The Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll

2006 Readers Poll  |   2006 Critics Picks  |   2006 Index of Winners

During 13 years at the Chronicle, I've always suspected that certain restaurants campaigned for voter support when the Restaurant Poll ballots appeared in the paper every spring. That suspicion was confirmed in April, when our table received a printed voter solicitation along with a menu in a brand-new eatery. There was no harm, no foul - we can't fault businesses for an honest effort to turn out the votes in their favor - and, besides, it's the American way. Now, it's May, and Special Issues Editor Kate X. Messer and her ace team have carefully tabulated all the ballots and passed their calculations along to the Food writers for our edification.

Looking back over the results of the past few years, one sees a study in power surges, with different restaurants riding the wave of voter support every year. For instance, in 2005, we saw big surges by Vespaio, Uchi, Austin Java, Ararat, Pluckers Wing Bar, and the then brand-new Galaxy Cafe, with most of them landing in the top 10 list of Favorite Restaurants. Both Vespaio and Ararat managed to stay close to their places from last year, but Uchi is still surging, claiming the top spot as Favorite Restaurant, winning Best Sushi, Best Japanese, Best Chef (Tyson Cole), and tying for first place in Best Service (with Mirabelle) and Best Décor (with perennial winner Fonda San Miguel). For 2006, we noticed impressive pushes by Cafe Caprice, Manuel's/Changos, Chuy's, Moonshine, and Eddie V's Edgewater Grille, each now ensconced in the top 10. (There was also an unprecedentedly strong showing by the Yellow Rose, and we're considering looking for volunteers to check that out.)

As always, the list includes some new winners, such as Baby Greens for Salads and Dressings; Manuel's and the Soup Peddler coming in first and second in Soups; and Changos rocketing to the top in Taquerias over last year's first-time winner, the Taco Shack, and far ahead of longtime fave Taco Xpress. Even though it has only been open a few months, the overwhelming popularity of Home Slice Pizza put them in as Best New Restaurant, with Capitol Brasserie and Fino as runners-up. We were also pleased to see some new blood in the Best Chef category, with Cafe Caprice chef/owner Paul Constantine and Chris Bauer, chef of Finn & Porter at the Hilton, coming in second and third behind the much-heralded Tyson Cole. As always, our panel of food critics - MM Pack, Barbara Chisholm, Mick Vann, Claudia Alarcón, Wes Marshall, and Kate Thornberry - have shared their favorites from the past year, and we're sure that between the two lists, you'll have worthwhile dining suggestions to last until next May.
- Virginia B. Wood

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