The winners of this year’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards have been announced (and in case you missed it, you can check the entire list of winners here). There were many return favorites, along with some unexpected new entries. After all, the results reflect the preference of our readers as they support their favorite restaurants.
Looking beyond the actual list of winners, however, reveals a number of interesting facts, trends, close calls and near ties that are worthy of featuring as honorable mentions. And just as in the case of the Olympic Games presently taking place in England, the results, while set in stone, invite a bit of behind-the-scenes commentary.
Year after year, there are restaurants that battle very closely for the top honor in several categories—sometimes with single-digit difference in votes—encouraging those of us that tally the ballots into imagining a soccer match, in which the winner is not decided until the last penalty goal, or even placing bets along the way. Such is the case of Café des Artistes and Trío in the Best Gourmet Category, both restaurants previously having won in the category, and equally deserving of such an award.
Similar close calls took place between Dee’s Coffee Company and The Coffee Cup in the Best Coffee Shop category, and between El Arrayán and No Way, Jose! in the Best Mexican category. And while Fredy’s Tucan has been comfortably leading the Best Breakfast Category, Coco’s Kitchen raised our eyebrows more than once during the voting period.
This day and age, between social media, word of mouth, online reviews in websites such as TripAdvisor, not to mention hard-working publicists, there are many factors that come into play as foodies decide where to cast their votes in the Readers’ Choice Awards—and let’s not forget the actual dining experience! Ultimately each restaurant decides how they wish to implement their own brand retention strategies to keep their loyal customers happy, if at all. Restaurants such as No Way, Jose! gave their wait staff “vote for us” buttons to wear through the entire voting window. And those who had the opportunity to dine at Taste@Casa Cupula may remember the clever paper butterfly decorations they placed on champagne flutes during their popular Sunday brunch, encouraging voters to participate. We thought theirs was the most original idea, so far, and it reflects tastefully—pun intended—on their innovative menu.
And then there’s creativity. When dozens of continuous votes started coming in from Brazil—via Yahoo Brazil email addresses—all favoring a particular restaurant, we took notice. But we also know that local tourism authorities are not presently emphasizing promotional efforts in that South American country, and we didn’t notice an unusual influx of Brazilian tourists in the city. The restaurant was discreetly disqualified.
Just as we pay attention to restaurants that implement a variety of strategies to remain favored among their clients, we also notice how excellent restaurants such as Archie’s Wok (Best Asian), La Palapa (Best Sunset) and Barcelona Tapas (Best Spanish) are consistent winners that do not necessarily go out of their way to promote Readers’ Choice among their clients. And they have strong contenders to deal with! We call this good karma, along with excellence in their menu, service and overall experience.
As in years past, many of the restaurants that appear in the winner list do so not only because they excel at what they do; they’ve embraced the idea of promoting the poll starting in December, when the poll becomes available to voters (the voting period is mid December to mid June, every year). Many excellent restaurants don’t fare better in the results not because they are not deserving of the top places; regretfully, they don’t begin promoting the voting process as early or actively as others.
Ultimately, in a poll such as Readers’ Choice, the winners are the restaurants that understand the fact that the competition throughout the bay is fierce, and ultimately, they must strive to offer the most memorable dining experience, all the time. Many are featured here, and there are many more to be discovered, much to the advantage of those who enjoy the vast culinary diversity that makes Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit a wonderful destination to explore.