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By now, many of you have noticed that the annual Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll ballots and results were missing from the paper this spring.

After a year of discussion, we've opted to retire our venerable Restaurant Poll, adding many of the voting categories to an enhanced Food & Drink section of the annual "Best of Austin" Poll. Rest assured: Chronicle readers will still have the opportunity to weigh in on many of their favorite award categories (look for the first BOA ballot in the June 28 issue).

The Austin restaurant scene has changed dramatically since the Restaurant Poll first appeared in 1995, and we believe coverage of that scene should reflect those dramatic changes. As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Austin now boasts a depth and breadth of nationally recognized culinary options that were unimaginable to us when the poll first appeared. We've observed Austin's evolution into a city with distinct and vibrant neighborhoods. Each of those areas is blessed with a selection of dining spots: some well-established stalwarts, some hot new places on the cutting edge, other gems best known to folks who live in proximity to them, as well as strategically placed food trailers. Our goal was to come up with a list of the eateries that we felt had distinguished themselves by their contribution to the local dining scene over the past year and design a new way to recognize and present them to our readers.

Our goal was to collectively provide faithful Chronicle readers with a list of restaurants worth trying over the coming year, but that's not to say we didn't each have that one unforgettable dining experience during the past year deserving of special praise, which you can find on the Favorite Plates page. As always, we hope our readers will keep and use this list over the coming year when faced with the opportunity to partake of Austin's dynamic culinary scene. Make a First Plates winner one of your first stops. – Virginia B. Wood

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