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Finding the Frauds – John Mariani on the Absurdity of the World’s 50 Best List


It’s that time of year again, when Restaurant magazine, an industry journal published out of London, names the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” an annual list so nonsensical as to make “Alice in Wonderland” seem like a serious guidebook.

Years ago I was invited to be one of the hundreds of judges for this awards program (and I was to pick the other North American judges), now made up of more than a thousand food writers, chefs and restaurateurs, and well-traveled gastronomes. Each judge casts seven votes, “three of which must apply toward restaurants outside of his or her home region. Voters must have dined at a restaurant within the past 18 months.”  After that first year on the panel I realized the whole thing was a farce, for several reasons.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants is Here!

imageTwenty-one years ago, I started writing about the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene.

First with my weekly gig on Nevada Public Radio, and then with every magazine and weekly published in town, I started amassing a library of meals, reviews, experiences, tastes, and sensations that would one day give me the storehouse of information needed to catalogue all of the noteworthy eateries surrounding us.

For years, I imagined the book would be entitled “The Restaurants of Las Vegas,” and for years I knew I would be the one to write it. (Whether anyone would read it was never in doubt, given the booming popularity of Vegas and its food scene throughout the 90s.)

But the 90s came and went, and then 9/11 hit and put a damper on things, and by the early aughts my dream had receded to but a whisper in the back of my brain —  a receding hum of hope that maybe, someday, Las Vegas residents and tourists would have reliable guide to tell them where to find the best food in town. And again, through it all, there was no doubt in my mind who would be the one to write it. (It never occurred to me that I would need help to write it, but as it turned out, I did.)

When Alain Ducasse (2004) and Joël Robuchon (2005) arrived, it signaled the start of a French Revolution of a different sort. Soon thereafter, Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire expanded their brands here, and suddenly the whole world was paying attention to our culinary scene, and taking it much more seriously than it had before, even eclipsing the interest shown after the Bellagio opened in 1998.

Michelin came and went in ‘o8 and ’09, but still no book from yours truly.

I had pretty much given up on my authorship ambitions when Al Mancini approached me in the Spring of 2010 and asked if I was interested in doing a dueling critics thing in a book with him and Max Jacobson. Seeing a chance to finally do what I’d dreamed of doing for fifteen years, I jumped at the chance. From the get-go, I’ve always been more than a little proud that the book takes its name from this web site. (That original title was a bit stuffy, after all.)

Now, after a three year hiatus, we’re back with a bigger, better and more wide-reaching book than ever before. God bless Al Mancini for thinking of it, and Huntington Press for publishing it, and my new co-authors for diving in with me to re-start the franchise.

You can order it now from, or from the Las Vegas Advisor bookstore if you want the best price.

If you travel to Las Vegas, or live in Las Vegas, or eat out in Las Vegas, or know people who do, or wonder about being in Las Vegas and/or eating in Las Vegas, you need this book.

I guarantee it will make you hungry, and take care of any arguments you ever have about “where should we eat?”

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants Coming Soon, No Fooling

Remember this book?

Remember these guys?

Remember all the fun we had with the first three editions of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants?

Let’s face it, who doesn’t?

Who can ever forget the ego wars? The temper tantrums? The pitched battles between Max Jacobson, Al Mancini and I, in which low-brow insults and high-pitched bon mots were our only weapons? Ah, those were the days:

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