Best Efforts

The issue you hold in your hands is our second-annual Best of the Cities issue, in which we basically offer a big wet kiss to the Twin Cities, reporting on all the things—food, shopping, services, people—that we love about living in this place.

I realize that sounds disgustingly mushy, but it’s worth remembering that there’s actually a solid idea embedded in the soft tissue of those sentiments. Our goal with the story, after all, is to give you thoroughly reported, essential information about living in the metro. And yet I often get questions from curious readers—and more than a few business owners—about how we make our decisions with regard to Bests. How do we know what’s the best? Who decides? Do we favor advertisers over non-advertisers?

Readers can be forgiven for being skeptical. Too often in this business, those who put out these kinds of pieces don’t do a particularly good job of explaining their decision-making process. Of course, sometimes there’s a good reason for that: It really is that arbitrary and stupid. Travel the country and you will realize that more than a few “best-of” stories should be renamed. “Pretty Good Stuff within the General Vicinity of Wherever Our Writers Live” would be more accurate.

So, in the spirit of transparency, it seems only right that we offer a little insight into how we put this issue together. In early summer, a group of the magazine’s writers and editors met to come up with possible categories for this year’s story. Then, under the direction of Elizabeth Dehn, the editor who spearheaded the Best-of feature, we sent more than a half-dozen writers to scour the metro in search of the best stuff in each category. The writers took suggestions for possible winners from anyone who would offer them, of course: readers, co-workers, past winners, the guys behind the counter at the coffee shop. But they were never told who—or who not—they could select for their categories. In fact, the only expectation was that each and every choice be backed up by solid reporting and considerable passion.

That isn’t going to stop a lot of people from disagreeing with our choices. Nor should it. But, if nothing else, we want our readers to know that these picks reflect a good faith attempt—ours alone—to get things right.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another big piece in this month’s issue: senior writer Tim Gihring’s fascinating profile of Kaywin Feldman, the head of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Despite its importance, the MIA has always seemed like the dowdy older sister among the area’s big cultural institutions: smart, reserved, but often overlooked, especially when compared to her sexier siblings. As Gihring reports, however, Feldman’s goal is to change all that, to make the MIA one of the country’s great art museums. If she succeeds, it would be a remarkable achievement, in a career that’s already had its share. She might even win a Best-of award.

Andrew Putz