Best of the Twin Cities

Michael Cherkas

intrographic.gif The seeing eye-con on this week's cover says it all: We know where you shop and we know who you are.

Okay, it says almost all of it.

Before we tell you who you are and where you shop--and eat, and party, and cast political darts or laurels--we want to say just a little bit more about this exercise in consumer espionage, which is not brought to you by anyone possessing a badge, or anyone who is likely to ask you to take your shoes off at the airport.

You see, unlike certain gumshoes whose claim to fame is securing a laminated government ID card, we get our data by dint of hard work. We counted your ballots (2,615 in all), then we fanned out to salt our lips on barbecued ribs and the rims of the very best margaritas this cold Omaha has to offer. Someone had to do all of that heavy lifting, after all, and after spending the other 51 weeks of the year kvetching about what's not right in our burg, well, we thought we deserved the assignment.

In the end, we learned that there is no computer software that could replicate the true wonder of life in our Twin Cities. No code capable of distilling what it means to live within striking distance of a restaurant that turns out sushi of such astonishing quality that the owners confidently post drool-provoking previews of its nigiri, sashimi, and maki online. No spies able to truly quantify the allure of a local bed-and-breakfast whose lowest rates are the precise cost of 86 cups of coffee at Bob's Java Hut. No formula for psychoanalyzing our frightening need to commune with a certain TV anchor-God whose "hair has an almost insouciant spikiness, as though it secretly wanted to be a mullet." And there was no way our staff of sleuths could take such an assignment without coming to a few conclusions of their own, testimony from our faithful readers be damned.

Some of our staff winners are perennials, local icons about which we just can't stop finding flattering things to say. The Pioneer Press's Ruben Rosario just keeps turning up as Best Columnist, for example. Best Bookstore (New)? Well, all we know is all our interns from Macalester sure are lucky to be near Ruminator.

A few perennials did got knocked off their pedestals this year. For instance, you'll find us skating in a different spot when the snow falls (indoors, actually, ice and all). And we humbly suggest that the best fried chicken, along with the best pizza, is in St. Paul. (C'mon, you can so make the trek. It's not like it's Braham or Buffalo or something.)

Agree or disagree, in every case we're confident that you'll be intrigued by our choices. For instance, you'll want to know how our brain trust concluded that the Best Place for a First Date is the Soo Line Railroad Bridge. (For the right Fox reality-show contract, we might even consider coughing up the staffer who finds embankments a turn-on.) And think of how impressed your date will be when you correctly define a varenyky or a holubet. Not that intrepid? Or single? We're sure you will still want to consider our rationale--worthy of a high school debate team--for naming Kirby Puckett the year's best victim.

What's most important of all, of course, is that--unlike the killjoys in Washington--we're happy to share our intelligence.

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