Whenever it comes out, I walk up to Quack's, open up the paper like a proper adult, and circle the winners that look interesting! With cappucinno in-hand, sometimes paired with a salty oat cookie. It's all very ritualistic.
That's because no matter how often I read, save, and circle the "Best of" issue, I always find myself wondering: "Now WHERE is a good cleaners? WHO does shoe repair?" It's because we don't have the Yellow Pages anymore, which I rather miss in some misguided, nostalgic way. Enter the "Best of" issue, and my pen, ready to circle.
There are about a billion categories in the Chronicle's poll, some of which are hilariously specific (Best Window Display!), some so broad it's tough to choose (Party of the YEAR?). But I'm going to give it a shot, and I'm going to do it publicly. I've picked out a handful here to have fun with.
I'd love to hear your "Best of" votes for these categories, and those for the other categories, too. What best-kept secrets am I leaving out? Do you agree on these choices? Disagree? Enlighten me, friends.
Here we go!
* architecture and lodging *
Bathroom: How funny is it that I knew my vote for this right away? It is Justine's, that French den tucked away on the east side. Not only does Justine's possess the sexiest damn bathroom in town (which is saying a lot for a bathroom), it's also perpetually lit by candles, making it rather miraculous in that it does not burn down.
Sign: Slightly cliché, but Hyde Park Gym gets my vote.
Pretty freaking great.
* arts & entertainment *
First of all, there should totally be a "craft" or "handmade" category under here, Chronicle! Maybe next year.
If there were, then The Wonder Craft girls would get my vote for Craft/Handmade. Four ladies, who drive around in a trailer teaching crafts to both children at birthday parties, and grown-ass men, at bars? IMAGINARY VOTE SUBMITTED.
Here are some (actual) others:
Scenester/Mover and Shaker: Wow! This one is tough, and terribly subjective. But I think I'm going to have to vote for Richard Gonzalez, the man behind Austin's killer music blog, Ultra8201.
In my eyes, Richard is a winner for two reasons. A) He keeps us all informed about what's happening in this town music-wise (and sometimes food- and fashion-wise, too!), with scrupulous video and photo coverage. But B) he doesn't take himself too seriously, and would probably be the last person to call himself a "scenester." If you met Richard, he wouldn't offer you a business card, and might not even tell you about his blog. He'd ask about you, and he'd listen, and he'd probably smother you in a hug by the end of the conversation.
Could have gone with a lot of pictures. But here is Richard, man-handling children.
Visual Artist: Nick Henning. J'adore.
Drag Performer: Paul Soileau! That man earned himself a whole Chronicle cover, so I think Paul takes it! He pulls double duty, both as Rebecca Havemeyer (washed-up, yet dignified, Southern belle) and Christeene (diseased, to' up, possibly pregnant? trainwreck). Have you ever been to a Hey Homo show at the Drafthouse? Then you've seen Paul.
On top of that. I interviewed Paul once for AV Club/The Onion, and he was funny, self-deprecating, sassy, humble. Paul, if you're reading, I'd like to nominate myself as your new BFF. What do you say.
Party of the Year: Wow, again! Tough! This is biased in every single way, but The Glam-Off really did rock my world. Partly because I got to dress like David Bowie, but mostly because local party/event-planning maven, Candace Carlisle, and The Highball made that bash un-freaking-believable. Also, so many good things came out of it, like a Prince cover band, and lightening bolts on faces. Lightening bolts on quite serious faces.
Truly though, there were too many amazing events to name this year. ManFest. Non-stop dance parties from Knuckle Rumbler and Big Green House. Plus, those Action Pack guys - the ones that put on all the theme bashes at The Highball and Alamo Drafthouse? Superhero Party. Glow in the Dark Party. Soft Rock Sing-A-Long? It's hard to keep up with the stuff that comes out of their brains. They could turn a Lifetime for Women marathon special into a dance party.
* food & drink *
Blue Dahlia Bistro had existed we might have gone there! It's the perfect level of intimacy: not crazy expensive, quite cozy, wee little tables for hand-holding and kissing. Just watch out for their wine. I got too drunk there once, and disaster ensued.
Cocktail Menu: FINO, hands-down. Gazpacho Martini. Ginger Apricot Daquiri. Mixologist Bill Norris designed it, and that man's a genius.
Best-Kept Secret: DK Sushi! I say "secret" because it literally lacks a visible sign from the road. It also has the worst location in Austin, and yet their regular karaoke night - hosted by a vulgar, hilarious, tiny Asian man - is PACKED every week. The Yelp reviews are priceless.
Local Food Blog: Well, I have two. Addie Broyles' Relish Austin blog on Austin360/Statesman.com is a regular read for me, and is my go-to spot for local food news. But The First Kitchen is a more recent favorite, and it's brand new! Written by a witty, camera-wielding college student, The First Kitchen follows a girl learning how to cook in - yes - her very first kitchen. Please go read it, and leave comments! It's such a gem.
* media *
Music Station: Oy. I wish I could pick two, but at different times of the day/week! Am loyal to KUT, but...I could do with a little less "Prairie Home Companion" over the weekend, knowmsayin'. My dials are kind of equally tuned between KUT and KOOP/KVRX on 91.7.
(Speaking of which. Have you ever heard "The Lounge Show" on Saturday mornings on KOOP? It is marvelous.)
Who would you pick?
Local Entertainment Website: Do512. Duh.
Local Blogger/Local Blog: Oh now people, I'm not even gonna TOUCH THAT. Allow me to share my incredibly disorganized blogroll, located on the right hand side of your screen!
I will tell you my first local blog crush, though. It is called The Famousish, and it doesn't exist anymore. When I moved back to Austin in 2007, after being pent up in grad school for two years, I was all DANCE PARTIES COMES TO MAMA. That blog did the trick.
Ditto This is Life in Austin! (Now "This is Life in Austin and Aspen!") I knew instinctively that the girl writing it was significantly more athletic than I, but I planned to keep reading until we became friends. AND IT WORKED. Now Lyssa is my real-life buddy! Yay internet.
* shopping *
Antiques/Collectibles: I've been telling everyone I know about Uptown Modern on Burnet Road. Burnet is a hoarder's paradise, with more "collectibles" shops than the eye can see, but Uptown Modern has a terrific buyer. Very well-edited room displays, and one time, I almost shelled out on this chair. Pardon the cell phone picture.
Isn't it begging for a little owl pillow?
Green Business: My buddy Zach's company, Yard Farm Austin! He installs vegetable and fruit gardens at people's houses.
Vintage: Blue Velvet, on North Loop, is by far the economical choice. Not too mention the frequent winner of this category. I live in the neighborhood, and have started wandering in on occasion. I'm not gonna lie - it's pretty good. Found a '50s pastel house dress, uber Betty Draper, that I'm rather fond of. As well as this huge, gold, scorpion pendant. It's so gaudy and weird. Like what Snoop might wear on a nature hike.
But Prototype and next-door Feathers, both on South Congress, are two of my long-time favorites. I bought all of my bridesmaids vintage clutch purses at Prototype a while back, then popped next door to Feathers and got vintage scarves to wrap them in! Plus, Prototype has funny descriptions of each garment written on the price tags. Instead of just, "Dress. $45." It says, "This dress brings all the boys to THE YARD! $45!"
So Prototype, you win. Hope you get it!
who would you vote for, in all these categories?