When I learned Wednesday night that Zagat.com blogger Lauren Bloomberg had ranked Louisville one of the world’s top eight foodie destinations, my immediate thought was, “Cool!”
And then a nanosecond later my thinking changed to, “Huh? Really? Seriously? One of the world’s eight best foodie destinations?”
And from some conversations I’ve had since, I’ve learned others feel the same way about this lofty proclamation.
In every conversation, people have said, in essence, Louisville’s restaurant and bourbon scene is fabulous. We all love it and brag about it shamelessly. We love and support the people who make it all happen. We know this is a tremendous food town. But it’s not in the top eight — in the world!
It’s just not. No arguing it. It’s an absurd claim I bet no serious chef or restaurateur here would agree with.
For every restaurant the quality of Corbett’s, Lilly’s, Proof on Main, 610 Magnolia or Asiatique found here, there are hundreds like them in New York and Los Angeles and Miami and New Orleans and Washington, D.C — and that’s just the U.S.
We could spend the next 30 minutes pointing out great “foodie destinations” in other countries and wind up dissing dozens of them.
That’s no slight against this community’s restaurant scene, it’s just a recognition of reality.
Had Bloomberg instead gone looking for “great new foodie finds, undiscovered treasures ‘round the world,” I’d agree that Louisville could make the cut. But top eight in the world?
Back to the blog: I scanned Bloomberg’s piece to see what she found so compelling about Louisville that led her to lavish it with such praise. The list includes: bourbon (specifically distillery tours), Proof on Main (sure, dig it), the Hot Brown (a swell downtown chow down) and the 21c Museum Hotel (heard it’s swell, not in my price range).
And then I thought: Those are all good, but what makes them world conquerors? Where’s the news value? The Hot Brown is 85 years old, 21c has received truckloads of press recognition as one of the world’s top bunkhouses—so saying so comes off as old news—and bourbon distillery tours, though cool, aren’t new either.
How does someone looking for truly unique grub—someone bearing the Zagat standard, the most respected restaurant guide in America—overlook Mayan Café or Mojito Tapas Restaurant? How do they talk about the Hot Brown but not take notice of the English Grill, the fabulous fine dining spot one floor up?
And how is it that the only two food mentions made are tied to hotels? Didn’t she go ‘round the town at all?
In terms of actual research, her choices were such low-hanging fruit that it makes me wonder whether she even visited Louisville. Any of those could have been plucked from an online source, shared with someone who’s been here or lifted from a magazine or newspaper article about our town. None of them showed any in-depth knowledge that would back her bold claim that Louisville is a top-eight foodie destination in the world.
I tried to contact Bloomberg Thursday, first through her Facebook page, secondly through email. She responded yesterday on Facebook, saying, “I’ve forwarded your request to the media person at Zagat. I’m sure she’ll be in touch.”
But since no one rang, I called Zagat media rep Tiffany Herklots in New York, who tried gamely to answer my questions, but couldn’t definitively.
When I asked if Bloomberg had actually been to all the far-flung places she claimed in her blog (Puerto Rico, Japan, Kentucky, Canada, England, Mexico, Malaysia and Egypt — travel budget busters that no publication pays for anymore), Herklots said, “I believe she did, or at least most of those places on the list. If she hasn’t, we know that someone on our team has.”
When I asked how Bloomberg concluded that Louisville belonged on such a serious list, she said, “I’m not sure what her process was, but between Lauren and all the editors on staff, I’m pretty sure it was discussed.”
When I told her I thought Bloomberg’s questionable conclusions didn’t live up to the Zagat Guide standard, she said, “Unlike the Zagat surveys we do year round, where people rate and review, this isn’t based on one of those. This is what Lauren compiled for her blog.”
We concluded the call with Herklots promising Bloomberg would get back to me, which she hasn’t. I emailed this morning to follow up, but to no avail —and to no one’s surprise, I’m sure.
So I ask you, Insider Readers, what do you think? Do you believe Louisville is one of the world’s top eight foodie destinations?
I’m not asking if you like the fact that some positive attention will come this way as a result of that claim, or whether you love Louisville restaurants; on both accounts we’re all pleased.
I’m asking if you think the claim is deserved.
Judging by several Facebook posts I’ve read today, many in the city do. Even people who I thought had the sense to consider this a bit doubtful.
Even Mayor Greg Fischer’s office handled the praise pretty cautiously, saying, “Being on lists like this is not only a lot of fun, it’s another indication of the growing strength of the food and beverage sector in the city’s economy. Louisville has worked hard to enhance our already strong reputation for great food.”
Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines, but the Mayor (or whoever fashioned this quote) didn’t come right out and say, “Absolutely! We belong on this list. All the world will see that we’re one of the best!”
The quote said all the right things … it’s fun to be on these lists … they indicate “growing strength” and boost “our already strong reputation for great food,” not, “Woo-hoo! She’s so right. We ARE the world’s best!”
To me, that’s telling.