Here’s why you can’t trust ‘best restaurants’ lists

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Here’s why you can’t trust ‘best restaurants’ lists

How’s this for a knee-slapper: Beavercreek was named the “BBQ Capital of Ohio” in an MSN.com story entitled “The BBQ Capital of Each State.”

And how’s this for a head-scratcher: the same article singles out for praise a specific Beavercreek restaurant’s menu item that the restaurant’s manager told us has never existed.

Now I realize that Beavercreek is many things to many people — I grew up there myself — but one thing we can all agree on: it is most decidedly NOT the barbecue capital of Ohio. Its inclusion in this story illustrates vividly that web readers should take this and other “best restaurant” lists with a grain — or perhaps a boulder — of salt.

Here’s how msn.com explained the methodology behind the list: “The experts at FindTheHome and FindTheCompany” used “data from Dun and Bradstreet, they found the city in every state with the highest density of steak and barbecue restaurants per capita.”

The Beavercreek listing suggest the city has 2.6 “steak and barbecue places” per 10,000 people, or 11.7 such restaurants. Not sure which restaurants made their list (especially the 0.7), but the one singled out as a “Notable restaurant” is Wellington Grille at 2450 Dayton-Xenia Road.

Now, implying that the Wellington Grille is a barbecue joint is off-base enough, but the web site goes on to recommend that diners try the “New York strip with pepper sauce.” Accompanying the entry is a lovely image of a peppercorn-encrusted steak anointed with what appears to be a brandy cream sauce that would be right at home in the classic preparation of steak au poivre.

I didn’t see the dish on Wellington’s online menu, so I called the restaurant last night. I spoke with general manager Chris Plummer, who started chuckling even before I finished asking the question — because he had been asked the same thing before, by diners who had seen the web story.

“We don’t serve the dish,” Plummer said. “It’s never been on the menu.”

He had no idea how it popped up in the web story.

While we’ve warmed to the topic, please know this as well: Whenever you see a “Best restaurants” list from Open Table, take it with a healthy does of skepticism.

Open Table’s “best” and “most romantic” and other lists are open only to those restaurants that subscribe to and are customers of the online-reservation company. So in a “top Dayton restaurants” listing from Open Table, for example, restaurants such as Jay’s, The Pine Club and Meadowlark wouldn’t even be considered, because they do not use the Open Table reservations system.

And those are just a few reasons why online “best places to dine” lists should be viewed warily.

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