Surprise, Surprise: L.A. Gets Snubbed Yet Again on World's 50 Best Restaurants List

Roy Choi's LocoL, the only L.A. restaurant to be named on Food and Wine's 2016 Restaurants of the Year List. We'll take it.
Roy Choi's LocoL, the only L.A. restaurant to be named on Food and Wine's 2016 Restaurants of the Year List. We'll take it.
Garrett Snyder

Copenhagen. Tokyo. Vienna. 

These are just some of the dozens of cities whose restaurants placed high in this year's World's 50 Best Restaurants list, which was announced Monday night.  

Among U.S. cities, San Francisco, Chicago and New York all made the prestigious ranking, with the last city taking three of the top 50 spots thanks to Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin and Estela. And that's not even considering the names on the full list of 100 restaurants, which includes five more New York staples: Daniel, Cosme, Momofuku Ko, Per Se and Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare.

Even rural California cities such as Yountville (The French Laundry) and St. Helena (The Restaurant at Meadowood) placed within the top 100.  But nowhere to be found is a restaurant that claims Los Angeles as its home. In fact, not since Spago in 2004 has an L.A.-based restaurant placed in the influential 14-year-old ranking (the list is the reason many cite Noma as the best restaurant in the world). 

Perhaps L.A. should be used to getting snubbed by international critics. Earlier this month, Michelin announced plans to launch its fourth dining guide and star rating system in Washington, D.C., although Los Angeles is the much larger city and, many would argue, home to a far more vibrant dining scene than D.C. (New York, San Francisco and Chicago are the only other U.S. cities with Michelin guides.)

The omission was largely interpreted as a snub, including by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who called the decision "nuts" on Twitter. But it didn't seem to bother L.A. Times (and former L.A. Weekly) food critic Jonathan Gold, who told the Washington Post  that the Michelin rating was ill-suited to a city like L.A., anyway, where some of our best culinary creations are found on tortillas and in food trucks. 

But Gold is not the only critic who has called into question the importance of lofty international ranking systems for restaurants. New Yorker staff writer Lauren Collins last year provided an in-depth glimpse into how the 50 Best Restaurants sausage gets made, right down to the secrecy surrounding its volunteer group of jurors. 

And as Copenhagen-based journalist Lisa Abend noted in a column for The New York Times in 2011, the list has drawn criticism for not requiring jurors to show proof that they actually dined at the restaurants they voted for. Not only that but it can lead to favoritism, with national tourism boards courting 50 Best voters on all-expenses-paid culinary trips. 

So maybe the World's 50 Best Restaurants list isn't all it's cracked up to be. It may have made Noma the internationally renowned restaurant it is today, but it also made it impossible to get a reservation. Besides, we'll take our food trucks any day over a restaurant with a months-long waiting list. 


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