Any time I move to a new place, one of the first things I like to do is look at the local best of publications by the local newspaper.
As a newbie, any best of list provides a ton of good information — places to eat, good doctors, where to go if your car breaks down and the best places to shop.
So last weekend, I volunteered to sort through a bunch of ballots from our best of competition to get an idea what Del Rio residents liked. So, for more than 10 hours over the weekend, I read through more than 200 ballots, making down votes in each of our categories.
Here are a few things I learned:
1 – Our readers have a lot of differing opinions. This was especially prevalent in the food and medical categories. Apparently, what makes the best hamburger and the best doctor is different depending on who is asking. Having said that, there were clear leaders in almost every category and in a few there were local businesses that clearly please local shoppers.
2 – The voters take the job seriously. I have counted ballots in several different papers and it was common to see handfuls of ballots turned in where only one or two categories were voted on. In one paper it was so bad we had to make a rule that for the ballot to be counted, you had to vote in 10 categories.
That’s not a problem in Del Rio. In the close to 250 ballots I went through, not a single one voted like that. Every person took the time to go through the ballot and make their choices. There were many with blank spaces, but it was clear there was a legitimate effort made.
3 – The voters are honest, too. There were several ballots throughout the mixture that were clearly designed to boost voting for one business or another. But the vast majority of voters did not do that. In fact, one of my biggest surprises was how many ballots chose different Mexican restaurants for breakfast taco, fajita, Mexican plate and Mexican restaurant.
In the category for best Mexican restaurant, 16 different restaurants received at least one first-place vote. For me, that means I have a lot of restaurants to try.
4 – A few voters — very few — made me wonder. Now I have not been to every restaurant in Del Rio, but I have a hard time believing some think McDonald’s makes the best hamburgers. I’m not saying that to criticize McDonald’s. I actually like their food and I probably eat there more than any other restaurant. My kids love McDonald’s and I enjoy taking them because we can eat and have fun for $15. McDonald’s has its place in every city, but it doesn’t make the best hamburger.
On a similar note, I was surprised how many people chose large grocery chains as best baked goods. Once again, I spend a ton of money at those stores and often buy baked goods there because it’s convenient. But I would guess there are places that probably do a better job.
All in all, spending the time going through the ballots was an enlightening experience. I learned about so many businesses that I never knew even existed. Now I just have to find some time and go out and experience them myself.
Beginning Wednesday, we will begin voting for round two of the Best of Del Rio competition. Ballots with the top three in each category will be out, and I encourage all of you to share your opinion one more time.
David Rupkalvis is the publisher of the Del Rio News-Herald.