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How we picked the 50 best restaurants

For The Baltimore Sun

Picking the winners of The Baltimore Sun’s Best Restaurants list is never easy.

As a restaurant reviewer for the past 10 years (the past two with The Sun) and as a Baltimore native, I have had the advantage of eating at many of the restaurants in our area — from fussy places to just jeans, please — over the years. That helps with perspective.

But weighing the attributes of each restaurant is more complicated than that. I make my decisions based on four key criteria: food, service, ambience and value, in that order. After all, if the food is lousy, what’s the point of the rest of it?

But there’s a fifth element I take into consideration. It’s not specific. I liken it to umami, the subtle taste that stimulates the palate in addition to the elements of sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

Maybe the mystery component is tied to a restaurant’s joie de vivre, or joyful spirit. It’s how you feel when you’re in the restaurant.

With those factors in mind, I winnow a broad list to 50 and then come up with the rankings. I don’t take it lightly. I lose sleep, suddenly waking up in the middle of the night to move No. 26 or No. 15 to a higher or lower position.

But the good news is that all 50 restaurants are terrific. Each provides an incredible dining experience — and that’s what it’s all about.

You can find the full list here.

MORE FROM THE 2017 DINING GUIDE

Best Baltimore bars 2017

Chefs on the rise

Best restaurants: Readers’ choice

Top Baltimore food trucks

Baltimore’s most glorious desserts

Baltimore’s best taprooms

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