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When it comes to bests, New Orleans wrote the book on superlatives — or, rather, you did when we put out the call for our annual Best of New Orleans issue. The Gambit staff spent days and days (and even some nights) poring over the results, nodding at your sagacity — and, in some cases, shaking our collective head — when we tallied up the results.

It's all here, from your favorite beer to your favorite Big Easy Rollergirl, from your favorite place for expectant moms to your favorite strip club.

Welcome to the Best of New Orleans 2009.



Best Live Theater Venue

1. Le Petit Theater du Vieux Carre (616 S. Peter St., 522-9958; www.lepetittheatre.com) — For the oldest little theater in Louisiana, year number 93 has been the best of times and the worst of times. Five months prior to winning this category, the five-person operating staff was fired for financial reasons. Acting manager Gary Solomon Jr. completed a successful season nonetheless, highlighted by controversial productions of White Noise and Mr. Marmalade.

2. Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.cabaretlechatnoir.com)

3. Mahalia Jackson Theater (143 N. Rampart St., 525-1052; www.mahaliajacksontheater.com)

 

Best Local Theater Actor

1. Ricky Graham (www.rickygrahamonline.com) — Oh, Ricky, you're so fine — even in Provincetown, Mass., upstaging Mushroomheads and your cross-dressed Lucy, Ms. Varla Jean Merman. New Orleans' most prolific thespian began 2009 in style: with the latest edition of his post-Katrina spoof, The Renew Revue, packing and then bringing down the house at home-court Le Chat Noir. 

2. Bryan Batt (www.bryanbatt.com)

3. John "Spud "McConnell

 

click to enlarge Julia Neel places some flip-flops into a bag she selected at Feet - First, which won Best Shoe Store. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFE

Best Local Theater Actress

1. Becky Allen — Call it a casting coup or meta-gender-bender, but in July, Allen — the Crescent City's premier female female impersonator — took to the Marigny Theatre stage as Transylvanian transvestite Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. For the record, that's a woman pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.

2. Ashley Ricord Santos

3. Lara Grice

 

Best Dive Bar

1. Snake N Jake's (7612 Oak St., 861-2802; www.snakeandjakes.com) — To New Orleanians there's just no place like home, and to late-night partiers there's no place like Snake N Jakes. Shining like a beacon amid its quiet neighborhood surroundings, this hole-in-the-wall haven draws socialites of all types well into the wee hours of the morning with comfy couches and cozy Christmas lights.

2. Ms. Mae's (4336 Magazine St., 218-8035)

3. F&M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784; www.fandmpatiobar.com)

 

Best Dance Club

1. Gold Mine Saloon (705 Dauphine St. 586-0745; www.goldminesaloon.net) — Known for poetry nights, open mic sessions, and flaming Dr. Pepper shots, the Gold Mine Saloon is more than just a place to speak easy — it also serves as the city's best place to hit the dance floor and let loose. Fridays and Saturdays pull a full house in this French Quarter establishment.

2. Republic (828 S. Peters St., 528-8282; www.republicnola.com)

3. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com)

 

Best Sports Bar

1.Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) — To win the hearts of the sports fan masses, it helps to have a massive selection of suds and screens. With more than 400 bottled beer brands, 45 draft beers and dozens of TVs beaming in sports action from every angle, Cooter Brown's once again validates this winning formula. 

2. Bruno's (7538 Maple St., 861-7615; www.brunostavern.com)

3. Fox & Hound English Pub-Grille (Elmwood Village Center, 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., New Orleans, 731-6000; www.tentcorp.com)

 

Best College Hangout

1. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) — Pizza, pool, and parties of all types characterize the city's best college hangout near Tulane and Loyola's campuses, with convenient late-night grub and close proximity to the Greek scene and much undergrad housing. A longtime stalwart of local college culture, the Boot will forever ensure the popularity of 50-cent night, Bud Light and Def Leppard.

2. Bruno's (7538 Maple St., 861-7615; www.brunostavern.com)

TIE

3. Fat Harry's (4330 St. Charles Ave., 895-9582)

3. F&M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784; www.fandmpatiobar.com)

 

Best Gay Bar

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com) — It may not be a yellow brick road, but Bourbon Street still leads to Oz, where hot bartenders, thumping techno, wild dance parties, and various other forms of debauchery celebrate the best of life on the other side of the rainbow.

2. Parade Dance Club (Bourbon Pub, 801 Bourbon St., 529-2107; www.bourbonpub.com)

3. Good Friends (740 Dauphine St., 566-7191; www.goodfriendsbar.com)

 

Best Neighborhood Bar

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) — The ubiquity of Bulldog pint glasses in Uptown cupboards speaks to the undying popularity of this Magazine Street staple. On keep-your-glass Wednesdays (as on most other nights), the hops haven overflows with university students and sports fanatics, spilling out onto the recently revamped patio replete with 50-inch plasma and draft-tap fountain.

2. St. Joe's (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744)

3. Pal's Lounge (949 N. Rendon St., 488-7257)

 

Best Hotel Bar

1. Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge (Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., 523-3341; www. hotelmonteleone.com) — In a city where hotels are judged as much by their Ramos Gin Fizzes as by their rooms, the Carousel stands out by not only bringing a new drink to the party — the Vieux Carré, a kind of Cognac'd Manhattan — but by giving new meaning to the phrase "another round."

2. The Victorian Lounge (Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; thecolumns.com)

3. The Swizzle Stick Bar (Loews Hotel, Cafe Adelaide, 300 Poydras St., 595-3300; www.cafeadelaide.com)

 

Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club

1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 524-4222; www.ricks.com) — Being dubbed the best topless bar on Bourbon Street is a bit like being crowned the best casino on the Vegas strip or the best investment firm on Wall Street (OK, bad example): The superlative probably stretches beyond the city limits. After all, if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere.

2. Visions (4000 Downman Road, 240-0069; www.visionsmensclub.com)

3. Larry Flynt's Hustler Club (225 Bourbon St., 524-0010; www.hustlerclubs.com)

 

Best Happy Hour

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www. superiorgrill.com) — Supersized margaritas and greasy Mexican fare are what make this St. Charles Avenue restaurant a superior place to gather with friends and relax after a hard day's work. Whether you stop for drinks with chips and salsa or stay for dinner, the atmosphere is always warm and inviting.

2. The Victorian Lounge (Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; thecolumns.com)

3. Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar (701 Tchoupitoulas St., 523-8995; www.lucysretiredsurfers.com)

 

Best Cheap Drinks

1. Ms. Mae's (4336 Magazine St., 218-8035) — A couple of bucks often get you more than what you bargained for at "The Club" on Magazine. Better known as Ms. Mae's, this is a place where well drinks flow easy and talk is cheap: Before you know it, it's 3 a.m. and you're still drinking. You might hurt in the morning, but at least your wallet won't.

2. The Chart Room (300 Chartres St., 522-1708)

3. Apple Barrel Bar (609 Frenchmen St., 949-9399)

 

Best Place to Dance to a Live Band

1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) — Founded in the name of Professor Longhair, Tip's has expanded over the years from its quaint, familiar fan community to draw a larger, more diverse crowd. As the perfect venue for hosting New Orleans' unique variety of music, the club's small stage allows for an intimate experience and still provides the room to move and dance.

2. Rock 'N' Bowl (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133; www.rockandbowl.com)

3. Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St., 866-9359; www.mapleleafbar.com)

 

Best Bar Patio/Courtyard

1. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com) — Is there any other patio that could even compare? The sprawling square footage, lighted fountain, raucous repertoire from the piano bar, and a robust cadre of waiters on hand to deliver drinks strong enough to knock you down (if you weren't already sitting at a cute little cast-iron garden table) make Pat O's by far New Orleans' best courtyard venue.

2. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com)

3. St. Joe's (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744)

 

Best Movie Theater

1. Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.theprytania.com) — The oldest operating single-screen theater in these Southern states comfortably earns another best-of Oscar, as proprietor and neighborhood icon Rene Brunet cherishes the art and fun of film. Tucked into its namesake street, the theater takes audiences back in time with old-school balconies and midnight movies.

2. AMC Palace 20 Elmwood (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., 262-4386; www.amctheatres.com)

3. Canal Place Cinema (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third level, 581-5400; www.landmarktheatres.com)

 

Best Place to See Stand-Up Comedy

1. La Nuit Comedy Theater (2301 Soniat St., 899-0336; www.nolacomedy.com) — One explanation for the dearth of comedy clubs in New Orleans could be our wealth of everyday absurdity: There's so much unintentional comedy in New Orleans, designated venues seem superfluous. Not so at this Freret corridor yuk factory, where weekly skit and improv shows draw the audience into the act, willing or no.

2. Harrah's Casino (8 Canal St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com)

3. Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.cabaretlechatnoir.com)

 

Best Place to Karaoke

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-3492; www.catskaraoke.com) — A central Bourbon Street location, a good selection of songs and an always-packed house make Cat's Meow the best place to get your song on — for amateurs, anyway. Whether for Mardi Gras, spring break or any night of the week, Cat's will let you up onstage, and you can croon to your heart's content.

TIE

2. Igor's Buddha Belly Bar-Grill (4437 Magazine St., 891-6105)

2. Gennaro's (3206 Metairie Road, Metairie, 833-9226)

3. Dino's Bar & Grill (1128 Tchoupitoulas St., 558-0900)

 

Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary

1. Louisiana Superdome (1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, 587-3663; www.superdome.com) — We'd venture a guess that Gambit readers voted the Superdome best place to get a Bloody Mary just in time for the upcoming Saints football season, since it's not your typical place to grab a drink any old day. Aren't you looking forward to those crisp fall Sundays filled with good old-fashioned tailgating and Who Dat fanfare?

2. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com)

TIE

3. The Victorian Lounge (Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; thecolumns.com)

3. Igor's Buddha Belly Bar-Grill (4437 Magazine St., 891-6105)

 

Best Place to Get a Mojito

1. St. Joe's (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) — Arbitrary though it may seem (considering this bar's patron saint had nothing to do with mojitos, and mojitos have nothing to do with Joseph Street), this vote still makes perfect sense to our readers as the best place to enjoy a fresh mojito. As a corner bar on Magazine Street, St. Joe's provides easy access for parking and a friendly pub-type appeal with its dark interior and breezy courtyard.

2. Bridge Lounge (1201 Magazine St., 299-1888; www.bridgeloungenola.com)

3. El Gato Negro Mexican Restaurant (81 French Market Place, 525-9752; www.elgatonegronola.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Margarita

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200;www. superiorgrill.com) — What makes one margarita stand above all others? Superior Grill, our readers' top choice again this year, must know something about it. Maybe it has to do with the huge range of choices the bar offers, from crowd-pleasing house margaritas to concoctions using ultra-premium tequilas.

2. El Gato Negro Mexican Restaurant (81 French Market Place, 525-9752; www.elgatonegronola.com)

3. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Martini

1. Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) — At this shrine to the cocktail sophisticate, dirty martinis aren't half olive brine, and vermouth isn't a dirty word. The candlelit hideaway on Conti Street has a monopoly on this category, and with good reason. You'll feel like a certain British double agent ordering the world's most celebrated drink here, no mixing instruction necessary.

2. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)

3. The Swizzle Stick Bar (Loews Hotel, Cafe Adelaide, 300 Poydras St., 595-3300; www.cafeadelaide.com)

 

Best Place to Get Wine By the Glass

1. W.I.N.O. (Wine Institute of New Orleans, 610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000; www.winoschool.com) — Self-serve wine spouts that operate on a debit card? What's next, flying cheese fairies? Real winos are in trouble when they encounter the Wine Institute of New Orleans' Enomatic system: 120 drafts available in glass, half-glass and 1-oz. taster portions, from table reds to grand cuvees.

2. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com)

3. Tommy's Wine Bar (752 Tchoupitoulas St., 525-4790; www.tommysneworleans.com)

 

Best Beer Selection

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) — They are draft freaks, but they don't skimp on the bottled beer either. The styles, ales and lagers with numerous variations; countries, from Lebanon to China and points in between; and potencies are all there. Just don't get into a drinking contest involving Delirium Tremens, a strong Belgian — sip it, it's meant to be enjoyed.

2. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com)

3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 942-3731; www.drinkgoodstuff.com)

 

Best Beer Brand

1. Abita (www.abita.com) — Sure, it's locally owned, the company has given generously to the community and it's environmentally friendly. Ultimately, however, beer is about taste, and Abita brews are delicious and satisfying. The brewery's regular offerings, including Amber and Turbodog, are loyal standbys, and the seasonals like Wheat and Christmas Ale will get you through the holidays with spirit.

2. NOLA Brewing (www.nolabrewing.com)

3. Budweiser (www.budweiser.com)

 

Best Bar for Creative Cocktails

1. Cure (4905 Freret St., 302-2357; www.curenola.com) — New Orleans' craft-cocktail craze reaches its apotheosis at this unmarked Freret Street newcomer, whose short and never-too-sweet roster of concoctions reads like the subconscious ramblings of a hypnotized mixologist. It's not uncommon for every ingredient in a drink to be off-the-wall (see: the Adriana, made from Ypióca Prata cachaça, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and peach and orange bitters).

2. Iris (321 N. Peters St., 299-3944; www.irisneworleans.com)

3. The Swizzle Stick Bar (Loews Hotel, Cafe Adelaide, 300 Poydras St., 595-3300; www.cafeadelaide.com)

 

Best Casino

1. Harrah's Casino (8 Canal St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) — Name your game — blackjack, slots, roulette, poker or baccarat. Harrah's has it, along with luxurious accommodations for travelers, or for locals who feel like being spoiled after winning big. With a number of dining selections, including John Besh's steakhouse, and entertainment venues, Masquerade and Harrah's Theatre, there's no reason to leave.

2. Treasure Chest Casino (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-8000; www.treasurechest.com)

3. Boomtown Casino (4132 Peters Road, Harvey, 366-7711; www.boomtownneworleans.com)

 

Best Live Music Venue

1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) — Since its founding as a juke joint by a group of music fans and artists in 1977, Tip's has endured through generations of trends and traditions, fads and levee failures. Today, with the work done by the Tipitina's Foundation, it's much more than a venue for live music — it's the go-to site for celebrating that which we hold dearest.

2. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.hob.com)

3. Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St., 866-9359; www.mapleleafbar.com)

 

click to enlarge WVUE Fox8 meteorologist Bob Breck is the go-to guy when it - comes to weather.
  • WVUE Fox8 meteorologist Bob Breck is the go-to guy when it comes to weather.

Best Place to Hear Free Live Music

1. Lafayette Square (500 St. Charles Ave.; www.wednesdayatthesquare.com) — The decade-old Wednesday at the Square spring concert series (www.wednesdayatthesquare.com) turned Lafayette Square into one of our readers' favorite music spots. The park also is home to new music events, like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation's Crescent City Blues and BBQ festival, and Second Harvest launches a seven-week Thursday night concert series on Sept. 17.

2. French Quarter Fest (www.fqfi.com)

3. Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 897-3448)

 

Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months

1. Coldplay (www.coldplay.com) — Ascending from doe-eyed indie-rockers to chart-topping stadium stars in four albums flat, Coldplay brought serious spectacle to the New Orleans Arena in June. Mr. Paltrow, aka singer Chris Martin, entered with sparklers in hand, then launched one firework after another, from the heavily orchestrated chamber pop of 2008's Viva La Vida (Parlophone) to understated ballads from the Londoners' 2000 debut, Parachutes.

2. Fleetwood Mac (www.fleetwoodmac.com)

TIE

3. Hip-Hop for Hope (www.hiphopforhope.org)

3. Neil Young at Jazz Fest (www.neilyoung.com)

 

Best Jazz Fest Performance 2009

1. Neil Young (www.neilyoung.com) — When Young took the Acura Stage around 3 p.m. Sun., May 3, fans weren't sure whether they'd get Crazy Horse or Harvest. The answer was both, often in the same song. His close with the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" should go down in Jazz Fest lore, ending with the untimely demise of a six-string at center stage.   

2. Dave Matthews Band (www.davematthewsband.com)

3. Bon Jovi (www.bonjovi.com)

 

Best Local Rock Band/Artist

1. Better Than Ezra (www.betterthanezra.com) — Nearly 15 years after the release of its ubiquitous '90s rock radio hit (and teen-angst film and TV staple) "Good," the constantly touring alt-rock power trio expanded its discography with several studio albums and continues to impact its hometown with a nonprofit focused on post-Katrina recovery.

2. Cowboy Mouth (www.cowboymouth.com)

3. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes (www.johnnysketch.com)

 

Best New Local Band

1. MyNameIsJohnMichael (www.mynameisjohnmichael.com) — The ambitious singer/songwriter project headed by titular frontman John Michael Rouchell developed into a dubiously catchy six-piece pop orchestra — somewhere between a hyperactive E-Street Band and a cocksure Elvis Costello — then self-released its debut The People That Come and Go earlier this year.

2. Dee-1 (www.myspace.com/dee1music)

3. Flow Tribe (www.flowtribe.com)

 

Best Local Jazz Band/Artist

1. Trombone Shorty (www.tromboneshorty.com) — Troy Andrews, the 23-year-old trumpet and 'bone-playing prodigy, has been tootin' his own horn since he was in diapers, and the gig has paid off. Acclaimed albums and famous fans aside, Shorty's ability to shake up the crowd with his spin on brass-led funk, hip-hop and jazz is enough cred for Gambit readers to put him on top.

2. Kermit Ruffins (www.myspace.com/kermitruffinsmusic)

3. Irvin Mayfield (www.myspace.com/irvinmayfield)

 

Best Cajun/Zydeo Band/Artist

1. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. (www.rockindopsiejr.com) — Zydeco legend Dopsie Sr.'s genes proved strong enough to help push his son into much-lauded acclaim for his high-energy bayou sound backed by the rightly named Zydeco Twisters. Dopsie Jr. joined his father's crew in 1982 and leads the band with his signature washboard-and-sunglasses look.

2. Amanda Shaw (www.amandashaw.com)

3. Zydepunks (www.zydepunks.com)

 

Best Local Brass Band

1. Rebirth Brass Band (www.myspace.com/rebirthbrassband) — Rebirth's permanence in New Orleans is cemented with its nearly cultish following, developed from a monopoly on Tuesday nights — thanks to a residence at Maple Leaf Bar, a gig locals don't hesitate to recommend to newcomers.

2. Hot 8 Brass Band (www.hot8brassband.com)

3. Soul Rebels Brass Band (www.soulrebelsbrassband.com)

 

Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

1. Lil Wayne (www.lilwayne-online.com) — Hollygrove's favorite 5-foot-6-inch gangster had a bang-up year in 2008, selling more copies of his Tha Carter III (Cash Money) — 2.88 milli, for those counting — than any other pop artist. His 2009 may be defined more by whom he signed: R&B smoothie Drake, inked by Wayne's Young Money Entertainment in June.

2. Dee-1 (www.myspace.com/dee1music)

TIE

3. Ballzack (www.ballzack.com)

3. E.O.E. (www.myspace.com/eoeuniverse)

 

Best DJ/Electronica Artist

1. DJ Soul Sister (www.djsoulsister.com) — Saturday in New Orleans ought to be renamed Soul Sister Day. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., the inimitable crate-digger curates the 14-years-running "Soul Power" show on WWOZ-FM. Then, at 11 p.m., she soundtracks Mimi's in the Marigny's "Hustle!" dance party, spinning hip-swiveling rare grooves until the dancers lose steam.

TIE

2. Captain Charles (www.djcaptaincharles.com)

2. DJ Raj Smoove (www.rajsmoove.com)

3. Quintron (www.quintronandmisspussycat.com)

 

Best New Restaurant

1. Coquette (2800 Magazine St., 265-0421) — The latest restaurant to take over the noble-looking townhouse at the corner of Washington Avenue and Magazine Street quickly started turning heads. Chef Mike Stoltzfus and partner Lillian Hubbard combine experience at some of the city's top restaurants with fresh, young energy to create a standout new restaurant with refined, subtle cuisine.

2. Boucherie (8115 Jeannette St., 862-5514; www.boucherie-nola.com)

TIE

3. Gott Gourmet (3100 Magazine St., 373-6579; www.gottgourmetcafe.com)

3. Rum House (3128 Magazine St., 302-9674)

 

Best New Orleans Restaurant

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) — It's arguably the best-known restaurant in New Orleans, winning countless industry accolades and popular awards. Our readers say amen and join the chorus of praise for the Brennan family's flagship. Not content with such laurels, executive chef Tory McPhail is steering the kitchen in new and exciting culinary directions.

2. Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021; www.galatoires.com)

3. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com)

 

Best Metairie Restaurant

1. Drago's Seafood Restaurant (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com) — To get an idea of Drago's enduring legacy, just look at how many other restaurants now imitate its famous dish, charbroiled oysters. To get an idea of how many people still prefer the original, just look at how big the restaurant has grown after rounds and rounds of dining room expansions.

2. Andrea's (3100 19th St., Metairie, 834-8583; www.andreasrestaurant.com)

TIE

3. Vega Tapas Cafe (2051 Metairie Road, Metairie, 836-2007; www.vegatapascafe.com)

3. Ruth's Chris Steak House (525 Fulton St., 587-7099; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600; www.ruthschris.com)

 

Best Kenner Restaurant

1. Le Parvenu (509 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 471-0534; www.leparvenu.com) — From the old dinner plates bordering the garden beds outside to the cottage ambience inside, Le Parvenu sets a different sort of scene for Kenner fine dining. Chef/owner Dennis Hutley follows that up with a rich, seafood-centered menu of original and classic dishes that have Gambit readers returning for more.

2. Harbor Seafood (3203 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-6454)

3. Ristorante da Piero (401 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-8585; www.ristorantedapiero.net)

 

Best Northshore Restaurant

1. La Provence Restaurant (25020 Hwy. 190, Lacombe, 985-626-7662; www.laprovencerestaurant.com) — Whether they live just up the road or across the lake, fans of La Provence prize the Lacombe restaurant's ability to conjure the tastes and ambience of a French country inn. Since taking the reins in 2006, chef John Besh has kept this Northshore dining landmark going strong.

2. Trey Yuen Cuisine of China (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 626-4476; www.treyyuen.com)

3. Dakota Restaurant (629 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-892-3712; www.restaurantcuvee.com/dakota)

 

Best West Bank Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 368-9846) — The West Bank restaurant scene seems to grow more diverse by the day, but it's no surprise readers once again named Pho Tau Bay their favorite. The huge array of traditional Vietnamese noodle soups, banh mi sandwiches and light noodle dishes make it a neighborhood standby and an over-the-river dining destination.

2. The Red Maple Restaurant & Lounge (1036 Lafayette St., Gretna, 367-0935; www.theredmaple.com)

3. Hoa Hong 9 Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

 

click to enlarge Higinio Herrera prepares to wrap up the city's Best Cheap Eats at - Felipe's Taqueria. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

1. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville St., 482-9120; www.liuzzas.com) — A great neighborhood restaurant will attract loyal fans who don't necessarily live in its neighborhood. The appeal of Liuzza's dauntingly large Frenchuletta sandwich, famous onion rings and Italian dishes — not to mention the time-warp feel of its dining room and its frosted, schooner-style beer mugs — draws in regulars from across the region.

2. Clancy's (6100 Annunciation St., 895-1111)

3. Mandina's Restaurant (3800 Canal St., 482-9179; www.mandinasrestaurant.com)

 

Best Hotel Restaurant

1. Cafe Adelaide (Loews Hotel New Orleans, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305; www.cafeadelaide.com) — Good hotel restaurants tap into the energy of their hospitable host surroundings, but Cafe Adelaide adds its own spark to the equation. From its bustling bar to the contemporary regional cuisine of chef Chris Lusk, this is a place where locals and tourists alike want to stay a while. 

2. Rib Room (Omni Royal Orleans, 621 St. Louis St., 529-5333; www.omnihotels.com)

3. Lüke (Hilton St. Charles, 333 St. Charles Ave., 378-2840; www.lukeneworleans.com)

 

Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness Restaurant (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; www.fivehappiness.com) — Five Happiness first opened in 1978, and we get the feeling there are some locals who have been visiting on a regular basis ever since. The main dining room and its imperial-themed banquet hall have been sleekly redone since Hurricane Katrina, and are filled with every walk of life.

2. Trey Yuen Cuisine of China (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 626-4476; www.treyyuen.com)

3. Royal China (600 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-9633)

 

Best Creole Restaurant

1. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com) — The offbeat interpretation of contemporary Creole cuisine at Jacques-Imo's is unlike anywhere else, and it has definitely struck a chord. Legions of fans gather in its funky front barroom and spill out on the sidewalk waiting for a table and their fix of alligator cheesecake, exuberant sauces and carpetbagger steaks.

2. Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535)

3. Olivier's Creole Restaurant (204 Decatur St., 525-7734; www.olivierscreole.com)

 

Best Italian Restaurant

1. Vincent's Italian Cuisine (7839 St. Charles Ave., 866-9313; www.vincentsitaliancuisine.com) — Vincent's knows how to please the hometown taste for Italian cooking. The wide-ranging menu features red-sauce pasta dishes, traditional parmigiana preparations and fresh local seafood like tuna, oysters and crabmeat. This Creole-influenced approach is clearly endorsed by readers, who have named it tops for the seventh straight year.

2. Venezia Restaurant (134 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-7991; www.venezianeworleans.com)

3. Tony Angello's (6262 Fleur de Lis Drive, 488-0888)

 

Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

1. Sake Cafe Uptown (2830 Magazine St., 894-0033; www.sakecafeuptown.us) — The long, curving sushi bar at Sake Café is such a showcase for the chefs' raw arts it's easy to forget that the same address was a K&B pharmacy for so many years before. Inventive sushi creations and traditional Japanese dishes from the kitchen now fill the prescription for pleasure.

2. Kyoto (4920 Prytania St., 891-3644)

3. Rock-N-Sake (823 Fulton St., 581-7253; www.rocknsake.com)

 

Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Baru Bistro & Tapas (3700 Magazine St., 895-2225) — Not even summer weather can dissuade Baru's boosters from taking a table along its sidewalk dining area. Outdoors, or inside the tiny dining room, chilled ceviches help cool things off, while the jerk adds a heat no one minds. The BYOB policy keeps bills lower, and everyone likes that.

2. RioMar (800 S. Peters St., 525-3474; www.riomarseafood.com)

3. Mayas Restaurant & Bar (2027 Magazine St., 309-3401; www.mojitoland.com)

 

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

1. Mona's Cafe (3901 Banks St., 482-7743) — The area's most prolific purveyor of hummus also proves the most popular. Mona's own pita bakery supplies all its sister restaurants with the fresh bread for its sandwiches, dips and platters, and the grocery at this original Mid-City location is a great place to stock up on some staples for home.

2. Lebanon's Cafe (1500 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-6200; www.lebanonscafe.com)

3. Byblos (3218 Magazine St., 894-1233; www.byblosrestaurants.com)

 

Best Mexican Restaurant

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www. superiorgrill.com) — Some go for the rollicking happy hour, some for more sedate family meals, but Gambit readers agree Superior Grill is tops among tortilla joints. It's a title built on slushy frozen margaritas, sizzling hot fajitas, smooth refried beans and vats and vats of fresh salsa for bushels of salty chips.

TIE

2. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)

2. Taqueria Corona (1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; www.taqueriacorona.com)

3. Felipe's Taqueria (301 N. Peters St., 267-4406; 6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776; www.felipesneworleans.com)

 

Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com) — If hot seafood and cold beer were forms of currency, Deanie's Seafood would be the Federal Reserve of Bucktown. The restaurant does raw oysters, boiled crabs and barbecue shrimp, but fried seafood is the major specialty and the center of attention, with the "giant seafood platter" at the menu's summit.

2. Galley Seafood Restaurant (2535 Metairie Road, Metairie, 832-0955)

3. Drago's Seafood Restaurant (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com)

 

Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. Lil Dizzy's Cafe (610 Poydras St., 212-5656; 1500 Esplanade Ave., 569-8997) — Wherever the Baquet family sets up shop, the faithful flock for the crawfish bisque, the fried chicken, the trout Baquet and other recipes dating back generations. So it went on Law Street at the original Eddie's, so it goes today at the Lil Dizzy's on Esplanade Avenue and Poydras Street.

2. Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535)

3. Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934; www.pralineconnection.com)

 

Best Steakhouse

1. Ruth's Chris Steak House (525 Fulton St.,587-7099; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600; www.ruthschris.com) — The steakhouse chain that started in New Orleans way back when before growing into an international player delivers both sizzle and steak. The sound of snapping-hot butter on a prime filet is the harbinger of happiness for local carnivores, who now have downtown and Metairie Ruth's Chris options.

2. Crescent City Steak House (1001 N. Broad St., 821-3271; www.crescentcitysteaks.com)

3. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 522-2467; www.dickiebrennanssteakhouse.com)

 

Best Thai Restaurant

1. La Thai Uptown (4938 Prytania St., 899-8886; www.lathaiuptown.com) — Since moving Uptown last year, La Thai has introduced a whole new customer base to its combination of Thai dishes and Louisiana flavors. Yes, you can get pad Thai and green curry here, but also such unique dishes as local oysters with triple pepper glaze and panko-crusted sea bass with crabmeat.

2. Basil Leaf (1438 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-9001)

3. Sukho Thai (1913 Royal St., 948-9309; www.sukhothai-nola.com)

 

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 368-9846) — Pho Tau Bay once counted four locations in its local empire of noodle shops, and that network helped introduce the bright, refreshing flavors of Vietnamese cooking to countless locals in the years before Hurricane Katrina. Gambit readers returned the favor by giving the original and sole-remaining restaurant top props again this year.

2. Hoa Hong 9 Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

TIE

3. Tan Dinh (1705 Lafayette St., Gretna, 361-8008)

3. Kim Son (349 Whitney Ave., Gretna, 366-2489)

 

click to enlarge Gambit readers say Coldplay's show at the New - Orleans Arena in June was the Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 - Months.
  • Gambit readers say Coldplay's show at the New Orleans Arena in June was the Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months.

Best Breakfast Spot

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679) — Your favorite meal at Camellia Grill might say something about the hours you keep. Known as a late-night destination by some, for others the smell of waffle batter, the sight of pancakes on the grill and the prospect of a huge omelet on the diner counter make the morning complete.

2. Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar (1418 Magazine St., 524-3828; www.surreyscafeandjuicebar.com)

3. Slim Goodies Diner (3322 Magazine St., 891-3447)

 

Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) — No matter how adventurous your Saturday night might have been, a brunch reservation at Commander's Palace is reason to leap out of bed on Sunday. "Eye-opener" cocktails take the edge off, and the classic Creole dishes, strolling jazz combo and festive atmosphere make for a party no one wants to miss.

2. Dante's Kitchen (736 Dante St., 861-3121; www.danteskitchen.com)

3. Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261; www.courtoftwosisters.com)

 

Best Lunch Specials

1. Joey K's Restaurant (3001 Magazine St., 891-0997; www.joeyksrestaurant.com) — Even people who had trouble in school know enough to pay attention to the blackboard at this casual, Uptown neighborhood joint. That's where the daily specials are listed, from Monday's white beans with pork chops to Tuesday's braised lamb shank to Friday's eggplant casserole, all at bargain prices.

2. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)

3. Bacco (310 Chartres St., 522-2426; www.bacco.com)

 

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679) — There was a dark time for a long while after Hurricane Katrina when this landmark Riverbend diner sat in limbo. But eventually, new owners emerged and answered the prayers of its many vocal admirers. The chocolate freezes, the chiliburgers and the old-school counter service now thrive again, even after midnight.  

2. Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St., 598-1010; www.clovergrill.com)

3. Angeli on Decatur (1141 Decatur St., 566-0077)

 

Best Place to Feed the Whole Family

1. Piccadilly Cafeteria (Citywide; www.piccadilly.com) — You don't need to be in the midst of a global recession to recognize a good dining deal, and an economical approach to Southern eats has long been the draw for Piccadilly. Full trays equal full bellies and don't require emptying too much from the wallet at this cafeteria chain.

TIE

2. Franky & Johnny's (321 Arabella St., 899-9146; www.frankyandjohnnys.com)

2. Theo's Pizza (4218 Magazine St., 894-8554; www.theospizza.com)

3. City Diner (3116 S. I-10 Service Road, Metairie, 831-1030)

 

Best Place to Get a Cajun Dish

1. Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123; www.cochonrestaurant.com) — The flavors of the Cajun prairie came to the big city when chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski opened their pork-centric Warehouse District eatery in 2006. Ever since, Cochon has been the darling of those seeking rustic Louisiana fare done with urbane twists and an eye for contemporary presentation.

TIE

2. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com)

2. K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen (416 Chartres St., 524-7394; www.kpauls.com)

3. Mulate's Cajun Restaurant (201 Julia St., 522-1492; www.mulates.com)

 

Best Cheap Eats

1. Felipe's Taqueria (301 N. Peters St., 267-4406; 6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776; www.felipesneworleans.com) — Belly up to the service line, call the shots for your burrito or taco order and a minute later you have lunch or dinner for just a few bucks. Felipe's Mexican menu is as quick and cheap as the fast food chains, but much, much more fresh and flavorful.

2. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)

3. Dot's Diner (Citywide; www.dotsdiner.com)

 

Best Menu for Vegetarians

1. Cafe Bamboo (435 Esplanade Ave., 940-5546) — New Orleans has a rep for being less than accommodating to vegetarians, but since the opening of Bamboo earlier this year there is a new haven for meatless and even vegan feasts. The menu lists conventional vegetable-based dishes, along with an array of "mock meats" made from textured soy products.

TIE

2. Green Goddess (307 Exchange Place, 301-3347; www.greengoddessnola.com)

2. Mona's Cafe (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743; 4126 Magazine St., 894-9800)

3. Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797; www.insidenirvana.com)

 

Best Dessert and Where to Get It

1. Cheesecake at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro (2001 St. Charles Ave., 593-9955; 4517 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7620; www.copelandscheesecakebistro.com) — Put the word "cheesecake" in the name of your restaurant, and you better be able to deliver a serious slice. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro makes good on the promise with more than 20 different varieties, ranging from Hawaiian to "Killed by Chocolate," all based on the bistro's buttery pecan crust.

2. Cannoli at Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-0078; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com)

3. Bread Pudding Souffle at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)

 

Best Buffet

1. Harrah's Casino (8 Canal St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) — The smart money says casinos keep gamblers happy by giving them choices galore at the buffet. Harrah's takes no chances and stocks its serving stations with seafood, pastas, ethnic dishes and American classics, fresh salads and desserts. The house may always win, but you'll leave the buffet feeling flush.

2. Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797; www.insidenirvana.com)

TIE

3. Pancho's Mexican Super Buffet (100 N. Labarre Ave., Metairie, 247-9220; www.panchosmexicanbuffet.com)

3. Oki Nago Restaurant ( 2712 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 780-8588; www.okinago.com)

 

Best Wine List

1. Emeril's Restaurant (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393; www.emerils.com) — New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse now has restaurants around the country, but his original Warehouse District namesake remains the flagship. Wine service is taken just as seriously as the cuisine, and the restaurant has earned the highest award of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. Our readers concur.

2. W.I.N.O. (Wine Institute of New Orleans, 610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000; www.winoschool.com)

3. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com)

 

Best Chef

1. John Besh — John Besh's star has been on the rise for a while, but lately it has positively soared. Between national media engagements, the chef has continued to expand his local restaurant empire. Look for two new downtown Besh spots before the end of the year: American Sector and Domenica.

2. Susan Spicer

3. Donald Link

 

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Martinique Bistro (5908 Magazine St., 891-8495; www.martiniquebistro.com) — During those seasonal sweet spots when the weather is just right, it's hard to imagine a nicer setting than Martinique's cloistered patio. But our readers will brave both muggy summer days and chilly winter nights for the pleasure of dining in this lushly planted oasis, helpfully supplied with fans and heaters accordingly.

2. Cafe Rani (2917 Magazine St., 895-2500; www.caferanimagazine.com)

3. Cafe Degas (3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; www.cafedegas.com)

 

click to enlarge Bartender Jennifer Dawson draws a beer at The Bulldog, the - Best Neighborhood Bar, which readers say also has the best beer - selection. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Bartender Jennifer Dawson draws a beer at The Bulldog, the Best Neighborhood Bar, which readers say also has the best beer selection.

Best Deli

1. Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; www.steinsdeli.net) — We suspect flights from New Orleans to the Northeast have dropped since Dan Stein opened his namesake deli. After all, Magazine Street is a lot closer than Manhattan and Philadelphia when the jones strikes for Jewish and Italian deli-style sandwiches, bagels and kosher dills and imported meats and cheeses.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; www.martinwine.com)

3. St. James Cheese Company (5004 Prytania St., 899-4737; www.stjamescheese.com)

 

Best Place to Get Barbecue

1. Voodoo BBQ & Grill (1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; www.voodoobbqandgrill.com) — The spell cast by this locally bred barbecue chain has endured for another year, keeping it at the top of our 'cue category. It must be something in the smoke running through the pulled pork and brisket, something in the jerk chicken rub, or maybe some magic in the Mojo sauce.

2. The Joint (801 Poland Ave., 949-3232; www.alwayssmokin.com)

3. Squeal Bar-B-Q (8400 Oak St., 302-7370)

 

Best Place to Get Boiled Seafood

1. Deanie's Seafood (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com) — Any seafood restaurant that includes a fresh seafood market under the same roof automatically gets extra credit. Deanie's has long parlayed the connection between its retail shop and its kitchen into tabletop mountains of fresh, boiled crawfish each spring, crabs each summer and shrimp pretty much anytime.

2. Big Fisherman Seafood (3301 Magazine St., 897-9907; www.bigfishermanseafood.com)

3. Galley Seafood Restaurant (2535 Metairie Road, Metairie, 832-0955)

 

Best Place to Get Barbecue Shrimp

1. Pascal's Manale Restaurant (1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877; www.neworleansrestaurants.com/pascalsmanale) — There's a reason why a cartoon shrimp is the mascot for Pascal's Manale, and it's the same reason why so many guests here don plastic bibs. This old-school eatery is the birthplace of New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, in all its butter-dripping, completely un-barbecued glory, and Gambit readers say it's the best.

2. Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078; www.mrbsbistro.com)

3. Deanie's Seafood (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Burger

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; www.portofcallneworleans.com) — The line doesn't lie. Pull up to this French Quarter tavern around dinner time any day of the week and you'll find folks waiting ahead of you for a table, with most clutching potent tropical drinks in plus-sized plastic cups. Our readers know the fat burgers are worth the wait.

2. Phil's Grill (3020 Severn Ave., Metairie, 324-9080; www.phils-grill.com)

3. Yo Mama's Bar & Grill (727 St. Peter St., 522-1125; www.yomamasbarandgrill.com)

 

Best Place to Get Fried Chicken

1. Popeyes (Citywide; www.popeyes.com) — It's hard to get New Orleans people excited about a fast food restaurant, but locals clearly count Popeyes in a different category. The spicy birds, buttery biscuits and other side dish sidekicks are weekly staples for some, guilty pleasures for others and Mardi Gras parade route necessities for countless revelers.

2. Willie Mae's Scotch House (2401 St. Ann St., 822-9503)

3. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com)

 

Best Place to Get Gourmet-to-Go

1. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) — Sure, you can select raw, bulk ingredients, soak your beans, quarter your chicken, steep your sauces. Or you can scoot over a few aisles to the prodigious deli for ready-made noodle dishes, pizzas, chowders and roasts. Our readers clearly love a grocery store that comes with this kind of "easy button."

2. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; www.martinwine.com)

TIE

3. Gott Gourmet (3100 Magazine St., 373-6579; www.gottgourmetcafe.com)

3. Chez Nous Charcuterie (5701 Magazine St., 899-7303; www.gotocheznous.com)

 

Best Place to Get Gumbo

1. Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; www.gumboshop.com) — No single gumbo recipe will please everyone, so maybe that's why the Gumbo Shop's decision to serve three varieties daily endears such perennial support. There's the seafood and okra gumbo, a smoky chicken and andouille gumbo and even gumbo z'herbes, an uncommonly found vegetarian gumbo made with a mess of greens.

2. Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078; www.mrbsbistro.com)

3. Acme Oyster & Seafood House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; www.acmeoyster.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Muffuletta

1. Central Grocery (925 Decatur St., 523-1620) — There are a lot of modern interpretations of the muffuletta out there: some are even filled with seafood and served on French bread, meatless! But Gambit readers respect tradition and order their meat-stacked sandwich at the muffuletta altar that is Central Grocery. Eat in, or grab a Barq's and head to Jackson Square for lunch.

2. DiMartino's Muffulettas (1788 Carol Sue Ave., Terrytown, 392-1150; 3900 Gen. DeGaulle Drive, 392-1150; 6641 Westbank Expwy., Marrero, 341-4096; www.dimartinos.com)

3. Napoleon House Bar & Cafe (500 Chartres St., 524-9752; www.napoleonhouse.com)

 

Best Place to Get Oysters on the Half Shell

1. Acme Oyster & Seafood House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; www.acmeoyster.com) — Acme has been a New Orleans institution since 1914, and while the company has expanded with restaurants as far away as Florida, the old French Quarter oyster bar is still hallowed ground for oyster lovers. But wedge your way in, and it may be hard to stop at just a dozen.

2. Drago's Seafood Restaurant (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com)

3. Casamento's Restaurant (4330 Magazine St., 895-9761; www.casamentosrestaurant.com)

 

Best Place to Get Pizza

1. Slice (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437; www.slicepizzeria.com) — Slice serves by the slice, but this isn't your typical walk-up joint. Inside the narrow, sleek dining room, pizza fanatics build single slices with the combinations of sauces and toppings just as they would entire pies. Gourmet extras like arugula and salty prosciutto help give each slice its own personality.

2. Theo's Pizza (4218 Magazine St., 894-8554; www.theospizza.com)

3. Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; 874 Harrison Ave., 488-0133; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Elmwood, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com)

 

Best Place to Get Red Beans and Rice

1. Popeyes (Citywide; www.popeyes.com) — Every day might as well be Monday for Popeyes customers, who have made the red beans and rice a most popular side dish. Popeyes founder Al Copeland is no longer with us, and the company is now based in Georgia, but those red beans will always anchor the menu in Louisiana.

2. Mother's Restaurant (401 Poydras St., 523-9656; www.mothersrestaurant.net)

3. Acme Oyster & Seafood House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; www.acmeoyster.com)

 

click to enlarge Chef Dennis and Kelly Hutley outside Le Parvenu, the Best - Kenner Restaurant. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER

Best Salad and Where to Get It

1. Avocado Salad at Caffe! Caffe! (4301 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 885-4845; www.caffecaffe.com) — Start with romaine lettuce and avocado slices, add gorgonzola and walnuts, then a garnish of orange and red onion, dress it with mango vinaigrette and top it with chicken salad, grilled chicken or shrimp salad. Caffe! Caffe! puts out a fresh, quick meal that beats fast-food options flat.

2. Spinach Salad at Zea Rotisserie and Grill (1525 St. Charles Ave., 520-8100; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-7733; 1655 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-0799; 4450 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-9090; 110 Lake Drive, Covington, 985-327-0520; www.zearestaurants.com)

3. Grilled Chicken Salad at Houston's Restaurant (1755 St. Charles Ave., 524-1578; 4241 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 889-2301; www.hillstone.com)

 

Best Place to Get an Oyster Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047) — Lots of towns are famous for their sandwiches, but where else besides New Orleans will you find crusty lengths of French bread jammed full of fried oysters? Our readers say you can find the best at Parkway, and that's hardly the last of the praise they have for this shop.

2. Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

3. Ye Olde College Inn (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-3683; www.collegeinn1933.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Shrimp Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047) — A really good shrimp po-boy should have enough shrimp spilling from the sides to make a fried seafood side dish. Parkway meets this ideal, and does so with large shrimp in a flavorful batter, making each bite of this po-boy's Leidenheimer loaf an explosion of salty, fresh Gulf shrimp goodness.

2. Domilise's's Sandwich Shop & Bar (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

3. Crabby Jack's (428 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 833-2722)

 

Best Place to Get a Roast Beef Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047) — This superlative po-boy shop on Bayou St. John gets top picks this year not only for oyster and shrimp but also earned the highest reader ranking in the fiercely competitive roast beef category. The meat is tender, the gravy is rich, the bread is resilient, and Parkway hits a trifecta!

2. Parasol's Restaurant & Bar (2533 Constance St., 899-2054; www.parasols.com)

3. Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)


Best Place to Get Crepes

1. La Crepe Nanou (1410 Robert St., 899-2670; www.lacrepenanou.com) — This Uptown hotspot started life as a humble crepe shop, and even as it's expanded by leaps and bounds the menu keeps crepes in the forefront. From a savory crepe with crabmeat and Mornay sauce to a dessert version with ice cream, this kitchen has crepes all wrapped up.

2. Crepes a la Cart (1039 Broadway St., 866-2362; www.crepesalacarts.com)

3. La Madeleine (601 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8662; 3300 Severn Ave., Suite 201, Metairie, 456-1624; 3434 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-626-7004; 5171 Citrus Blvd., Suite 2000, Harahan, 818-2450; www.lamadeleine.com)

 

Best Place to Get Tacos

1. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com) — Burritos get marquee billing at Juan's, but the three-to-an-order taco baskets have their own following for their array of fillings, ranging from the familiar ground beef in the Americanos, to the colorful vegetarian mix of grilled squash and roasted corn in the Mardi Gras Indians, to grilled fish tacos with mango salsa.

2. Taqueria Corona (1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; www.taqueriacorona.com)

3. Felipe's Taqueria (301 N. Peters St., 267-4406; 6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776; www.felipesneworleans.com)

 

Best Place to Get Salsa

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) — For the many fans of Superior Grill, the good times get rolling before they even place their orders. The popular house salsa gets things started as soon as it hits the table, ready to deliver chip-loads of roasted tomatoes, hot peppers, onions and cilantro all mixed fresh daily.

2. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)

3. Taqueria Corona (1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; www.taqueriacorona.com)

 

Best Place to Get Bread Pudding

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) — Commander's Palace is no ordinary restaurant, and its bread pudding is no ordinary dessert. Dubbed the "queen of Creole desserts," the bread pudding souffle is as grand as grand finales come, complete with a tableside ritual requiring the waiter to crack the crisp surface and ladle in warm whiskey cream.

2. Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661; www.palacecafe.com)

3. Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078; www.mrbsbistro.com)

 

Best Place to Get Creme Brulee

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) — The Creole bread pudding souffle may get all the press, but Commander's Palace's classic creme brulee — replete with scorched local sugarcane and a Dixie crystal fleur de lis — is anything but vanilla by comparison. It's rich, creamy custard perfection, like an old story told with reinvigorated verve.

2. Galatoire's Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021; www.galatoires.com)

TIE

3. Cafe Degas (3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; www.cafedegas.com)

3. Ralph's on the Park (900 City Park Ave., 488-1000; www.ralphsonthepark.com)

 

Best Cup of Coffee

1. CC's Community Coffee House (Citywide; www.communitycoffee.com) — Community Coffee could write the book on how to broaden a business without losing its homegrown roots. Now with 30 locations throughout Louisiana, the java brewer hasn't lost sight of what made its first shop in 1995 so popular: aromatic, jet-black New Orleans coffee, either straight-up or spiked with a pinch of bitter chicory.

2. PJ's Coffee (Citywide; www.pjscoffee.com)

3. Cafe Du Monde (Citywide; www.cafedumonde.com)

 

Best Place to Get Ice Cream

1. Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania St., 894-8680; 6260 Vicksburg St., 482-2924; www.creolecreamery.com) — Were one so inclined, a four-course prix fixe could be composed entirely from this Magazine Street parlor's over-the-top sweet treats. Scotch bonnet citrus for a heady start. Cucumber sorbet as a cooling intermezzo. "A Chocwork Orange" for the showstopper entree. Pink peppermint pie to finish — you know, dessert.

2. Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-0078; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com)

3. Baskin-Robbins (Citywide; www.baskinrobbins.com)

 

Best Place to Get Gelato

1. Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-0078; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) — It takes a damn good scoop of gelato to upstage the city's best cream puffs and cannoli.  The real-deal ones here — not Italian-style, but Italian — qualify, with a wonderfully dense texture and imported Sicilian ingredients like chestnuts and amaretto. Domo arigato, Mr. Brocato.

2. La Divina Gelateria (621 St. Peter St., 302-2692; 3005 Magazine St., 258-5313; www.ladivinagelateria.com)

3. Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; www.shopsucre.com)

 

Best Sno-Ball Stand

1. Plum Street Snoballs (1300 Burdette Ave., 866-7996; www.plumstreetsnoball.com) — Ask a local aficionado who has the best sno-balls, and you can count on a long dissertation. Here's a short version: Since 1945, Plum Street has been a summer tradition for many New Orleanians because of its delectable fruit flavors, creamy concoctions and new traditions like sugar-free lemonade.

2. Hansen's Sno-Bliz (4801 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9788; www.snobliz.com)

TIE

3. Sal's Sno-Balls (1823 Metairie Road, Metairie, 666-1823)

3. Pandora's (901 N. Carrollton Ave.)

 

Best Coffeehouse

1. CC's Community Coffee House (900 Jefferson Ave., 891-4969; www.communitycoffee.com) — If it wasn't for coffee, a lot of things in this city might never get done. Here's to you, CC's, for being the best stop along the way to work, for providing the motivation to get through finals and grad school exams, for giving locals the space to think and write, and for adding a boost to the Magazine Street shopper's day.

2. PJ's Coffee (7624 Maple St., 866-7031; www.pjscoffee.com)

3. Rue de la Course (3121 Magazine St., 899-0242)

 

Best Place to Get Pastries

1. La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine St., 269-3777) — Move over, baguettes. In La Boulangerie's kitchen, all dough goes to heaven, including the flaky croissants (chocolate-filled or traditional), airy profiteroles, sugary palmiers and oversized bear claws. Now in a larger location down Magazine Street, the French bakery can accommodate even more diet adulterers. Cue the madeleines: "No one has to know."

2. Maurice French Pastries (3501 Hessmer Ave., Metairie, 885-1526; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com)

3. Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; www.shopsucre.com)

 

Best Restaurant That Delivers

1. Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; 874 Harrison Ave., 488-0133; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Elmwood, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com) — In 2007 Pizza Today magazine named Reginelli's "Independent Pizzeria of the Year." While it may be surprising there's a magazine called Pizza Today, the restaurant's selection will confound no New Orleanians, who since 1996 have delighted in pies like the Parthenon (tomato, artichoke, onion, mushroom and feta) without ever having to put on pants.

2. Five Happiness Restaurant (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; www.fivehappiness.com)

3. Fresco's Cafe and Pizzeria (7625 Maple St., 862-6363; www.frescocafe.us)

 

Best Local Legislator

1. Mary Landrieu — A perennial winner in this category, Louisiana's senior U.S. Senator won re-election handily last year and now ranks among the most influential Democrats in the Senate. From her seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, she directs millions to the state and plays a leading role in the centrist push for a bipartisan health care reform bill.

2. Arnie Fielkow

3. Stacy Head

 

click to enlarge John Michael Rouchell (left) and his band MyNameIsJohnMichael - take home honors as Best New Local Band.
  • John Michael Rouchell (left) and his band MyNameIsJohnMichael take home honors as Best New Local Band.

Best New Orleans City Councilmember

1. Arnie Fielkow — Now that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is officially not running for mayor, all eyes are on Fielkow to see if he will don the reform mantle and reach for the brass ring. He has promised a decision no later than Labor Day. Whatever his decision, our readers obviously hope he'll stay in politics.

2. Stacy Head

3. Jackie Clarkson

 

Best Jefferson Parish Councilmember

1. Tom Capella — One of two at-large councilmembers, Capella is seen as a rising star in Jefferson. Right now, he's probably the odds-on favorite to succeed the term-limited Parish President Aaron Broussard in the next round of parish elections in 2011. Capella seems to have good political instincts — and that makes him someone to watch.

2. John Young

3. Cynthia Lee-Sheng

 

Best Political Rising Star

1. Arnie Fielkow — Ironically, friends of the popular New Orleans Council president say if he does not run for mayor he might get out of politics altogether. No doubt that would not sit well with our readers, who see Fielkow as someone with a bright political future. A repeat winner in this category, Fielkow is not term-limited on the council, so one option is to seek re-election in the February 2010 citywide elections.

2. Bobby Jindal

3. Anh "Joseph" Cao

 

Best Public Spat

1. Stacy Head/Veronica White — Woo-hoo! That was some public spat when city Sanitation Director White stormed out of the City Council meeting after Councilmember Head confronted her about not responding to emails requesting public information. Speaking of emails, it was White who later provided activist lawyer Tracie Washington with all of Head's emails ... some of which were just as incendiary as the ongoing feud between these two headstrong women.

2. Stacy Head/Tracie Washington

3. Ray Nagin vs. City Council

 

Best Local Scandal

1. Ray Nagin Emails — We should call this one "the best scandal you never saw" because Hizzoner's emails are still under wraps — at least from the public. Word has it that the FBI, which served warrants on City Hall weeks ago as part of a wide-ranging investigation of the city's IT office, already has the mayor's emails. This all started when Nagin violated state law by not turning over his emails and his 2008 calendar to WWL-TV reporter Lee Zurik, who filed a public records request for them. When Zurik and WWL sued Nagin to get the records, city attorneys told the court that Nagin's records had to be deleted from an overcrowded city server. Turns out Nagin's were the only emails deleted — and they were removed deliberately, not automatically because of space concerns.

2. Bill Jefferson Case

3. Crime Cameras

 

Best New Job for Mayor Ray Nagin

1. Garbage Man — Ah, Dante would approve of this choice. Hizzoner has less than nine months left in office, so it's time for him to start thinking about his employment prospects. Our readers want him on one of Sidney D. Torres' garbage trucks — no doubt as symbiotic retribution for Nagin's decision to hold SDT's French Quarter cleanup program hostage during a city budget showdown earlier this year.

2. Making License Plates in Prison

3. Cleaning the French Quarter for SDT

 

Best Reform We Still Need

1. Education — If you can read this, you probably agree that education has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina ... but it still has a long way to go in Louisiana. Reform is never easy, and some sacred cows inevitably have to get slaughtered in the process, but our readers want public schools to improve at all costs.

2. Crime

3. Mayor's Office

 

Best Do-Gooder

1. Brad Pitt — What's not to like about New Orleans' most famous part-time resident and most ardent full-time cheerleader? Pitt's Make It Right Foundation continues to rebuild portions of the Lower 9th Ward, and his starring role in last year's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was as much a showcase of his enormous talent as it was a star turn for New Orleans, which served as a picturesque backdrop for the acclaimed film.

2. Arnie Fielkow

3. Phyllis Taylor

 

Best Saints Player

1. Drew Brees — In three seasons, Brees has gone from discarded quarterback to the face of the New Orleans Saints and perhaps the Crescent City's favorite son. Nearly breaking 20-year-old passing records and emerging as an elite NFL quarterback will do that. The only question remains is if he can pass this team into a Super Bowl.

2. Reggie Bush

3. Marques Colston

 

Best Hornets Player

1. Chris Paul — At just 24, CP3 has already established enough credibility in the NBA to be compared to all-time greats like Isaiah Thomas and Pete Maravich. But some have argued that what Paul has lacked is a decent supporting cast. The Hornets are hoping Emeka Okafur is a step in the right direction for correcting that.

2. David West

3. Peja Stojakovic

 

Best Zephyrs Player

1. John Lindsey — He's played minor league baseball for 14 years and has yet to face a pitcher in the Show: It's a story line straight out of a Kevin Costner movie. But now John Lindsey has had successful back-to-back seasons for the first time in a decade, and with the Florida Marlins hunting for the playoffs, he may yet get to write his own Hollywood ending.

2. Brian Stokes

3. Michael Ryan

 

Best Jesters Player

1. Steve Fabian — The Jesters didn't lose a game all regular season long and much of the credit for that has to go to Fabian and his seven shutouts. All the more impressive considering his rocky start (giving up five goals in three games), Fabian went on to allow just seven goals in his team's next 13 games. Not bad for a rookie.

2. Brandon Chagnard

3. P.J. Kee

 

Best Big Easy Rollergirl

1. Fleur d'Lethal — Every Big Easy Rollergirl has a story, and this fan favorite is no exception. Fleur d'Lethal honed her skating skills weaving between wobbly tourists on the cratered streets of New Orleans and, according to her official bio, joined the local roller derby league to keep herself out of jail.

2. Pontchartrain BeAtch

TIE

3. Lacey Underalls

3. Crusty McKnuckle

 

Best Local Author

1. Chris Rose — Rose is a longtime reader favorite, and no wonder: Two recent columns gave Blue Bayou's 10th anniversary and Bruce Springsteen's 60th birthday the same loving hosanna. But his true measure came in the July "Ray-cation" guide, a survey of undelivered promises by our embattled mayor. Flowery Rose is fine; thorny Rose is better.

2. Poppy Z. Brite

3. Tom Piazza

 

Best Local Artist

1. James Michalopoulos — There's something about James Michalopoulos' warped, bending view of New Orleans that captures the city's true essence — whether from the heat mirage or merely too much Taaka. His oils seem to melt off their canvases, and his coloring of three-tone shotguns pops ominously in the crescent moonlight.

2. George Rodrigue

3. Frenchy

 

Best Museum

1. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, 488-2631; www.noma.org) — The picture of classic Southern grace, NOMA is pleasantly situated in City Park amid stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and various other flora and fauna native to one of New Orleans' largest open spaces. A trip through the museum provides an equally calming and inspiring experience with its collection of regional, national and international works of art.

2. National WWII Museum (945 Magazine St., 527-6012; www.ddaymuseum.org)

3. Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9600; www.ogdenmuseum.org)

 

Best Art Gallery

1. Arthur Roger Gallery (432 Julia St., 522-1999; 730 Tchoupitoulas St., 524-9393; 880 Commerce St., 528-2609; www.arthurrogergallery.com) — At the forefront of the New Orleans art scene since its inception in 1978, Arthur Roger Gallery is known for the caliber of the artists it represents and for the critical role it has played in the promotion of New Orleans cultural work — as well as the revitalization and sustainability of the city's artistic community post-Katrina.

TIE

2. Cole Pratt Gallery (3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; coleprattgallery.com)

2. LeMieux Gallery (332 Julia St., 522-5988; www.lemieuxgalleries.com)

3. Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (400 Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com)

 

Best Art Market

1. Arts Market of New Orleans at Palmer Park (2277 Dublin St., 523-1465; www.artscouncilofneworleans.org) — On the last Saturday of the month, the Arts Council of New Orleans hosts this dog-friendly and music-friendly art market under the Palmer Park arch, where guests will find the likes of Washboard Chaz playing and mingling amid hand-blown glass, salvaged street tile and wood sculpture made by local artists.

2. Bywater Arts Market (Markey Park, Royal Street at Piety Street, 944-7900; www.bywaterartmarket.com)

3. Freret Market (Freret Street at Napoleon Avenue, 638-2589; www.freretmarket.org)

 

Best Food Festival

1. Jazz Fest (www.nojazzfest.com) — There are those Jazz Fest attendees who plan their music schedule around the food. A jama-jama fix, for example, means several minutes soaking up Congo Square, and the wait for trout Baquet allows for extended jazz and blues tent eavesdropping. Thankfully mango freezes are sold in multiple locations, or we might never hear a thing.

2. French Quarter Fest (www.fqfi.com)

3. Po-boy Preservation Festival (www.poboyfest.com)

 

Best Place for Free Wi-Fi

1. CC's Community Coffee House (Citywide; www.communitycoffee.com) — Best cup of coffee, check. Best place for free Wi-Fi, check. If CC's can somehow add "Best recliners," "Best foot massagers" and "Best hideout from your boss" to its 2010 haul, New Orleanians may never have reason to leave.

2. PJ's Coffee (5432 Magazine St., 895-2190; www.pjscoffee.com)

3. Starbucks (2801 Magazine St., 897-4944; www.starbucks.com)

 

click to enlarge Sandra Badeaux examines a pair of frames at St. Charles - Vision, which readers say is the Best Place to Buy Eyewear. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER

Best Place for Family Fun

1. Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org) — Furry red river hogs, wily gators and silky sea lions are among the many creatures that reside at Audubon Zoo, a great place for kids and adults alike. In addition to daily attractions, the zoo sponsors special events and holiday activities such as Boo at the Zoo, the Louisiana Swampfest and Mother's Day with Irma Thomas.

2. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

3. Aquarium of the Americas (1 Canal St., 565-3800; www.auduboninstitute.org)


Best Local 5k/10k Race

1. Crescent City Classic (www.ccc10k.com) — We regularly close down the streets for a variety of events here in New Orleans, but none quite like the CCC. In a city known for its partying, this Easter weekend 10K is a chance for the healthiest of us to have their moment in the sun. Wholesome, hearty athleticism mixes with New Orleans' creative zeal to produce a unique fun-filled marathon complete with food, music and costumes.

2. Red Dress Run (nolareddress.tumblr.com)

3. Race for the Cure (www.komenneworleans.com)

 

Best Golf Course

1. Audubon Park Golf Course (6500 Magazine St., 212-5290; www.auduboninstitute.org) — Whether because of tradition, a fondness for familiarity or the beautiful view, readers again voted Audubon the Best Golf Course in New Orleans. The 62-par course provides a charming view of the park and surrounding area with its characteristically Southern lagoons and live oaks.

2. New Orleans City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com/golf)

3. English Turn (1 Clubhouse Drive, 392-2200; www.englishturn.com)

 

Best Tennis Courts

1. City Park Tennis Center (1 Palm Drive, 483-9383; neworleanscitypark.com) — The City Park Tennis Center, among the biggest municipal tennis facilities in the South, was named one of the country's most outstanding public courts by the United States Tennis Association in 2003. Along with regular programs for children and adults, the facility in recent years has hosted the Sugar Bowl International Classic, the New Orleans Oilmen's Tournament and the National League Championships.

2. Audubon Park (6430 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-1042; www.auduboninstitute.org)

3. New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club (5353 Laurel St., 899-1572)

 

Best Place to Get Married

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, 525-9585; www.stlouiscathedral.org) — One of the most iconic landmarks in all of New Orleans, with three towering spires facing Jackson Square, St. Louis is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Brides used to arrive by horse-drawn carriages; now they pull up in limousines. The destination — a bride's and maybe even a groom's dream come true — remains the same.

2. New Orleans City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

3. Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church (6367 St. Charles Ave., 865-7430; www.hnjchurch.org)

 

Best Neighborhood Park

1. Danneel Park (St. Charles Avenue at Octavia Street; www.danneelpark.ning.com) — Call it the little park that could. Danneel has been a safe, fun place for Uptown families for generations, but with its playground equipment slowing falling apart, friends and neighbors pitched in with funding and sweat equity — with assistance from KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization — to build a new playground for older kids and refurbishing the original playground.

2. Lafreniere Park (3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie, 838-4389; www.jeffparish.net)

3. Coliseum Square Park (Coliseum and Euterpe streets)

 

Best Place to Work Locally

1. Tulane University (6823 St. Charles Ave., 862-8000; www.tulane.edu) — This year the university celebrates its 175th anniversary as an academic institution, but it's always meant more than that to this community and those lucky enough to work there. Tulane knows how to keep its employees satisfied, providing competitive salaries and benefits packages — not to mention the free tuition — but it goes beyond this by maintaining a friendly and challenging workplace with plenty of room for growth and advancement.

2. Ochsner Medical Center (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 866-624-5637; www.ochsner.org)

3. Harrah's Casino (8 Canal St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com)

 

Best Festival Outside New Orleans

1. Strawberry Festival (301 N. 6th St., Ponchatoula, 985-370-1889; www.lastrawberryfestival.com) — Every April, the normally sleepy Northshore town of Ponchatoula gets packed with visitors from all over for strawberry delicacies of all kinds, cooking contests, crafts and, of course, a Strawberry Queen. It's Middle American fun, but the number of live bands that play over the weekend add a dash of Louisiana spice to all the sweetness — as does Hardhide, the town's alligator mascot, who lives downtown in a bathtub.

2. Festival International de Louisiane (735 Jefferson St., Lafayette, 337-232-8086; www.festivalinternational.com)

3. Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tenn.; www.bonnaroo.com)

 

click to enlarge cover_story-9.jpg

Best Carnival Day Parade

1. Rex (www.rexorganization.com) — The king of Carnival still rules supreme, according to our readers, who seem to have a soft spot not only for pageantry, but for tradition. Without Rex's arrival by boat on Lundi Gras, without the Boeuf Gras, without "If Ever I Cease to Love" and the doubloons and the toast at Gallier Hall ... well, it just wouldn't be Mardi Gras. Pro bono publico, y'all.

2. Zulu (www.kreweofzulu.com)

TIE

3. Tucks (www.kreweoftucks.com)

3. Thoth (www.thothkrewe.com)

 

Best Carnival Night Parade

1. Muses (www.kreweofmuses.org) — Hard to believe that Muses has only been parading for nine years. Unique and imaginative throws (those glitter shoes are the 21st century coconuts), stunning beads, satirical floats and general classy-but-bawdy attitude regularly earn the highest ratings from Gambit parade critic Rex Duke. Membership is open to all women, but the waiting list to be a rider just gets longer as the parades get better.

2. Endymion (www.endymion.org)

3. Bacchus (www.kreweofbacchus.org)

 

Best Place to Bike in the Greater New Orleans Area

1. Mississippi River Levee — No contest here. The 22-mile bike path is almost as long as the Northshore's Tammany Trace and follows the sinuous track of the river from the Audubon Zoo past Destrehan. Organized groups and solo bikers alike put the pedal to the path year-round, but on temperate spring days it seems that everyone in the city with a two-wheeler is out for fun.

2. New Orleans City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

3. Audubon Park (www.auduboninstitute.org)

 

Best Tourist Activity That's Fun For Locals

1. French Quarter — Why do we even ask? Where else can you stroll, eat, drink, shop, check out art, stop to chat and gawk at tourists all at once? Best of all, "da Quarters" has the mystical ability to be both unchanging and to present something new on each visit. There's a reason people come from around the world to see it — and it's all ours.

2. Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)

3. Streetcar (www.norta.com)

 

Best Way To Go Green

1. Ride a Bike — Biking has finally gone from the leisure activity of a few to serious transportation for many New Orleanians, and a bicycling community has sprung up to embrace it. Last year alone, the city doubled its bike paths, and even more are being built. And if you can't afford a top-of-the-line speed racer, DIY bike shops like Plan B and RUBARB will get you going on the cheap.

2. Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs/Appliances

3. Reusable Shopping Bags


Best Cellphone Drop-Out Spot

1. Crescent City Connection — Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Verizon geek put together couldn't get a signal in the middle of the CCC, where cell reception is blocked as if by magic. On the other hand: It's an incentive to put away your BlackBerry and actually, you know, drive.

2. I-10 near the Superdome/Arena

3. Causeway

 

Best Pothole To Avoid

1. Fleur de Lis in Lakeview — The depth and size of the potholes on Fleur de Lis make most of the rest of the city look as smooth as the Autobahn, as any longsuffering Lakeview homeowner can tell you.

2. Filmore Street at Argonne Boulevard

3. Freret and Calhoun streets

 

Best Intersection to Get Caught By a Traffic Camera

1. Clearview Parkway and Veterans Memorial Boulevard — This is one mean candid camera in the middle of one huge intersection. When the light turns yellow, slam your brakes and ponder what would be worse: a red-light ticket or a complete rear-ending.

2. Carrollton Avenue and Earhart Boulevard

3. Carrollton Avenue and Canal Street

 

Best Local Radio Station

1. WWOZ 90.7 FM — DJ Soul Sister. The Midnight Creeper. David Kunian. Billy Delle. Jivin' Gene. Bob French. Charles Laborde. The New Orleans Music Show. Blues in the Night. Jazz Fest simulcasts. Online streaming. Need we go on? Nah — we're too busy listening.

2. WWL 870 AM

3. B97 FM

 

Best Local Radio Show

1. Think Tank with Garland Robinette on WWL 870 AM — In a world of predictable talk-radio screamers, Garland is unconventional; you're never quite sure what his take on any issue will be, and his guests are interesting and varied.

2. Talk Gumbo with John "Spud" McConnell on WWL 870 AM

3. Walton & Johnson on Bayou 95.7 FM

 

Best Local Radio Talk Show Host

1. Bob DelGiorno — As he closes in on his 20th year of hosting WWL's morning news, it's clear that a lot of New Orleanians are in the habit of waking up with Bob DelGiorno.

2. John "Spud" McConnell on WWL 870 AM

3. Tom Fitzmorris on WWL 870 AM

 

Best Local Web Site

1. Nola.com — The online arm of The Times-Picayune features the paper's excellent reporters and some interesting blogs and multimedia. Now if we can only get them to clean up the toxic soup that infects their comments section. Mr. O'Byrne? Please?

2. Bestofneworleans.com

3. WWLTV.com

 

Best Local Publication

1. Gambit — Ah, shucks, now you're just buttering us up. Don't. Stop. Don't stop.

2. The Times-Picayune

3. The New Orleans Levee

 

Best Local Columnist

1. Chris Rose of The Times-Picayune — A must-read in the months after the storm, his output varies a bit more these days, but when Rose is on, he's on fire. His recent column about his family taking a "Raycation" in Mayor Nagin's fantasy Crescent City was an all-time winner.

2. Clancy DuBos of Gambit

3. Angus Lind of The Times-Picayune

 

Best Local TV Newscast

1. WWL Channel 4 — Familiar faces, thoroughness, a willingness to tackle complicated stories and a lack of gimmicks — in the flashy world of TV news, WWL is an anomaly, and New Orleanians love it. The only possible improvement? Bring back Dawn Brown!

2. WDSU Channel 6

3. WVUE Fox8

 

click to enlarge A group of Tulane employees gathers around President Scott Cowen - (fourth from left) in front of Tulane University, which won top - honors as the Best Place to Work Locally - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • A group of Tulane employees gathers around President Scott Cowen (fourth from left) in front of Tulane University, which won top honors as the Best Place to Work Locally

Best Local Blog

1. Blogofneworleans.com — Again, we're flattered. It's our daily repository for stories that don't fit in the paper, breaking news, random observations, and stuff that just plain interests us. We're glad it interests you, too.

2. Blackenedout.blogspot.com

3. Nola.com

 

Best Local TV Anchor

1. Angela Hill of WWL — Her many journalism awards. Her passion for the Saints. Her love of animals and devotion to their welfare. Her advocacy for diabetes patients, her penchant for wearing thrift-shop clothes during "Goodwill Week," her warmth ... Angela loves the city, and the feeling's mutual.

2. Lucy Bustamante of WWL

3. Lee Zurik of WWL

 

Best Local TV Reporter Who's Ready To Go National

1. Lucy Bustamante of WWL — Even as you were voting, Bustamante did go national, as guest co-host of Live with Regis and Kelly with Regis Philbin. The WWL 10 p.m. news anchor is indeed ready, but we hope she doesn't go anywhere soon.

2. Lee Zurik of WWL

3. Travers Mackel of WDSU

 

Best Local TV Weathercaster

1. Bob Breck of WVUE Fox8 — Since the retirement of Nash Roberts, WVUE-TV's Bob Breck has become "Your Weather Authority," and his blend of meteorology for plain folks plus his whiz-bang technological skills continues to resonate with Gambit readers year after year.

2. Margaret Orr of WDSU

3. Carl Arredondo of WWL

 

Best Local TV Sportscaster

1. Jim Henderson of WWL — Nothing to say here except that it's become a tradition to watch the Saints on TV with the sound muted and Jim's commentary on the radio. Besides his excellent play-by-play, the WWL sports director presents the night's jock news in a thoughtful, even scholarly fashion.

2. Fletcher Mackel of WDSU

3. Juan Kincaid of WWL

 

Best Local Commercial

1. Abita Brewing Co. "True Colors" — Beer — so popular our readers even enjoy watching it on television. A couple of spots highlighting craftsmanship and the range in earthtones of Abita Brewing Company's beers — Amber to Purple Haze — struck advertising gold with our readers, who were left thirsty for more.

2. SDT

3. Chip Forstall

 

Best Investigative Reporter

1. Lee Zurik of WWL — Having gone from weekend sports anchor to WWL-TV investigative bulldog (and thorn in the mayor's side), Zurik brought home the Peabody Award this year for his reporting on the NOAH housing scandal. Plus he's a nice guy — and has a sense of humor about his eyebrows.

2. Richard Angelico of WDSU

TIE

3. Bill Capo of WWL

3. Travers Mackel of WDSU

 

Best Reason To Pick Up Gambit

1. Entertainment Coverage/Listings — We love finding cool people and things to write about and clueing you in to fun stuff around town ... and we're glad you like reading it.

2. Food & Bar Coverage/Listings

3. Music Coverage/Listings

 

Best Men's Clothing Store

1. Perlis (1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985-674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) — For some Uptown families, it's a right of passage when a father takes his son into Perlis to buy his first seersucker suit. Whether it's suits and blazers, dress shirts, formal wear, shoes, or those ubiquitous Mardi Gras polo shirts, the store provides fashions that stand the test of time as well as suiting the tastes of multiple generations.

2. Rubensteins (102 St. Charles Ave., 581-6666; www.rubensteinsneworleans.com)

3. Jos. A. Bank (230 Carondelet St., 528-9491; 3320 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 835-1988; www.josbank.com)

 

Best Women's Clothing Store

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) — Women know shopping is not just about the clothes — it's about the experience. Saks provides the best all around shopping experience for women with the latest in fashion and top trends, as well as the accessories, designer bags, shoes and makeup to complement that perfect new outfit. The store also hosts several fashion events throughout the year, and it supports local charitable causes.

2. Macy's (The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 461-4800; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 484-4600; www.macys.com)

3. Ann Taylor (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 529-2306; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-1127; www.anntaylor.com)

 

Best Children's Clothing Store

1. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106) — If mommy takes you to this store, kid, she must really love you, or at least she has a terrific sense of children's fashions and accessories. Known for its tasteful assortment of high-end kids' clothing and toys, it's also the worst kept secret for being a shop where some celebrity moms and dads — as in Brad and Angelina and the Cruises — take their little tykes with the proverbial platinum spoons.

2. Orient Expressed (3901-3905 Magazine St., 888-856-3948; www.orientexpressed.com)

TIE

3. Little Laughter (5530 Magazine St., 897-4880)

3. Giggleberries (5509 Magazine St., 899-5509)

 

Best Shoe Store

1. Feet First (526 Royal St., 569-0005; 4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; www.feetfirststores.com) — A regular selection of new and sale items available in two convenient locations make Feet First a pleasant place to do your shoe shopping. Always stocked with the latest styles and brands, they also have the best deals and shoe sales around. Be sure to get on their mailing list for additional offers and info on special events.

2. Shoe-Nami (1508 Edwards Ave., 818-2940; 3102 Magazine St., 895-1717; 3319 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-0805)

3. Dillard's (North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com)

 

Best Dollar Store

1. Dollar Tree (Clearview Shopping Center, 4496 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7837; www.dollartree.com) — In these tough economic times, who doesn't love a dollar store, especially when it's nestled so conveniently in a mall? There's no messy coupon cutting, and you'll still walk out with some of the best bargains in housewares, glassware, candy, snacks, food, health and beauty, toys, party supplies, stationery, craft supplies, books, automotive products, pet supplies, seasonal goods and, yes, much more.

2. The Buck Stop (1519 Metairie Road, Suite A, Metairie, 841-3405)

3. Dollar General (1801 Airline Drive, Suite B, Metairie, 832-9924; www.dollargeneral.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Jeans

1. Jean Therapy (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 558-3966; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-6144; 5505 Magazine St., 897-5535; www.jeantherapy.com) — Next to buying a bathing suit, jean shopping will forever remain one of the most difficult, and potentially traumatizing, apparel experiences. The wash, the cut, the length, the brand — all things to take into consideration when looking for that absolutely perfect pair. So it goes without saying, a place like Jean Therapy is essential to the search, by providing a great selection and variety of brands and styles to choose from in a relaxed and friendly boutique environment.

2. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com)

3. Gap (Citywide; www.gap.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Evening Wear

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) — Saks Fifth Avenue is the fashionista's lifeline to the outside world of couture. If you're looking for evening wear, and a large selection of fresh and fabulous top-name designers from which to choose, this is the place to go.

2. Perlis (1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985-674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com)

3. Dillard's (North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com)

 

click to enlarge Madeline Yoste makes a customized banana split for a customer at - Creole Creamery, readers' choice for the Best Place to Get Ice - Cream. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Madeline Yoste makes a customized banana split for a customer at Creole Creamery, readers' choice for the Best Place to Get Ice Cream.

Best Place to Buy a Man's Suit

1. Perlis (1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985-674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) — When you're buying a suit, you want personable service, and that's what Perlis is known for. The staff is made up of experts, who will patiently answer any questions and will try to find a suit — be it seersucker, linen or poplin — that best works for you. Alterations are free for the lifetime of the suit.

2. Jos. A. Bank (230 Carondelet St., 528-9491; 3320 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 835-1988; www.josbank.com)

3. Rubensteins (102 St. Charles Ave., 581-6666; www.rubensteinsneworleans.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Lingerie

1. Victoria's Secret (Citywide; www.victoriassecret.com) — There's no mystery about New Orleans' go-to place for lingerie. Victoria's Secret has the best selection of sizes, color, fit and style at a variety of price points. Gambit readers know they'll find everything from the perfect T-shirt bra to that special-occasion lacy number at one of several locations citywide.

2. Basics Underneath (5513 Magazine St., 894-1000)

3. House of Lounge (2044 Magazine St., 671-8300; www.houseoflounge.com)

 

Best Store for Active Wear

1. Academy Sports (50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 263-6000; 800 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 729-4300; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320; 61107 Airport Road, Slidell, 646-4720; www.academy.com) — Active wear has to be versatile, and Academy provides an impressive array of clothing and accessories to suit any activity from working out or playing sports to camping, or simply looking like you actually participate in any of these pursuits. Academy carries all of the name brands including Adidas, Nike, Magellan, Columbia and Austin Clothing Co.

2. Massey's Professional Outfitters (509 N. Carrollton Ave., 754-7467; 3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; www.masseysoutfitters.com)

3. Sports Authority (4329 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-4700; Elmwood Shopping Center, 5151 Citrus Blvd., Suite C, Harahan, 734-7271; www.sportsauthority.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing

1. Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587) — High standards and a trained and fashionable staff of buyers ensure Funky Monkey always has a great selection of vintage and second-hand clothing. The store also carries a variety of shoes, hats, bags and other accessories to add variety and style to your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

2. Buffalo Exchange (3312 Magazine St., 891-7443; www.buffaloexchange.com)

3. Prima Donna's Closet (1206 St. Charles Ave., 522-3327; 3213 17th St., Metairie, 835.1120; www.primadonnascloset.com)

 

Best Store for Hats

1. Meyer the Hatter (120 St. Charles Ave., 525-1048; www.meyerthehatter.com) — After 115 years in business, this local, family-owned operation continues to offer the best selection of stylish hats in New Orleans and, we suspect, throughout the South. An authentic shopping experience that becomes rarer with each passing decade, stepping into this shop is like a trip back in time, where quality and craftsmanship are of utmost importance and elegance and grace are timeless.

2. Yvonne LaFleur (8131 Hampson St., 866-9666; www.yvonnelafleur.com)

3. Fleur de Paris (523 Royal St., 525-1900; www.fleurdeparis.net)

 

Best Place to Buy Eyewear

1. St. Charles Vision (Citywide, www.stcharlesvision.com) — The metro-wide eyecare empire's large selection and helpful staff will help you and your favorite four-eyed friends and family — and even the most wary eyeball — find the perfect pair. Here's to soon-to-be lookin' at you, kid.

2. Uptown Eyecare (4004 Magazine St., 899-3937; www.uptowneyecarenola.com)

3. EyeMasters (Citywide; www.eyemasters.com)

 

Best Thrift Store

1. Bloomin' Deals (4645 Freret St., 891-1289; www.jlno.org) — Supported by volunteers and a full-paid staff, the Junior League of New Orleans' Freret Street hub is a never-threadbare haven for university students and neighbors. Since 1960, the store's selection has included new and used clothing, books, appliances and other thrifty treasures.

2. Red, White and Blue Thrift Store (5728 Jefferson Hwy., 733-8066)

3. Buffalo Exchange (3312 Magazine St., 891-7443; www.buffaloexchange.com)

 

Best Shopping Mall

1. Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000; www.lakesideshopping.com) — Shoppers have felt Metairie's gravitational pull as the region's center of commerce, reeling in shoppers from parishes far and wide for its more than 120 stores, including a recent Macy's acquisition with the added convenience of new parking garages.

2. The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 522-9200; www.theshopsatcanalplace.com)

3.The Esplanade (1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 465-2161; www.shoptheesplanade.com)

 

Best Consignment Shop

1. Prima Donna's Closet (1206 St. Charles Ave., 522-3327; 3213 17th St., Metairie, 835-1120; www.primadonnascloset.com) — Used clothing stores that will recycle all you old clothes no matter their condition may be all the rage for recessionistas, but this shop (dubbing itself a seller of "designer consignments") offers a 50 percent split on items more than $98.99 and 40 percent for items below — it's no wonder the store also snagged last year's Best Of distinction.

2. Buffalo Exchange (3312 Magazine St., 891-7443; www.buffaloexchange.com)

3. Renaissance Interiors (3815 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite B, Metairie, 454-3320; www.yourrenaissance.com)

 

Best Toy Store

1. Toys R Us (3609 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-9513; 4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-8426; 6851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-8242; www.toysrus.com) — From the outside, it might look like any of the thousands of suburban box stores, but inside — with everything from video games; dolls that cry, walk, talk, blink and run a temperature; board games; clothing; bikes and scooters and thousands of action figures (dolls, if you will), it is the source of children's dreams and parents' salvation.

2. Magic Box (5508 Magazine St., 899-0117; www.magicboxneworleans.com)

3. Le Jouet (1700 Airline Drive, Metairie, 837.0533; www.lejouet.com)

 

click to enlarge When it comes to selling real estate, readers say Ricky - Lemann is the best male agent around.
  • When it comes to selling real estate, readers say Ricky Lemann is the best male agent around.

Best Place to Buy Furniture

1. Hurwitz-Mintz (1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; www.hurwitzmintz.com) — It boasts the South's largest selection of fine furniture, and with more than 80,000 square feet at its superstore, few will challenge this claim. When locals buy at Hurwitz-Mintz, they can be assured of quality because for more than 85 years, the Mintz family has staked its reputation on it.

2. Doerr Furniture (914 Elysian Fields Ave., 947-0606; 444 Port St., 943-0110; www.doerrfurniture.com)

3. Rooms To Go (62 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 367-4100; 409 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-809-3993; 5800 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-2688; www.roomstogo.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Lamps/Lighting

1. Lighting Inc. (8180 Earhart Blvd., Suite B, 486-5761; www.lightinginconline.com) — The name says it all: for lamps and light fixtures, Gambit readers go to Lighting Inc. A large showroom and product catalog provides a variety of high-quality options while the store's knowledgeable staff offers assistance and tips for planning your home's lighting and decorating scheme.

2. Hurwitz-Mintz (1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; www.hurwitzmintz.com)

3. Armstrong Supply Co. ( 3600 Orleans Ave., 486-5795; www.armstrongssupply.com)

 

Best Antiques Store

1. MS Rau (630 Royal St., 523-5660; www.rauantiques.com) — For those serious about collecting rare antiques, fine art and jewelry from around the world, MS Rau is the authoritative collector in New Orleans. For nearly a century, acquiring exquisite gems, original Tiffany windows, artwork by Renoir, and other precious items from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, are a typical day's work for this well-established, family owned business in the French Quarter

2. Greg's (1209 Decatur St.; www.gregsantiques.net)

TIE

3. Renaissance Interiors (3815 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite B, Metairie, 454-3320; www.yourrenaissance.com)

3. Bush Antiques (2109 Magazine St., 581-3518; www.bushantiques.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Wedding Gift

1. Adler's (722 Canal St., 523-5292; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 523-5292; www.adlersjewelry.com) — The right wedding gift provides a couple not only with a beautiful or useful item, but also a memento that will bring you to mind fondly every time they use it. Adler's is a pro at wedding gifts, whether you're looking for stemware, flatware, crystal or New Orleans-inspired memorabilia — and its wedding registry keeps track of what a couple wants and what they've received.

2. Bed, Bath & Beyond (127 Northshore Blvd., Suite 1, Slidell, 985-641-8664; 901 Manhattan Blvd. Suite A, Harvey, 366-1394; 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-1608; 4410 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-6930; www.bedbathandbeyond.com)

3. Dillard's (North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com)

 

Best Bridal Shop

1. Town & Country (1514 St. Charles Ave., 523-7027; www.townandcountrybridal.com) — No matter how laid back or formal a wedding, let's not kid ourselves — the dress is the most important thing to a bride. Whether she's walking down a beach or a church aisle, all eyes are will be on her, and the dress will be immortalized in photographs and video. Town & Country offers an array of styles to suit every bride on her special day.

2. David's Bridal (4630 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie, 779-6333; 61123 Airport Road, Suite 1, Slidell, 985-639-0333; www.davidsbridal.com)

TIE

3. Pearl's Place (3114 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-9213; www.pearlsplace.com)

3. Yvonne LaFleur (8131 Hampson St., 866-9666; www.yvonnelafleur.com)

 

Best Maternity Shop

1. Baby Bump Maternity (3331 Severn Ave., Metairie, 342-2347; www.nolababybump.com) — As the name suggests, when that bump begins to show, it's time to shop the maternity section. But rather than sort through racks of ill-fitting and boring options at discount stores, our readers suggest Baby Bump, which offers comfortable designer clothing for mothers-to-be without forgoing fashion and fun.

2. A Pea In the Pod (3300 N. Causeway Blvd., 834-1960; www.apeadinthepod.com)

3. Motherhood Maternity (Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expy., Suite 1343, Gretna, 365-0416; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 469-1162; Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-5572 ; www.motherhood.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Baby Gifts

1. Babies R Us (6851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-8095; www.babiesrus.com) — The drive to this mega-retailer is worth the trip for the one-stop shopping for everything baby related. From clothes to bottles, diapers, car seats and other infant accoutrement, the selection and prices are hard to beat.

2. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106)

TIE

3. Little Miss Muffin (244 Metairie Road, 482-8200; 766 Harrison Ave., 482-8200; www.littlemissmuffin.biz)

3. Orient Expressed (3901-3905 Magazine St., 888-856-3948; www.orientexpressed.com)

 

Best Place to Have Something Framed

1. Michael's (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Suite 1302, Harahan, 818-2112; 8851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 464-9884; www.michaels.com) — If something is important enough to be framed, it deserves the sure hands of a skilled framer. Michael's has a confident staff to ensure your photographs, paintings or other valuable two-dimensional items have a quality frame that will draw the beholder's eyes to what's inside.

2. Gordon's of Metairie (725 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9416; www.shopatgordons.com)

3. LeMieux Gallery (332 Julia St., 522-5988; www.lemieuxgalleries.com)

 

click to enlarge Bartender Dave Taylor pours a traditional martini with plenty of - olives at the Bombay Club, voted Best Place to Get a - Martini. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Bartender Dave Taylor pours a traditional martini with plenty of olives at the Bombay Club, voted Best Place to Get a Martini.

Best Jewelry Store

1. Mignon Faget (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-2244; www.mignonfaget.com) — You can't throw a Mardi Gras bead in New Orleans without hitting someone wearing Mignon's signature fleur de lis pieces. The stores, with their signature red and white "Mf." flags, house the namesake designer's carefully constructed love notes to New Orleans that fill jewelry boxes citywide.

2. Aucoin Hart (1525 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-9999; www.aucoinhart.com)

3. Adler's (722 Canal St., 523-5292; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 523-5292; www.adlersjewelry.com)

 

Best Local Jewelry Designer

1. Mignon Faget — The designer has been crafting her pieces since 1969, establishing herself as the quintessential New Orleans designer. With an art education from Newcomb College, Faget represents much of the city in her work, inspired by sno-balls, indigenous plants and animals and other New Orleans icons.

2. Tom Mathis at Symmetry

3. Dominique Giordano

 

Best Dry Cleaner

1. Liberto (4814 Prytania St., 897-2161; 8128 Willow St., 861-7812) — When it comes to relinquishing your favorite digs to the cleaners, have no fear when turning them over to this family-run business, which earned top marks once more from Gambit readers. Rest assured your Sunday's best will look it, and their eco-friendly cleaners will give you less eco-guilt.

2. DeLuxe (5325 Canal Blvd., 488-7733)

3. Young's (905 Harrison Ave., 872-0931; 5357 Franklin Ave., 368-4132; 6227 S. Claiborne Ave., 866-5371)

 

Best Hospital

1. Ochsner Medical Center (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 866-624-5637; www.ochsner.org) — More than just a hospital, Ochsner is a multi-specialty medical system with a network of community hospitals and neighborhood health centers. With more than 11,000 employees, including 719 physicians, this nonprofit is the largest private employer in Louisiana. Ever since its humble beginnings, it is has striven to provide New Orleans and the Gulf South with quality health care.

2. Touro (1401 Foucher St., 897-7011; www.touro.com)

3. East Jefferson General Hospital (4200 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 454-4000; www.ejgh.org)

 

Best Doctor for Cosmetic Treatments

1. Mary Lupo (145 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Suite 302, 288-2381; www.drmarylupo.com) — A leader in "nonsurgical skin rejuvenation," Lupo has offered patients cosmetics treatments at the Lupo Center since 1983. Best Of voters know to count on Lupo's team when it comes to looking and feeling their best.

2. Patty Farris (Old Metairie Dermatology, 701 Metairie Road, Suite 2A-205, Metairie, 836-2050; www.oldmetairiedermatology.com)

3. Calvin Johnson (Hedgewood Surgical Center, 2427 St. Charles Ave., 895-7642; www.drcalvinjohnson.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Facial

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) — This Magazine Street spa provides upscale rest and relaxation at an affordable price. Skilled and professional aestheticians address your personal skin care needs with specially tailored service and products to cleanse, exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin, leaving you refreshed and glowing.

2. EarthSavers (Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-0225; Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133; 5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; 3908 Hwy. 22 Mandeville, 985-951-8166; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

 

Best Chiropractor

1. Dr. Sylvi Beaumont (1138 S Carrollton Ave., 864-1234) — Dr. Beaumont is a perennial contender in this category, thanks to a devoted following at the Institute of Chiropractic Med on South Carrollton Avenue. As a yoga practitioner, her treatments include lifestyle regimens and body movement exercises in addition to traditional back and neck alignments.

TIE

2. Dr. Craig Ledet (8422 Oak St., 861-8000)

2. Dr. Mark Kruse (4416 Trenton St., Metairie, 885-8899)

3. Dr. Joe Stagni (3227 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2225)

 

Best Physical Therapist

1. Mo Crane (Crane Rehab Center, 101 River Road, Suite 112, Jefferson, 828-7696) — Physical therapist Morell "Mo" Crane Jr. and wife Sharon Crane, an occupational therapist, just marked the 10th anniversary of the Crane Rehab Center. Gambit readers recommend Mo, whose specialty is orthopedic manual therapy. The practice also offers post-operative physical therapy and occupational therapy.

2. Elizabeth Winkler-Schmit (Magnolia Physical Therapy, 839 Spain St., 943-8026; 880 W. Commerce Road, Suite 105, Harahan, 733-0279; www.magnoliatherapyla.com)

2. Rich Baudry (Baudry Therapy Center, 2721 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 841-0150; www.baudrytherapy.com)

 

Best Health Club

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (111 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Suite 475, Metairie, 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 112, Kenner, 739-1600; 701 Poydras St. Suite 1300, 588-1600; 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Suite 1200, Harahan, 733-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com) — With numerous activities for kids — swim lessons, martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading and general fitness — and a variety of classes for seniors, Elmwood Fitness aims to keep the whole family fit. For adults, there are weights, racquetball courts, pools and plenty of cardiovascular equipment, but the club also makes the mind-body connection and offers nutrition services, massage and a John Jay Salon at the Harahan location.

2. New Orleans Athletic Club (222 N. Rampart St., 525-2375; www.neworleansathleticclub.com)

3. Jewish Community Center (5342 St. Charles Ave., 897-0147; www.nojcc.org)

 

Best New Exercise Trend

1. Pilates — New Orleanians searching for new ways to be fit are paying more attention to Pilates than ever before. With a lot of local gyms and studios offering a greater variety of classes, it's increasingly easier to work this core-intensive training activity into your exercise routine.

2. Yoga

3. Fitness Boot Camp

 

click to enlarge Chef Mike Stolzfus and Lilian Hubbard share a toast in the dining - room at Coquette, voted the Best New Restaurant - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER

Best Place to Take a Yoga Class

1. Wild Lotus Yoga (4842 Perrier St., 899-0047; www.wildlotusyoga.com) — This Uptown studio takes a holistic approach to yoga study. In addition to its extensive daily class schedule, Sean Johnson devises a monthly theme (August: Soul) accompanied by recommended reading material, and even performs spirit music with the Wild Lotus Band. Anusara, Vinyasa and Iyengar are among the many yoga styles Johnson practices and teaches.

2. Swan River Yoga Shala (2130 Magazine St., 566-4922; www.swanriveryoga.com)

3. New Orleans Athletic Club (222 N. Rampart St., 525-2375; www.neworleansathleticclub.com)

 

Best Place to Take a Pilates Class

1. Romney Pilates Center (3701 Magazine St., 895-1167; www.romneypilates.com) — Erin Romney reopened her wellness center in a completely renovated Magazine Street building in 2006, and the updated design is striking: recycled resin wall panels, cork flooring, a bamboo-garden lounge and a bevy of the latest Pilates and exercise equipment. Romney also offers yoga and meditation classes, massage therapy, and Gyrotonic Expansion System sessions.

2. Elmwood Fitness Center (111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 475, Metairie, 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 112, Kenner, 739-1600; 701 Poydras St., Suite 1300, 588-1600; 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Suite 1200, Harahan, 733-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com)

3. Uncle Joe's Pilates Studio (8211 Hampson St., 895-5008; www.unclejoespilates.com)

 

Best Barbershop

1. Aidan Gill for Men (550 Fulton St., 566-4903; 2026 Magazine St., 587-9090; www.aidangillformen.com) — The seven-towel shave at Aidan Gill is a man's equivalent to a day at the spa. Anyone who can turn the torturous act of facial shearing into a pleasurable activity (complete with a complimentary tumbler of bourbon) is not just the best barber in town — in Gill's regulars' eyes, he's the patron saint of razor blades.

2. Magazine Street Barbershop (4224 Magazine St., 267-7823; www.magazinestbarbershop.com)

3. Algie Hailey's Barber Shop (603 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-1827)

 

Best Place to Get a Manicure/Pedicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) — Enjoy a glass of Champagne while soaking your hands or feet in their own bubbly treat at Belladonna. The perfect way to relax and pamper, manicures and pedicures come with a variety of options to make the most of your full-service luxurious experience.

2. EarthSavers (Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-0225; Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133; 5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; 3908 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-951-8166; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

 

Best Hair Salon

1. Paris Parker (Citywide; www.parisparker.com) — With five locations in the New Orleans area alone, Paris Parker's team of professional stylists work six days a week to provide a full spectrum of hair-care services including designer cuts, colors, and a range of styling options from blowouts to wedding updos.

2. H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; 3908 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-951-8166; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

3. Cut Loose Hair Studio (5537 Canal Blvd., 896-1026; www.myspace.com/cutloosehairstudio)

 

Best Day Spa

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) — It's no surprise that Belladonna wins the award for best day spa when it also collected this year's titles for best manicure/pedicure, best facial and best massage. Congrats to Belladonna for a sweeping victory among New Orleans' spa circuit.

2. EarthSavers (Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-0225; Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133; 5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; 3908 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-951-8166; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Massage

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) — Calming music, lightly perfumed air, and great décor are just a few things about Belladonna that make the spa's atmosphere instantly soothing. A talented and professional staff provide a variety of massage packages and options ranging from full-body therapeutic, deep tissue, warm stone massage, aromatherapy, table thai and massages for expecting mothers.

2. EarthSavers (Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-0225; Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133; 5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. The Ritz-Carlton Spa (921 Canal St., 524-1331; www.ritzcarlton.com)

 

Best Tanning Salon

1. Planet Beach (Citywide; www.planetbeach.com) — When less-than-ideal conditions limit the appeal of the outdoors, as they often do in our Southern climate, visit Planet Beach to achieve the look of a perfect sun-kissed tan. Reasonable prices and packages and several locations citywide make Planet Beach the go-to for a golden glow.

2. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com)

TIE

3. The Retreat New Orleans (801 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-7724; www.theretreatneworleans.net)

3. Solaris Tanning Salon (7605 Maple St., 866-4826; www.tansolaris.com)

 

Best Body Piercing/Tattoo Parlor

1. Electric Ladyland (610 Frenchmen St., 947-8286; www.electricladyland.net) — Finding the right tattoo artist is like finding that other special someone. Gambit readers know they can trust the artists at Electric Ladyland, who have been inking hearts since 2000 at the Frenchmen Street parlor (and winning Best Of honors almost as long), moved from its Uptown joint founded in 1991. But unlike your better half, your tattoo can be blown away with lasers, a service Ladyland also provides.

2. Eye Candy Tattoos (1578 Magazine St., 299-8222; www.eyecandytattoo.com)

3. Freaky Tiki Tattoo (2327 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 464-0053; www.freakytikitattoos.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Local Music

1. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com) — At a time when brick-and-mortar record stores are closing faster than mortgage brokers, Louisiana Music Factory has morphed from a retail outlet to a musical museum. It's home to countless indigenous cultural artifacts, from out-of-print soul pressings to local-only recordings, and host to a diverse lineup of in-store performances.

2. Mushroom (1037 Broadway St., 866-6065; www.mushroomnola.com)

3. Peaches Records (408 N. Peters St., 282-3322; www.peachesrecordsneworleans.com)

 

Best Bookstore

1. Barnes & Noble (1601B Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-641-0501; The Premier Center, 3414 Hwy. 190, Suite 10, Mandeville, 985-626-8884; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929; www.barnesandnoble.com) — Gambit readers fess up: While buying local remains the ideology of choice, sometimes you just have to surrender to Barnes & Noble's overflowing magazine racks, enveloping armchairs and foam-topped lattes. It's OK; we won't judge you. Just make sure you buy your dad's annual Sierra Club calendar from an independent.

2. Borders (3131 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie, 835-1363; 3338 St. Charles Ave., 899-1501; www.borders.com)

3. Maple Street Book Shop (7523 Maple St., 866-4916; www.maplestreetbookshop.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Pre-Owned Car

1. Lexus of New Orleans (8811 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 207-3100; www.lexusneworleans.com) — Lexus carries a reputation for hand-selecting its certified pre-owned vehicles, and Lexus of New Orleans is no exception. Gambit readers know they can trust the dealership with selecting the best car for their needs after a meticulous 161-point inspection. New-vehicle financing is available.

2. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 877-752-9160; www.lakesidetoyota.com)

3. Carbine Motorcars (3113 Tchoupitoulas St., 733-1377; www.carbinemotorcars.com)

 

click to enlarge Manicurist La Shonda Greenup shapes the fingernails of Anna Stevens - at Belladonna Day Spa, Gambit readers' choice as - the Best Place to Get a Manicure. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Manicurist La Shonda Greenup shapes the fingernails of Anna Stevens at Belladonna Day Spa, Gambit readers' choice as the Best Place to Get a Manicure.

Best Place to Buy a New Car

1. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 877-752-9160; www.lakesidetoyota.com) — Recession? Please. Gambit readers know a deal when they see it, and Lakeside drives home a good price. With three years of consecutive top marks, Lakeside leads the pack with its extensive selection and superior sales team.

2. Lexus of New Orleans (8811 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 207-3100; www.lexusneworleans.com)

TIE

3. Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165; www.peakebmw.com)

3. Royal Honda (5600 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-2277; www.royalhonda.com)

 

Best Financial Institution/Bank

1. Whitney Bank (Citywide; www.whitneybank.com) — In the face of economic collapse and big corporations swallowing up locals, Whitney Bank is a tried-and-true New Orleans institution. Though the bank has expanded to include more than 150 branches and 200 ATMs across the Gulf South, the company anchors itself right here in the Big Easy, gaining Gambit-reader love for its more than 120 years of service.

2. Capital One (Citywide; www.capitalone.com)

3. Chase (Citywide; www.chase.com)

 

Best Wireless Phone Service

1. AT&T (Citywide; www.att.com) — Could this win have anything to do with being the exclusive home of the iPhone? Whatever — if you want to make calls, listen to music and browse the Internet on the super-sleek, do-everything device, you must subscribe to AT&T's 3G service, making the choice of provider a no-brainer (for Apple diehards, anyway).

2. Verizon (Ciywide; www.verizonwireless.com)

3. Sprint (Citywide; www.sprint.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Home Electronics

1. Best Buy (Citywide; www.bestbuy.com) — Reason No. 1: that never-ending wall of plasma TVs, a feat every man hopes to duplicate in his own house. Reason No. 2: DVDs, CDs and video games galore. Reason No. 3: Unlike other A/V stores, the salespeople don't work on commission. So when they tell you to spring for the Pioneer, it's because you really should.

2. Alterman Audio (3213 17th St., Suite 7, Metairie, 834-5400; www.altermanaudio.com)

3. A-1 Appliances (Citywide; www.a-1applianceandelectronics.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Mattress

1. Bedding Plus (Citywide; www.bpmattress.com) — Readers are smitten with the bedding outlet whose unavoidable TV jingle ("We deliver a better night's sleep ...") sings through local broadcasts day after day. The likeable mugs of the Mutter family and its history in New Orleans home retail earned the store top billing for hitting the hay, even if you're humming that earworm jingle all night.

2. Hurwitz-Mintz (1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; www.hurwitzmintz.com)

3. Doerr Furniture (914 Elysian Fields Ave., 947-0606; 444 Port St., 943-0110; www.doerrfurniture.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Camera

1. Best Buy (Citywide; www.bestbuy.com) — Sometimes you just have to say yes to the big-box retailer, particularly when a large selection of choices and affordable prices make buying a camera easy. Best Buy has a wide range of merchandise at affordable prices, as well as necessary accessories, lenses and memory cards.

2. Lakeside Camera (2121 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-1776; 3021 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 885-8850; 3508 21st St., Metairie, 885-8660; www.lakesidecamera.com)

3. Bennett's Camera (3230 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-9050; www.bennettscamera.com)

 

Best Bicycle Store

1. GNO Cyclery (1426 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-0023; www.gnocyclery.com) — Never underestimate the importance of a knowledgeable and friendly sales staff, particularly when it comes to investing in a bike. GNO Cyclery not only provides top of the line machines in a variety of prices ranges, but can also outline the distinct difference between bikes to help you find one that's right for your exercise and activity needs.

2. Bicycle Michael's (622 Frenchmen St., 945-9505; www.bicyclemichaels.com)

3. Bayou Bicycles (3530 Toulouse St., 488-1946; www.bayoubicycles.com)

 

Best Sporting Goods Store

1. Academy Sports (50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 263-6000; 800 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 729-4300; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320; 61107 Airport Road, Slidell, 646-4720; www.academy.com) — Quick, where can you go when you're in desperate need of a football, outdoor cooking stove and a trampoline? For this and other real-life sporting equipment emergencies, the answer is Academy Sports. With several locations, there's usually one nearby.

2. Massey's Professional Outfitters (509 N. Carrollton Ave., 754-7467; 3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; www.masseysoutfitters.com)

3. Sports Authority (4329 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-4700; Elmwood Shopping Center, 5151 Citrus Blvd., Suite C, Harahan, 734-7271; www.sportsauthority.com)

 

click to enlarge Students take a Power Lotus class at Wild Lotus Yoga, voted - Best Place to Take a Yoga Class. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER

Best Veterinary/Animal Clinic

1. Metairie Small Animal Hospital (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; www.msah.com) — What's that, Timmy? Lassie's sick? Hurry, let's take her to Metairie Small Animal Hospital. They've been taking care of locals' beloved pets for 60 years, almost as long as Lassie's been alive. The hospital has 15 veterinarians on staff, cutting-edge diagnostic services, a fully equipped surgical suite and boarding and grooming services.

2.Crescent City Veterinary Hospital (525 Jefferson Ave., 894-0752; www.crescentcityvet.com)

TIE

3. Prytania Veterinary Hospital (4907 Prytania St., 899-2828; www.prytaniavet.com)

3. Maple Small Animal Clinic (7608 Maple St., 866-6316; www.maplesmallanimalclinic.com)

 

Best Place to Board Your Pet

1. Zeus's Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718; www.michelle.ingram.googlepages.com) — Separation anxiety can hit the master harder than the pet. Earning a third consecutive two paws up from Gambit readers, Zeus's Place owner Michelle Ingram and company know how to reassure man's best friend's best friend, with exceptional loving care and streaming pet webcams keeping an eye on your loved ones, which are just as fun to watch even if you aren't boarding a pet.

2. Metairie Small Animal Hospital (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; www.msah.com)

3. Canine Connection (3440 Magazine St., 218-4098; www.canineconnectionnola.com)

 

Best Place to Have Your Pet Groomed

1. Zeus's Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718; www.michelle.ingram.googlepages.com) — For your pet's show-stopping look, check out Gambit's blue-ribbon winner for pet grooming. Open seven days a week, Zeus's offers a full-range of services from nail clipping to breed-specific furcuts from experienced groomers who throw in plenty of TLC free of charge.

2. PetSmart (Citywide; www.petsmart.com)

3. Petcetera (3205 Magazine St., 269-8711; www.petceteraneworleans.com)

 

Best Hotel

1. Ritz-Carlton (921 Canal St., 524-1331; www.ritzcarlton.com) — There's a reason they call exceedingly stylish and elegant things "ritzy," and it has nothing to do with crackers. From its bellhops to its front desk to its Italian marble baths and Egyptian cotton linens, the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans oozes luxurious class. At Mélange, sample knockoffs of the city's most famous dishes without ever leaving the hotel.

2. W Hotel (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.starwoodhotels.com)

3. Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000; www.windsorcourthotel.com)

 

Best Hardware Store

1. Harry's Ace Hardware (3535 Magazine St., 896-1510; www.harrysacehardware.com) — Anyone who's ever gotten lost in the labyrinthine walkways of a Lowe's or Home Depot warehouse will breathe easier upon walking into Harry's. Need a three-eighths-inch washer for that toilet installation? Not only will an employee walk you to the right aisle, they'll put it in your hand with a smile.

2. Mary's True Value Hardware (908 Bourbon St., 525-6279; www.marystv.com)

3. Ace Hardware Oak Street (8338 Oak St., 861-4501; www.acehardware.com)

 

Best Full-Service Gas Station

1. Uptown Shell Service Station (6001 Magazine St., 895-8200) — Why did full-service gas ever go out of vogue? Surely it's not a matter of being chintzy — not when a $2 tip buys you a filled tank, a clean windshield and uninterrupted air conditioning. Try it at Shell, and you may never go back to pumping yourself again.

2. Fleur de Lis Car Care Center (247 W. Harrison Ave., 304-8583)

3. Gauchet's Rockery Services (722 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 288-8217)

 

Best Place to Buy Cheap Gas

1. Sam's Club (Citywide; www.samsclub.com) — Sam's Club cardholders have long known the store is the best place to buy fill-in-the-blank, so long as you don't mind having three times the amount you need. Gas, however, is sold not by the barrel but by the gallon, and typically at a dime or two less than the average station.

2. Discount Zone (Citywide; www.discountzone.org)

3. Brothers (Citywide)

 

Best Florist

1. Villere's Florist (750 Martin Behrman Ave., Metairie, 833-3716; 1027 Village Walk, Covington, 985-809-9108; villeresflorist.com) — If you can't say it with flowers, it's not worth saying. Villere's has more than 30 years' experience in botanical communication, translating your words into birthday bouquets, congratulatory arrangements, tasteful sympathy wreaths, and, most importantly, floral apologies. And if she still refuses to open the door? They'll deliver them for you.

2. 2. Federico's Family Florist(815 Focis St., Metairie, 837-6400)

3. Harkins the Florist (1601 Magazine St., 529-1638; www.harkinsneworleans.com)

 

Best Garden Store

1. Perino's Garden Center (3100 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie, 834-7888; www.perinos.com) — As a complete garden center, Perino's carries everything you need to make your garden grow, whether you're a seasoned green thumb or a clueless beginner. A full line of garden tools, pots and plant food compliment the wide selection of flowers, trees, shrubs and other greenery available to help you beautify any landscape.

2. Plant Gallery (9401 Airline Hwy., 488-8887; www.theplantgallery.com)

3. Green Parrot Nursery (201 Nashville Ave., 894-1100; www.greenparrotnursery.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Wine

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; 2895 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; 3500 Magazine St., 894-7420; www.martinwine.com) — Whether you want an inexpensive bottle of vino for an afternoon picnic, a selection that will impress a date, or a case of wine for a party, the experts at Martin Wine Cellar can direct you to vintages that will please your palate. The store also carries wine accessories, food and more.

2. Dorignac's Food Center (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com)

3. Elio's Wine Warehouse (6205 S. Miro St., 866-1852; www.elioswinewarehouse.com)

 

Best Liquor Store

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; 2895 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; 3500 Magazine St., 894-7420; www.martinwine.com) — Martin Wine Cellar made its name with wine, but the spirits emporium has wide selections of premium liquors, There's everything from small-batch bourbons to aged Scotches, gin and vodka, rum and tequila, plus brandy, cognac and grappa.

2. Elio's Wine Warehouse (6205 S. Miro St., 866-1852; www.elioswinewarehouse.com)

3. Dorignac's Food Center (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com)

 

Best New Orleans Neighborhood Grocery

1. Langenstein's (1330 Arabella St., 897-0869; www.langensteins.com) — It's the kind of store where your grandmother would have, or did, shop. Walking into Langenstein's is like stepping back in time. The cashiers know your name, the butchers can tell you what's the best cut of meat for a particular recipe, and the stock boys will help you take your groceries to the car. No time for cooking? They've got you covered with a list of prepared foods, and plenty of gourmet delicacies.

2. Rouses (400 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-2129; 701 Royal St., 523-1353; 4001 Gen. DeGaulle Drive, 361-5557; 4500 Tchoupitoulas St., 896-7910; www.rouses.com)

3. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

 

Best Jefferson Neighborhood Grocery

1. Dorignac's Food Center (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com) — It's amazing this place has so much under one roof: a kosher bakery that produces fresh St. Joseph bread, the classic French dessert croquembouche and pies; a seafood department that carries P&J Oysters; a gourmet meat department that features domestic spring lamb; a deli that will get you set up for any party or special occasion; and a wine and spirit department with 6,500 varieties of wine, more than 1,500 varieties of spirits and more than 300 varieties of beer.

2. Rouses (Citywide; www.rouses.com)

3. Langenstein's (800 Metairie Road, Suite G, 831-6682; www.langensteins.com)

 

click to enlarge Mary Landrieu, Louisiana's senior U.S. senator and one of the - most influential Democrats in Congress, was voted Best Local - Legislator. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. SENATE
  • Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate
  • Mary Landrieu, Louisiana's senior U.S. senator and one of the most influential Democrats in Congress, was voted Best Local Legislator.

Best Northshore Neighborhood Grocery

1. Rouses (Citywide; www.rouses.com) — Northshore residents looking for fresh Louisiana sausage made in-house know they can count on Rouses, which supplies each of their supermarkets with its own smokehouse and sausage kitchen. It's these kinds of little touches along with a wide variety of produce, seafood and prepared items that have Northshore Gambit readers choosing Rouses as their favorite neighborhood grocery.

2. Acquistapace's Supermarket (125 E. 21st Ave., Covington, 985-893-7554; www.acquistapace.com)

3. Fresh Market (1816 N. Causeway Blvd., Covington, 985-674-4105; www.thefreshmarket.com)

 

Best Supermarket

1. Rouses (Citywide; www.rouses.com) — Anthony Rouse, a Marrero native and founder of Rouses, opened his first grocery store in 1960 and renamed the store after his family's name in 1975. For years, Rouses Supermarkets, known for their fresh local produce and prepared foods, were staple stores in the Houma and Thibodeaux area. In 2007, Rouse took a chance on a city recovering, and bought out all of the Sav-A-Center and A&P stores in New Orleans. Earlier this year, Rouse died, but not before making many local families and shoppers happy he came back home to help us make groceries.

2. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

3. Winn-Dixie (Citywide; www.winndixiegrocerystores.com)

 

Best Farmers Market

1. Uptown Square — Localvores know to turn to the Crescent City Farmers Market's Tuesday market Uptown, one of its two weekly spots in the metro area. As the seasons change, expect a rotating cornucopia of fresh produce, seafood and prepared foods from urban and rural farmers along the Gulf coast. Cash in using the market's currency (crescents) for green plate specials and much more.

2. French Market

3. Girod & Magazine

 

Best Bakery

1. La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine St., 269-3777) — From hearty loafs to chocolate-filled pastries, this French bakery bistro offers much more than a baker's dozen of the city's finest straight-from-the-oven treats, earning top marks once again from Best Of voters. Grab a baguette for your bicycle basket to really nail the Parisian spirit.

2. Haydel's Bakery (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 800-442-1342; www.haydelbakery.com)

3. Maurice French Pastries (3501 Hessmer Ave., 885-1526; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com)

 

Best Place to Get a King Cake

1. Randazzo's Camellia City Bakery (3501 Pontchartrain Drive,Slidell, 800-684-2253; www.kingcakes.com) — The Randazzo's name is royalty when it comes to king cakes. For generations, the family bakery has passed down the recipe for its hand-rolled and braided cakes. And word has spread well beyond parade routes, because Randazzo's ships the Carnival confections all over the United States and even fills orders to some international destinations.

2. Haydel's Bakery (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 800-442-1342; www.haydelbakery.com)

3. Gambino's (Citywide; www.gambinos.com)

 

Best Place to Get a Wedding Cake

1. Swiss Confectionery (747 St. Charles Ave., 522-7788) — This generations-old bakery sets the gold standard for New Orleans brides and grooms. Gambit readers know a wedding isn't complete without Swiss Confectionery's signature blend of sugar, spice and everything nice, and the bakery's history is the icing on the cake.

2.Haydel's Bakery (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 800-442-1342; www.haydelbakery.com)

TIE

3. Gambino's (Citywide; www.gambinos.com)

3. Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; www.shopsucre.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Fresh Produce

1. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) — A big, colorful spread of fruits and vegetables welcomes shoppers to Whole Foods Markets. The chain aims to impress with its bountiful range of fresh produce and organic options. It seems only natural that it planted itself at No. 1 with Gambit readers.

2. Farmers Markets

3. Rouses (Citywide; www.rouses.com)

 

click to enlarge David Henley dishes up a slice of chicken and andouille specialty - pie at Slice, voted the Best Place to Get Pizza. - PHOTO BY TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFE

Best Jazz Fest Food

1. Crawfish Bread — Who is playing on the Acura stage on any given Jazz Fest day is less important to some festers as how long the line looks at the crawfish bread booth between acts. Marksville, La.-based vendor Panorama Foods has made the cheesy, spicy, crusty, crawfish-filled loaf a Jazz Fest classic.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Walker's Cochon de Lait Po-boy

 

Best Female Real Estate Agent

1. Eleanor Farnsworth (2727 Prytania St., 891-1142; www.eleanorfarnsworth.com) — How do you know you're working with the best? One way to tell might be the frequency and the size with which your real estate agent's name appears on For Sale signs around town. A woman who appears to have cornered the St. Charles Avenue market can surely do anything!

2. Charlotte Rivet (Prudential Gardner, 734 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 256-6755)

3. Brooke Arthurs (Latter & Blum, 7835 Maple St., 259-8311; www.brookearthurs.homesandland.com)

 

Best Male Real Estate Agent

1. Ricky Lemann (Keller Williams, 8601 Leake Ave., 460-6340; www.rickylemann.com) — Classic New Orleans charm and a superb sense of style make Ricky Lemann New Orleans' favorite male real estate agent. In buying or selling, his knowledge and expertise puts him at the top of the market.

2. Dorian Bennett (Dorian M. Bennett Inc., 2340 Dauphine St., 944-3605; 4721 Magazine St., Suite A, 891-2227; www.dbsir.com)

3. Tommy Crane (Tommy Crane Inc., 3702 Bienville St., 899-8666; www.tommycrane.com)

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