What makes a great food blog? First and foremost, a recognition that food blogging is different than food writing, or even reporting on food issues. It’s not that food bloggers don’t write or report, but rather that they do so with a different (and often more relentless) rhythm. And the best ones—whether they’re scribing a link roundup or a weekly feature or a stunner of an exclusive—they put their back into it, too.

Great food blogs go beyond restaurants, recipes, scenes, celebrities, or a trending pieces of news. They have a voice. They have ideas. they become a dialogue with readers and with the subjects they cover, whether those subjects like it or not. And often, they really, really haven’t liked it.

But we have. And, clearly, so have countless other readers, as evidenced by the explosion of food blogs over the past eight or nine years, our own included. But it’s pretty obvious that ubiquity doesn’t lend itself to quality—again, we say this as a nascent food blog less than a year old—and a lot of truly awful crap has also come out of those eight or nine years. Not that the bottom-feeders give great food blogs a bad name; more so, they underline the fact that great food blogs (and the people who run them) were always, and still are, the exception to the rule. They are, in every sense of the word, exceptional. They are also, in many of the cases herein, responsible for all of their pathetic imitators. The crown: it’s heavy.

A note on geography: We’re talking here about American food blogs, so if your favorite street-eats blogger from Bangkok didn’t make the cut, it’s no snub. And secondly, the list is very centralized in New York for a reason—if you look at the trailblazing food-blogging operations that have morphed into national brands, almost all of them (Eater, Grubstreet, Serious Eats) got their start in NYC. Blame it on the rest of the country for not getting with the program when New Yorkers started these crazy blog things en masse in 2004.

A note, too, on the cast: Many great food writers—Francis Lam, Jonathan Gold, Peter Meehan, Adam Sachs—have been omitted in light of their blog-specific efforts (or lack thereof), as have numerous blog editors who steer the ships but don’t always hop into the fray themselves. Some of the people on this list had thousands of posts in the can before they hung up their blogging gloves. One of them had only seven but changed the game in terms of what it meant to be an important character in the food world. In either case, one thing is constant: Great food bloggers have great runs.

And during these epic streaks of Internet glory, great bloggers usually demonstrate some recognition of the sheer absurdity of the enterprise: It is, after all, just food. And you can only do so much with it. You have to get creative.

All of the people that made our list have great posts, sure, and moments that stick out above others. But the best of them—the ones at the very top of the pile—don’t really have a single post that can be pointed to as a game-changer, so much as an entire catalogue and repertoire of note. They’re the people who didn’t just change the tone of the daily conversation about food, restaurants, dining out, the rising tide of celebrity in the food world, and the characters and scenes driving it all—they changed the conversation itself.

These are the 20 Greatest Food Bloggers, Ever.

Written by Chris Schonberger (@cschonberger) and Foster Kamer (@weareyourfek)