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Thirty years of Readers Choice

A look back at a culinary institution.



Much has changed in the Times over the years. We've had more facelifts than Joan Rivers and printed work from enough writers to form a nation state to rival Liechtenstein. Sadly (or perhaps not), our publisher no longer poses nude in ads. Nor do our designers pair every topic with a pretty woman with a come hither look (the early '90s were a sexy time at the Times, y'all). Far in the rearview mirror are the days of 8,000 word essays, glossy covers and triple digit page counts.

But some things endure. Alan Leveritt, our publisher, has steered the ship, naked and otherwise, since the beginning. Our trusty catfish mascot is nearly as old as the paper and even survived a terrifying cover illustration that had it popping out of a cake — with breasts. And now, this year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of another old favorite, our annual Readers Choice Restaurant Poll. Sure, everyone and their mom does one today, but back in 1981, we were doing something new and exciting, man. Or maybe simply placing an age-old discussion about food in new context? Here's the introduction from our first Readers Choice:

"Over the years, perhaps no activity has occupied as much of man's attention as the getting and serving of food: not sex, not religion, not even war. First, man was a gatherer, then a hunter, and finally a farmer who raised crops and animals that made their way to their board by dint of the plow or the hatchet. Way back there, it didn't matter so much how a meal was prepared: a Neanderthal was tickled with a loin chop just off the hoof, with little or no roasting."

Thankfully, a Central Arkansas-centric review of 30 years of Readers Choice summons far more appetizing images than our ancient brethren's love of raw loin chops. Though many of our past winners have gone the way of the nickel hot dog, a surprising number live on. Here's to their continued success and to 30 more years of readers picking favorites in these pages. 

See results from the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth and twenty-fifth Readers Choice issues.

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