From the Editor: The cream of the crop

Eric Lyttle

In a burgeoning city with more than 1,000 restaurants, it's not easy to rank the top 10. On appearances, it might seem simple. After all, the groundwork was laid by our sister publication, the former Crave magazine, which has ranked Central Ohio's 10 best restaurants since 2011. How much can they change?

In the case of this year's list, not much really. All but one appeared on the same list last year. But that didn't make things any easier. As journalists, we're trained toward the objective. We like stories that aren't influenced by emotions and opinions. We prefer to be invisible reporters of all things fact-based and quantifiable.

But a top-10 list of restaurants is, of course, entirely subjective. For instance, how do you compare the city's iconic French-inspired establishment, The Refectory, to charming little Basi Italia? What's the difference between a restaurant ranked No. 4 and one ranked No. 5? With such an exercise in futility, why not just throw darts to determine an order? Who's going to know?

But that's not the way we work. Dining editor Erin Edwards agonized for months over this list, to the point where I thought I might have to add a blood-pressure cuff to the office supplies order. Things became even more complicated when she learned that Kihachi, a venerable top 10, was for sale and Veritas was moving Downtown. "That's huge," Edwards says of the Veritas move. "I suspect there's no doubt it will elevate their game, and the city's." The sands of the restaurant business are always shifting.

Dining, she says, is at its best "when it both sparks a memory and then becomes one." She relayed a story of sampling a cocktail at The Sycamore. "Its flavor profile was dill, and I was immediately taken back to sitting at my grandmother's house, eating these dill oyster crackers."

She says the easiest part of compiling the list was slotting Veritas Tavern in the No. 1 spot. It was a no-brainer. "It's that good," she says. "No one is doing food quite like that here."

Edwards, who was born and raised in Nashville, says Columbus' dining scene hasn't yet hit its potential. "We're waiting for the dining scene to catch up to the city's status as an intellectual draw," she says. "Other cities our size are seeing big-name chefs move to their town to make an imprint. We're not seeing that yet. I'd love to see a greater diversity in perspectives. We're not seeing a lot of high-end cuisine with global influences. But I think it will come."

Edwards says, though the list of top-10 restaurants has included a number of the same standbys for years, she expects things will shake up soon. "I have a strong feeling that in the next couple of years, the list will change dramatically," she says, "based both on potential closings and projects that I've heard are in the works. There are some really exciting projects that could be coming into their own in the next couple of years." Check out our blog and the dining section each month as those developments take shape.