II. What is and can be a GNR?
Over the history of the GNRs, no topic has been more contentious than the definition of a Great Neighborhood Restaurant. Discussion, and the evolving definition of a GNR, has centered on three primary issues – really, the three words in GNR.
What is Great?
This is the most subjective term, continually redefined by the active members of LTHForum.com. Simply put, greatness is defined by the consensus among members of LTHForum. Peer review is the central concept of the GNR program – we believe in the wisdom and taste of LTHForum members, and in the process of visiting a place, posting on your experience, and then discussing, and sometimes, debating, the wealth of shared experiences to come to a consensus of opinion.
There are some major differences between this process and other reviews or guide books. Specifically, we rely on the wisdom and experiences of the entire membership (7000+ as of this writing and growing, and hundreds of very active members). Unlike Zagat and some other guides, these opinions serve as a springboard for further discussion and fine-tuning. So Great means one member loves a place enough to nominate it, and the consensus among other members is that it merits a GNR designation.
Great means that each GNR will deliver a reliably excellent dining experience for that type of place.
There are also some things that Great does not mean in the context of the GNR program.
• Great does not necessarily mean it is one of the best restaurants in Chicago.
• Great does not necessarily mean a place is the best in its class.
• Great does not exclude a certain style of restaurant over another, for instance, a taqueria may be considered great as well as a high-end steakhouse.
• Great does not mean that every dish on each menu is wonderful – there are some places chosen on the basis of one, or a small number of dishes. It is important that you read why a place is a GNR to know what is Great about it.
• In some cases, Great does not even mean that the food is wonderful. A Great diner may offer good eggs, nice meat, decent grilled stuff, and a heaping serving of character, charm and atmosphere, and be great mostly for those last three.
• Great does mean that the members of LTHForum find there to be something very special about a place, but if you want to experience that Greatness, you should be sure to read what they have written about the place.
What is a “neighborhood” for the GNRs?
For the GNRs, Neighborhood means two things.
Geographically, a GNR may be any place that you can drive to from State and Madison, have an enjoyable meal, and drive back in the same day. We like to explore, and to eat well when we are exploring, so we see no reason to be more limiting. And we are not checking on distances and times – we trust the members who nominate places to understand and abide by this geographic limitation. A neighborhood is more about community than location. For the purpose of the GNRs, the community is LTHForum itself; therefore, any place that LTHers find themselves gathering to eat could be considered a “neighborhood.” This part of the designation is less about restricting the program and more about ensuring it is open to the Chicagoland community at large. “Neighborhood” does not mean, however, that we can or should judge how much a place is part of, or contributes to, its community in the real world. Some GNRs are great in part because of how they relate to their neighborhood, and that is part of why LTHers love them. But that is a personal determination made by each LTHForum member, and not by the GNR program.
What is the "R"?
Surprisingly, what seems like the simplest term has been the most contentious. Every year, a new nomination would further stretch the definition of Restaurant, until in the new nominations of 2008 it broke. A nomination was excluded because it did not logically fit into even the loosest definition of the term restaurant.
As a result, starting in 2009, we decided to codify the definition of this word. For the Great Neighborhood Restaurants, a Restaurant is any place where we go primarily to get ready-to-eat food or drink. Specifically, it is any place that fits into the categories defined by the places that were already GNRs as of January 1, 2009. While we generally wish to leave it to the posters and nominators to determine the category of a place, based on tradition so far, bakeries shall be considered Restaurants for the GNRs.
Starting with the 2009 fall nomination period for new GNRs, there is a second category - Great Neighborhood Resources. Any places that fall outside the Restaurant category defined above, but that are still sufficiently prized as culinary resources by the members of LTHForum to be deemed Great can now be GNRs as well. We will continue with the tradition of a master list of all GNRs, but the Resources will be separated and clearly identified on this list. For future nominations, we expect the nominator to suggest the proper category, though it may also be part of the discussion of the nomination. In cases when the decision on a category is not clear cut, the preference of the nominator will be given the most weight, though the GNR Committee will make the final decision.
Existing GNRs will not be re-categorized. The name GNR will not be changed and will continue to be the name for the entire program. These things have been discussed at some length, and to maintain sanity and not discard the recognition the program has built over the years, we believe this is the right way to go.
Yes, we believe and expect there will be further constraints on what can be a Great Neighborhood Resource - we would not expect that a laundromat would be chosen, for example. But, rather than try to set up rules now to cover nominations that will never be made, we are just going to let this develop and follow the lead of the LTHForum membership. After all, if a nomination needs to have a board following to become a GNR, that already sets a pretty strict limit on possible Great Neighborhood Resources. And when someone pushes that limit, we expect the membership will guide us to the proper decision.
Last edited by Mhays on Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.