by Dan Gibson
It's a little silly that national publications feel the need to make lists of the best whatever in America. While I imagine a magazine like Food & Wine does have the ability to visit bars all over the country, they are always going to be working off a limited sample size. I wouldn't even feel comfortable saying what the best bar in Arizona is and I've lived in the state and gone to a lot of bars across the state. There's probably an amazing place to drink in Kingman or somewhere that I'll never step foot inside simply because it's not on my radar. I can tell you twenty great bars in the state, but my idea of what's the "best" will always be based on incomplete information.
Food & Wine's list of the 50 "best" bars in America, besides its super annoying presentation in slideshow form, shows off the limitations of the concept. According to the magazine, it would appear San Francisco is essentially the only place in America worth drinking, with New York, LA and Chicago predictably dominating the remainder of the mentions with a few other cities getting a mention for some sort of balance. However, I've had drinks in several of the SF bars mentioned (although F&W left off my favorite bar there, the shockingly affordable 15 Romolo in North Beach) and while many of those bars make a great cocktail, a drink from Scott and Co. is competitive with any of them and at a much more affordable price. I'm probably severely biased in thinking that Tucson bars like Scott and Co. and the bars of Hotel Congress should be included, but I'm imagining that there are great places in other cities that are missing from the list simply because the Food & Wine staff is in the Bay Area quite a bit and can tack on their $15 drinks to an expense account.
It's definitely an argument of semantics to care whether a list is titled "the 50 best" or "50 very good", but as purveyors of information, we're supposed to be telling the truth at the end of the day. Why make a statement that can't be said definitively, even if it's not great for your site's SEO?