November 15, 2010 12:42 pm

    Love your breakdown.

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