Just eight weeks ago we asked our readers to start sending in their suggestions for what's best in the South County. During that time, Star-News staff have meticulously entered all the ballot information on an Excel spreadsheet and, at last, we can divulge the results on this week's center pages.
The readers' response has been overwhelming. Even a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune sent in her recommendations filled in on the form printed in The Star-News of June 21.
Entry forms drawn each week have won fabulous prizes ranging from a six-month membership to the American Athletic Club to a four person night-out package that included dinner for four at South County's finest Mexican restaurant, El Juan's, and four tickets to movies at Ultra Star Cinemas.
Many of the most popular choices of previous years retained their laurels.
The weather is still deemed, far and away, the best reason to live here. Chula Vista library is still the best place to read a book. And BonitaFest is still voted the best community festival/event.
Again, the best golf course is Bonita Golf Club, although Chula Vista Golf Course is still the best place to walk/jog.
Just Java, on Third Avenue, is no longer the best teen hangout. It may be a sign of the economic downturn that this year's teens prefer to hang in the mall at Chula Vista Center. And we no longer go to Fuddrucker's for the best burger. Now it's In-N-Out Burger in National City.
Lolita's Taco Shop still offers the best burrito and David Rossi, at King's Jewelers on Third Avenue, is still the finest jeweler.
Despite the Enron scandal, Chula Vista accountancy firm Bullen and Ruch retains the full confidence of our readers.
But we seem to enjoy the certainty of chain franchises here in the South County.
Not only is our favorite Italian restuarant The Olive Garden, but it's the top location of choice for a first date. And if the romance blossoms into marriage, we'll buy the ring at Zales jewelry store. And we remain loyal to the mighty Starbucks for best coffee house.
None of this may seem very surprising to readers who have lived in the South County for a while. But it's interesting that the top choice for best new international restaurant goes to International House of Pancakes.
Of course it's hardly new. And it's only just international. The first IHOP was opened on July 7, 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, by Al Lapin. The franchise now has 1,043 locations in 42 US states and Canada.
But we love our pancakes here. And, like so many familiar items of American cuisine, the pancake originated overseas. In Holland it's taken so seriously that the common family name Pannekoeken literally means pancake.
Stateside, pancakes are more often food for humor. Famously, during the 1992 presidential race, Pat Buchanan suggested that President Clinton gained all his foreign policy experience from a single breakfast at the International House of Pancakes.