Welcome to Gambit's Best of New Orleans 2015. (Around the office we just call it BONO.) This year's BONO had more votes than ever before, and we chose a bike theme as a visual representation of this tour of New Orleans' most super of all its superlatives.
The choices you made also show a changing city. Consider the category "Best New Retail Store." Last year, your choices were H&M, Costco, West Elm and Neiman-Marcus Last Call — not one local shop. This year, every winner is Louisiana proud: Grandmother's Buttons, Parish Ink/Red Arrow, Tubby & Coo's and Sopo.
In the bars category, we eliminated questions about best smoking and nonsmoking bars, since the New Orleans City Council nixed indoor smoking. And the category "Best Menu for Vegetarians/Vegans" had a much wider spread of responses this year, reflecting changing tastes and an increasing number of options.
Every year we get questions about methodology, and I've tried to answer a few of those:
How do you pick the categories?
We start working on Best of New Orleans in May, when we have a few meetings reviewing the issue from the year before, culling some categories and adding new ones. We also consolidated several categories and reduced the number of votes you had to cast to submit a ballot. This year we partnered with a new company that made online voting easier and much more manageable on a smartphone.
How do you count all those ballots?
We couldn't keep track of tens of thousands of votes without managing editor Kandace Graves, who has kept BONO on track for more than a decade via various platforms.
Do people try to cheat?
C'mon. Of course, and we have ways to weed them out.
Are the results really real?
Absolutely, and they reflect your tastes, not necessarily those of the staff — sometimes definitely not those of the staff. We defer to the city's collective wisdom.
What's the biggest change this year?
Last year, it was the dining categories. This year, it seems to be culture. For instance, none of last year's three top vote-getters made it into this year's Best Local Band. (Congratulations to this year's faves: Soul Rebels, Rebirth Brass Band and Flow Tribe!)
This is your Best of New Orleans. Now argue amongst yourselves.
— Kevin Allman, editor