Cafe Society

The other side of Grub Street: Polling the foodistas

A couple of weeks ago, the esteemed folks over at (the daily internet food organ of New York Magazine) published their 2009 Grub Report -- a survey of the state of our food union (their words, not mine). And while I generally enjoy the work done by those web-crazy kids over at Grub Street (and not only because they once linked through to one of my massive odes to Eric Ripert and an epic meal I ate at his Manhattan fish temple, Le Bernardin), this particular piece stuck in my craw.

Maybe it was all the navel-gazing New York-iness of it -- the indisputable contention that Manhattan is the center of the foodie universe. Maybe it was all the David Chang ass-kissery. Maybe it was just that the whole thing seemed like an empty exercise in left-handed self-promotion being done by some of the biggest food writers in the world. I don't know. But I do know this: by the time I was done reading the piece, I was already answering all the questions in my head in a completely Denver-centric context. Like those ten questions that James Lipton always asks at the end of Inside the Actors Studio(the one's lifted from Bernard Pivot who, in turn, was inspired by the "Proust Questionnaire"), the queries put forth by the Grub Streeters were just open-ended enough to work in nearly any situation.

So I, in the tradition of Lipton, Pivot and Proust, have simply decided to flat-out steal the format from Grub Street and pose the same (or nearly the same) questions to you. I will include the original Grub Street question, the original answers given by their panel of food writers, then my version of the question and my gut-reflex answer. Of course, what I'm really after are your answers -- hopefully better thought out than mine.

So without further ado, I give you the 2009 Grub Report 1st Annual Cafe Society Poll about Food and Chefs and Stuff. Let's begin with...

Grub Street's 1st question: Who are the three most important chefs in the U.S. today?

Grub Street's winners: Mario Batali, David Chang, Grant Achatz

Jason Sheehan's 1st question: Who are the three most important chefs or owners in Denver today?

Jason Sheehan's winners: Justin Cucci of Root Down (because every city needs a place as ill-conceived as Root Down to give it a sense of great and laughable tragedy), Joe Vostrejs and his Larimer Square partners (because the man seems capable of doing no wrong), and that lady who cooks inside the Thai food cart on the 16th Street Mall (because she's awesome and I love her and she is living proof that the people of this city want more street food, like, now).

GS's 2nd question: What is the most important restaurant city in the country right now?

GS's winner: New York (duh...)

JS's 2nd question: What is the most important restaurant neighborhood in the city right now?

JS's winner: Broadway, because restaurant guys have been trying for years to make a go of making a stretch of this street a proper restaurant neighborhood, and if, someday, they can actually reach some sort of critical mass and turn this bum-clogged, puke-sodden and parking lot-less part of Denver into something special, it will prove that we can do (virtually) anything, haters be damned.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan