Last week -- and you'll really have to go back and read it -- we took a look back at the, um, "winners" of Rochester Magazine's first eight years of our Best New Restaurants voting.
We put winners in quotes there because, only two Best New Restaurants from the first eight years -- nine restaurants total with a tie thrown in -- are still with us. Many of them closed pretty quickly after winning our award.
2001: Las Margaritas
After they won our inaugural Best New Restaurant category, I delivered their award myself. Congratulations! This can only mean a long and healthy future for you, Las Margaritas! They closed soon after.
2002: Golden Corral
Oh, the separate buffet stations! The guy cutting your sirloin steak! The woman making the Philly cheesesteaks! The build-your-own sundae bar!
2003: The Hangar and Noodles (tie)
We had another tie in our balloting that same year. Our One Restaurant Rochester Needs Immediately category ended in a dead heat, between Chuck E. Cheese and Hooters. Which, as far as we can tell, is the only time those two restaurants tied in any category, ever.
Then came 2004.
2004: Olive Garden
If you were living in the area during the Free Breadsticks Frenzy of 2001-2003, you'll remember that no group of people has ever wanted anything more than Rochesterites wanted an Olive Garden.
The late city councilmember Dennis Hanson, who was a weekly guest on KROC-AM’s former “Good Morning with Rich and Steve” show, fielded multiple call-in questions every single week once the Olive Garden rumors started in 2001.
And, for some reason, I kept a word document with many of these calls and responses.
Here's an actual excerpt:
"Tues., Oct. 30. 8:15 a.m.:
Caller #1: "I've heard rumors that Rochester could be getting an Olive Garden Italian Restaurant. Do you know anything about that?"
Hanson: "The city council has not yet heard anything definite from the Olive Garden. If and when the restaurant does decide to build here, we will let people know immediately."
Tues., Oct. 30: 8:22 a.m.:
Caller #2: "“Yes, my question is for Mr. Hanson. Hello, Mr. Hanson. My question is about the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, and if you’ve heard the rumors that one might be coming to Rochester.”
Hanson: "We do not have anything besides rumors at this point. As I've stated earlier, the city council has not yet heard anything definite."
Tues., Oct. 30. 8:27 a.m.:
Caller #3: "Council member Hanson, if we do get an Olive Garden, the breadsticks will be free, right?”
Anyway, Olive Garden is still around.
We can't say the same for our readers' picks for Best New Restaurant winners from 2005 (Romano's Macaroni Grill), 2006 (Metro), 2007 (Green Mill), or 2008 (Avocados).
And we miss every one of them, especially the Turkey Melt Sandwich from Metro, and those nachos from Avocados. And the margaritas at Las Margaritas. And, oh man, Golden Corral's buffet stations.
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.