Best of Boston: A Letter From the Editor

“We’ve got some good news, some bad news,” the editors of this magazine warned readers in April 1974. The good news was that a few Bostonians were about to find “that the place you’ve been stopping for a noontime martini, the store you’ve frequented for books, the barber you’ve visited for haircuts, are what we’ve judged to be the best Boston has to offer.” The bad news, of course, was that “Many of you are going to be outraged.”

Thus has it been in the four decades since our inaugural “The Best & the Worst of Boston” issue hit the streets. We dropped the “worst” part about 20 years in, but we’re always thrilled to shine a spotlight on the city’s finest people, places, and eats. Even though we know that for every plaque we bestow, there’ll be a half-dozen contenders who will want to heave us off the Zakim Bridge.

So how do we pick the winners? Like everything else we do, compiling Best involves a mix of reporting, criticism, and well-honed gut instinct. We spend about six months out of the year on this beast—casing the city, canvassing insiders, and testing hundreds of newcomers, old faves, and off-the-beaten-path dark horses, anonymously, and all on the magazine’s dime. (I’m contractually prohibited from telling you which categories I tested—although the staff will confirm that “Best Haircut” wasn’t one of them.)

Tough gig, right? At least you don’t have to sit through extended arguments on the finer points of French fries and pet hotels. Enterprising publicists sometimes try to weasel their way into our offices to serve us a free lunch, but we don’t allow anything of the sort. Our advertisers—as much as we love ’em—get no preferential treatment, either. (Advance warning: Many of you are going to be outraged.) Our 2014 good news and bad news, as it were, begins here.

Best of Boston: By the Numbers

To choose our winners this year, we endured many things—both pleasant and painful—for you, our readers. Here, a behind-the-scenes look at our editors’ rigorous testing.

miles traveled

pounds gained

minutes spent looking at expensive watches

oms chanted

fake identities created

oysters slurped

mediocre OkCupid date paid for