Restaurant roundup review rankings: threat or menace

rankings are not bullshit though?

Are the top 50 on the list better than the places in the bottom 50? Not in any meaningful way. And there are probably another 20 or 50 that deserve to be on the list just as much, but Addison had to arbitrarily cut it to 101.

based on last year’s results I’d say the top 30 or so last year were definitely in another league compared to the ones in the 80’s+ … so yes it was fairly easily to discern for me.

it’s not about giving participation trophies out to the top 150 LA restaurants, I like that it is both selective and ever-evolving… and forces restaurants to be on the top of their games or risk falling lower.

Nothing annoys me more than a "best of ___ " that they just put in alphabetical order. It scream laziness. This opens up a discussion.

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It’s not lazy to minimize arbitrary decisions.

From a reviewer’s perspective, for a list of 101, when coming up with the final list there are probably three tiers:

  • maybe 25 or so that are absolute standouts that must be on the list
  • 50 or so that are easy choices
  • 100 or more that arguably could be on the list, some of which are arbitrarily dropped to hit the arbitrary 101

Ordering within the groups is arbitrary. Maybe you could honestly come up with a top five, but the difference between #10 and #25 is mostly an arbitrary, semi-random choice, as is even more so the difference between #26 and #75.

And remember, the 101 is not simply the “best.” It’s meant to be a representative selection reflecting the culinary, geographical, and economic diversity of greater LA.

Addison didn’t cut it to 101 - the 101 best restaurants list was started by Jonathan Gold in 2013. He’s a legend and it’s always been a fun way to showcase LA’s growing, amazing restaurant scene. And come on who doesn’t love a good list?

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I love how you just arbitrarily determine which numbers are arbitrary and which are actual rankings. LOL the irony.

The fact is rankings are taken more seriously than “20 best restaurants in LA” like the NYTimes did and they just haphazardly pick a random group with no discernment possible.

Seems like you have some beef with the critics at LATimes or don’t believe they take it seriously enough to truly delve into why a restaurant was at #12 one year and now is at #48

Do you bash the Oscars for having “Best Picture” or the Grammy’s for “Album of the Year” too? after all, they are coming from different genres and musical backgrounds so why even pick a winner when we can just reward all 10 or so?


Every critic who has to make a list with a large set number has to arbitrarily cut it off.

I’ve done it. Any critic who has will tell you the same. It’s just the nature of delivering the arbitrary number set by the publisher. I can’t tell you whether the arbitrary ordering starts at #5 or #20, or exactly where the breakpoints between the first, second, and third groups are, but I guarantee you the process is as I describe.

Given their own choice a good critic would adjust the number from year to year to reflect their judgment. As Addison said last year, “the fixed number feels shorter every go-round. There’s simply too much to celebrate.”

The top few are meaningful, as is probably the last one.

Picking the single best of the year might be difficult but it’s not arbitrary. Neither is a short list like a top 10.

Again, according to the critic who writes it, the 101 is not a “best” list. It’s “restaurants that best embody excellence and convey the essence of our food culture.” The publisher makes the headline “best” anyway because that bullshit sells.

I don’t remember this story exactly but I think it’s pretty close:

David Chang talked about getting spot 101 on Adam Platts first 101 list for New York in ‘06 and how he ran into Platt and wasn’t sure how to feel. Platt said it was the most important spot on the list.


There’s a big difference when a restaurant falls though in rankings, because it signifies the quality has gone down OR that they have been surpassed my newer restaurants. Same when a restaurant takes a massive leap up from a. year or two, that’s the beauty of growth. Or showing how fantastic and consistent a place is like Chi Spacca etc…

Especially when looking at restaurants coming from the same culinary background, it does help signify which is the best Italian place to go to for pasta etc…

As angry as “rankings” make you, I can guarantee far more people are upset when we have the NYtimes just giving a random list of 10 restaurants in LA and labeling them all “The same and best”. Guaranteed. if you did a poll of whether LA times readers wanted a list of 101 alphabetical OR a ranking 101 to 1, I don’t think it’d be very close. Arbitrarily I’d say the results would be 80-20 in favor of rankings.

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Ignorant people often prefer to be bullshitted. That doesn’t make it the right thing for a critic to do. Reader preferences do lead publishers to insist on bullshit.

Addison has, who knows, maybe 4-500 candidates for the list. When making the cut there’s an easy pick of some number that definitely have to be in. Then there’s another easy pick of the bottom batch that are clearly outclassed by competitors. The bigger the first cut, the harder it is to decide among the remaining say 150. Or who knows, maybe in such a great food town as LA the first cut is 200. Either way he’s fucked.

Any reviewer in that situation ends up having to make some arbitrary choices. Often they look for ways to cheat, as Addison did in 2019 by treading Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Chi Spacca as a single entry. As the deadline approaches maybe he flips coins.

Not true unless maybe the fall is from #20 to #80. Dropping within one of the three main reviewer’s sorts (and we don’t know the breakpoints) means nothing.

Case in point, Mozzaplex was #9 in 2019. Last year Osteria Mozza was #14 and Chi Spacca was #26. The quality did not change. No better restaurants with similar food ranked higher. Pizzeria Mozza, on the other hand, was knocked off the list by Pizzeria Bianco, Quarter Sheets, and Sei.

Michelin’s star system has its issues but the reviewers don’t have any arbitrary numbers to deal with, so it unquestionably means something if a place gains or loses a star.

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So for the record you also don’t believe in “Album of the Year” in Music or “Best Picture” at the Oscars?

I’d also say subjectively that restaurants I’ve been to on the list in the 70’s+ I’ve found more often than not unmemorable and not something I’d go back to whereas in general restaurants in the top 30 or so usually warrant a second trip.There is no universe where 200+ restaurants deserve to all be on a list.

I take it you’re not a sports fan? Because rankings are commonplace in basketball, football DESPITE players at different positions and roles.

It’s an odd hill to die on and frankly lazy and misguided to call people “ignorant” who prefer rankings.


I have no side in your fight/discussion but believe that these “Album of the Year” and similar awards are complete BS and hardly have any real meaning


Actually that is a very American thing as people here seem to have a higher „need” to be “entertained” by such “rankings”. You don’t see this with for example football (the real one :wink: in Europe. (Similarly also with restaurant rankings)

I’d also say subjectively that restaurants I’ve been to on the list in the 70’s+ I’ve found more often than not unmemorable and not something I’d go back to whereas in general restaurants in the top 30 or so usually warrant a second trip.There is no universe where 200+ restaurants deserve to all be on a list.

Let me gently point out that you’re describing what the michelin system sets out to do. Consider if you were to give the top 30 some tiered form of recognition… say stars? Maybe restaurants 31-70 could be qualified as “the reviewer found noteworthy food” and you could assign some kind of recognition like … a plate

My spicy hot take is that World Best and other rankings are actually for lazy readers. It’s an easier message to sell and understand that x restaurant is better than y restaurant all the way down the list. The reality is, of course, much more complex. It’s also subjective and personal to your taste. Example, I’ve been to 3 of this year’s top 5 “50 best restaurants”. I would say I enjoyed my meal at Etxebarri more than Diverxo and maybe even more than Disfrutar. But that’s… my personal, very subjective, opinion and the meal was exceptional at each of those places and I would not think someone is incorrect if they had a different ordering. I don’t see how you can make an objective system that could accurately stack rank those kinds of experiences. They are too different in culinary philosophy (primal fire based cooking vs multicultural references vs “molecular gastronomy”), structure (more traditional tasting menu vs 30+ different dishes), and execution (friendly vs professional). A system like the Michelin stars acknowledges these limits and only promises you that *** are comparably excellent, and better than ** or a *. While I may disagree with the criteria and judgement based on my personal experience, I think on the whole, the system is a more valid communicator of comparative excellence. It doesn’t promise something that it can’t deliver: that restaurant #1 is objectively better than restaurant #2


I like the idea of tiered systems too! What I don’t like is a general list with no rhyme or reason or attempt or effort to differentiate them.

I think there’s a big difference between “50 best restaurants in the world” with a ranking vs. Top 101 in LA which imo could be even less restaurants in some ways… I wouldn’t mind a top 50. Having a top 200 is outrageous as stated above where many restaurants ranked +70 were pretty meh for me.

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Grammys I agree… Oscars hold a lot of weight though.

Picking a single best is completely different from winnowing a list of 500 or whatever down to 101. Another huge difference is that for the Oscars or Grammies none of the previous winners are eligible.

The Oscars are a popularity contest among Academy members and promoters do all kinds of things to try to hack the nominations and final vote, which is kind of like the Pellegrino awards but not very similar at all to Addison’s job.

Sports have reams of statistics people can use to create rankings. Nothing like restaurants.

I’ve explained why rankings are bullshit. If you want to pretend that they mean something that’s your privilege.

I’ve worked on big roundup reviews, worked as a restaurant critic, had many conversations with other restaurant critics, and fought with publishers over the bullshit they wanted to impose on editorial, so I do know more about the subject than most people. You can find essays by Addison and other restaurant critics talking in some detail about whittling things down to the arbitrary numbers imposed by publishers and other aspects of creating big roundups.

A lot of your disputatious blather boils down to “my ignorance trumps your experience.” Also you lean on logical fallacies.


I’m thinking this post should be re-named Rankings: Bullshit or Legit?

I’m still waiting on some actual predictions! Can we get on-topic here?

Are you unfamiliar with how many movies are started on a list for “Best Picture” at the Oscars?

Privilege is quite the interesting word choice because of your subjective opinion on them. A lot of your argument boils down to, “I know more than everyone else” which comes across as the height of condescension and privilege.


Yo tambien.

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