The best of the best in the business

by Brian Clarey


I have had the good fortune to get paid to write about food for almost 20 years now, a small part of my duties here at YES! Weekly, but one of my favorites.

I do my best to familiarize myself with the myriad dining options we have here at the pace of about one restaurant a week, and still I can’t keep up.

While the Triad is not known as a restaurant region along the lines of New Orleans, Chicago or San Francisco, we have some great chefs, some wonderful dishes and more than a few truly amazing eateries.

I look forward to our Best of the Triad Reader’s Poll every year because it rewards culinary excellence in all its forms. The Best Chef category, which in the past has honored luminaries like Leigh Hesling of Print Works Bistro in Greensboro and Will Kingery of Willow’s Bistro in Winston-Salem, remains the most sought-after award, but all the restaurants in the cities and towns of the Triad have a shot at recognition. We have categories for best lunch and breakfast, best diner and bistro. Cuisine of every ethnicity has a place in our awards, as do dishes like burgers, hot dogs, barbecue and pizza.

We’ve added some new food categories this year, including Best Bar Food, Best Frozen Yogurt, Best Salads and Best Cupcakes.

Thousands have already cast their votes, but the poll runs through March so there’s plenty of time to let your voice be heard.

Campaigning is encouraged. In fact, most of the winners in these categories used social media and advertising to their advantage. But we discourage spamming — that is, stacking votes in a particular category. Our online voting system, which allows just one ballot per IP address, has cut down on the amount of spam we get, but I still notice a little bit going on. Let this serve as a warning: The results will be lightly curated.

This means that the winner of Best New Restaurant will be an actual new restaurant and not someplace that has been around for years. The Best Chef will be a real chef who works in a kitchen and not somebody who throws great dinner parties. Your mother is not eligible, unless she has her own restaurant.

And please keep in mind that this is a Triad-based competition. I know there are some great restaurants and dishes in our neighboring communities, but only Triad businesses are up for consideration in the Triad’s Best Awards. It’s amazing that I have to type this out, but here we are.

Another thing: This is the Triad’s Best Awards. This means that the winners should exemplify excellence, high standards, quality… you know, the best. So when you cast a vote in the Best Hot Dog category, put a little thought into it. Don’t just name the first place you can think of that sells hot dogs; try to remember the best hot dog you’ve had all year, and let us know where you had it.

Along those same lines, I’d like to say a word about chain restaurants.

I have nothing against chain restaurants, many of which have local ownership and create jobs for the people who live here. And we have a couple of truly fabulous national chains here in town — Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Ruth’s Chris, Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Bar, Bravo Cucina and the Bonefish Grill come immediately to mind. Locally based chains like Cook Out and Ham’s do a fine job as well.

But the thing about most chains is that they can’t replicate what a small, locally owned restaurant can do. If the best breakfast you’ve ever eaten is at IHOP, I strongly urge you to branch out a little and try something different like Mary’s Café in Winston-Salem, which may be the best breakfast place in the state.

Most of all, have fun. There’s no better way to honor your favorite chefs, servers, restaurants and bartenders than to nominate them for a Best of the Triad Award. And there’s no better place to find out about the best eats in town than in the pages of YES! Weekly.