National listicle website Thrillist has ranked the country's 40 biggest cities "by their food." Using a highly scientific method of polling Thrillist staffers across the country, the ranks are "based on their finest establishments, their signature contributions & traditions vis-a-vis national cuisine, and the strength of their dining cultures."
Sounds entertaining and informative, right? Well, as The Wolf might say, let's not start, uhm, celebrating quite yet.
Since it would be virtually impossible for anyone to actually travel to all of these cities and soak in enough of their food cultures to have a truly educated opinion, rankings like this tend to be based on how many places people in other cities have heard about the city they're ranking. Historical reputation and narrative, as sports writers call a good story that trumps the facts, counts for a lot.
This methodology leads to predictably terrible results like putting New Orleans No. 1 overall ahead of New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
This methodology leads to predictably terrible results like putting New Orleans No. 1 overall ahead of New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Houston winds up a disappointing eighth, behind Portland, Austin and Seattle. Other cities that might be looking to air some grievances on Festivus include Los Angeles (10th) and Atlanta (15th, behind Detroit?!).
Even the commentary about the individual cities is shallow. Does the Austin blurb mention Franklin Barbecue, Uchi (as James Beard award winning sushi chefs) and breakfast tacos? Of course it does.
At least Houston has shed the old national reputation of steaks and Tex-Mex. The Bayou City blurb references Chris Shepherd and Bryan Caswell (duh) but also kolaches and the city's "incredible Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine."
In the world of silly national food lists, that has to count as progress.