It has been a while since we've had to summon Mr. Ving, but the recent fuss over Esquire's shocking claim that only 15% of the best restaurants in the United States of America were in New York City warrants a bit of extra-municipal attitude adjustment. Esquire is not my go-to source for information about food or dining, but the reaction the piece generated makes Mariani look like Mr. Unimpeachable Gravitas by comparison:
Are you kidding us? Only a trio of New York spots made Esquire’s “best new restaurants” list. And while the places described all sound good, if the likes of Rialto* in Cambridge have all but three New York restaurants beat, then Pace is the new Harvard. The fact is this list represents a kind of trans-Hudson affirmative action for the restaurant world.
The purpose of lists like these is to generate discussion, but this has more to do with provincial bluster than discussion. Grub St. continues:
Food columnist John Mariani picks good restaurants located outside New York in place of the more deserving restaurants inside the city limits, such as Insieme, Sfoglia, Ssäm Bar, Suba, Hill Country, and many others. It’s not their fault that New York has more good places than the rest of the country put together!
To quote Positive K, how the how the f&#K would_you_know? Mariani is covering a national beat for a national magazine. Grub Street covers a city (albeit a big one) for a (primarily) municipal audience. It's hard to imagine that anyone on the Wasserstein payroll actually travels around the USA, making sure that all the best restaurants are in Manhattan. Thus, the argument against Mariani's list is not so much an assertion that there are good places to eat in New York (there are), but an assertion that there aren't good places to eat anywhere but New York. This, I thought, was exactly the kind of provincialism people seek to escape when they move to New York. My only explanation is that justifying the cost and inconvenience of living in New York demands a conviction that there are not good places to eat anywhere else.
*If Rialto were a kid, it would be in third grade or so, so Mariani's "new" is flexible.