Best of the Bay 2009 

Note: To vote in the 2010 Readers' Poll visit here!


For the 2010 Best of the Bay Loafies awards show, click here

Each year this edition of Creative Loafing acts as a kind of de facto year-in-review. It’s our annual barometer of political fortunes and misfortunes; rising stars and fresh beginnings in arts, entertainment and business, particularly the restaurant business; new ideas both good and bad.

But the issue also serves as a reminder of the constants of life here. Particularly after a year like this one, when the ground kept shifting in ways both frightening and exhilarating, we drew some reassurance in knowing that the Best of the Bay issue would inevitably include some mention of sex scandals, political corruption, Bern’s Steak House, Jobsite Theater and Joe Redner. And with every BOTB we rediscover the natural beauties that still surround us (and will continue to do so unless some of those aforementioned bad ideas — like offshore drilling and uncontrolled sprawl — come to pass).

Many thanks to the Loafers who contributed to this year’s Best of the Bay. They include: Shawn Alff, Joe Bardi, Bryan Childs, Kelly Cornelius, Taylor Eason, Wayne Garcia, Cathy Harrelson, Velva Lee Heraty, Chris Ingram, Mark E. Leib, Katie Machol, Joran Oppelt, Ivan Pena, Leilani Polk, Brian Ries, Catherine Durkin Robinson, Megan Voeller, Eric Snider and Franki Weddington.

And special thanks to intrepid intern Rebecca Wainright, who managed to tally votes without her head exploding, and to Online Producer Stephen Hamill, who drove the BOTB online engine more effectively than ever before. You’ll find pictures of that party elsewhere on this page.

The Winners:

Arts & Entertainment

Theater

Visual Art

People, Places & Politics

Food & Drink

The Best New Restaurants

Readers' Poll


Arts & Entertainment:

Best freakin’ awesome events
Square ONE
It’s hard enough to wrangle a hip group of artists/musicians/designers/models together at the same place and time, but it’s even harder to convince anyone to come see the spectacle. The visionaries at Square One do just that with scenester-crowded, can’t-miss-‘em shindigs — like La Di Da and Ryan Prado SHOT Me! — that draw party people in droves. squareoneflorida.com.

Best Rap Artist
Shunda K
She raps in lightning-fast, tongue-twisting, furious style, with her solid, clever rhyming interrupted by occasional sung verses and set against a backtrack of well-produced beats that make you wanna shake your rump. After getting dumped from U.K.-based Domino Records (Junior Boys, Arctic Monkeys), Shunda K (formerly of Yo Majesty) decided to give her entire Domino catalog away — for free. They’re available for download on her website. Get them now. shundak.com.

Most Improved Local Act
Ascending to Avalon
Their two-disc demo last September proved that Ascending to Avalon is something special. Eight months spent working and shopping their debut EP, Wake the Sleeping Sun, has given A2A’s music a tighter focus with a more even blend of riff, melody and color. myspace.com/teofmusic.

Most Promising Rock Band
Not Tonight Josephine
After a sold-out performance at the State Theatre in July, Not Tonight Josephine has become one of the Bay area’s most promising and buzzworthy rock bands. Their debut EP, This Orphan Heart, is a collection of radio-ready gems that fits right in with the heavy, alt-grunge metal accessibility of 3 Days Grace and Thrice. If they can continue their upward momentum and focus on growing their fanbase around the Southeast and Midwest, NTJ are destined for a long career. myspace.com/nottonightrock.

Best HORN Section in a Ska Band
Victims of Circumstance
Ska has been meandering in and out of the mainstream since the late ’70s, likely due to the rise of excellent brass sections. Victims of Circumstance boasts a mighty fine one of its own, a two-piece combo — Jay Atheney (sax) and Aaron Zylmam (trombone) — that produces happy-go-lucky melodies and syncopated harmonies with the best of them. myspace.com/victimsofcircumstance.

Best Comeback
Geri X
The moody neo-folk-rock singer/songwriter skipped town last year to pursue a blossoming romance and work the Milwaukee music scene. She returned with a brighter outlook, a boyfriend/band member, and a mission to make a career of her music in the city she had admittedly taken for granted. Geri X rejoined the scene and began gigging regularly with her new three-piece, drew 300 fans to a re-launch party for her sixth album, Anthems of a Mended Heart, and produced and released a stylish, well-made video for “Kiss on Both Eyelids” at a show featuring special guest artists who flew in for the occasion. Overall, she filled a hole we never even realized was empty. myspace.com/gerix.

Best Fusionists
Poetry n’ Lotion
The heavy drive of metal, the old-timey bounce of swing jazz and groovin’ slinkiness of funk, the organic backporch feel of roots, the swagger of ’70s prog rock, the easy-going sway of reggae — all these elements and more Poetry n’ Lotion throws into its fusion-fabulous sound, made by a mostly instrumental quartet that includes mandolin player Jim Page, guitarist Matt E. Lee, bassist Tom Murray and drummer John Nowicki. Whether they’re playing original tunes like the lively party closer “Skinsuit,” performing lively renditions of the Knight Rider or M*A*S*H themes, re-interpreting the music of anyone from Mungo Jerry to Dusty Springfield, PNL fuses all the right elements with seeming ease. myspace.com/poetrynlotion.

Best Neo-Jazz Outfit
Jim Morey Band
Warm-drawling vocalist and trumpeter Jim Morey leads this capable quartet featuring bassist Ann Van Atta, banjo player David Crisler and drummer Billy Carr (all four are also members of Lounge Cat). JMB offers a fresh take on vintage jazz with a swing foundation incorporating elements of gypsy, ragtime and stumbling roots rock, and then spicing things up with electronics (Crisler has a synthesizer hooked up to his banjo) and humorous textures (kazoo, washboard, bike horn, slide whistle). myspace.com/jimmorey.

Best Frontman
Ernie Locke, Nervous Turkey
He’s the Bay area’s most entertaining and engaging frontman by far, leading his blues-rockin’, barroom-stompin’ trio with ball-blasting vigor and tongue planted firmly in cheek. An over-sized sex symbol, he wields his bulk, swings his belly and swivels his hips in exaggerated twists, rubbing his nipples through his always sweat-drenched shirt, making fake-lecherous comments to the ladies up front, and in the midst of it all belts out gritty-growly vocals and plays harmonica ‘til that thing smokes. myspace.com/nervousturkeyband

Best Concert
David Byrne, Tampa Theatre, Dec. 12, 2008
Clad all in white (matching his hair), Byrne led a seven-piece, white-clad ensemble through a set of songs from his latest Eno collaboration, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, as well as older crowd-pleasing cuts — “Houses in Motion,” “Take Me to the River,” “Burning Down the House” and “Crosseyed and Painless.” A trio of petite, athletic modern dancers bounded onto the stage to perform choreographed routines with and around Byrne and the band, adding to the show with their carefree capering. Byrne’s distinctive, warbling voice was as clear and strong as ever, and he soaked up the crowd’s enthusiasm, which added a bit of shine to an already fantastic experience.

Best Concert That Came as a Welcome Surprise
WAR, State Theatre, May 15, 2009
The multi-racial R&B band out of L.A. hasn’t notched a hit since the 1970s, but assaulted the State with a high-energy set that rolled along like a greatest-hits album: “Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Summer,” “Slippin’ into Darkness,” “The World is a Ghetto,” “Low Rider,” et al. The show included just the right amount of jams and percussion breakdowns, singalongs and such, but never strayed from the great tunes and ass-shakin’, Latin-laced funk. A fabulous and underrated band from years gone by proved it was still relevant and not just going through the nostalgic motions.

Best Local Tour
Citrus Circuit Tour
Four Florida bands from four different regions: Have Gun, Will Travel; The Takers; Lauris Vidal; Truckstop Coffee. Each headlining in their respective towns. So simple. So good. You gotta love it when a plan comes together. myspace.com/thecitruscircuittour.

BEST REUNION SHOW
Ghetto Love Sugar, Yeoman’s Road Pub, May 8
A local experimental jazz-jam outfit that enjoyed its heydey several years ago and played its last gig in ‘03, Ghetto Love Sugar re-banded for a show when drummer/percussionist Jon Priest — who’d moved to Boone, N.C. a few years ago — returned for a weekend of performing. That night, Priest sat in with nearly every group he helped shape during his time in the Bay area. But his set with former Ghetto Love Sugar bandmates Philip Booth (bass), Raulton Reichel (keyboardist/effects) and Joel Lisi (guitar) was the most spirited part of the night, and bittersweet because it was a one-shot deal.

Best Indie Concert
of Montreal, The Ritz Ybor, Dec. 8, 2008
The band put on a stage show that was an aural and visual hallucination brought to dazzling life. The six-piece played against a huge backdrop of vivid, psychedelic animations and under-washes of saturated lights. A revolving screen hid or revealed a motley cast of performers (in costumes and masks) who acted out scenarios with and without frontman Kevin Barnes, He changed outlandish outfits a dozen or more times, covered himself in red paint, in shaving cream, in glitter. He sang and played guitar, pranced around and all the while appeared to have a grand old time.

Best Indie Three-Way
THX Management, Aestheticized Presents, New Granada Presents
If it’s not one of these local promoters bringing an indie act to town, chances are the act is not a very noteworthy one.

Best Video
Lush Progress, “Even Now”
Tampa art-rockers Lush Progress premiered their tasteful video for “Even Now” back in May. Produced by frontman Drew Cutler and directed by Jesse Newman, the clip has a lush (of course) and dreamy feel, and showcases the song’s drifting, despondent melody with all the right elements of fantasy and easy-but-pretty special effects. Proof that with some imagination and the right technology, a band can create something remarkable on an extra-low budget. myspace.com/lushprogress.

Best Band Likely to Steal Your Teenage Daughter’s Heart
Drew Street Mary
Cut your daughters off from rock music before they discover Drew Street Mary. With their boyish good looks, amiable charm, catchy hooks and sweetly melancholic sound mixing elements of power punk and alt-rock, Drew Street Mary could easily be picked up on the next tour with All American Rejects, their undeniable teenage appeal stealing the hearts of gooey-eyed girls along the way. myspace.com/drewstreetmary.

Best (Hip) New Band
Blind Man’s Colour
Given props by Kanye West and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste in January, featured on NPR this past August, Blind Man’s Colour just happens to hail from St. Petersburg. Co-visionaries Kyle Wyss (guitar and lead vocals) and Orhan Chettri (keys, laptop and back-up vocals) are some damn talented kids; their experimental quartet is most often compared to Animal Collective. But the duo relies more on organic instrumentation than sonicboards and synthesizers to produce its driving sound, and a bassist and drummer bring the low-end throb and punchy dance beats. BMC also downplays the grandiose washes of sound and aimless barrages of noise so beloved by experimental acts, instead focusing on the delicacies of melody with ’60s pop-inspired vocal harmonies reminiscent of The Beach Boys. myspace.com/weareblindmanscolour.

Best New Chick Band
Dear Old Liar
No coffee shop waifs stinking of patchouli and singing sappy ballads here. Whiskey, cigarettes and sultry blues perfect for these hot Florida nights. myspace.com/dearoldliar.

Best Alt Rock Duo
GreyMarket
Two smartly dressed, energetic guys — Michael Gargiulo on drums, laptop and backup vocals, and Cave McCoy on lead vocals, guitar and pedals — make more rock-your-face-off noise than bands with twice the amount of members, and they even have a quaint little light show to go with it. myspace.com/greymarket.

Best Nerd Rapper to Book for Your Party
Steve Rush aka Funky49
Computer jockey by day. Nerdcore rapper by night. Steve has penned a MOSI theme song and recently garnered national press by writing a theme song for the particle physics lab, Fermilab. myspace.com/funky49music.

Best Watering Hole with Live Music
New World Brewery
As much a Tampa staple as cigars, strip malls and strip clubs, New World Brewery continues to couple the best in local and smaller national touring acts with one of the better beer selections in Ybor City. 1313 E. Eighth Ave., Ybor City, 813-248-4969, myspace.com/newworldbrewery.

Best Modern-Sounding Record
Sons of Hippies
Up from the ashes of Sarasota’s Nous Rapport came Sons of Hippies, who have carved out a gaping niche in Tampa Bay by playing hot alt-rockin’ sets at Crowbar, New World Brewery, Skipper’s Smokehouse and even St. Pete’s Emerald Bar and Star Booty. They also put out this year’s most original release, Warriors of the Light, which culls from influences ranging from MGMT to Siouxsie and the Banshees to PJ Harvey and Radiohead. myspace.com/sonsofhippies.

Best DJ Collective
500 Wolves

“Filthy Richard” was CZAR’s answer to its tanking Friday night “Pulp: The Party” series, and the new weekly DJ residency has become the Bay area’s must-attend Friday night dance party. DJ Monk spins indie pop/dance music (and videos) on the main stage while 500 Wolves — an aggregation of hot DJs that includes Soft Rock Renegades (2critical, Archaea), Crate Brothers (mes, Oprah Spinfrey), Silence and Da Pittsburgh Kid — plays a blend of indie rock and hip-hop in the side room. If you’re looking for “I’m On a Boat,” head to the main room; if you’re more a Junior Boys or TV on the Radio type, 500 Wolves has you covered.

Most Unassuming Monster
Shaun Hopper
The kid’s got fingers of doom, no two ways about it. A true world-class talent on fingerstyle, flat-top acoustic guitar, Hopper effortlessly channels Chet Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel and Segovia, blowing minds and dropping jaws everywhere between his twin home bases of Tampa and Atlanta. To top it off, he’s just as nice as could be, humble and without pretense, a true Southern gentleman whose nonexistent sense of entitlement contradicts his prodigious talents on the fretboard. shaunhopper.com.

Most Improved Venue
The Ritz Ybor
When the former Masquerade got a $2 million makeover and re-opened as The Ritz last June, it didn’t seem like many shows were making it onto the marquee. Some of us wondered whether the booking folks set the bar too high or if the 1,000-capacity house had become a bit too fancy for just any show, with its new open and airy feel, higher stage, in-house lighting rig and walls draped in red velour for sound baffling. But gradually, with help from No Clubs Productions, The Ritz began beefing up its events schedule and in a matter of months went from hosting tribute acts to a range of top-notch talent: Lady Gaga, of Montreal, Jesse McCartney, Ben Folds, Gogol Bordello, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon, Rabbit in the Moon and many others. The Ritz has also picked up several shows lost by Jannus Landing due to that venue’s pending legal issues. 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-247-2555, ritzybor.com.

Best Megaplex
AMC Veterans
We love Tampa Theatre and Beach Theatre as much as you do, but let’s face it: If you’re going to the movies this weekend, the odds are high you’re patronizing one of the Bay area’s many multiplexes. ‘Burg-ites frequent BayWalk (or, if they fear gunfire, Parkside); South Tampa residents hit up Westshore Mall or Channelside. Those who like a double vodka with their Inglourious Basterds head for Ybor’s deluxe (and high-priced) Muvico outlet. But even with these many formidable options to choose from, we still like the AMC Veterans 24 best. Sure, the Vet leans hard on big Hollywood releases, but an indie or two has been known to creep onto its screens. Plus, the theater is usually clean (no dirty-feet smell like at Baywalk), there are multiple dining options on the property, and an exit off the Veterans Expressway practially dumps you into the parking lot.

Best theater performance to make an entire audience sniffle
Tuesdays with Morrie at American Stage
As a rule, we don’t turn on the waterworks, but American Stage’s production of Tuesdays with Morrie opened the floodgates. Adapated from a best-selling book, the play is about a reporter who visits his former professor every week — which sounds nice until you find out that teach has Lou Gehrig’s disease. Fortunately, our nose-blowing went unnoticed in the cacophony of whimpers and manly throat-clearing that covers for crying.

Best Paint-It-Yourself Pottery
Pinky’s Painted Cottage
Named after the sassy lady pug who holds court at the St. Pete cottage with owner/proprietor Kay Lee, this paint-it-yourself pottery studio offers a fun atmosphere and all the tools you need to create your personalized work of art. Pinky’s also hosts classes for kids and adults as well as customized paint parties for special occasions. Choose from a collection of affordable ceramic pieces, from functional (platters, mugs, salad bowls and more) to whimsical (a wide-mouthed fish, perhaps?). Then get the full rundown of paint colors, techniques and plenty of pointers from Lee on how to get the best results. 2710 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-821-8399, pinkyspaintedcottage.com.

Best Art Parties
ARTpool
Whether a Halloween party where the attendees dress as their favorite artists, or a full-blown art show featuring some of St. Pete’s hottest talents, ARTpool owner and operator Marina Williams brings it full blast, incorporating fashion and live music, and drawing a full roster of scenesters who pack her tiny gallery boutique and spill into the street. 919 First Ave. N., St Petersburg, 727-324-3878, artpoolrules.com.

Best Publicist
Katie Pedretty, Ruth Eckerd Hall
A veteran of the major record labels, Katie just gets it. She’s beyond helpful. Need an interview? She’s on it. Need review tickets? On it. Photo pass? On it. Need her to call you back — quick? Count on it. Katie executes all of her duties with a warmth and humor that can be rare among harried publicists. Come to think of it, she never, ever seems harried.

Best local porn star who’s actually a porn star
Stormy Daniels
Stormy Daniels may be considering a 2010 run for the U.S. Senate in her home state of Louisiana, and she may do most of her adult work on the west coast, but right here in Tampa Bay is where she parties, is a favorite guest of Bubba the Love Sponge, and gets arrested for domestic abuse. Stormy is not the kind of “porn star” who does webcam work or looks for adult gigs on Craigslist for extra drug money. She emerged on the national adult scene in 2004, winning AVN’s coveted Best New Starlet. She has since expanded her adult credits to include award-winning writer, director, producer and novelist.

Best local showing of BRITNEY’S “Oops I Did it Again”
St. Pete Times Forum
The mic was still on when Britney Spears exited the stage in March, uttering, “My pussy is hanging out!” — proving once and for all that she doesn’t lipsync.

Best place to spot island wildlife (nude human variety)
Fort De Soto Beach
Tourists flock to the northern tip of Fort De Soto to catch a glimpse of the island’s wildlife. Common sightings include the Wrinkly Assed Grandmother face down on a beach blanket and the Wandering Creepo, puffing out his belly and appearing at random among the sand dunes, wearing only shoes and socks. Some lucky nature lovers are occasionally treated to a rare glimpse of Mating Nudists, which is said to be a life-altering experience. These creatures are believed to take refuge on this island due to the depletion of nudist beaches.

Best bathroom to do a stranger in
Nova 535
NOVA 535 art lounge doesn’t just offer bathrooms, it has “TEN award winning restroom suites” designed like miniature hotel rooms. Original art (often nude), stainless steel fixtures, mood lights, full-length lockable doors, music and chairs create an ambience 10 times sexier than the backseat of your snooty hybrid car.

Best place to be mistaken for a prostitute
4th StREET, St. pete
The charm of St. Pete is out in full force at all hours of the night on 4th Street. Whether they’re dressed in stained jean skirts or undersized heels, stationed at bus stops or pay phones, chatting with large men in sweat pants or thumbing rides, friendly ambassadors of good cheer are always willing to offer a friendly “Hey baby” or “What you doing tonight?” If you’re a woman walking on 4th Street after dark, don’t be surprised when men in trucks pull over to offer you a ride.

Best Exotic Dancer
The Senator
Tallahassee has the Bikini Bicyclist. Treasure Island has the heroin-thin version of Hulk Hogan who struts the beach in a gold G-string. New York City has the guitar-strumming Naked Cowboy. And Tampa has The Senator. What makes our thong-man special? Perhaps it’s his ability to maintain a semi-erection, a smile and a strange kind of dignity while dancing in women’s evening wear at Czar or The Castle night after night, like a Viagra-fueled Energizer Bunny.

BEST IN THEATER

BEST ACTRESS
Julie Rowe
Is there any role that Rowe can’t play? She was hilarious in The Little Dog Laughed, majestic in Lysistrata and dangerously human in By the Waters of Babylon. And now she’s leaving town?! Julie, say it isn’t so!

BEST ACTOR
Richard Coppinger
In the stunning Stageworks production of Shining City, Coppinger was a confused, fumbling Everyman, desperately in need of peace of mind but finding only embarrassment and regret. Acting like this can break your heart.

BEST THEATRE COMPANY
Jobsite Theater
In a year of fine productions throughout the Bay area, Jobsite had the most: Blackbird, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Rabbit Hole and Pericles. Now that’s inspired programming. 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, 813-229-STAR, jobsitetheater.org

BEST PLAY
The Wild Party
The new freeFall Theatre Co. started the 2008-2009 season with a raucous, breathtaking, mile-a-minute musical event that turned The Studio@620 into a cauldron of sex and race, bathtub gin and cocaine. A triumph.

BEST ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Anna Brennen
She’s kept Stageworks afloat through the good times and the bad, and after another fine season, capped with The Little Dog Laughed, she’s about to move her durable company into its own space at Channelside. File under: Perseverance.

BEST DIRECTOR
Karla Hartley
Hartley found the hilarity of The Little Dog Laughed, the emotional honesty of Blackbird and the bizarreness of The Rocky Horror Show. She also acts, sings, stage manages and designs. Want to put on a play? Hire this woman.

BEST THEATER COMPOSER
Joe Popp
Popp’s rock songs for Jobsite Theater’s Pericles were muscular and jarring, melodic at times and then thrillingly dissonant. Standing in a raised cage at the back of the stage, Popp played live over recorded bass and drums, and brought down the house. Wow!

BEST SET DESIGNER
Scott Cooper
Cooper’s memorable work last season included the panels painted with elastic skyscrapers in The Little Dog Laughed, the stained-glass portraits of saints in Doubt and the exceedingly realistic worker’s lounge of Blackbird. Professionalism right down the line.

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER
Rick Criswell
Criswell’s costumes for The Rocky Horror Show were ghoulishly effective, from the wild togs of transvestite Frank’n’furter to the obscene briefs of oafish Rocky, and the black patches worn by the dozen or so “phantoms.” A delightfully grotesque feast for the eyes.

BEST NEW THEATER SPACE
American Stage
The most attractive, most comfortable theater in the Bay area is American Stage’s new space, where even the back row is close to the stage, and the sightlines are terrific. It doesn’t get much better than this. 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-823-1600, americanstage.org

THE BEST IN VISUAL ART
By Megan Voeller

BEST PUBLIC ART PROGRAM
Lights On Tampa
The biennial showcase of unconventional public art lures hordes of spectators downtown for sights like Casa Magica’s digital image projection on the side of Ft. Brooke parking garage. lightsontampa.org.

BEST ART-MEETS-FASHION SHOW
Wearable Art
Despite the emergence of Wearable Art knockoffs, the original remains the spectacle to beat. (Can anyone really compete with Frank Strunk III’s aluminum bikinis?) dfac.org, frankstrunk.com.

BEST COMMUNITY-BASED ART PROGRAM
Community Stepping Stones
Through hands-on training in the visual arts, performance, writing and urban agriculture, Community Stepping Stones puts teenage participants in Sulphur Springs on a path to college. communitysteppingstones.net.

BEST WORKSHOP SERIES
The Big Draw
Ruskin earns a spot on the map with this month-long celebration of drawing, featuring workshops, classes and activities inspired by the philosophy of John Ruskin. southshoreartscouncil.org/thebigdraw.

BEST EXHIBITION AT A MUSEUM
visualKultur.cat at Salvador Dali Museum
Contemporary Chinese Photography at FMoPA

Call it a case of David vs. Goliath. The Salvador Dali Museum hosted a sprawling salute to contemporary book arts from its namesake’s homeland, Catalunya. Diminutive Florida Museum of Photographic Arts offered a tiny window into contemporary Chinese photography. Clearly, Bay area art lovers come out the victors in this match-up. salvadordalimuseum.org, fmopa.org.

BEST IN PRINTMAKING
Anthony Zollo
In addition to stealing the show at Florida Craftsmen’s wallpaper exhibition with his digital design, the Ringling grad has looked good in shows at [5]art and Café Hey. anthonyzollo.com.

BEST IN PAINTING
Edgar Sanchez Cumbas
A reliably impressive talent, his contribution to Slow Death of the Flamingo at HCC Ybor Art Gallery meditated on sunny Florida in abstract form. edgarsanchezcumbas.com.

BEST NEW GALLERY OWNER
Mindy Solomon
Solomon’s gallery doesn’t open in downtown St. Pete until next month, but she’s already earned her stripes by curating solid shows for Florida Craftsmen and the Dunedin Fine Art Center. mindysolomon.com.

BEST IN SCULPTURE
Charles Parkhill
In a solo exhibition at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, the Sanford-based sculptor demonstrated his skill for turning humble materials like plywood into improbably elegant forms. dfac.org.

BEST TONGUE-IN-CHEEK EXHIBITION PREMISE
Experimental Skeleton
Only ES, a loosely knit collective of local artists, could cook up the weirdly brilliant To Boldly Go, a thoughtful and (of course) fun Star Trek-themed exhibition. experimentalskeleton.com.

BEST CONTEMPORARY ART VENUE
USF Contemporary Art Museum
Hands down the best place to get your contemporary art fix. Check out the current exhibition of sculpture by Teresita Fernandez, Blind Landscape. ira.usf.edu.

BEST ART BARGAIN
Art-O-Mat at the Polk Museum of Art
A fiver is all it takes to become a collector by pushing a button on the Art-O-Mat, a vintage cigarette machine converted into a colorful art-dispensing contraption. polkmuseumofart.org, artomat.org.

People, Places & Politics:

Best politician
John Dingfelder
Sure, the Tampa City Councilman has made missteps in his political career. Observers say he’s inconsistent in his progressive ways. But he did push his city to adopt greenbuilding incentives. And he was the only politico with the guts to show up at the gay rights protest of News Channel 8. Takes balls to stand up to the owner of the local daily newspaper when you are running for office in 2010. Bravo, Mr. Dingfelder, bravo.

 

 

Worst politician
Kevin White
Pimping out his 22-year-old aide after sexually harassing her. Hiding his predilection for expensive suits paid for by campaign contributions. Violating state elections laws in the process. He wins this category running away. Which is exactly what he should do.

Best two-time mayor who might try for a third
Dick Greco
How bad are things already for the 2011 Tampa mayor’s race, with the office being vacated by the term-limited Pam Iorio? Dick Greco, who has already served in two different eras in the office, is seriously considering a third shot at it. Yesterday’s innovations, tomorrow!

Worst performance at a town hall forum
TIE: Congresswoman Kathy Castor and the knuckleheads
At the now-infamous Ybor City town hall meeting on health care reform, she was a deer in the headlights. Meanwhile, outside, shoving and shouting ruled the day. So this one’s a tie: Castor failed to maintain order and essentially fled the scene, but the whole mess was prompted by a gang of loud-mouth knuckleheads who mistook a civilized debate for Wrestlemania.

Best comic relief
Paul Congemi
The longshot candidate for St. Petersburg mayor raised eyebrows everywhere he went, not least with his refreshingly honest answer at one debate that he didn’t really care about the issue he was being queried about. But the best was his run-in with some clerks at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken, where he unloaded an F-bomb-laden tirade after a misunderstanding. He told a worker, ”Don’t touch me. I am running for mayor, and once I get elected you will be fired.” KFC banned the mayoral wannabe, so not only did he lose the election but he lost a good source of poultry-based comestibles.

Best Political Tweeter
Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe
@MarkSharpeFL gets Twitter. Even if he’s no @clairecmc.

Best funeral
Phyllis Busansky
When Hillsborough County’s supervisor of elections died unexpectedly, Tampa Bay paused for a rare moment of introspection and idealism in recalling Busansky’s life and commitment to public service. As we wrote at the time, every public official in the state should have heard the eulogies. We’d be a better Florida for it.

Best digital racial insensitivity
Hillsborough County Republican Party
Following stinging local defeats of Buddy Johnson and Brian Blair (not to mention the election of Barack Obama), you would think the local GOP would be on its best behavior. But they showed that old habits die hard, as party leaders twice got busted sending tasteless “jokes” vie email. Perhaps time wasted on such chicanery might be better spent trying to win elections.

Best display of ignorance by a public official
Holly Benson
Benson, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, sounded more like a grandpa at a barbecue when she suggested poor people can solve health care woes like heart disease and diabetes with a quick jog around the block. After all, she told a radio host earlier this year, unemployment “means you have a lot more time to go running.”

Best loony display of public concern
Tea parties
Yes, it’s been the year of calling any public protest a “Tea Party,” regardless of the issue, ideology or actual lack of any tea at the event. Orlando held its anti-Obama wingathon first, drawing about 4,000 people whose only commonality seemed to be hatred for our current president. Then the Tea Party moved to Tampa, where it drew about 500 for an afternoon rally and maybe 1,000-2,000 for a nighttime protest. It was a flop. By summer, the Tea Party movement had found a single issue to rally ’round: Health Care Reform. Of course, it shot itself in the foot after one anti-tax crusader, St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip, forwarded an e-mail criticizing “ObamaCare” and depicting the President as a New Guinea witch doctor. It was roundly denounced as racist and McKalip apologized and quit just about every public board he sits on.

Best environmental “let them eat cake” action
Al Austin
Republican poobah Austin takes the cake for selfish excess. Despite water restrictions, Austin “found a loophole” of sorts and began trucking in water to keep his grass moist. While the rest of us were dutifully turning off our faucets, Austin was demonstrating he was just an out-of-touch elitist.

Best tax evasion by an anti-taxer
The late Ralph Hughes
You gotta give Ralph Hughes points for consistency. For decades, he pulled strings behind the scenes in Hillsborough County politics to further his anti-tax, anti-impact fee agenda. He died last year, but even from the grave he has proven his anti-tax mettle: We found out this year, according to the IRS, that Hughes and his companies owe $300 million in unpaid taxes. His surviving family members insist the guvmint is wrong and are contesting the assessment.

Worst green-washed politician
Gov. Charlie Crist
The governor came out of the post-election box looking like a green Republican. His first year promised a true bridging of the gap between business interests and environmentalists. He called for and got a climate summit right here in the Sunshine State. Then the PSC stalled, focusing on nuclear and that most elusive of mythical creatures: clean coal. Long before rumors of the John McCain VP shortlist began to circulate, we suspect a meeting was called. And it went something like this: “Charlie, Charlie, ya coulda been a contenda. Stop with the citizen governor crap and think about our, uh, your future.” Whereupon our kindly green guv began to turn the ship of Florida back toward the rocks. The nadir came when he blissfully began to tout the benefits of oil drilling off our shores. Oh Florida, think of the revenue! Ditching his term-limited governor job in Florida for a lifetime income with retirement plan in the Senate was an anticlimax. Charlie Crist deserted us long ago.

Worst use of homophobia to boost profits
News Channel 8
The local NBC affiliate picked a bad time to confirm its less-than-stellar support for human rights by accepting an anti-gay infomercial to air on the same evening as the St. Pete Pride parade. Its execs claimed free speech; critics said the station sold out.

Best media circus (mercantile)
Grand opening of IKEA
Weeks of hype. Lots of free food for journalists. Stories about the store’s manager, its employees, how the 353,000-square-foot facility near Ybor City would change all our lives in Tampa Bay. And now that we have experienced our own IKEA store for months now, it really hasn’t (surprise!) changed our lives much at all. But you have to hand it to those crafty Swedes — they sure know how to open a big-box retail store.

Best Media Circus (global)
Super Bowl weekend
We’re a tourist-based economy, so we love it when a big event gets flashy national attention — especially when that media spotlight isn’t glaring on sexed-up teachers, strip clubs or the murder of the week. This year’s coverage of Super Bowl weekend was a love letter to the Bay area that got beamed around the globe. Reporters from just about everywhere descended and reported on our fair metropolis and got to soak up our temperate January weather. TV news reports, Internet postings, newspaper and magazine stories all showcased a Tampa Bay that (for once) was a fully functioning city of the world. So what if it only lasted for 48 hours.

Best local media tweeter
TIE: Jeff Houck, Tampa Tribune; Rommie Johnson
With Jeff Houck (@TheStew) of the Tampa Tribune, you get food and dining coverage cooked medium-rare in a reduction sauce of snark. His Monday “Weekend Eats” retweets chronicle the amazing, drool-worthy meals his followers ate the previous weekend. And his Top Chef live commentary is a must-read complement to the broadcast each week. As for Johnson (@rommiej) — who does not blog in an official role as journalist, just an individual, we must preface — his tweets are funny, absurd, depressed and everything else you would expect from a journalist writing off the clock.

Broadcaster’s phrase we’ll miss the most
Bill Ratliff’s “Oh, Yeah”
When News Channel 8’s morning anchor Bill Ratliff retired from the NBC affiliate, we lost not only an intelligent anchor voice but the man who kept a wacky co-anchor Gayle Guyardo at bay with his “Oh, yeah.”

Best laid-off media employee
Dan Ruth
So many choices. But the most stunning newspaper layoff of the year was the Tampa Tribune ditching one of its star columnists (who also did weekend shifts on a radio talk show, giving free promo to the daily paper). Of course, the St. Petersburg Times snatched Ruth up for a once-a-week op-ed appearance. Just to rub it in to the Trib.

Best Morning Anchor
Ginger Gadsden
If you’re like us, the mornings make you consider murder. Thank God for Channel 10’s Ginger Gadsden, a fresh face on Bay area TV who brings smarts, spunk and a positive attitude to the airwaves five days a week. Gadsden anchors Ch. 10’s morning show and lunch-hour newscast, making both programs Best of the Bay-worthy thanks to her participation alone. The anchor manages to be smart without being an egghead, bubbly but not cloying, and she delivers the news as well as anyone on the station. And did we mention she’s a knockout?

Best place not to find a python
In bed with your baby
Teenage mom moves in with older boyfriend who owns a python. Brings toddler along. Snake gets out of its cage in the middle of the night and strangles 2-year-old Shaiunna Hare. One can’t help but wonder — who is mom going to sue?

Best Cop Car
Unmarked Dodge Charger
If you drive the Howard Frankland regularly you’ve seen them: dark-colored Dodge Chargers sitting in the median or hiding behind bushes. The latest variation on the unmarked car, the police issue of the Charger was purchased in 2008 by the Florida Highway Patrol. If online reviews are to believed, the cops are happy with their Hemi-powered gas guzzlers. As for the rest of us, be on alert — or the next time you see one of these snazzy new cop cars, it might be pulling your speeding ass over.

Best McDreamy come-on
Bayfront Medical Center
If you’re headed south on 1-275 through St. Petersburg and passing the I-375 exit, Bayfront Medical Center’s “Heart-Earned Distinction” billboard is just far enough away that the doctor model looks like he could very well be Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey. Mere coincidence? How ‘bout a clever marketing move to stroke your subconscious and spark involuntary feelings of warmth and confidence in the St. Petersburg hospital?

Best Waterfront Bike Path, St. Pete
Coffee Pot Park to The Pier
There are many great bike paths through the ‘Burg, not least of which is the fabulous Pinellas Trail. Of course, the Trail is pretty much land-locked, so if you want a waterside view to go with your pedal-pushing, we recommend you try riding from Coffee Pot Park to the Pier. Starting at the park, there is no bike path (only an extra-wide sidewalk) and the road is all uneven pavers. Call this the warm-up, as the mile between the park and the Snell Isle Bridge along Coffee Pot Boulevard is sure to leave you shaken from all the bouncing. After the bridge, though, the road is nicely paved. From the Pier, you can easily pick up the Trail (it starts at Demens Landing), cycle down past Albert Whitted, or just turn tail and head back to the park. Any way you go, it’s a nice view.

Best Local Mountain Biking
Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve Trail
Sure, Alafia River State Park Trail gets all the press, but Swamp Club has quietly been building some impressive new trails at Boyette Preserve, many miles’ worth situated on 4,900 acres of upland scrub. Plus, Boyette trails stand up to the rain better than Alafia’s. 13998 Balm-Boyette Road, Lithia, swampclub.org/boyette.

Best Beach to Run Naked on at Night
Pass-a-Grille
Feeling especially free, or maybe had too much to drink? Ditching your threads sounds really good on these hot, muggy nights — but let’s not get arrested. Try Pass-a-Grille near the turtle sanctuary. One request: Be very careful you don’t trample the little fellows.

Best Beach For Gratuitous Canoodling
Sunset Beach
Just imagine what you’ll see after dark on the only slice of beach in Pinellas County that allows drinking directly on the sand — all manner of outrageous behavior, from impromptu nude photo shoots with cell phones to uninhibited alcohol-fueled canoodling. Off West Gulf Boulevard, from 77th Avenue to Blind Pass Road, Treasure Island.

Worst Case of Playoff Fever Going Cold
Tampa Bay Rays’ late summer attendance plunge
On Monday, Aug. 3, the Tampa Bay Rays won an afternoon game at Tropicana Field against the Kansas City Royals. A heartening 25,000 fans turned out. One month later, with the team still in the chase for a wildcard spot, the Boston Red Sox came to town for a pivotal three-game series and drew less than 20,000 per contest. And this was before the Rays’ titanic collapse that made the rest of September essentially irrelevant. There’s a lot of things about the Rays’ post-World Series season that we don’t understand, but why the fan base collectively tanked for one of the biggest series of the year is simply beyond our comprehension.

Best Green Trend
Rain barrels
With water restrictions still in effect in some areas, Bay area residents are buying or building their own rain barrels to harvest water for lawns and car-washing. For every inch of rain that falls on a roof catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rain water. Why not make use of all of this rainfall and save some dough on your water bill? Though many make-your-own rain barrel workshops are booked until next year, you can still build one yourself or buy from one of these places: In Hillsborough, Rising Force Construction, 813-695-5030, lisa@risingforceconstruction.com. (barrels start at $37.50, with installation or custom paint job at extra cost); in Pinellas, Kelley’s Rain Barrels, rjoyner2@tampabay.rr.com. Rain barrels can also be found at area Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Best CAT Vet
Donna F. Shannon, DVM, The Cat Hospital of Tampa Bay
Dr. Shannon has been treating animals for nearly three decades, and although she’s run a string of veterinary clinics over the years, the Cat Hospital is her pet dream: a fully loaded feline-only care center that opened last November in a new plaza on the edge of St. Petersburg. Dr. Shannon manages her testy four-legged clients with a firm but gentle hand, making both you and your cat feel at ease throughout the examination. Plus the vet assistants are friendly and accommodating, the clinic is clean and comfortable, and a complete range of services is offered: wellness care, dentistry, radiology, lab services, boarding, pharmacy and more. 10730 Gandy Blvd. N, St. Petersburg, 727-577-5200, cathospitaltampabay.com.

Car Wash Least Likely to Steal Your Toll Money
Pronto Car Wash Quick Lube
When you’re in a rush and forgot to renew your Sunpass, you need the change hiding in that little spot under your dash. The car wash most likely to leave it there is Pronto. 220 34th St. N., St. Petersburg. 727-327-1900.

Best Auto Body Work
Al Perez
You may have to drive out to the butt crack of Hillsborough County — deep in the backwoods of Thonotosassa — but Al Perez will make it worth your while with reasonable prices on body work he performs himself in his home-based garage. Perez has decades of experience fixing up cars, from painting to finding and replacing parts, fixing a small knick here or a huge dent there. Whatever your car body issue may be, he’s got it handled and serves his customers with frank, easygoing charm. 813-477-8594.

Best Parallel-Universe Grocery Shopping
Dueling Publix Supermarkets
Grocery stores often cluster, with a Publix across from a Sweetbay down the block from a Save-A-Lot. After Publix bought 49 Albertsons stores last year, several Bay area neighborhoods were left seeing double as the old Albertsons were converted into sparkling Publix. Though the company has recently decided to close some of the doubled-up stores, two Publix locations in St. Pete continue their cross-street competition. On the east side of the Fourth Street and 38th Avenue N. intersection lies “old reliable,” an always-packed Publix rumored to be one of the busiest in the area. On the west side, a more spacious, less crowded and beautifully remodeled Publix offering the same products at the same prices — minus most of the shoppers. Enjoy the tranquil shopping while you can, West Siders, it’s only a matter of time before your secret is out.

Best Construction Spectacle
Dueling Museums
The Tampa Museum of Art’s home-in-progress has been getting a fair amount of pre-opening hype, and deservedly so: Not only will its opening in February, 2010 mark the end of a very bumpy civic journey, the new building is a sleek, stark yet understated work of architecture. Maybe too understated; lately it’s seemed like the big, colorful Glazer Children’s Museum going up right next door might overwhelm its more dignified grey neighbor, at least when viewed from Ashley. But even if the visual synergy isn’t quite working yet, let’s hope the two institutions will feed each other inspiration and, even more important, visitors.

Best Thrift Store
Goodwill Superstore, St. Petersburg
This 29,000-square-foot location is the biggest Goodwill Superstore in the area, and manages to be neat and well-organized despite being so crammed full of quality goods that it’s impossible to leave without buying something. A huge stock of clothing includes a boutique department with name brand and designer duds, racks upon racks of shoes, purses at every turn, housewares aplenty, and random unused overstock merchandise (candles, belts, socks, bedding, home accessories). 3365 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, 727-346-1460, goodwill-suncoast.org.

Best Bicycle Steal
Salvation Army Family Store
You’d be surprised what turns up in the discount bin at The Sal. Someone we know found a blue-green Bianchi Italian racing bike sitting in the back of the Family Store on 4th Street N. in St. Pete. A new Bianchi goes for over a thousand bucks. The manager told our friend he’d take $50. That wasn’t good enough for the small crowd assembled in line behind her, who protested until the price was lowered to $35. She put about $150 worth of work into the bike (new tires, brakes, etc.) and it’s as good as new — for less than one-fifth the price. 5321 Fourth Street N., St. Petersburg, 727-521-4208, uss.salvationarmy.org.

Best Sign The Economy is Turning Around
Creative Loafing emerges from bankruptcy protection
What can we say? It’s been a hell of a year at the CL offices, with the company seeking bankruptcy protection last September, followed by a protracted fight between CEO Ben Eason and creditor Atalaya Capital Management for control of the company. In August, CL’s long-time owners the Easons lost their battle to hang on to the chain, and Atalaya was given the keys to the kingdom. No one can say what the future holds, but for now CL is debt-free and Atalaya’s saying all the right things. Cautious optimism, anyone?

THE BEST OF CHARLIE CRIST

Best beard
Mrs. Gov. Charlie Crist

Best wide stance on sprawl
Gov. Charlie Crist on SB 360
In spite of pleas from environmental groups and local governments and bashings from editorial boards, Gov. Charlie Crist signed SB 360, effectively repealing Florida’s growth management, minus the usual ceremonial signing hype. Makes us wonder where he hid to sign the offending legislation … was it in a bathroom stall somewhere?

The “Just for Men” Award for Best Silver Fox
TIE: Gov. Charlie Crist and Anderson Cooper

THE BEST OF BILLY MAYS

Best celebrity death
When the King of the Infomercial died suddenly in his South Tampa condo, the world mourned the loss of a cultural icon, not to mention the potential shortage of tacky late-night TV commercials. We miss his blue shirt.

Best obituary headline
“Death here for Billy Mays” — The Daily Loaf, June 29, 2009

Best Billy Mays-pitched product
So many great ways to spend $19.95, and we love Mighty MendIt, Might Putty, Oxi Clean, Awesome Auger and Zorbeez. But there is a warm place in our hearts for the Fix It! Pro, a handy little pen-sized scratch remover that is supposed to wipe right over scratches on your jalopy.

Best dispute of autopsy findings
Mays’ family was quick to try to discredit a coroner’s finding that cocaine contributed to the pitchman’s heart disease, calling it “speculative.” Not exactly a denial.

THE BEST OF BRIAN BLAIR

Best arrest
There is something so sweet about a pro-family values icon being arrested on two counts of child abuse after a fight with his two teenage sons on Father’s Day.

Best dropped charges
Prosecutor Mark Ober, who had supported Blair’s re-election bid, dropped the charges, saying that Blair didn’t initiate the fight and probably got the worst of it. From the look of Blair’s mug shot that night, we would agree with the second part of his assessment.

Best post-jailhouse rationalization
After charges were dropped, Blair held an exclusive interview with Ch. 8 anchor Gayle Sierens, where he announced that he would use the incident to fuel his political comeback, in a run for the Florida House of Representatives. His top issue: upping parental rights so they can discipline their kids without fear of arrest. By smacking them around a bit — but only when the kids deserve it, we’re sure.

Best late-night, can’t-sleep snack
Blair told the cops that he couldn’t sleep on the night he was arrested, so he got up at 4 a.m. to cook himself a little snack. Salmon. We guess the Blair house was out of Cap’n Crunch that night.

Food & Drink:

Best Chef
Domenica Macchia
Macchia’s had a tumultuous year. She was fired from MT’s Jazz Lounge after creating a memorable small plates menu, then spent months waiting for Shackleton’s Folly to open. She abandoned that to open Diner 437 and — just last month — switched her allegiance to Bella Brava. Hopefully she’s finally settled, so we can see this talented, vocal and unabashed chef live up to the promise she displayed at MJ’s. A little stability should help. www.bellabrava.net.

Best Unsung Chef
David Miller
He’s been profiled in Southern Living, garnered the highest Zagat food rating in the Bay area, and owns three restaurants and a chocolate-making facility. But have you ever heard of David Miller? He is a humble culinary wunderkind still in his 20s who produces exceptionally beautiful and tasty fare at his high-end prix-fixe Savant Fine Dining and the more casual Cities Restaurant next door in Clearwater. Check him out and you’ll start singing his praises, too. savantfinedining.com.

Best Brush with Fame for a Local Chef
Zack Gross (of Z Grille) Shortlisted for Beard Awards
We admit it: As much as we love Zack Gross’ food at Z Grille, finding out that a guy who makes Butterfinger Egg Rolls and Dr. Pepper Fried Ribs made the short list for the prestigious James Beard Award (Best Chef: South) was shocking news. That stuffy organization rarely digs as deep as the oft-neglected Tampa Bay area for its accolades, and rarely picks chefs as unconventional as Gross. Probably for those reasons, Gross didn’t make the cut to the final five. It’s just a pleasure to be (almost) nominated.

Best New Restaurant
Z Grille
Although chef/owner Zack Gross has dished up fine food at Z Grille for years, this year saw such a quantum shift in the downtown St. Pete restaurant that it deserves rookie status. First, a move down the street and around the corner to beautiful digs in the Signature Place building, where artful interpretations of Gross’ love for tattoos and skateboards give the place a casual but refined vibe. Then, the food, which has morphed from Baja-Mex to imaginative, modern American cuisine that ranges from elegant to playful. With those changes, Z Grille has become the destination for foodies in the crowded St. Pete restaurant market. 104 Second St. St. Petersburg, 727-822-9600 or zgrille.net.

Best Restaurant You Might Forget About
Primi Urban Cafe
Really, just take the time to step a half-block off your downtown St. Pete Central Avenue restaurant crawl and you’ll find, or rediscover, one of the best restaurants in the Bay area. Primi’s inexpensive, classic Italian cuisine — filtered through the South African heritage of owners Arno and Irene Von Waltsleben —­­ is simple stuff, founded on chef Arno’s ability to squeeze deep flavor into every sauce. The sun-dried tomato tapenade is worth killing for. We’ve done it. 27 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-895-4909, primiurbancafe.com.

Best Steakhouse
Council Oak
The meat at Council Oak — stacked in a gigantic, glass-walled room in the foyer — is prime, aged and exquisite. Here, though, that’s just a starting point. The rest of the food, from subtle, brothy soups to classic steakhouse sides, easily competes with the finest non-steakhouse restaurants. And once you navigate past the obstacle course of Hard Rock slots, Council Oak will soothe your soul with a modern dining room that few non-casino restaurants in the area can compete with. 5223 Orient Rd., Tampa, 813-627-7625 or hardrockhotelcasinotampa.com.

Best Restaurant to See the Magic Happen
Diner 437
Although it was much more interesting when the outspoken and tattooed chef Domenica Macchia was behind the bar, whoever Diner 437 installs next will still have to put on a show. The restaurant’s gastro-diner menu is cooked entirely in the open, just feet from hungry folks, providing all the joy of seeing sausage made or looking behind the curtain at the wizard. 37 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-822-4370 or diner437.com.

Best Tampa Chain That’s Actually About Tampa

The Floridian
There’s only one of Harold Seltzer’s (of Sam Seltzer fame) new Cuban sandwich chain concept, but it’s already good enough — and authentic enough — to put Tampa’s handheld icon on the map the way Outback popularized Australia’s traditional deep-fried whole onion. 4424 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-287-6662, finestcubansandwich.com.

Best Chain Restaurant That Will Make You Forget It’s A Chain
Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion
We’re all about local businesses here at CL, but Roy’s is our blind spot. Not only does this national, upscale chain prepare a wide range of fish that’s better than that at most Bay Area fine dining spots, the rest of the food is just as good — especially braised pork that’s better than sex. We’ve been seduced. 4342 Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa, 813-873-7697 or roysrestaurant.com.

Best Sandwich
Banh Mi at Tampa’s Saigon Deli
Saigon Deli’s four varieties of Vietnamese Banh Mi — meatball, beef, roast pork, pate — all have the same garnish piled on crusty French-style bread: lightly pickled carrots, cucumber and daikon radish; a heaping mass of bright green cilantro; sliced, fresh jalapenos. A simple combination, but those ingredients contain three of the four fundamental facets of most Southeast Asian cuisine: spice from the jalapeno, sour from the pickle, sweet from the veggies. Add savory and salty meat, and you’ve hit the jackpot, all for a mere $2.99. 3692 W. Waters Ave., Tampa, 813-932-0300.

Best lunch with a side of plumbing supplies
Hot dogs from Chickdoggie at The Home Depot
There are certain things you expect at The Home Depot: Vast expanses of nuts and bolts, endless corridors of kitchen appliances, row after row of flowering plants. But a really good gourmet hot dog? Sure enough, they have that, too — at least they do outside the Home Depot on 22nd Ave. N. in St. Pete. Self-styled “dogologists” Kurt and Renee Horlacher sell fine Chicago dogs with all the fixins’, plus brats and sausages served with evident care, and you can eat them right there at the picnic tables alongside the hot-dog stand. After a Chickdoggie lunch, your DIY Saturday will seem a little less daunting. Chickdoggie at Home Depot, 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. 2300 22nd Ave N # B, St Petersburg.

Best Neighborhood Grill
Harvey’s 4th Street Grill
This storied meeting place puts Applebee’s and all those other wannabe “neighborhood bar & grills” to shame. Its strip-mall storefront is gussied up with perfectly pruned foliage and decorative lights, and the interior is all charming hardwood and bric-a-brac. More important, the menu covers bar fare extensively (burgers, sandwiches, salads, dinner platters, seafood, pasta, etc.), and the food is consistently tasty, reasonably priced and available late — the trifecta for serving a neighborhood of loyal consumers. After more than 20 years in business, Harvey’s has proven itself everyone’s favorite neighbor in Northeast St. Pete. 3121 Fourth Street N., St. Petersburg, 727-821-6516, harveys4thstreetgrill.com.

Best Bar Snack
Fried Shishito Peppers at Rawbar
Rawbar offers more than just South Beach-style people-watching, glistening clubby decor and innovative, surprising sushi. There’s also the fried peppers, glistening with oil, crunchy and tender by turns, dotted with sea salt and bearing a subtle burst of heat that builds with each addictive bite. Makes the bar/restaurant’s excellent cocktails even better. 777 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 813-422-5220.

Best Artisan Pizza
Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar
It takes an obsessive to impress an obsessive. Peter Taylor’s pies may be the culmination of two decades of research and development, but it’s the love he puts into crafting each one that shines through. He cultivates his own yeast, makes his own mozzarella, grows his own herbs and won’t trust anyone else to man the wood-fired oven that gives the joint its name. The results are thin pies that are near perfect, from the simple margerita to interesting combinations like pistachio and rosemary. Count us impressed. 2822 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, 813-341-2900 or wood-firedpizza.com.

Best Fast Food Chinese
Kwan Ming
Good Chinese fast food is normally an oxymoron. Put enough MSG into a vat of gooey sauce and it all begins to taste the same. But Henry and Christine at Kwan Ming care what they put on your plate. Mostly a take-out place, Kwan Ming has a few tables and a wildly devoted (and growing) following. Once you try their Cantonese and Hong Kong style dishes, your ass won’t set foot in a China One or any other “Americanized” Chinese joint again. Really. Try the Sour-Hot Fish Ar-Ha, Shrimp Egg Roll, Hot and Sour Soup, and anything with their garlic sauce and you’ll know why word of mouth is Kwan Ming’s best friend. 1906 N Himes Ave., Tampa, 813-874-0003, kwanmingrestaurant.com

BEST SALT AND PEPPER CALAMARI
YUMMY HOUSE
Some things you wake up craving, like the savory, spicy, fried squid at Yummy House. Just the right amount of cracked black pepper, salt and jalapeño make this little dish a seminal favorite for foodies from miles around. It haunts our dreams. 2202 W. Waters Ave., Tampa, 813-915-2828.

Best Rivalry/Best Chinese
China Yuan and Yummy House
When a CL contributor gathered a group of local foodies to crown one of these neighbors King of Bay-Area Chinese, they couldn’t decide. After sampling Yummy’s famed salt-and-pepper tofu and fish in XO sauce, and China Yuan’s delicate tripe and incredible chow fun with black bean sauce, they came to just one conclusion: They had to do it again. And again. China Yuan, 8502 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-936-7388, chinayuanrestaurant.com; Yummy House, 2202 W Waters Ave., Tampa, 813-915-2828.

Best Eggs Benedict
Pinky’s Diner
Lemony, housemade hollandaise? Check. Perfectly oozy poached eggs? Check. Quality, full-fat ham? Check. That’s all you need to create the perfect eggs benedict, but so few breakfast places have a clue. The wildly popular Pinky’s Diner has it down. Great coffee, too. 3203 W Bay to Bay Blvd, Tampa, 813-831-9339 or pinkysrestaurant.com

Best Use of Vegetables in a Supporting Role
Roasted Beets at Queenshead Eurobar
By themselves, creamy truffled mashed potatoes and sliced duck breast covered in salty, crisp skin make for a fine dish at many restaurants. At Queenshead in St. Pete’s Grand Central, chef Chris Greer isn’t content with the humdrum usual. Between the two main ingredients he tucks bright purple sticks of roasted beet that leak their gaudy, tart-and-sweet liquid onto the plate. Those sugary sticks wake up the flavors in the duck and potatoes, transforming typical into exceptional. 2501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-498-8584 or thequeensheadbar.com.

Best Caesar salad
Caesar fondue at Pelagia Trattoria
Grilled romaine, crackers that can be crumbled into croutons, sheets of flavorful parmigiano reggiano and the “fondue” — a delicious creamy concoction — add up to the most fun you can have with a salad. You can dump everything onto the plate and pour the dressing over it like a regular salad, or you can go the fondue route (highly recommended): Dip the leaves, dip the bread, get a dollop of sauce, then pop it in your mouth with your fingers. Hail, Caesar. Pelagia Trattoria, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd, (813) 313-3235, www.pelagia trattoria.com.

Best Sunday Morning Hangover Cure
Bungalow Bistro
This time of year, when the weather becomes more amenable to outdoor dining, there’s no better place to munch off a hangover than this bistro in Seminole Heights. Order an omelet, a glass of whatever and enjoy a leisurely afternoon on the roomy rooftop deck, which allows an ample view of entertaining Florida Avenue scenes below. 5137 N Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-237-2000 or bungalowbistrotampa.com.

Best Place for a Girly Gathering
Milk & Honey Tea Room
The perfect place to sip tea and nibble sweet and savory treats with your girlfriends, whether you’re enjoying a casual afternoon tea, or celebrating a birthday or a bridal shower at a private tea party. Special occasions get special treatment — choose an ostentatious hat from the rack on the wall, don a red feather boa and take on grandiose airs while being served hot tea and a three-tiered tray of warm and crumbly scones with Devonshire cream, mini-quiches, finger sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries, lemon squares and other tasty fare. 2092 W. Busch Blvd., Tampa, 813-931-1462, milknhoneytearoom.com.

Best NY-Style Pizza
Paci’s Pizza
When Paci’s blitzed the popular vote for our Tampa Bay’s Top 50 Restaurants poll, we sneered. Until we tried the pies. The crust is glorious, bubbled and blackened at the edges and stained a mottled black and brown on the bottom, crisp enough to support a slice with just a little dip toward the floor at the pointy center. Take a bite and snap, the crust crackles under your teeth, with a bit of elastic chew coming once it’s in your mouth. The toppings are simple, and discretely arranged. If you want a big slice of New York, Paci’s is the place. 2307 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-253-2973 or pacispizza.com

Best Coffee Shop Eats
Cafe Hey
Free wireless, steamy joe and a smattering of pastries are a pretty common sight — even if you don’t count Starbucks. What’s rare is the dedication to homemade soups, salads and sandwiches found at Cafe Hey. Even better, the coffee shop focuses on sustainable and organic ingredients. But the real cream in the coffee, so to speak, is that the food is damn good. We’ll take a banh cubano and a cup of high-test, please. 1540 N. Franklin St., Tampa, 813-221-5150 or myspace.com/cafehey.

Best Place to Picnic
North Beach, Ft. De Soto Park
At the very north end of Fort De Soto Park, venture beyond the group picnic shelters and through the shallow scrub forest, cross the footbridge or choose a trail that meanders toward the beach, and you’ll find the best spots for picnicking in all of Tampa Bay: a line of picnic tables scattered up and down the edge of treeline where the sand and pine needles meet. Shade from the trees, a lovely view, and easy access to the beach for a post-nosh walk. 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, 727-893-9185, pinellascounty.org.

Best treat on the beach

Tangerine Dream at Beach SnoBalls
It’s not quite ice cream, it’s not quite a sno-cone — a SnoBall possesses qualities of both, only better. This New Orleans delicacy, served up locally at a quaint, friendly little spot next to Middle Grounds Restaurant on Gulf Boulevard, is made of shaved ice doused in tasty fruit syrups and, if you’re smart, sweetened condensed milk. The milk freezes a bit, the syrup suffuses the snow and, at $2 for a small size (plenty big enough for one person), the combination will chill you to the bone in the most pleasant way imaginable. Beach SnoBalls, 10927 Gulf Blvd., (727) 415-8326.

Best Local Meat
Palmetto Creek Farms Pork
Originally started as a 4-H project, Palmetto Creek Farms has turned into an incredible producer of pork sought after by the area’s best chefs. Owner Jim Woods tested 10 different breeds of pig over several years before settling on a stock of Hereford hogs, sacrificing speed of growth and number of offspring for incredible flavor and intramuscular fat that hasn’t been bred out of the pig like those at corporate farms. Plus, those worthy animals are given the room, time and feed to do what pigs like to do. Until we eat them, that is. PO Box 607, Avon Park, 863-449-0006 or floridanaturalpork.com.

Best Experimental Bartenders
The Bar Staff at Restaurant BT
These guys and gals comb the kitchen every day, looking for new ingredients to cram into a martini glass like mad scientists on holiday. That’s how you end up with pungent and powerful masterpieces like the Cucumber Aloe or the Dirty Dirty, or the veritable surrealist garden growing out of BT’s Bloody Mary. Tired of Red Bull and Smirnoff? Drink like you eat at Restaurant BT. 1633 W. Snow Ave., Tampa, 813-258-1916 or restaurantbt.com.

Best Organic Smoothie
Spirulina Power Buzz at Rollin’ Oats Cafe and Market
Algae and bee pollen in a smoothie? Yes, the deep green, kelp-colored drink with flecks of bright yellow may be a bit off-putting at first glance, but the strawberries and bananas give it a great fruity flavor. This tasty and nutrient-packed Spirulina Power Buzz smoothie can be found at Rollin’ Oats Cafe and Market at the St. Petersburg and Tampa locations. It’s not only delicious, but it’s packed with vitamins, minerals and complex proteins — practically a meal in itself. 2842 9th St. N., St Petersburg, 727-895-4910; 1021 N Macdill Ave., Tampa, 813-873-7428; rollinoats.com.

Best Coffee Drink
Nolachino at Nola Cafe
Sweet, rich coffee drinks aren’t rare, which means true greatness lies in the little details. The right blend of cream and sugar, mixed seamlessly into the dark liquid. A hint of bitter, earthy chicory to add depth. Get it iced, not frozen. Nola Cafe has nailed it. 301 W. Platt St., Tampa, 813-258-8778 or nolacafe.com.

Best Wines-by-the-Glass List
Datz Deli
Patti Kuhl is the sommelier maven behind the 1700-bottle wine bar at this ever-evolving and super popular foodie destination. Her tireless pursuit of the next great and unique wine is obvious as you pass walls covered in bottles, all fairly priced. With tempting flights, inexpensive wines from all over the world and numerous tastings, she’s delivering more of what Tampa needs. Bravo Patty. 2616 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813.831.7000 or datzdeli.com.

Best Wine List at a New Restaurant
Bin 27 Bistro
New restaurants are often so preoccupied with opening that the wine list gets handed off to a wholesaler wonk. This explains the monotonous sameness of many Bay area restaurant wine lists. We worried about that at Bin 27 — a strong contender for Reader’s Poll Best New Restaurant — but they ended up not caving into the urge. Owner Michael Wulinger brought in a professional to write a winning wine list. Tucked in with the usual suspects — Seghesio, La Crema — are little-found, delicious oddities like The Crusher Petite Sirah and Honoro Vera Merlot from Spain’s Jumilla region. Mostly new world selections but strong, very strong choices. We wish other indies would follow suit. 2702 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-878-2700, bin27bistro.com.

Best Sorta Indie Wine Shop
Wine Warehouse
In this economy, we’re deal-hunting everywhere. It’s easy to skip wine purchases in favor of, say, food. But if you shop at Wine Warehouse, you don’t have to choose. This sorta corporate, sorta independently-owned wine shop keeps its prices low by buying in bulk through their corporate offices in Florida that ship to individual stores. But each location is owned by a local who also buys wine through local wholesalers. Tons of labels under $10 and a knowledgeable staff to walk you through the myriad of choices. Low prices, great service. Is there more to ask for? 3310 West Bay to Bay Blvd, Tampa, 813-839-5601, winewarehouses.com; 5571 4th St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-527-7000, winewarehouses.com.

Best Place to Get Lost in Wine
Wine Exchange
Craig Dean, wine director at Wine Exchange in Hyde Park Village, continually impresses us with his guts to sell wines no one else does. His ballsy list by the glass and bottle features esoteric, unknown labels and varietals that allow Tampa Bay’s wine geeks to drink more than merlot and chardonnay. From a gutsy Australian grenache to a refreshing Spanish albariño, he’s not afraid and we’re thankful to have a visionary watering hole. 1609 Snow Ave., Tampa, 813-254 9463 or wineexchangetampa.com

Best Local Beer Hero
Joey Redner, Cigar City Brewing
After the long, arduous process of opening Cigar City was over, Tampa’s beer fanatics waited for the first drips and drabs to flow from the new brewery. Redner and Cigar City brewmaster Wayne Wambles hit the beer world like a tidal wave, garnering glowing reviews on all the big beer sites, with some of their brews climbing to the top of the ratings charts. Cigar City’s regular beers turned out to be fantastic, hand-crafted quaffs, but the limited edition bottlings are true collector’s masterpieces. Tampa was always a beer town thanks to St. Somewhere, Dunedin Brewery and others, but now we’re a force to be reckoned with. 3924 W. Spruce St., Tampa, 813-348-6363 or cigarcitybeer.com.

Best Sake Cocktail
Bamboozle Café
Sake is an acquired taste for many, mainly because the cheap stuff sucks. But throw some mint leaves and lime juice into the mix and things get tasty. Bamboozle Café in downtown Tampa, which recently (and thankfully) opened for dinner, serves an Asian twist on the popular, mint-infused rum mojito. It works … incredibly well. They manage to make a sweet and tart sake cocktail that melds with the fragrant, earthy goodness that sake yields. $6.50 per glass and worth every penny. Maybe more. 516 N. Tampa St., Tampa, 813-223-7320 or bamboozlecafe.com.

Best Home Cooking Without the Cooking
Pasta from Ravioli Company
Swing by the Ravioli Company on your way home and order your favorite shape; they’ll pull fresh pasta from the fridge and slice it to order, all for less than $5 a pound. Throw in a salad and a container of sauce and you have a home-cooked meal actually cooked (largely) in your home. And, likely, it will be better, cheaper and quicker than if you tried to raid the pantry. 3413 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa, 813-254-2051 or raviolicompany.com.

Best Supermarket Steak

Sweetbay’s Angus New York Strip
We blind-tasted American Wagyu, Prime, organic and Choice from several different stores, and Sweetbay’s basic New York strip — the cheapest of the bunch — was our judges’ clear favorite. Great beef flavor, tender texture and enough fat to satisfy. Go figure.

The Best Nine Restaurants That Opened This Year:

Cities Restaurant
Chef David Miller expresses his playful side here, where the menu is inspired by a different city every month. 2551 Drew St., Clearwater, 727-421-9975, savantfinedining.com.

Datz Deli
One of the best wine and beer programs in the Bay area, with food that matches ­— as long as you stick to the charcuteria and cheese plates instead of the deli sammies. 2616 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813.831.7000, datzdeli.com.

Diner 437
With the departure of chef Domenica Macchia, the future of this downtown St. Pete spot is in doubt. If they stick to the same upscaled diner fare, though, we’ll be there. 437 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-822-4370, diner437.com.

Ocean Prime
Another high-end steakhouse in Tampa? Sure, if it’s as pretty as this one, with the interesting and precise cocktails to back up the beef. 2205 N. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, 813-490-5288, ocean-prime.com.

Pizzaiola Bavaro
A new pizza spot that sticks to classic toppings and incredible crust baked in their blazing wood-fired oven. 514 Franklin St., Tampa, 813-868-4440, pizzaiolobavaro.com.

Queenshead Eurobar
A gastropub backed by a chef who gently pushes boundaries, Queenshead stands to become more than just a neighborhood pub. 2501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-498-8584, thequeensheadbar.com.

Rawbar
The home of a chef fresh from a Nobu restaurant who puts out sushi creations that draw from culinary cultures across the world. 777 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 813-422-5220.

Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar
The most thoughtful pizza on the Gulf Coast — cooked by a fanatic. 2822 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, 813-341-2900, wood-firedpizza.com.

Z Grille
Fine dining with and edge. 104 Second St. St. Petersburg, 727-822-9600, zgrille.net.

READERS' POLL:

People, Places, Politics

Best Local Politician
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio
Runners up: Mayor Rick Baker, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner

Worst Local Politician

Ronda Storms
Runners up: Rick Baker, Brian Blair

Best Local Troublemaker
Joe Redner
Runners up: Bubba the Love Sponge, The Hogan Family

Best Neighborhood, Hillsborough
SoHo/Hyde Park
Runners up: Davis Islands, Seminole Heights

Best Neighborhood, Pinellas
Downtown St. Petersburg
Runners up: Historic Kenwood, Old Northeast

Greenest Activist
Jason Green
Runners up: Darden Rice, Mariella Smith

Best Actress
Julie Rowe
Runners up: Kari Goetz, Meg Heimstead

Best Actor
Eric Davis
Runners up: Richard Coppinger, Patrick Wilson

Best Local Band
Roppongi’s Ace
Runners up: The Stick Martin Show, Tribal Style

Best Fashion Designer
TS Rootswear
Runners up: Ben Chmura, Ivanka Ska

Best Chef
Chris Ponte, Cafe Ponte
Runners up: Chris Greer, Queenshead Eurobar; Domenica Macchia (formerly of Diner 437, now Bella Brava)

Best New Restaurant

Queenshead Eurobar
Runners up: Datz Deli, Diner 437

Best Stripper, Female
Shannon at Mons Venus
Runners up: Mia at Thee Dollhouse, Natasha at Vegas Showgirls

Best Stripper, Male
Juan at Chelsea
Runners up: Brian LaMarre, Ronda Storms in drag

Best Neighborhood President
Tony LaColla, Historic Ybor Neighborhood Civic Association
Runners-up: Gary Ellsworth, South Seminole Heights Civic Association; Fran Costantino, East Ybor Historic & Civic Association
Write-in: “I don’t know, but I live in a condo in Countryside and my Condo manager is a cocksucker.”

Best Beach
Fort De Soto Park
Runners-up: Clearwater , Pass-A-Grille
Write-in: “I Deny the sun!”

Best CL Contributor, Male
Jason Green
Runners-up: Wayne Garcia, Manny Leto
Write-in: “Alfie’s hot bod”

Best CL Contributor, Female
Catherine Durkin Robinson
Runners-up: Megan Voeller, Leilani Polk
Comment: “Anyone but that bimbo who reviewed Steely Dan! TWIT”

Best Building
Tampa Theatre
Runners-up: Sykes “Beer Can” Building, University of Tampa

Best Local Newsperson
Gayle Sierens
Runners-up: Brendan McLaughlin, Russell Rhodes
Write-in: “Well, Gayle Guyardo keeps me entertained on Gasparilla...”

Best Local TV Weatherperson
Steve Jerve
Runners-up: Andy Johnson, Denis Phillips
Write-in: “Whoever doesn’t make a hurricane out of a rain cloud.”

Best Local Hero
Tony Dungy
Runners-up: Joe Redner, Mayor Pam Iorio
Write-in: “Captain America.”

Best Local College or University
University of South Florida
Runners-up: University of Tampa, St. Petersburg College

Best Florida College Team
University of Florida Gators
Runners-up: USF Bulls, Florida State Seminoles

Best Local Sports Team
Tampa Bay Rays
Runners-up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, USF Bulls

Best Sports Coach
Joe Maddon
Runners-up: Tony Dungy, Urban Meyer

Worst Sports Coach
John Gruden (accompanied by comments like “I know he’s gone, but I just can’t get past him”)
Runners-up: Raheem Morris, Barry Melrose
Write-in: “Lightning — pick a coach lately.”

Best Rays Player
Evan Longoria
Runners-up: Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena

Best Bucs Player
Ronde Barber
Runners-up: Barrett Ruud, Derrick Brooks (cut)
Write-ins: “Are there any left?” “Good ones are all gone.” “Wish we had one.”

Best Lightning Player
Vinny Lecavalier
Runners-up: Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Write-ins: “It’s FL — not normal we should have a hockey team.”
“Who gives a shit about the Lightning? Were in FLORIDA. ITS HOT HERE.”

Worst Road
U.S. 19
Runners-up: Dale Mabry. I-275
Write-ins: “All of them!!!” “All South Tampa roads.” “Any Tampa road during rush hour.”

Best Place to Volunteer
Metropolitan Ministries
Runners-up: Humane Society, WMNF
Write-in: “Ford Amphitheatre... get to pass out beers all night!”

Best Place to Take the Kids
Lowry Park Zoo
Runners-up: Busch Gardens/Adventure Island, Florida Aquarium
Write-ins: “Anywhere faaaar away from me.” “I hate children.”
“Leave them at home,” “the orphanage” and “abortion clinic”

Best Dog Park
Davis Islands
Runners-up: Fort De Soto, North Shore/Vinoy (St. Petersburg)
Write-ins: “My neighbor’s front lawn.” “no dog — only husband — same thing.”
“The one where the owners pick up their own shit, and can control their dogs.”

Best Radio Station
97X
Runners-up: 93.3 WFLZ, WMNF 88.5 266
Write-ins: “I drive a scooter. Does not lend well to the radio.” “Seriously, they all suck majorly.”
“XM. TAMPA RADIO STINKS.” “Who listens to radio anymore???”

Best Radio Personality
Bubba the Love Sponge
Runners-up: MJ, Nancy Alexander

Best Local Columnist
Howard Troxler, St. Petersburg Times
Runners-up: Steve Otto, Tampa Tribune; Dan Ruth, Tampa Tribune/St. Petersburg Times
Write-in: “Print is Dead. I know. Im a writer.”

Best Divorce Lawyer
Donna Lonsberry
Runners-up: Nancy Harris, Anthony Prieto

Best Local Blog
wednesday-music.com
Runners-up: Sticks of Fire, ArtSqueeze
Write-in: “Blogging is for hacks.”

Best Local Tweeter
Julia Gorzka
Runner-ups: Artsqueeze (http://twitter.com/artsqueeze)
Write-ins: “Seriously, fuck Twitter.”
“You have got to be kidding me with this question.”

Best Bike Shop
Flying Fish
Runners-up: Revolution, 66 Fixed

Best Bookstore
Haslam’s
Runners-up; Barnes & Noble, Borders

Best Clothing Boutique, Male
Urban Body
Runners-up: Renown, Reborn Couture

Best Clothing Boutique, Female
The Shop, St. Petersburg
Runners-up: Penelope T, Love That!

Best Florist
Kabloom
Runners-up: Jennie’s Florist, The Nature Shop,
Write-in: “Prom was like 9 years ago, man.”

Best Gym
Lifestyle Family Fitness
Runners-up: YMCA, Anytime Fitness
Comment: “Xtreme — where the strippers work out!”

Best Hair Salon
h20 Salon & Spa
Runners-up: Tribeca, Salon Jack

Best Mani/Pedi
Poshe Nail Spa
Runners-up: Crimson Moon, Crystal Nails

Best Pet Shop
Petsmart
Runners-up: PETCO, Animal House

Best Plant & Garden Store
Home Depot
Runner’s-up: Loew’s, Bloom
Write-in: “I’m from New York. We don’t do plants.”

Best Public WiFi
Panera Bread
Runners-up: Tampa International Airport, Cafe Hey

Best Spa
Safety Harbor Resort & Spa
Runners-up: Balance & Bliss, AWA Spa

Best Tattoo Parlor
Atomic Tattoos
Runners-up: 1603, Red Letter 1
Write-in: “Do yourself a favor. Go to NYC or LA to get a tattoo.”

Best Vintage Clothing Store
La France
Runners-up; Sherri’s Yesterdaze, ArtPool

Best Eco Friendly Store
Tampa Street Market
Runners-up; It’s Our Nature, Why Not Boutique

Best Green Expo/Festival
Pinellas Living Green Expo
Runners-up: Green Thumb Festival, USF Go Green

Best Historical Preservationist
Martha Sherman
Runners-up: Stephanie Ferrell, Peter Belmont
Write-ins: “Me. No one can keep the old places occupied like me.”
“That little bald guy on local govt TV zoning board”

Best Park
Fort De Soto
Runners-up: Crescent Lake (St, Pete), Lettuce Lake (Tampa)

Best Place to Canoe/Kayak
Hillsborough River State Park
Runners-up: Fort De Soto, Weedon Island

Best Recycler
St. Petersburg College
Write-ins: “Not St. Petersburg/Rick Baker.”
“My wife — turns money into shit.”

Best Recycled Product
tweeprints.com
Runners-up: Natty Moss-Bond’s greeting cards, St. Pete Recycling Solutions

Best Sustainable Building
St. Pete College Natural Science Building
Runners-up: Walker Brands, WMNF
Write-ins: “Can we recycle the beer can building?”
“You’re running out of categories aren’t you?”

Best Weekend Getaway
Anna Maria Island
Runners-up: Disney/Orlando, Key West
Write-ins: ”Crack Hotel on Haines Rd.”
“Any Golf Course without my wife!!!”

Best Party District
Ybor City
Runners-up: SoHo/Hyde Park, Downtown St Pete
Write-in: “My pants.”

Best Bizarro Local News Story
Brian Blair getting arrested for child abuse on Father’s Day
Runners-up: The Hogan clan, the toe-popping King High School assistant principal

Best Kept Secret
Amish Country Store, Largo
Runner-up: Balance & Bliss Ayurvedic Center and Spa in St. Pete
Write-ins: “The mayor wears tightie whities.” “A 15 year extra-marital affair.” “I’m gay.”

Best New Idea for Tampa Bay
High speed rail/light rail
Runners-up: Electric cabs, moving the Rays stadium
Write-in: “Use your blinkers.”

Most Overrated Thing About Tampa Bay
Ybor/GaYbor
Runners-up: The weather, South Tampa
Write-ins: “That we think we’re a real city.”
“That it is beautiful here ... it’s paradise paved.”
“This stupid survey.”

Most Underrated Thing About Tampa Bay
Arts and culture
Runners-up: Beaches, downtown St. Petersburg
“How well we all get along.”

Worst Waste of Tax Dollars
Building a new Rays stadium
Runners-up: Politicians’ salaries, Channelside/Ybor trolley

Greenest Politician
Karl Nurse
Runners-up: Linda Saul-Sena, Mary Mulhern
Write-in: “Brian Blair — he’s green with envy.”

Best Bargain Restaurant
La Teresita Restaurant
Runners-up: Taco Bus, Diner 437

Best Splurge Restaurant
Bern’s Steak House
Runners-up: The Melting Pot, Sidebern’s

Best Chinese Restaurant
Yummy House
Runners-up; PF Chang’s China Bistro, Hao Wah Chinese Restaurant
Write-in: “Fuk Yoo.”

Best Thai Restaurant
Jasmine Thai
Runners-up: Bangkok, Royal Palace Thai

Best Greek Restaurant
Acropolis Greek Taverna
Runners-up: Athenian Gardens, Louis Pappas Market Café

Best Mexican/Tex-Mex Restaurant
Red Mesa
Runners-up: Taco Bus, Estela’s

Best Pizza
Cappy’s
Runners-up: Mellow Mushroom, Sally O’Neal’s

Best Wings
Beef O’Brady’s
Runners-up: Hooters, Ker’s Wing House

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Byblos Cafe
Runners-up: Genghis Khan, Petra

Best Sandwich Shop/Deli
Datz Deli
Runners-up: Wright’s Gourmet House, Lucky Dill Deli

Best Seafood Restaurant
Bonefish Grill
Runners-up: Salt Rock Grill, Red Lobster

Best Soul Food
Atwater’s Cafeteria
Runners-up: Shirley’s & Lee’s Soul Food, Savannah’s

Best Steakhouse
Bern’s Steak House
Runners-up: Charley’s Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris

Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Grass Root Organic Restaurant
Runners-up: Leafy Greens Cafe, Trang Viet Cuisine

Best Barbecue Restaurant
Smoke Barbeque & Grill
Runners-up: Sonny’s Real Pit Bar BQ, Kojak’s House of Ribs

Best Breakfast
First Watch
Runners-up: The Brunchery, Maggie Mae’s

Best Brunch
Oystercatchers
Runners-up: (tie) Queenshead Eurobar, the Vinoy

Best Burger
Five Guys
Runners-up; El Cap, Square 1 Burgers

Best Indian Restaurant
Cilantro Indian Cuisine
Runners-up: Taj Indian Cuisine, Bombay Masala

Best Italian Restaurant
Olive Garden
Runners-up: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bella’s Italian Cafe

Best Cuban Sandwich
Hugo’s Spanish Restaurant
Runners-up: The Floridian, La Teresita Restaurant

Best Drunk Eats
Mema’s Alaskan Tacos
Runners-up: Taco Bell, Taco Bus
Write-ins: “Whatever tastes as good coming up as going down.”
“Previous occupant’s leftovers abandoned in taxi.”

Best Gourmet Market
Mazzaro’s Italian Market
Fresh Market, Whole Foods

Best Bagel
Einstein’s Bagels
Runners-up: St. Pete Bagel Co., Panera Bread

Best Bakery
Alessi Bakery
Runners-up: Publix, Panera Bread

Best Ice Cream/Gelato Shop
Coldstone Creamery
Runners-up: Paciugo Gelato, Bo’s Ice Cream

Best Coffee Shop
Starbucks
Runners-up: Kahwa Coffee, Cafe Hey

Best Café Con Leche
La Teresita
Runners-up: La Tropicana Cafe, Pipo’s

Best Organic Food Store
Rollin’ Oats
Runners-up: Whole Foods, Nature’s Food Patch

Best Juice/Smoothie Bar
Xtreme Juice
Runners-up: Smoothie King, Jamba Juice

Best Dive Bar
The Hub
Runners-up: Detour, Emerald Bar

Best Sports Bar
Ferg’s
Runner’s-up: Detour, Press Box

Best Neighborhood Bar, Pinellas
Old Northeast Tavern
Runners-up: Detour, Queenshead Eurobar

Best Neighborhood Bar, Hillsborough
Yeoman’s Road Pub
Runners-up: Tiny Tap, Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Best Draft Selection at a Bar
New World Brewery
Runners-up: The Independent, Dunedin House of Beer

Best Happy Hour
Bella’s Italian Cafe
Runners-up: Applebee’s, Grillsmith
Write-in: “Im not a yuppie. I dont attend them”

Best Bartender, Female
Jackie at Mahuffer’s Bar
Runners-up: Heather Bair at Queenshead Eurobar, Christen Petitt at The Hub

Best Bartender, Male
Cowboy Roger at Detour
Runners-up: Darren Conner at Queenshead Eurobar, William Dejesus at Shackleton’s Folly

Best Wine Bar
Wine Exchange
Runners-up: A Taste for Wine, Taps Beer & Wine

Best Liquor Store
Total Wine & More
Runners-up: ABC, Leukens

Best Beer Store
Total Wine & More
Runners-up: Shep’s, World of Beers

Best Wine Store
Total Wine & More
Runners-up: Wine Warehouse, Bern’s

Arts & Entertainment

Best Local Americana Act
Roppongi’s Ace
Runners-up: Will Quinlan and the Diviners; Have Gun, Will Travel

Best Local Blues Act
Lee Pons
Runners-up: Damon Fowler, Roppongi’s Ace

Best Local Hip-Hop Act
Stick Martin Show
Runners-up: Green Sunshine, Breakdown

Best Local Jam Band
Uncle John’s Band
Runners-up: Rocksteady @ 8, Green Sunshine

Best Local Reggae/Ska Band
Tribal Style
Runners-up: Magadog, Johhny Cakes & The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypso

Best Local Singer/Songwriter
Rebekah Pulley
Runners-up: Geri X, Ted Wray

Best Instrumentalists
Poetry ‘N Lotion
Runners-up: Kiley Astle (electric violin), Anyone in the Florida Orchestra

Worst Local Band Name
Not Tonight Josephine
Runners-up: Poetry ‘N Lotion, Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso

Best Record Store
Vinyl Fever
Runners-up: Daddy Kool, Sound Exchange

Best Concert Venue
Jannus Landing
Runners-up: Ford Amphitheatre, Skipper’s Smokehouse

Best Club for Live Music
Skipper’s Smokehouse
Runners-up: New World Brewery, Crowbar

Best Concert in the Last 12 Months
Dave Matthews Band at Ford Amphitheatre
Runners-up: Not Tonight Josephine CD Release Party at State Theater; Green Day at St. Pete Times Forum

Best Theater Company
American Stage
Runners-up; Jobsite Theater, freeFall Theatre

Best Dance Company
The Florida Mavericks Country Western Dance Team
Runners-up; Moving Current, Hip Expressions Belly Dance

Best Museum
Salvador Dali Museum
Runners-up; Museum of Fine Arts, Tampa Bay History Center
Write-in: “Daytime patrons at the Hub.”

Best Art Gallery
[5]art
Runners-up; Studio@620, Craftsman House

Best Visual Art Exhibit
Andy Warhol at MFA
Runners-up: Five + 5 at [5]art, Emerge Art Party at Tampa Artist Emporium

Best Local Visual Artist
TIE: Spencer Paul Meyers/ Ryan Prado
Runner-up: Tracy Midulla Reller

Best Sex Shop
The Todd
Runners-up: Shhh! Don’t Tell Momma Superstore, XTC Adult Supercenter

Best Dance Club
Czar
Runner-up: The Castle
Others receiving multiple votes: Detour, G Bar, Hyde Park Cafe, Push Ultra Lounge, The Kennedy, The Venue, Blur (Dunedin)

Best Club DJ
DJ Mega
Runners-up: Crate Bros., Monk

Best Weekly Club Night
Czar Friday
Runners-up: Czar Wednesday, Mahuffer’s Sunday

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar
Detour
Runners-up: Georgie’s Alibi, G Bar
Write-ins: “There are gay people in Tampa????”
“You’re Kidding, right?”

Best Drag Performer
Kori Stevens
Runners-up: Melanie Minyon, Apple Love

Best Karaoke/Pornaoke
Pegasus Lounge
Runners-up: Mugs and Jugs, Gaspar’s Grotto
Write-in: “I avoid Karaoke like the plague.”

Best Strip Club
Mons Venus
Runners-up: 2001 Odyssey, Thee Dollhouse

Best Pickup Spot
Blue Martini
Runners-up: MacDinton’s, Ybor City
Write-in: “Hyde Park Cosmetic Surgery Center.”

Best Place to Break Up
Facebook/Twitter/Text
Runners-up: The library (no yelling), Ybor
Write-in: “None — just fake your own death.”

Best Place for a First Date
Ceviche
Runners-up: Tampa Theatre, The Melting Pot

Best Place to Get Married
The beach
Runners-up: Don CeSar; Floating Chapel, St. Pete

Best Local Sex Scandal
Kevin White
Runners-up: Hogans; teachers and students

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