Victory by numbers

By Allan I. Ross

Sometimes the nomination is better than the win

It’s not always about who won or lost, but who got the most votes. Not so fast — winning and getting the most votes are not necessarily the same thing, smart guy. At least not in the new Top of the Town two-round voting system.

In Round 1, an individual or business could be nominated in any category. Even if that entity didn’t make it to the Final Five, those votes still count in the overall tabulation. This is, after all, a popularity contest. Of course, some category nominations leaned toward the bizarre (we’re pretty sure someone’s punking Preston’s Bar in Grand Ledge — it is decidedly not a gay bar) but, as Socrates said, weirdness is the spice of life. Or something like that.

And so, in order, here are the 2013 Top of the Town top vote-getters:

Soup Spoon Café — Total number of votes: 8,314. Round 1 nominated categories: 23. Round 2 nominated categories: 11. Most bizarre non-Final Five nominated category: Several.

How can you be nominated for both casual dining AND gourmet dining? Vegetarian/vegan AND steak AND burger? Tavern AND coffee shop AND diner AND deli? It’s starting to become clear why Soup Spoon notched up so many votes: it was the people’s restaurant, doing double, triple and even quadruple duty in the ranking system.

Which, admittedly, is reflective of the 8-year-old restaurant’s roots. Soup Spoon started as a lunch café in 2005 before expanding to dinner in 2007. In 2010, owner/operator Nick Gavriledes nearly doubled in size when he leased the space next door and knocked down the wall. A liquor license soon followed, as did Gavriledes’ purchase of the building. And now, it seems, evolution has crafted a place custom-made for Lansing tastes — and Gavriledes said that he didn’t even rally the troops to try to win.

“I think Kevin (Angell, who won for best bartender) did some campaigning, but other than that, we didn’t do anything,” Gavriledes said. “But people would come in every day telling us they voted for us. That was nice to hear.”

Gavriledes said that last year’s strong showing in the Top of the Town translated into many new faces, and he says he’s “very thankful” for the exposure.

“The Top of the Town Awards are great,” he said earlier this week. “So, did we win? Come on. What did we win for?” Nice try, Nick.

Soup Spoon Café, 1419 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. (517) 316-2377.

Golden Harvest — Total number of votes: 7,314. Round 1 categories nominated: 13. Round 2 categories nominated: 6. Most bizarre non-Final Five nominated category: Bread/bakery. (We’re pretty sure folks were confused with Great Harvest Bread Co., but votes are votes.)

Owner/operators Zane and Vanessa Vicknair have been rocking the raucous, colorful, pirate-festooned breakfast-lunch joint on the northern fringe of Old Town since 2004 — and racking up both devoted fans and pissed-off haters. Like the sign on the door says, “Your experience won’t be a good one if you’re a dick.”

And it’s true, the place ain’t for everyone: A trip to Golden Harvest on the weekend can be a half-day affair that could entail standing outside in line in the cold for up to 45 minutes, having to share a table with strangers, having your eardrums blasted by dubstep at a nearly concert-level volume, waiting another 45 minutes for your food to arrive, and smelling like grease for the rest of the day. (That may sound off-putting, but I guarantee at least one of you readers just added it to your docket for the day.)

On any given Saturday or Sunday, watch as your Facebook news feed fills up with pictures of Bubba breakfast sandwiches, inch-thick pancakes and omelets as big as your head. And who needs to campaign?

“If anything, I was thinking of launching an anti-campaign,” Vicknair joked. But he’s got a point — if the place got any more popular, a trip to Golden Harvest could turn into a full-day trip.

Golden Harvest, 1625 Turner St., Lansing. (517) 485-3663.

Horrocks Farm Market — Total number of votes: 6,655. Round 1 categories nominated: 7. Round 2 categories nominated: 4. Most bizarre non-Final Five nominated category: Place to take out-of-towners. (Who takes someone from out-of-town grocery shopping?)

Before the farm-to-table movement, before the organic trend, heck, before vegetarianism was even a “thing,” Horrocks has been quietly and consistently providing mid-Michigan with a cornucopia of fresh cheese, meat and, of course, produce. Overwhelmingly Top of the Town voters love the place. Need proof? The westside market racked up a whopping 63 percent of the votes in the Final Five for best produce, one of the highest rankings in any category.

Chris Szczepanski, who has worked for Horrocks for over 20 years, says she thinks the store’s dedication to quality is what earned it such high praise.

“Our buyer is out there three, four days a week inspecting produce,” she said. “Then when it comes in, we thoroughly inspect it again in-house. I know with confidence that everything we sell is the best product at the best value.”

Szczepanski said that over the years she’s watched as the store expanded and the median age of the shopper shrank.

“I’ve seen an increasing number of young people here lately,” she said. “Could be that people are looking for more natural items. Or maybe it’s the beer and wine section. Hard to say. And it’s just a cool place to walk through — it’s kind of like a fun maze.”

Maybe that explains the “best place to take out-of-towners” after all.

Horrocks Farm Market, 7420 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing. (517) 323-3782.

DeLuca’s Restaurant and Pizzeria — Total number of votes: 6,307. Round 1 categories nominated: 8. Round 2 categories nominated: 3. (Casual Dining, Italian, Pizza).

Crunchy’s — Total number of votes: 4,976. Round 1 categories nominated: 18 Round 2 categories nominated: 5 (Bar Food, Burger, Fries, Happy Hour, Karaoke).

Dagwood’s Tavern & Grill — Total number of votes: 4,231. Round 1 categories nominated: 12. Round 2 categories nominated: 6. (Bar Food, Chili, Fries, Happy Hour, Open-Mic Night, Pub/Tavern).

Dusty’s Cellar — Total number of votes: 3,761. Round 1 categories nominated: 18. Round 2 categories nominated: 3. (Cocktails, Gourmet Restaurant, Wine Shop).

El Azteco — Total number of votes: 3,700. Round 1 categories nominated: 7. Round 2 categories nominated: 3. (Casual Dining, Mexican, Patio).

Meat. Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine — Total number of votes: 3,614. Round 1 categories nominated: 11. Round 2 categories nominated: 2. (BBQ, New Restaurant).

Green Door — Total number of votes: 3,614. Round 1 categories nominated: 19. Round 2 categories nominated: 4. (Dance/Club Scene, Happy Hour, Open-Mic Night, Music Venue).