Back when I was about 10 years old, my fellow comic-book-obsessed friends and I used to have spirited arguments over which superhero—or which super villain, for that matter—was faster, stronger, more clever, or more, you know, super.
Superman fans like me were sure he could throw down Spiderman. (Of course, they were both good guys, so that argument was pretty academic, if 10-year-olds can ever be academic.) But was the Green Lantern more invincible than Captain America? If he was, where did Batman stand? And who was the biggest, baddest, worstest villain of all? I used to argue that it was Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, but there were some who would postulate that the Joker or Magneto were the most nefarious.
In its conception, at least, there’s no doubt that a bit of that “throwdown” thinking was behind our first Best of Baltimore feature in 1975, then entitled “Best and Worst of Baltimore.” It was the precursor to our annual August “Best of Baltimore” feature, which has evolved into a pretty big deal—it’s our top-selling issue—but is now solely devoted to doling out accolades.
But in those first years of the “Best” tradition, the gloves were off: Barbara Mikulski was ranked “worst” for TV sex symbol, and the “worst” choice for “Meal on a tray” went like this: “Johns Hopkins Hospital. Order I.V. instead.” The now-defunct dining landmark, Haussner’s Restaurant, won the “best waitresses” category, and the then-new Columbia Mall won for best mall. And then, of course, there were lots of winners and losers whose names have faded into history.
In our 35th annual iteration, there remain some contenders that were good at what they did in 1975, too. Among them, WJZ weather guy Bob Turk (he was a relative newbie at the station then), restaurants like Faidley Seafood, tradesmen like plumber Brent E. Goldsmith Inc. and Ibello Upholstery, and shops like Smith Auto Glass, Eddie’s of Roland Park, and Otterbein Bakery.
To celebrate our “Best” birthday, we’ve raised the “throwdown” theme to a new level that’s guaranteed to thrill (and annoy) thousands. In our “Best of” throwdowns, we make the hard choices between two perennial “bests”—crab cake makers, roofers, the best “Avenue” (Hampden or Highlandtown?), Matthew’s Pizza vs. Joe Squared, and many more.
For the runners-up in each of these “throwdowns,” there’s no dishonor—it’s an honor, of course, to establish that they’ve always been finalists in their field.
We hope you enjoy our picks. But we expect you to differ with some of them. After all, for all the research we put into this, it’s still an art, not a science.