charleston,wvThe PopCulteer
April 17, 2015

Today’s PopCulteer could be best described as a heated rant. I’ve got a topic that has me a little worked up, and rather than thoughtfully compose a reasoned and balanced essay considering the pros and cons of the issue, I’m in the mood to load up the shotgun and come out firing. So pardon my grouchiness.

The object of my ire is a poll currently being conducted by Charleston’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. It aims to pick the CVB’s “Tourism People’s Choice Awards.”

Can this beat Mountain Stage and The Clay Center?

Can this beat Mountain Stage, Capitol Market  and The Clay Center?

First, I hate this type of poll under any circumstance. I’m on record as despising pointless competition, and any poll that pits The Clay Center, Appalachian Power Park, The Capitol Market and Mountain Stage against one another is just fundamentally flawed in the first place.

On top of that, the nominees are not really representative of the best this city has to offer. I will address that later. What’s really annoying is that this poll is supposed to promote tourism.

How the hell does it do that? What this poll does is tell potential visitors that we only have one thing to offer in each category. Instead of saying “Look at all this wide variety of cool stuff that we have” this poll actually reduces the exposure and makes Charleston look one dimensional.

Add on the fact that online polls are easily gamed–and that’s obvious by some of the bizarre nominees–and you have what is a very, very bad. attempt at selling our city to travellers. This is a big deal because selling Charleston is what the CVB is supposed to do. This poll buries the cool stuff in town, rather than promote it.

Of course, coming from the folks who think that “Hip, Historic Charleston” is a good slogan, this is not a surprise. Good lord, that makes me cringe almost as much as “I Am Charlie West” did.

Getting back to the poll, I have to go through and tackle a few of these categories.

For favorite restaurant, the nominees are Pies and Pints, Lola’s, Black Sheep Burritos at the Brewery and Black Salt + Bar. I’d never heard of the last one. I had to Google it to find out that it’s the remodeled restaurant in the Marriott near the Charleston Town Center.

This is the type of crowd that this poll will bring to Charleston

This is the type of crowd that this poll will bring to Charleston

Can you imagine how pathetic it would be if this city’s pick for favorite restaurant was a freaking hotel kitchen with a limited menu? Black Sheep Burritos lost me when I looked at the menu and saw a grand total of one item that my allergies would allow me to eat, and the notice: “no substitutions.” Getting food made the way you want it is tricky when it’s prepared in Huntington and brought into town to be reheated. Now, Pies and Pints and Lola’s are fine places to eat, but off the top of my head I can think of a dozen-and-a-half places to eat in town that are just as good or better.

Bluegrass Kitchen, Adelphia, Ichiban, Grazianos, Mi Cocina De Amor, Fazio’s, Tricky Fish, Lowry’s, Swiftwater Cafe, Tidewater Grill, Sahara’s, The Chop House, Dem Two Brothers, Five Corners Cafe, Leonoro’s, Bruno’s, Soho’s and Bridge Road Bistro. That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure I’m forgetting several.

That list is a hell of a lot more impressive than “our favorite restaurant is either in a hotel or is part of a small, regional chain.”

I’ve already addressed the idiocy of “favorite attraction.” It’s so foolish to single out one thing when those are each excellent reasons to come to Charleston.

The favorite events list is even more confusing. FestivALL is too big to be considered only one event. It is a destination, a selling point all by itself and is dimished somewhat to be compared with other happenings in town. Likewise, Live On The Levee lasts three months. And I’ll be honest, I have no idea when restaurant week is, and I thought the Wine and Jazz thing was part of FestivALL.



I fail to see how singling out one event is an effective way of selling Charleston. I don’t get this whole obsession with polls and “favorite” lists. I understand that the newspapers do it so they can sell more ads and publish special supplements, but for the city to do this…it just seems counterproductive.

The Favorite Retail/Boutique category expands to five choices. They are not bad choices, but the omissions are glaring. Where is Purple Moon? How about Taylor Books? Sullivan’s Records? Stray Dog Antiques? Art Emporium? Budget Tapes and Records? Rival cards and Games? That weird little shop in Uncork and Create? Despite the best efforts of the City Parking Commission, there are small businesses thriving all over the city.

Why would the CVB soft-sell the locally-owned shops we have in this city? There is no need to single any one store out. Use the number of quality shops as a selling point.

There’s a category for favorite lodging. People who live here…live here. We’re not the best folks to ask about lodging in our own city.

I can't believe that nobody nominated the Duesenburg Dingleberry

I can’t believe that nobody nominated the Duesenburg Dingleberry

I know absolutely nothing about alcohol, but I do know that it reflects poorly on a city that may be trying to peddle itself to road-weary hipsters if, of the four nominated specialty drinks, two of them are Moscow Mules. I looked it up. Sounds positively foul.

The rest of the categories are equally frustrating. In the nightlife category, two music venues are competing with two dance clubs. Favorite Dessert Shop pits Ellen’s Ice Cream against Charleston Bread Company.

Things we have in Charleston that did not get a mention in this poll, in addition to the retail shops and restaurants I listed above: Moxxee, The Blue Parrot, The West Virginia International Film Festival, Contemporary Youth Arts Company, Charleston Light Opera Guild, Limelight Theatre Company, Coonskin Park, Sam’s Uptown Cafe, The Municipal Auditorium, The Carriage Trail, The West Virginia Symphony, The Charleston Town Center Mall, Kanawha County Public Library, The Peanut Shoppe, Tops Off Barber Shop, Apartment Earth Gallery, Visions Day Spa, The WVSU Capitol Center Theater, Sitar, Starling’s, Little India, Estep’s…and all kinds of things I can’t think of at the moment.

When you pit Charleston’s selling points against one another in a meaningless poll, all you do is leave out most of the selling points.

Oh, is that in Charleston?

Oh, is that in Charleston?

A poll like this does not present a high-definition image of our city. It’s a tiny thumbnail, with no detail and little appeal. This is as bad as that idiotic click-bait list of best restaurants in West Virginia that included The Blue Parrot, which is a great music venue that does not serve food.

So there’s this poll. You can go vote in it if you are so inclined. I’m on record as hating this sort of thing, and I think I’ve made a good case that it’s a waste of time and resources. I don’t think it’ll convince a single person to come to Charleston.

Oh yeah, not one mention of the State Capitol Building or the Culture Center? Really?

Stuff To Do

Of course the big thing this week is at The Empty Glass Saturday night as 4tet and more play the Miles Davis album, Bitches Brew, all the way through, live. Read about it HERE or just watch this week’s Radio Free Charleston…

Theater Stuff


Friday Stuff




Saturday Stuff






That’s it for this week. Check back every day for our regular PopCult features.