Being included in the list of Veja's best is considered a high honor, and recipients in each category receive a wall-plaque indicating their status. The plaque is almost always prominently displayed somewhere near the entrance of the establishment, as a notification to potential customers, and the most highly honored restaurants often have a wallful of plaques from previous years.
In Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, and the spiritual home of the Afro-Brazilian cuisine of Bahia, one of the most coveted honors is to be voted the best maker of acarajé in the city. Acarajé, a delicious and addictive street food, is to Salvador what the coney island hot dog is to New York - a culinary icon for the culture of Bahia. It's also Bahia's collective Proustian madeleine - acarajé's utterly unique taste and aroma are potent emotional reminders of all that Bahia is, and the first bite of a piping-hot acarajé for a Bahian returning from a time away, or for a tourist coming back to Salvador for a second or fifth or fifteenth time is a gustatory key to unlocking memories of of previous times in the capital.
By law, acarajé must be sold in the traditional manner, by a woman dressed with at least some reverence to traditional Bahian dress, and cooked on site on the sidewalk, in a square or in a park. The way acarajé is sold has been enshrined as part of Brazil's immaterial cultural patrimony, and the sale of acarajé by baianas (as these women are called) even has it's own national day of celebration.
In it's 2011-2012 edition, Veja's jurors for Salvador, who all live in that city, chose the acarajé cooked and sold by Jaciara de Jesus Santos, known to all as simply Cira, as the best in Salvador. In its guide, Veja justified its choice of Cira this way (translated by Flavors of Brazil):
Around 10 in the morning, when the dendê oil is just beginning to be heated up, the first clients of the day have already begun to position themselves around the tabuleiro (a small tray to hold all the ingredients required to prepare acarajé) that Jaciara de Jesus Santos, or Cira, inherited from her mother more than forty years ago in Itapuã. From lunchtime on, especially on weekends, customer traffic increases and the line-up lengthens, but no one seems bothered by the wait. The wait, in fact, is part of the whole experience for residents of Salvador and for tourists, who not uncommonly are already on the way to the airport and who stop to carry to a far-away relative or friend the best acarajé in Salvador, according to Veja's jury. With a texture that is crunchy on the outside and light and fluffy inside, Cira's fritter made from black-eyed pea flour adds generous complements of flavor-balanced vatapá, chopped green tomato salad, and if the customer wishes, a large portion of reconstituted dried shrimp. An acarajé costs R$4 (USD $2.50) or R$5 (USD $3) if you wish to add the shrimp. As well as acarajé, Cira sells bolo de estudante ("students' cake) for $R2.50 and cocada sweets for R$3. From Friday through Sunday, the presence of Cira herself is guaranteed. Her daughter Jussara and granddaughter Aline are in charge of Cira's two other locations, at Largo da Mariquita and in Lauro de Freitas, respectively.
Cira's stand is located on Rua Aristides Milton (no number) in the seaside district of Itapuã, very close to Salvador's International Airport. If you arrive in Salvador by plane, you can make Cira's acarajé your first bite of Bahia, and before you fly away, you can repeat the procedure on the way to the airport. You'll not forget it, nor her.