A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Thirty years ago, when my Chronicle forebears first sprouted the idea of an annual compendium of the best restaurants, stores, public places and personalities, et al. in Austin, they didn't get cute with the name. They called it the "Best of Austin." A little on the nose, but effective branding nevertheless; given how many of our competitors have launched their own versions over the years, I'm glad we planted our flag there first.
And 30 years later, we're more or less doing the same thing we've always done – celebrating the very best the city has to offer in one blowout issue. But our "Best of Austin" Awards have definitely evolved over the years, so much so that it can be a little hard to explain their Swiss Army knife-like applications.
The "Best of Austin" Awards are democratic, but also idiosyncratic. They're your coolest friend tipping you off to that next great [insert bar/restaurant/CBD shop/queer party]. They're also your mom, sensibly schooling you to eat your greens and find a good plumber. They're the welcoming committee, giving out-of-towners and new residents the lay of the land. And they're the town scribe, putting down for posterity an annual picture of how Austinites feel about their city.
That's sort of the gist of it.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty: The Austin Chronicle "Best of Austin" Awards are broken into Readers Poll winners and Critics Picks. The Readers Poll is conducted in two parts. There's a write-in ballot in late summer. The highest vote-getters then move on to the finalist ballot in early fall. On the finalist ballot, we invite readers to leave comments about who they're voting for; we choose our favorites and run them in this issue.
More than 20,000 people cast a ballot in our finalist round. That's a whole lot of people passionate about their city and wanting to tell us about it.
If the Readers Poll is a reflection of the will of the people, then our Critics Picks are where Chronicle staff and a few trusted freelancers elbow in to say, "Also this!" Sometimes it's to cheer on a killer new place or an artist making leaps and bounds. Other times, it's to applaud an establishment that's been around for so long, we worry we've taken it for granted. There's no rhyme or reason, and there's no pay-to-play; our sales staff sells ads around the issue, but you can't buy an award – not now, not ever.
We just like what we like, and we want to tell you about it, too.
So we've got that in common. – Kimberley Jones
Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin. Support the Chronicle