By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer Published Oct 01, 2015 at 11:04 AM Photography: shutterstock.com

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

Dear Milwaukee (or at least those of you who enjoy eating and drinking in our fair city),

As the OnMilwaukee Best Of Milwaukee Dining Poll rolls out this week, I’ve found myself reflecting on the choices you’ll be making over the next four weeks – choices that will lead to the pronouncement of "best" picks in 40 categories.

It takes time. It takes effort. And it’s not always an easy chore. But, it’s one I’m hoping you’ll approach thoughtfully and seriously.  After all, we owe that much to our city, don’t we?

For years, we lived beneath the shadow of Chicago. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. But, we don’t have to do that any more. Over the last decade, Milwaukee has become a bona fide dining destination. And now, it is your turn to support all that awesomeness.

And that means picking favorites isn’t as easy as it used to be. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

Vote with both your head and heart

This year, Milwaukee:  we owe it to ourselves – as a dining city – to choose restaurants that reflect both the quality and diversity in our city. We owe it to ourselves to vote for the cream of the crop, even if that cream isn’t what might be perceived as the "crowd favorite."

We are a city that overflows with access to quality ingredients. We have artisan food purveyors who are dedicated to singular perfection in products like bread, chocolate and ice cream. We have a beverage scene that accommodates the desire for interesting beer, wine and cocktails. We have destination restaurants that attract tourists to our city.

Maybe most importantly,  we have a solid mix of both well-established, accomplished chefs and up-and-coming talent who bring fresh ideas to the scene and promote innovation and change. And we owe it to them to acknowledge their work.

But, being a great dining city isn’t a responsibility that falls purely on the shoulders of chefs. It also falls on the heads of the diners. Every day, we wield power in the choices we make. And each time we choose a restaurant, we vote for the quality of restaurants we want to see in our town.

So, before you pick the same restaurant you picked last year (and the year before), stop and think: Is this spot really the best? Have I eaten there in the past year? Better yet, have I eaten there in the past couple of months?

If the answer is "yes," then cast your vote with confidence.

But, if it’s not, do us all a favor and roll again. Keep rolling that dice until you happen upon the gold standard.

[Vote Now]

OK, I voted. Now what?

Well, your responsibilities don’t end when dining month is over. Once you’ve voted, I challenge you to become a new kind of diner.

I challenge you to get out there. Explore our city. Try something new. Eat something that scares you. Trust our talented chefs to make you food that will blow away your expectations.

Change is hard. But, we need to get out there and try new things, visit new places. We need to become more educated about what we’re eating and drinking. We need to explore unfamiliar neighborhoods, eat dishes that stretch our palates and open our minds to the often innovative cuisine that chefs are putting on our tables.  

And then, next year, we can totally kick ass at this "Best of Milwaukee Dining" poll business.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer

Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.

Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.