Best Live Theater
1. Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts (1419 Basin St., 504-287-0351; www.mahaliajacksontheater.com) — The Mahalia is a great place to see both concerts and Broadway touring shows — and with the restoration of Armstrong Park, its "front lawn" is now beautiful again at night with lights and sculpture. Pro tip: When the little bars downstairs are thronged before the show and at intermission, head for the big bar on the mezzanine for a quick drink.
2. The AllWays Lounge and Theater (2240 St. Claude Ave., 504-218-5778; www.theallwayslounge.com)
3. Mid-City Theatre (3540 Toulouse St., 504-488-1460; www.midcitytheatre.com)
Best Local Theater Performer
1. Becky Allen — Dawlin'! Brassy Becky (she calls herself a "showgirl") has managed everything from comedic roles to dramatic turns, but this month she returned to her performing roots at Mid-City Theater in a revival of the comedy-cabaret act she and partner Ricky Graham (No. 2 on this list) pioneered decades ago in a succession of French Quarter bars.
2. Ricky Graham
3. Bryan Batt
Best Dance Club
1. Gold Mine Saloon (701 Dauphine St., 504-586-0745; www.goldminesaloon.net) — Sweaty post-grads knock back flaming Dr. Pepper shots and dance into the wee hours at this French Quarter haunt that can be a fun night or a nightmare depending on your disposition. Once the spilled drinks and regret are mopped away, local poets and writers hold court during the week.
2. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 504-593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com)
3. Republic (828 S. Peters St., 504-528-8282; www.republicnola.com)
Best Bar to Watch Sports
1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) — Cooter Brown's has snagged the top spot in this category every year since 2009. The bar has 17 flat-screen TVs and two 8-foot drop-down TVs and subscribes to every sports package its provider has. On Sundays, you can find every NFL game showing somewhere in the bar. Cooter Brown's has 40 beers on tap and a food menu that goes well beyond simple bar fare.
2. Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar (1009 Poydras St., 504-309-6530;
3. Manning's Eat-Drink-Cheer (519 Fulton St., 504-593-8118; www.-harrahsneworleans.com)
Best College Bar
1. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 504-866-9008; www.theboot-
neworleans.com) — Many a work-study check has been spent on pub fare and cheap, strong drinks at this no-frills Uptown university legend, known for its 50-cent drink night and triple-shot happy hour.
2. Bruno's Tavern (7538 Maple St., 504-861-7615; www.brunostavern.com)
3. F and M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-895-6784;
Best Gay Bar
1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 504-593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com) — With midnight stripping contests, beefcakes dancing on the bar and 12-time Gay Appreciation Award winner DJ Tim Pflueger spinning fun tunes, there's never any parking on the dance floor at this Bourbon Street icon. It's famous for its Monday service industry night (S.I.N.) drink specials and Southern Decadence entertainment lineup.
2. Bourbon Pub & Parade (801 Bourbon St., 504-529-2107; www.bourbonpub.com)
3. Good Friends (740 Dauphine St., 504-566-7191; www.goodfriendsbar.com)
Best Neighborhood Bar
1. Pal's Lounge (949 N. Rendon St., 504-488-7257; www.palslounge.com) — Maybe it's the centerfold bathroom wallpaper, or the "gingeritas," or the bar snacks (free cupcakes, anyone?). Whatever it is, Gambit readers have once again dubbed this Bayou St. John spot as the best neighborhood bar, where you're buzzed into the quiet-to-bustling catty-cornered Mid-City favorite for Saints games, air hockey or gratis hot dogs and nachos.
2. St. Joe's Bar (5535 Magazine St., 504-899-3744)
3. Finn McCool's (3701 Banks St., 504-486-9080; www.finnmccools.com)
Best Hotel Bar
1. Carousel Bar (Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., 504-523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com) — Celebrities as diverse as Tennessee Williams, Michael Jordan and Gregg Allman have stopped at the Hotel Monteleone to have a cocktail at the Carousel Bar, the city's only revolving bar. The bar, installed in 1949, underwent an extensive renovation in 2011, but kept its 25 famous circus-themed chairs at the center bar. Seating in the stationary part of the lounge provides views of Royal Street.
2. The Sazerac Bar (The Roosevelt New Orleans, 123 Baronne St., 504-648-1200; therooseveltneworleans.com)
3. Davenport Lounge (Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, 921 Canal St., 504-524-1331; www.ritzcarlton.com)
Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club
1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 504-524-4222; www.iknowrick.com) — With 18,000 square feet of space over three floors — two of them open to the public — Rick's is more a complex than a club. Its dancers are only a part, albeit a major one, of the entertainment. Rick's also has 12 TVs, including a 92-inch flat screen, showing sports. The menu includes a wide selection of bar food.
2. Visions Men's Club (4000 Downman Road, 504-240-0069; www.visionsmensclub.com)
3. Penthouse Club (727 Iberville St., 504-524-4354; www.penthouseclubneworleans.com)
Best Happy Hour
1. American Sector (945 Magazine St.,
504-527-6088; www.-nationalww2museum.org/american-sector) — Chef John Besh's restaurant in the National World War II Museum always has good deals on what it calls "American classics with a gourmet twist." But from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., patrons can get half-price drinks and barbecue sliders for 75 cents apiece.
2. Domenica Restaurant (Roosevelt Hotel, 123 Baronne St., 504-648-6020; www.domenicarestaurant.com)
3. Superior Grill
(3636 St. Charles Ave., 504-899-4200;
Best Bar for Nonsmokers
1. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731; www.dbabars.com) — This Frenchmen Street club partnered with Let's Be Totally Clear campaign to get smoke out of bars and music venues — d.b.a. went cold turkey in 2011, and it's still a destination for live music, whether it's Washboard Chaz or Rotary Downs, and its solid selection of draft and bottled brews and fine spirits.
2. Cure (4905 Freret St., 504-302-2357; www.curenola.com)
3. Oak (8118 Oak St., 504-302-1485; www.oaknola.com)
To Dance To
a Live Band
1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) — What began in 1977 as a neighborhood juke joint for Professor Longhair to have regular gigs has developed into a breeding ground for local up-and-coming talent, which supports musically-inclined youth and is still a popular place for dancing and drinking, especially during the Sunday Fais Do Do with Bruce Daigrepont.
2. Rock 'N' Bowl (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-861-1700; www.rocknbowl.com)
3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731;
Best Movie Theater
1. The Theatres at Canal Place (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 504-581-5400; www.thetheatres.com) — The ticket prices aren't cheap, but with the theater's
comfortable seats, the menu by Adolfo Garcia, booze that isn't frozen Jack-and-Coke and selection of films that includes both indie flicks and blockbusters, it's worth the extra money.
2. Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 504-891-2787;
3. AMC Palace 20 Elmwood (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, 504-733-2029; www.amctheatres.com)
click to enlarge
to See Comedy
1. La Nuit Comedy Theater (5039 Freret
www.nolacomedy.com) — This Freret Street staple is home to the New Orleans Comedy Arts Festival and weekly standup and improv showcases, like Comedy Sportz and God's Been Drinking. It also offers five levels of improv classes, as well as a sketch comedy writing course. The theater also regularly hosts touring comics, burlesque and other events.
2. Harrah's New Orleans (8 Canal St., 504-533-6000; www.-harrahsneworleans.com)
3. The New Movement Theater (1919 Burgundy St., 504-302-8264;
Best Local Comedian
1. J.D. Sledge — Readers selected J.D. Sledge for Gambit's first-ever "Best Of" distinction for a local comic. Sledge performs regularly at House of Blues and Howlin' Wolf and at hotspots in Chicago and elsewhere. He also co-founded the popular Comedy Fusion Revival tour, now in its fifth year.
2. Jodi Borrello
3. Chris Trew
Best Place to Get a Martini
1. Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 504-586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) — The extensive martini menu pays homage to the history of its featured elixirs, starting with the Martinez, created in the 1860s by Jerry Thomas, known as the godfather of the cocktail, to "skinny" martinis that weigh in under 150 calories. An equal draw is the ambience of a classic British club with live
music and food — and
2. Cure (4905 Freret St., 504-302-2357;
3. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 504-899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)
Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary
1. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome (1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, 504-587-3663; www.superdome.com) — Good for celebrating stellar plays or blunting angst in tight situations on the field, a good bloody mary has what New Orleanians love: tomatoes, spices, heat, alcohol and a garnish. The Superdome does it the way you like it — year after year; it's won this category annually since 2009.
2. Pat O'Brien's (624 Bourbon St., 504-525-4823; www.patobriens.com)
3. TIE : Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave., 504-891-9626; www.atchafalaya-restaurant.com)
3. TIE : Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 504-899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)
Best Place to Get a Margarita
1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 504-899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) — There's a consistently festive atmosphere at this hotspot on St. Charles Avenue. The bar specializes in tequilas, and margaritas are served frozen and on the rocks. The best deals on margaritas are during happy hour at 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, when it's two-for-one or large-for-the-price-of-a-regular margarita. Patrons can order food in the bar area.
2. El Gato Negro (81 French Market Place, 504-525-9752; 300 Harrison Ave., 504-
3. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 504-569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)
Best Place to Get Wine by the Glass
1. W.I.N.O. (610 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-324-8000; www.winoschool.com) — The Wine Institute of New Orleans, or W.I.N.O., offers 120 wines available in one-ounce samples, half-glasses or whole-glasses through self-serve taps. (And it now serves beer.) W.I.N.O. also serves a selection of small plates, including cheeses, artisanal salamis and bruschetta.
2. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 504-895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com)
3. Oak (8118 Oak St., 504-302-1485;
Best Beer Selection
1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 504-891-1516; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) — The bar offers more than 100 bottled beers and 50 drafts, from all over the world and in every conceivable style. This is the Bulldog's fifth year taking top honors in this category.
2. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com)
3. Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles Ave., 504-586-9243; www.theavenuepub.com)
Best Locally Brewed Beer
1. Abita (21084 La. 36, Abita Springs, 800-737-2311; www.abita.com) — Founded in 1986 in Abita Springs, the Abita Brewing Company microbrewery has grown into a local favorite. Abita uses pure spring water to craft its growing portfolio of brews, including flagships like Amber, Jockamo IPA, Purple Haze and seasonals like Mardi Gras Bock and Christmas Ale.
2. Nola Brewing (3001 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-896-9996)
3. Covington Brewhouse (226 E. Lockwood St., Covington, 888-910-2337; www.covingtonbrewhouse.com)
Best Bar for Craft Cocktails
1. Cure (4905 Freret St., 504-302-2357; www.curenola.com) – A pioneer in the local craft cocktail scene and in the Freret Street renaissance, Cure designs cocktails on its ever-changing drink menu with unique ingredients such as arbol chili Peychaud's bitters and Nardini Mandorla almond grappa, while the gourmet menu and lounge-esque ambience make it an ideal setting for socializing.
2. Bar Tonique (820 N. Rampart St., 324-6045; www.bartonique.com)
3. Bellocq (Hotel Modern, 936 St. Charles Ave., 962-0911; www.thehotelmodern.com)
1. Harrah's New Orleans (8 Canal St., 504-533-6000; www.-harrahsneworleans.com) — Just walking into this large casino near the foot of Canal Street is like a Mardi Gras parade for the senses. The bright lights, flashes of color, dinging machines, the sounds of coins dropping and the generally festive atmosphere make for an entertaining afternoon/evening. The games are varied and there's an ice bar with drink specials and, on Friday and Saturday nights, dancers who perform on the bar.
2. Treasure Chest Casino (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 504-443-8000; www.treasure-chest.com)
3. Boomtown Casino (4132 Peters Road, Harvey, 504-366-7711; www.boomtownneworleans.com)
Best Live Music Venue
1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) — Since BONO's last outing, Uptown's towering two-floor venue, named for the song of the same name by Professor Longhair (whose bronzed bust awaits inside), has offered a bevy of big-name headliners (from Sweden's Lykke Li to Oklahoma's Wanda Jackson). It's a reliable local hotspot for brass bands, funk and everything in-between.
2. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 504-310-4999; www.hob.com)
3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731;
Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months
1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — The Boss delivered a resonating performance at his three-hour stadium-sized gig. After more than 20 songs, special guests and stage-diving, Springsteen spoke directly to New Orleans with "When the Saints Go Marching In," followed by a tribute to the late great side man Clarence Clemons with fan favorite "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out."
2. TIE: Blink 182
2. TIE: Van Halen
3. Katy Perry
Best Local Rock Band/Artist
1. Better Than Ezra — More than 15 years have passed since Better
Than Ezra released its quintessentially '90s hit "Good." Since then, the band has remained faithful to New Orleans.
2. Cowboy Mouth
Better Than Ezra, despite the band's good intentions in its hometown, really hasn't had anything to say since "Good," which wasn't much in the first place. Die-hard BTE fans must exist in strong enough numbers to have merited the band's inclusion in this list, though they must thrive in some "alt rock" commune where the calendars remain firmly in 1995. Meanwhile, New Orleans has birthed a billion bands, from Rotary Downs to Thou, which could smoke BTE on any Battle of the Bands stage. — Alex Woodward
Best Local Funk/R&B Band/Artist
1. Galactic — Few bands are as versatile as Galactic. Whether it's toe-tapping hip-hop beats under Mystikal's gruff rapping ("Eatin' rappers with crackers in vegetable soup!), up-tempo bounce songs featuring Big Freedia and Katey Red, or reworkings of traditional Brazilian hits ("Magalenha"), Galactic seemingly can pull off many genres with ease.
Its latest release, Carnivale Electricos, illustrates Mardi Gras day, ending with "Ash Wednesday Sunrise."
2. Trombone Shorty
3. Papa Grows Funk
Best Jazz Fest Performance 2012
1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band — Bruce Springsteen made his return to Jazz Fest (where he performed in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods) with a three-hour goosebump-inspiring set that transcended the Fairgrounds. Unlike his 2006 Seeger Sessions show, the E Street Band was present, and it wouldn't be Jazz Fest without Dr. John stopping by to tickle the ivories.
2. Foo Fighters
Best Local Jazz Band/Artist
1. Kermit Ruffins — Kermit Ruffins left the Rebirth Brass Band in 1992 to form the Barbecue Swingers. Since then, the jazz quintet has released several albums, and Ruffins has become a standard bearer of New Orleans swing. His easygoing attitude coupled with his structured traditional jazz songs makes him just as approachable personally as he is musically.
2. Trombone Shorty
3. Jeremy Davenport
Best Cajun/Zydeco Band/Artist
1. Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys — Amanda Shaw has proved she is one of Louisiana's most endeared daughters. The 20-year-old fiddler has been more than capable of holding her own as she opens for seasoned veterans such as Sonny Landreth and Tab Benoit. She is now touring nationally in promotion of her fourth album, Good Southern Girl.
2. Rockin' Dopsie Jr.
3. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes & the
Best Local Brass Band
1. Rebirth Brass Band — Anyone who has seen Rebirth Brass Band live has probably had "Rebirth got fire, Rebirth got fire!" stuck in his head for weeks. They are one of those infectious bands that just won't put up with people sitting down during their shows. This fall, they embark across the West Coast and through Canada for eight shows with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
2. Treme Brass Band
3. TIE: Hot 8 Brass Band
3. TIE: Soul Rebels
Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop/Bounce Artist
1. Lil Wayne — Though the Martian has landed among the beautiful people in Miami, Gambit readers seem to have forgiven Hollygrove's prodigal son. Lil Wayne's international entourage, Mountain Dew sponsorship and celebrity pals (like protege's Drake and Nicki Minaj) are no match for the local love the rapper gets in his hometown, where he'll dedicate a new skatepark.
2. Big Freedia
Rap in New Orleans, and the South, rides a perpetual wave of sound, influence and popularity. With Lil Wayne now taking residence in Miami, the Cash Money throne has fallen to a massive independent, smart and ambitious underground, with Curren$y, Nesby Phips, Fiend and the Jets at its helm. Jay Electronica and Dee-1 also are gaining national traction, and the entire world continues to be obsessed with bounce, though perhaps only for the spectacle. — Alex Woodward
Best Local DJ
1. DJ Soul Sister — "The Queen of Vinyl," Melissa Weber, is a double threat on Saturday nights, starting with her signature soul/funk/R&B show on WWOZ-FM. Then she loads her crates in the car and heads to Mimi's in the Marigny, where she spins dance music upstairs into the wee hours. She's back at Mimi's on Sundays to put a chill-down exclamation point on the weekend.
2. DJ Jubilee
3. DJ Tony Skratchere