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July 20, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Best ice cream, best farmers market, best restaurant… or are they?


I’m always happy to see Seattle restaurants get national praise, but it’s happening often enough these days that we’d write about nothing else if we tried to list them all. Here’s a roundup of some of the recent honors, with the occasional caveat included:

Even PETA loves us now — or, at least, our Mariners. Safeco Field ranked as #2 in the organization’s list of the country’s 10 most vegetarian-friendly ballparks. It got points for offerings including the IchiBan veggie dog, the Seattle chili veggie dog, and the Bombay veggie dog. (Citizens Bank Park in Philly beat it out as #1 for “barbecue-pit-style vegetarian beef and decadent faux-chicken sandwiches.” Vegetarian beef?)

The University District Farmers Market was rated #6 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 11 farmers market in the country. (The mag rated San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza as #1. I compared the two markets a while back.)

Food and Wine did a roundup of the country’s 25 best ice creams, and they screamed for both Mora Iced Creamery and Molly Moon. (I give this list a lot of credibility, even though it missed one of my other top picks, Parfait, because it did include my all-time favorite of Woodside Farm Creamery in my hometown of Hockessin, Delaware.) Bainbridge Island-based Mora doesn’t always get the attention that Seattle shops enjoy, but it’s well worth a ferry ride. There are other outlets in Kingston and Poulsbo. Here’s the story that first tipped me to them in 2005, back when they were in Bellevue too.

Forbes tapped the Athenian Inn at Pike Place Market as one of the nation’s top-grossing restaurants, a surprise to observers who usually tag Sky City at the Space Needle instead. Take it with a grain of table salt, though, as the research firm behind the compilation didn’t include alcohol sales.

Zagat dubbed the list “wackadoo,” while Ronald Holden at Cornichon estimated the Forbes figures were off by a factor of 10.

TripAdvisor’s list of “Travelers Choice Favorite U.S. Restaurants” included one from Seattle. It beat out Chicago’s famed Alinea. It was… Toulouse Petit, which ranked #6 in the nation. (Number one was Le Bernadin in New York City.) I like Toulouse Petit, especially for its stupendous happy hour, but I wouldn’t have thought of it as one of the nation’s top 10. Technically, it’s not Seattle’s #1 on TripAdvisor either, though it does have a comfortable 4.5 out of 5 stars, and it’s ranked 8 out of 2,193 Seattle restaurants. I asked the TripAdvisor folks how they did their calculations, and they crunched the numbers based on reviews over the past year. “An algorithm was used to determine travelers’ favorites, with quality and quantity of reviews and opinions taken into account.”

Do you trust these lists? When we wrote about Ezell’s winning the Esquire poll as the nation’s most life-changing fried chicken, some commenters said the win was because of ballot-stuffing, and wasn’t legit. I’d agree that it wasn’t a thorough study — and yet I think just the ability to mobilize your fans to vote for you, and to have enough fans to do that voting, counts for something. I prefer lists curated by writers and editors who have had time to dig deep into our city’s scene, but even those are hardly scientific.

Agree? Disagree? Got a better way to compile a “best-of” list?

File photo of a Toulouse Petit special. Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times



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