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Best of New Orleans 2003 

Earlier this summer, Gambit Weekly invited you, our readers, to tell us what you think are the very best things about living in New Orleans. Whether choosing a school or a Mardi Gras parade, a dance club or a steakhouse, a Saints player or a day spa, there were bests to be named, and you obliged. You offered some longtime favorites and added some surprises, too. This week, we present your answers.

Along with learning your top choices, Gambit Weekly 's writers also set out to devise some new categories with a few winners of their own. Following the results of the readers' poll, you'll find our annual writers' picks. Have the best of times with this year's edition of the Best of New Orleans ©.

On the Cover This year's Best of New Orleans© cover features model Veronica Oliver, photographed by Greg Miles in front of Ralph Marchetti's home in Faubourg Marigny. Wardrobe and accessories by Kano of Kun flam a Boutique & Gallery; makeup by Tracy Ewell of Tracy Ewell Cosmetics and Skin Care.


Best Movie Theater

1. AMC Palace 20 -- Elmwood (1151 Manhattan Blvd., Jefferson, 734-2020) -- Palace 20 was the first local movie theater to feature stadium seating and remains a favorite for local moviegoers. With 20 screens, there's always plenty of flicks to choose from, and the daiquiris and pastries sold in the lobby only add to the experience.

2. Canal Place (333 Canal St., 581-5400;

3. AMC Palace 12 -- Clearview (4486 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-1210)

Best Place to See a Play

1. Saenger Theatre (143 N. Rampart St., 524-2490; -- The grand baroque architecture, stately columns, glimmering chandeliers, plush seats and star-kissed ceiling always make plays at the Saenger Theatre feel like a special event. Broadway rules here -- look for upcoming productions of Nunsense, Oklahoma and The Producers.

2. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (616 St. Peter St., 522-9958;

3. Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812;

Best Actor Working Locally

1. Ricky Graham -- Graham is perhaps best known as the writer and director of quintessential New Orleans productions such as And the Ball and All and The Black and White Blues, but his acting talent also deserves praise. He most recently appeared in the family comedy/drama When Ya Smilin', imbuing the character Uncle Sid with heart and humor.

2. Roy Haylock/Bianca del Rio

3. John "Spud" McConnell

Best Actress Working Locally

1. Becky Allen -- New Orleans icon and ebullient diva Becky Allen has been a beloved local favorite for years, but she doesn't rest on her laurels. Allen continues to be one of the hardest-working local actresses, and her recent turn in Dirty Blonde showed her dramatic chops, with turns both as Mae West and a fan of Mae West.

2. Lara Grice

3. Janet Shea

Best New Club/Bar

1. The Wine Loft (752 Tchoupitoulas St., 561-0116; -- This Warehouse District hotspot quickly won the hearts of oenophiles with its impressive wine selection, especially in the by-the-glass department. For the late-night crowd, The Wine Loft offers upscale food and a sophisticated alternative to draft beer specials.

2. Club 360 (2 Canal St., 33rd Floor, 595-8900)

3. Mimi's (2601 Royal St., 942-0690)

Best Dance Club

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; -- Give it up for the DJs at OZ. House DJs such as Mary Pappas, Raymond Matixx, Tim Pflueger and Johnny Z. spin club mixes touching on faves from Madonna to Coldplay, helping make Oz the spot to shake your booty.

2. Club 360 (2 Canal St., 33rd Floor, 595-8900)

3. Gold Mine Saloon (705 Dauphine St., 586-0745)

Best College Hangout

1. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) -- Since The Boot is practically located on the Tulane campus, it's hard not to find it packed with partying students. They flock to The Boot not just for its proximity, but also for the ever-popular regular drink specials.

2. Bruno's Bar (7601 Maple St., 861-7615;

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

Best Late-Late Night Club

1. F&M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784) -- Sometimes tradition is everything. And F&M Patio is host to one of New Orleans' famed traditions: eating a huge plate of cheese fries, then dancing on the tables at 3 a.m.

2. Snake & Jake Christmas Club Lounge (7612 Oak St., 861-2802)

3. Club 360 (2 Canal St., 33rd Floor, 595-8900)

Best Gay Bar

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; -- A look at its weekly calendar will clue you in on Oz's longstanding dominance in this category: Bianca Del Rio's Gong Game show entertains on Mondays, there's Drag Bingo and "Calendar Boy" on Thursdays, and "Dancers of the Night" on Sundays.

2. Bourbon Pub/Parade (801 Bourbon St., 529-2107;

3. Good Friends (740 Dauphine St., 523-9938;

Best Neighborhood Bar

1. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville Ave., 482-9120; -- The huge frosted mugs (perfect for beer or root beer), the plates of fried seafood and Italian specialties, and the cozy front bar (usually with a game on) helped Liuzza's snag top honors in this category. Being around in the same neighborhood since 1947 helps, too.

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

3. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516;

Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club

1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 524-4222; -- Rick's Cabaret features notorious New Orleans stripper Gio on Saturday and Sunday nights, so lots of locals mingle with tourist patrons. Rick's is also couples-friendly, and women get in free as dates -- though that's irrelevant for the numerous bachelor parties that Rick's consistently attracts.

2. Gold Club (727 Iberville St., 524-4354;

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

Best Sports Bar

1. (TIE) Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; and Fox & Hound English Pub & Grille (1200 S. Clearview Parkway, Jefferson, 731-6000) -- With more than 20 large-screen televisions broadcasting a variety of different sports, Fox & Hound is just the place for sports fans. It currently carries every Major League Baseball game, and the upcoming NFL season means Fox & Hound's firing up DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package. Ditto for Cooter Brown's, where you can also watch every gridiron game around the league, and spend the timeouts choosing from the legendary selection of bottled beer.

2. Hooter's (301 N. Peters St., 522-9222; 4748 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie 889-0160; 2781 Belle Chasse Highway, Terrytown;

3. HyTopps (500 Poydras St., Hyatt Regency Hotel, 599-4825;

Best Happy Hour

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; -- With its outdoor patio and open-air feel, Superior Grill's affordable Mexican food and potent margaritas make it a perfect spot to unwind after a hectic workday. There's nothing quite like kicking back with a plate of nachos, chatting up the next table, and watching the streetcar rumble by.

2. (TIE) Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-2788; and Lucy's Retired Surfers Restaurant and Bar (701 Tchoupitoulas St., 523-8995;

3. Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308;

Best Place to Dance to a Live Band

1. Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl (4133 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133; -- Maybe the old-time bowling alley feel gets everyone loosened up, or maybe it's the top-notch zydeco, R&B and cover bands that regularly play Mid City Lanes -- whatever the reason, the dance floor at Mid City Lanes is always packed. All this and bowling, too.

2. Tipitina's (501 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-TIPS;

3. Maple Leaf (8316 Oak St., 866-9359)

Best Ladies' Night

1. The Dock (1926 West End Park, 284-3625) -- The Dock has become a hotspot on the Lakefront in the past year, and treating ladies generously hasn't hurt its cause. Every Thursday, a DJ spins tunes while ladies receive free admission and free drinks from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

2. Madigan's (800 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9455)

3. (TIE) Kenny's Key West (3012 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 456-9500) and Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200;

Best Bar to Have a Deep Conversation

1. Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; -- The Columns offers two prime dialogue spots: the stately, dimly lit Victorian Lounge, or the wide-open front porch supported by two massive eponymous columns. Whatever location you choose, there's something about the proximity to 100-year-old oak trees and the St. Charles streetcar line that fosters serious discussion.

2. Napoleon House (500 Chartres St., 524-9752)

3. Bombay Club (830 Conti Street, 586-0972;

Best Bar Decor

1. St. Joe's (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) -- This Uptown neighborhood bar offers the warm welcome of a classic long wooden bar in the front, with inviting pool tables beckoning from the back. Past the billiards, you'll find a serene patio area illuminated by Chinese lanterns and cooled by numerous fans.

2. Whiskey Blue (W Hotel, 333 Poydras St., 525-9444;

3. Rivershack Tavern (3449 River Road, Jefferson, 835-6933)

Best Jukebox

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; -- Owner Glenn Menish of Port of Call changes the 100 CDs weekly in the jukebox to keep the playlist fresh, so you can savor your Port of Call burger or monsoon with an always-changing roster of local and national favorites both old and new.

2. Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 895-8117;

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

Best Place to Shoot Pool

1. Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; -- Cooter Brown's might just have two pool tables, but the surroundings make it billiards haven. Cooter's is loaded with large-screen TVs showing just about any sporting event imaginable, and the gigantic beer selection will make your late-night scratches more tolerable.

2. Fox & Hound English Pub & Grille (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 731-6000)

3. (TIE) F&M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784) and Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 895-8117;

Best Place to Karaoke

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-2788; -- The spectacle of karaoke on Bourbon Street helps make Cat's Meow ground zero for karaoke in New Orleans. Its location practically guarantees a packed house every night, with the crowd egging on everything from Sinatra wannabes to Motley Crue crooners. And even if you're too shy to karaoke, you can still peer in from the street to hear the action.

2. Beach House (2401 N. Woodlawn Ave., Metairie, 885-1407)

3. Little Tokyo (1521 N. Causeway Blvd, Metairie, 831-6788)

Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary

1. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; -- Sure, Pat O's is best known for its hurricanes, but did you know that its Bloody Marys have legions of fans? Part of the attraction is location, location, location: there's nothing like getting your eye-opener on a Sunday morning while sitting in Pat O'Brien's lush courtyard.

2. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221;

3. Brennan's Restaurant (417 Royal St., 525-2302;

Best Place to Get a Sazerac

1. Sazerac Restaurant and Bar (123 Baronne St., 529 4733; -- The name says it all. Located in the Fairmont Hotel, the Sazerac Restaurant and Bar honors its namesake with potent versions of the New Orleans classic, served up in an atmosphere evoking the Old South.

2. Napoleon House (500 Chartres St., 524-9752)

3. Old Absinthe House (240 Bourbon St., 523-3181;

Best Place to Get a Mojito

1. St. Joe's (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) -- Mojito is the house specialty at St. Joe's, and it's not just the stellar quality of St. Joe's mojitos that makes them shine, it's the laidback atmosphere. Chill out on the back porch with your minty cocktail, where you'll find nary a mosquito thanks to the breezes blowing from the numerous fans.

2. Bridge Lounge (1201 Magazine St., 523-9190)

3. Vaqueros Restaurant (4938 Prytania St., 891-6441;

Best Place to Get a Margarita

1. Vaqueros Restaurant (4938 Prytania St., 891-6441; -- Whether you like your margaritas straight up, with salt, frozen, or in strawberry or mango flavor, Vaqueros has just the drink for you. All of 'em -- including specialty margaritas like the Dos Hombres and Grand Gold -- are fueled by a wide variety of top-shelf tequilas.

2. Santa Fe (801 Frenchmen St., 944-6854)

3. Taqueria Corona (5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 857 Fulton St., 524-9805)

Best Place to Get a Martini

1. Bombay Club (830 Conti Street, 586-0972; -- At Bombay Club, it isn't just the quality of the martinis, it's the quantity: more than 100 different varieties of martinis are available for your drinking pleasure. And with names like The Cajun King Martini and James Bond 007, there's a martini to suit your mood.

2. Whiskey Blue (W Hotel, 333 Poydras St., 525-9444;

3. Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308;

Best Place to Get Wine By the Glass

1. The Wine Loft (752 Tchoupitoulas St., 561-0116; -- The hip new Warehouse District hotspot features sophisticated bistro fare, but the attraction is pairing that food with The Wine Loft's impressive wine selection. More than 70 wines -- including reds, whites, Champagne and port -- are available by the glass.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., .899-7411; 714 Elmeer St., Metairie, 896-7300;

3. Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331;

Best Place to Get a Cold Beer

1. Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; -- How cold is the beer at Cooter Brown's? The thermometers inside its beer coolers read 32 degrees Fahrenheit -- and yes, that's the temperature for freezing, but the beers' alcohol content prevents it from icing over at such frigid temperatures.

2. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville Ave., 482-9120;

3. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516;

Best Beer Selection

1. Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; -- The numbers tell the story: Cooter Brown's offers more than 400 different bottled beers, and if draft beer is more your style, there's more than 40 draft beers on tap.

2. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516;

3. Lager's (3501 Veterans Memorial Blvd, 887-9923;

Best Casino

1. Harrah's New Orleans Casino (512 S. Peters St., 533-6000; -- The downtown-based Harrah's has settled in as the local casino of choice. Its buffet wins raves and the casino features live jazz from Marc Braud and vocalist Topsy Chapman, but it's the sheer number of gaming options that keep gamblers rolling, spinning and doubling down.

2. Treasure Chest Casino (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-8000;

3. Boomtown Casino (4132 Peters Rd., Harvey, 366-7711;

Live Music Venue

1. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 529-BLUE; -- For sheer musical variety, House of Blues is still top dog. Punk, reggae, rock, world music, heavy metal, country, jazz, bluegrass, and yes, blues fill the club's monthly calendar -- and national headliners are usually on tap.

2. Tipitina's (501 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-TIPS;

3. Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl (4133 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133;

Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months

1. Eagles at the New Orleans Arena -- Considering that the formerly estranged members of '70s supergroup the Eagles once said they'd tour together again "when hell freezes over," it's no surprise that their recent reunion tours have done bonzo at the box-office. The live shows -- including their 2003 New Orleans performance -- sound almost exactly like their old albums, and those trademark country/rock harmonies still soar.

2. Cher at the New Orleans Arena

3. White Stripes at the Morris F.X. Jeff Municipal Auditorium

Best Jazz Fest Performance 2003

1. John Mayer -- Youth prevailed for our readers this year at Jazz Fest, despite the presence of living legends Ornette Coleman, Fats Domino and Bob Dylan. Fresh-faced singer/songwriter Mayer, whose debut Room for Squares was a smash hit, won the hearts of attendees at his performance on the Acura Stage.

2. Fats Domino

3. Bob Dylan

Best Rock Band/Artist

1. Cowboy Mouth -- The Mouth still roars -- drummer Fred LeBlanc and guitarists Paul Sanchez and John Thomas Griffith (with new bassist Mary LaSang) are longtime favorites of New Orleans rock fans. And with the band's new CD Uh Oh now available and fall dates lined up with Cracker and Hootie and the Blowfish, the Mouth shows no sign of quieting down.

2. Bag of Donuts

3. 12 Stones

Best R&B/Blues Band/Artist

1. Snooks Eaglin -- Snooks still cooks. The legendary local guitarist regularly enthralls local audiences with his massive repertoire, dazzling and percussive guitar playing, and irreverent stage banter. Who else can deliver R&B classics like "Lipstick Traces" and "Mailman Blues" followed by covers of ZZ Top, Stevie Wonder and Bad Company?

2. Walter "Wolfman" Washington

3. Irma Thomas

Best Jazz Band/Artist

1. Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers -- You won't find a more generous entertainer than Ruffins, whose barbecuing between sets is as sweet and smokin' as his stage presence. His trumpet playing and warm vocals always evoke memories of Louis Armstrong, but Ruffins' brass-band background and diverse tastes make him a singular performer in his own right.

2. Astral Project

3. Jeremy Davenport

Best Cajun/Zydeco Band/Artist

1. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. -- He doesn't play accordion, but rubboard player and flamboyant showman Rockin' Dopsie keeps his family's legacy alive with uptempo zydeco shows spiked with acrobatic stage moves.

2. (TIE) BeauSoleil and Sunpie Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots

3. Rosie Ledet

Best Brass Band

1. ReBirth Brass Band -- ReBirth recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the band's contemporary brass band sound is still a wailing horn blast that incorporates traditional material with everything from hip-hop to soul. Proof of the band's huge local fanbase can be found at the packed crowds at its standard Tuesday night gig at the Maple Leaf.

2. Soul Rebels Brass Band

3. Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

1. Mystikal -- New Orleans native Mystikal is known for his rapid-fire delivery and catchy anthems such as his smash hit "Shake Ya Ass." He's still an ubiquitous presence on MTV (helping host the station's 2003 Mardi Gras special), and his progressive attitude is evident from his collaborations with producers such as the Neptunes.

2. Choppa

3. Master P

Best Acoustic/Folk Band/Artist

1. Theresa Andersson -- Andersson first gained notice on the local scene more than a decade ago as a member of Anders Osborne's band, but now the singer and violinist is really starting to turn heads with her blossoming solo career. Andersson's leadership of her new tight band, and regular gigs at the Red Eye Grill, bode well for her next album, scheduled for a fall release.

2. Sara Lucas

3. Mike West

Best Band That Doesn't Fit Any of These Categories

1. Bag of Donuts -- Bag of Donuts is one cover band that puts some work into their stage shows. Part KISS, part Wild West, part WWF, and part whatever else the band members conjure up on a given night, Bag of Donuts is always unpredictably entertaining.

2. Electric Swamp Gas

3. Chee Weez

Best Way to Improve Jazz Fest

1. Smaller crowds -- Our readers are probably still reeling over the attendance fiasco that accompanied the Dave Matthews Band/Mystikal double-booking in 2002, and we can't blame 'em. The 2003 attendance was down from 2002, but the question remains: if Jazz Fest keeps growing, what will Festival Productions do to keep crowds from becoming unmanageable?

2. Make it cooler: more a/c, mist tents, shade

3. Lower prices


Best New Restaurant

1. (TIE) Austin's Restaurant (5101 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 888-5533) and Lulu's in the Garden (2203 St. Charles Ave., Garden District Hotel, 566-1200; -- It speaks to Orleanians' dual reverence for adventure and tradition that two restaurants with such distinctly different priorities would wind up sharing this year's Best New Restaurant honor. Austin's is an old-fashioned neighborhood restaurant for the new millennium, a place where diners can cure hankerings for trout amandine and turtle soup in smart, suburban surroundings. Owner Eddie McIntyre cut his teeth at his Mr. Ed's Delis and Mr. Ed's Restaurant in Bucktown. Meanwhile, the original LuLu's may have been the bravest restaurant venture of 2002: in an Exchange Alley kitchen, located practically at the core of the French Quarter, Chef Corbin Evans dared to fry no fish, to call no soup a gumbo. Freshness in product and flavor still rule the small cafe and its patch of alleyway dining. Evans opened his second dream restaurant in the Garden District Hotel with an extended menu that offers nearly as many salads as entrees.

2. Mango House (8115 Jeanette St., 862-5848)

3. Carreta's Grill (2320 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-6696)

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

1. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville St., 482-9120; -- Was it the lusty Cajun Andouille Gumbo that inspired readers to vote Liuzza's their favorite neighborhood joint? Was it the monstrous stuffed artichokes? Perhaps it was the fried dill pickles or the fact that the kitchen cuts its own potatoes for French fries? We think it was all of the above, plus the Abita served in frosted bowl mugs.

2. Mandina's (3800 Canal St., 482-9179)

3. Katie's (3701 Iberville St., 488-6582)

Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; -- Diners flock to Deanie's, either to the flagship restaurant near Lake Pontchartrain or to its much younger, sleeker offspring in the French Quarter for "The Taste of Bucktown." Crawfish, crabs, shrimp and catfish appear on nearly every plate. The house signature, barbecue shrimp in a lemon-butter-garlic sauce the orange color of a hot iron poker, can be as luscious and as messy as any in town.

2. Sid-Mar's of Bucktown (1824 Orpheum Ave., Metairie, 831-9541;

3. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; 519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667;

Best Italian Restaurant

1. Vincent's (4250 Hwy. 22, Pine Tree Plaza Shopping Center, Mandeville, 985-624-2300; 4411 Chastant St., Metairie, 885-2984; 7839 St. Charles Ave., 866-9313) -- It's unlikely that Vincent Catalanotto knew just what he was launching when he opened the first Vincent's restaurant in Metairie in 1989. Specialties such as his housemade spinach-stuffed cannelloni, not-too-sweet red sauces and crabmeat-smothered fish have led to additional restaurants in Uptown New Orleans and in Baton Rouge, and the first official Vincent's franchise is enjoying early success in a Mandeville shopping center.

2. Venezia (134 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-7991)

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

Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; -- Few restaurants are as eager to please as this decades-old attractive Carrollton spot. You've got a yen but don't know what for? Five Happiness' menu is a catalog of Hunan, Szechuan, Mandarin and made-up dishes. Having a family reunion? The Imperial Room next door can fit all of you.

2. Trey Yuen (600 N. Causeway Approach, Mandeville, 985-626-4476)

3. P.F. Chang's China Bistro (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 828-5288;

Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

1. Sake Cafe (4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-7253; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-8829) and Sake Cafe Japanese Restaurant (2830 Magazine St., 894-0033) -- While Sake Cafe locations operate under different ownership, each restaurant presents the kind of upscale, youthful Japanese dining experience now infiltrating every moderately sized town in the country. The lights are dimmed, the surfaces are hard and the sake selection is worthy of its own Best Of category. The extensive menu of Japanese-styled appetizers, salads and entrees allows even the sushi-phobic to discover Eastern eating.

2. Shogun Japanese Restaurant and Steak House (2325 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-7477)

3. Ninja (8433 Oak St., 866-1119)

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay Restaurant (1565 Tulane Ave., 524-4669; 3116 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 780-1063; 113 C Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) -- The taste for Vietnamese food in New Orleans and the local Pho Tau Bay restaurant chain have been expanding in tandem over the past few years. Many Orleanians slurped their first bowls of pho at the original Pho Tau Bay, which operated quietly in Gretna for more than two decades prior to the current Vietnamese restaurant boom. The clear noodle soups are exhilarating when doctored with fresh herbs, hot chile peppers and hoisin and fish sauces.

2. Nine Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

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

Best Thai Restaurant

1. Basil Leaf (1438 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-9001) -- There's growing demand throughout the country for upscale Asian restaurants -- restaurants where spring rolls are served on china plates and servers are dying to discuss the merits of the kaffir lime leaf. Chef-owner Siam Titiparwat, a Bangkok native, apprenticed at his mother's restaurant beginning at age 5. Today his cooking looks and tastes as fined-tuned as Basil Leaf itself, a neat white tablecloth restaurant situated along oak-lined Carrollton Avenue.

2. Bangkok Cuisine (4137 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3606)

3. Siam Cafe (435 Esplanade Ave., 949-1750)

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

1. Byblos (1501 Metairie Road., Metairie, 834-9773; 2020 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9777; 3218 Magazine St., 894-1233) -- As each has its own vote-catching merits, it's impossible to deduce which of the three Byblos locations our readers meant to identify as the city's best. The Old Metairie restaurant is a comfortable bastion of clean, carefully prepared dishes, and the newest Byblos Uptown plays to an urban crowd with its always-buzzing bar and al fresco dining along Magazine Street. The Middle Eastern market and deli in Metairie, where the chicken shawarma is unbeatable, is a supplement to them both.

2. Mona's (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 3149 Calhoun St., 861-2124; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743; 4126 Magazine St., 894-9800)

3. Lebanon's Cafe (1506 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-6200)

Best Mexican Restaurant

1. Taqueria Corona (857 Fulton St., 524-9805; 1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974) -- It's possible to receive a bill at Taqueria Corona that just barely exceeds the price of fast food, and yet the cocina at all four locations aspires to much greater tastes. Readers return again and again for Taqueria Corona's soft-shell tacos (try the tongue), fresh pico de gallo salsa and salty grill-charred green onions.

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

3. Chevy's Fresh Mex (1201 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 368-2100; 1325 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 469-5657; 3330 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-7788;

Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Serrano's Salsa Company (4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 780-2354; -- The most popular Latin American restaurant is located in Metairie's recently reinvigorated Clearview Mall. The second restaurant in a Louisiana mini-chain, this Serrano's brings uncommon dishes such as posole and sweet sopaipillas into the local mainstream. The menu represents several Latin American countries, though Mexican dishes in the taco-burrito-enchilada realm get the most plate time.

2. Liborio Cuban Restaurant (321 Magazine St, 581-9680)

3. (TIE) Casa Garcia Mexican Restaurant (8814 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 464-0354) and Pupuseria Divino Corazon (2300 Belle Chasse Hwy., Gretna, 368-5724)

Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. The Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934; 901-07 S. Peters St., 523-3973; -- Praline Connection's menu covers the soul food basics, including a few unorthodox vegetarian dishes. Generous portions of red beans, white beans, lima beans and crowder peas offer the biggest bang for the buck. For dessert, there's bread pudding with praline sauce, or one of the fabulous namesake candies, prepared in a variety of flavors.

2. Dunbar's Creole Cooking (4927 Freret St., 899-0734)

3. Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0600)

Best Steakhouse

1. Ruth's Chris Steak House (711 N. Broad St., 486-0810; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600; -- The late Ruth Fertel was the powerhouse whose hard work and famously brass-tacks personality made this steakhouse into a national chain. Though there are currently more than 50 Ruth's Chris Steak Houses serving USDA Prime steaks in bubbling butter sauces, fans say that Fertel's legacy is still palpable at both New Orleans locations.

2. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 522-CHOP;

3. Crescent City Steakhouse (1001 N. Broad St., 821-3271)

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9573) -- There may be no better source for red beans just prior to midnight on a Monday or for a palm-size fried hamburger and chocolate freeze in the dark hours before final exams. Day and night, diners hunch elbow-to-elbow over impossibly light omelettes and slices of chocolate pecan pie toasted on the griddle.

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

3. Trolley Stop Cafe (614 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9301)

Best Breakfast Spot

1. Bluebird Cafe (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166) -- Even in the brain-bending heat of summer, a line stretches outside Bluebird Cafe on weekend mornings. Some customers bring umbrellas for relief, others icy Frappuccinos -- whatever it takes to hold out for Bluebird's huevos rancheros with salsa and black beans, or hearty banana-pecan-blueberry pancakes.

2. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9573)

3. Betsy's Pancake House (2542 Canal St., 822-0213)

Best Place to Feed the Whole Family

1. Piccadilly Cafeteria (Citywide; -- If you've ever taken a family road trip, chances are you've hit one of the South's 170-and-counting Piccadilly Cafeterias. Few restaurants more swiftly accommodate a carload of tastes. The menu is a collection of Southern favorites, from fried okra to red velvet cake. Kids eat cupcakes, Jell-O and macaroni and cheese, sometimes in that order. Thursday nights, kids eat even cheaper and there's entertainment, to boot.

2. R&O Pizza Place (216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248)

3. Shoney's (Citywide;

Best Romantic Restaurant

1. Bella Luna Restaurant (914 N. Peters St., 529-1583; -- Bella Luna's romantic appeal begins prior to entering, when diners must follow a series of small signs and arrows to find the bellman-guarded elevator hiding near the French Market. Two floors up, smartly dressed employees immediately set to work at making each moment feel like a special occasion. Fresh flowers, fine Champagne, cozy booths and a view of the Mississippi -- no wonder so many engagements have been brokered here.

2. La Crepe Nanou (1410 Robert St., 899-2670)

3. Feelings Cafe (2600 Chartres St., 945-2222;

Best Cheap Eats

1. Dot's Diner (2317 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 831-3681; 4150 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 833-9349; 6633 Airline Drive, Metairie, 734-0301; 6701 Jefferson Hwy., River Ridge, 738-9678) -- Dot's offers hungry-man portions for bargain prices. The Big Dot Breakfast includes a taste of just about every breakfast food for $6.29. Dot's menu includes a variety of hamburgers, omelettes and daily specials -- and coffee refills are free no matter how long you linger.

2. Taco Bell (Citywide;

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

Best Healthy Menu

1. Old Dog New Trick Cafe (517 Frenchmen St., 943-6368; -- The Tempehbrauten Sandwiches, Tofurama Bowls and fresh watermelon juice help make Old Dog New Trick's menu the healthiest in town. Burgers are made with brown rice, millet, lentils and sunflower seeds, and bagels are served with organic cream cheese in this bright, neon-lit Frenchmen Street space.

2. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119;

3. Subway (Citywide;

Best Dessert Menu

1. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro (2001 St. Charles Ave., 593-9955; 4517 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7620; -- The first encounter at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro is with the dessert case: six-layer carrot cakes, cobblestone slices of white chocolate bread pudding, cheesecakes garnished with Oreo-like sandwich cookies, chocolate drizzled everywhere. As the name suggests, this is ground zero for sweet, creamy cheesecakes served with innumerable toppings in portions the extended family can enjoy.

2. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221;

3. Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661;

Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- At Commander's, brunch is an occasion. It traditionally begins with a cocktail, extends through several courses and doesn't fizzle out until the last drip of coffee and chicory. The menu is serious in size and content, offering seasonal specials and standards such as turtle soup and the famous bread pudding souffle.

2. Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261;

3. Brennan's Restaurant (417 Royal St., 525-9713;

Best Lunch Specials

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Commander's two-course Express Lunches, starting at $13, make for an honest noon meal served in antique New Orleans style. The two-course specials aside, we wouldn't put it past our readers to vote for Commander's lunches for the $.25 martini deal alone.

2. Bacco (310 Chartres St., 522-2426;

3. Semolina (Citywide;

Best Buffet

1. King Buffet (601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-4383) -- Our readers no doubt appreciate King Buffet's breadth: the kitchen is versed in more than 250 recipes, and at least 100 different selections are available at one time. Sauteed blue crabs, spicy shrimp, frog legs and oysters on the half-shell are some of the restaurant's crown jewels.

2. Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797)

3. The Buffet at Harrah's (512 S. Peters St., 525-6658;

Best Wine List

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; -- Martin Wine Cellar doesn't have a mere list but two entire stores, and each store is arguably the premier wine purveyor in its vicinity. Shoppers may choose any bottle -- from an $8 Bonny Doon Riesling to a $200 Chateau d'Ychem Sauternes -- and drink it sans corkage fee with lunch or dinner from the deli.

2. (TIE) Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393; and Brennan's Restaurant (417 Royal St., 525-9713;

3. Antoine's (713 St. Louis St., 581-4422;

Best Chef

1. Emeril Lagasse -- In addition to being deservedly recognized as an innovative chef, Emeril merits a nod for being New Orleans' Best PR Man, as his cookbooks, Food Network programs and cheeky mug have brought inestimable cachet to the city and its food scene over the past decade. All three of his New Orleans restaurants -- Emeril's, Emeril's Delmonico and NOLA -- continue to hold their own in the city's upper echelon of fine dining.

2. Susan Spicer

3. Frank Brigtsen

Best Service

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Everyone at Commander's seems to be treated like a dignitary. Just try to sit two minutes with an empty water glass. Impossible. Let a linen napkin slide from your lap -- we bet staff members will respond before it hits the floor.

2. Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393;

3. Galatoire's Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021;

Best Dining Atmosphere

1. Bella Luna Restaurant (914 N. Peters St., 529-1583; -- There are several ways to eat at Bella Luna. The most coveted seating is along a wall of windows overlooking the Mississippi River, though readers also enjoy a more intimate dining room adjacent to the entrance and the cushy-backed seats at the bar. The Terrace Room, surrounded by glass and thus the riverfront's twinkle of lights, is available for private parties and receptions.

2. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221;

3. Jacques-Imo's Cafe (8324 Oak St., 861-0886;

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Cafe Degas (3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; -- Is it really outdoors if there's a roof? If plastic walls can keep out the rain? If it's enjoyable to eat classic French onion soup there -- in August? Semantics notwithstanding, Cafe Degas' temperature-controlled, practically wall-free dining room allows diners to both experience and appreciate the weather during any month of the year. It may not technically be outdoors -- and we think that might be why readers voted for Degas in our summertime poll.

2. Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261;

3. Martinique Bistro (5908 Magazine St., 891-8495)

Best Hotel Restaurant

1. The Grill Room (300 Gravier St., Windsor Court Hotel, 522-1992; -- From the floral arrangement at the entrance, which usually resembles a small building and smells like heaven, to the minutely orchestrated service, dinner here is one luxury after another. This vote indicates that new Chef Jonathan Wright's cuisine may be added to the luxury list.

2. The Rib Room (621 St. Louis St., Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, 529-7046;

3. Cobalt (333 St. Charles Ave., Hotel Monaco, 565-5595;

Best Restaurant With a View

1. Bella Luna Restaurant (914 N. Peters St., 529-1583; -- You only need to climb two elevator floors to reach our readers' favorite restaurant view. By moonglow, Bella Luna's unhindered panorama of the Mississippi River is a spectacle of twinkling lights, glistening water and ships passing in the night.

2. Riverview Restaurant (555 Canal St., Marriott Hotel, 553-5638)

3. Lakefront location of Acme Oyster House (7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200;

Best Overall Restaurant

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Our readers' favorite restaurant for bread pudding, brunch, lunch specials, turtle soup, creme brulee (and how about those $.25 martinis?) also gets their vote for Best Overall Restaurant. The Brennan Family, several members of which took over Commander's Palace in 1974, is unmatched in its ability to merge Southern hospitality, consistency and devotion to fine cooking in one restaurant.

2. Galatoire's Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021;

3. Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393;

Best Place to Get Gourmet-to-Go

1. Foodies Kitchen (7457 St. Charles Ave., 865-8646; 720 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9695; -- Commander's Palace co-owner Ti Martin founded this take-out mecca on the notion that Orleanians would enjoy the edible luxuries of eating out even while eating in. Suddenly Commander's Palace turtle soup was being eaten with plastic spoons during primetime all over the city. Bob and Karyn Champagne, who purchased Foodies Kitchen last winter, have maintained the general construct, including the turtle soup.

2. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119;

3. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350;

Best Deli

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; -- Martin Wine Cellar's deli menu is a knock-out. The roughly 40 sandwich options range from a bagel with cream cheese to the Mouthbuster: pastrami and French fries on toasted rye bread with all the dressings. The daily specials can get pretty elaborate, such as duck l'orange and oysters Rockefeller soup.

2. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119;

3. Kosher Cajun N.Y. Deli and Grocery (3519 Severn Ave., Metairie, 888-2010;

Best Place to Get a Salad

1. Houston's (4241 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 889-2301; 1755 St. Charles Ave., 524-1578; -- Readers clamoring for their favorite salads crowd into both Houston's every night. From the Caesar to the Sashimi Tuna Salad to the Evil Jungle Thai Noodle Salad, the tossed-to-order salads are fresh and entree-size.

2. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119;

3. Cafe Rani (2917 Magazine St., 895-2500)

Best Place to Get a Muffaletta

1. Central Grocery (923 Decatur St., 523-1620) -- Most people agree that Salvatore Lupo invented the muffaletta here in the 1920s; the antique-looking Italian grocery and deli has passed down through Lupo's family. The discus-size sandwiches are made with salami, ham, mortadella, Emmentaler cheese, housemade olive salad and round sesame bread.

2. Napoleon House Cafe (500 Chartres St., 524-9752)

3. R&O Pizza Place (216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248)

Best Place to Get Oysters on the Half Shell

1. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; 519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667; -- The menu of this native chain restaurant, established in the French Quarter in the early 1900s, has expanded with each new restaurant. Yet all three center around the oyster bar, and many customers never make it to a table. Acme has also fusionized the oyster by serving it with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger and calling it Cajun Sushi.

2. Drago's Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254;

3. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104;

Best Place to Get Barbecue

1. Voodoo BBQ (1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; 8550 Pontchartrain Blvd., 283-8301; 8853 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 496-0005; -- With the opening of the third Voodoo BBQ outlet, readers elevate our local mini-chain to first place this year. All of Voodoo's meats -- beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs -- are smoked over a mix of pecan, oak and hickory woods. For sauces, there's a spicy southwest Texas version, a vinegary sauce like Carolina folks adore; and a hot and fruity number made with mango and Crystal hot sauce.

2. Corky's Bar-B-Q (4243 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-5000;

3. Luther's (2750 Severn Ave., Metairie, 888-6370; 4950 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-0624; 8740 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 277-8167;

Best Place to Get Pizza

1. (TIE) Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (95 French Market Place, 522-9500; 615 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-5900; 2112 Belle Chasse Hwy., Gretna, 433-5800) and Rocky's Old New Orleans Bar & Pizza Joint (2701 Airline Drive., Metairie, 833-1288; 3222 Magazine St., 891-5152) -- Louisiana Pizza Kitchen boasts a wood-burning oven, cracker-like, thin pizza crusts, and nice wine selection. Pizzas range from the simple Margarita (roma tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese) to the meaty Salciccia Marinara (Italian, alligator and andouille sausages with mozzarella cheese). At Rocky's, pizza crusts are capable of standing up to any topping, be it spinach, artichoke hearts and feta cheese or a bayou's worth of seafood in Cajun seasonings. The ambiance is knock-about casual and fun, with two-for-one pizza specials on Monday nights.

2. Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 874 Harrison Ave., 488-0133; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 818-0111;

3. New York Pizza (208 N. Carrollton Ave., 482-2376; 5201 Magazine St., 891-2376)

Best Place to Get Fried Chicken

1. Popeye's (Citywide; -- Al Copeland hit on something deep in the Orleanian belly when he started this fried chicken chain back in the 1970s. When it comes straight from the fryer, spiced to kill, we admit it can be wickedly good. On weekends after midnight, the all-white meat chicken strips are causing traffic jams at the new Claiborne Avenue location.

2. Jacques-Imo's Cafe (8324 Oak St., 861-0886;

3. Fiorella's Cafe (45 French Market Place/1136 Decatur St., 528-9566)

Best Place to Get Gumbo

1. The Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486) -- There are always at least three gumbos on tap at The Gumbo Shop: a medium-bodied seafood and okra gumbo; a dark, herbaceous chicken and andouille gumbo; and a vegetarian gumbo z'herbes. It not only offers one of the most extensive gumbo selections in the city but also serves gumbo in staggering amounts. During a panel discussion at this year's Jazz Fest, chef-owner Richard Stewart reported that his restaurant sells 300 to 400 gallons per week!

2. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; 519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667;

3. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville St., 482-9120;

Best Place to Get Turtle Soup

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Commander's famous turtle soup is always made with meat from alligator snapping turtles. Spinach, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes and the very necessary splash of sherry also find their rightful place in this local classic.

2. Mandina's (3800 Canal St., 482-9179)

3. Brennan's Restaurant (417 Royal St., 525-9713;

Best Place to Get Boiled Crawfish

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; -- Deanie's crawfish season usually runs from November through July, during which time the crawfish are served hot and highly seasoned. Locals travel out to the Bucktown location by the droves, and the French Quarter restaurant is likewise rarely empty.

2. (TIE) Franky & Johnny's (321 Arabella St., 899-9146; and Sid-Mar's of Bucktown (1824 Orpheum Ave., Metairie, 831-9541;

3. Jaeger's on the Lake (1928 West End Park, 283-7585)

Best Place to Get Barbecue Shrimp

1. Pascal's Manale Restaurant (1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877) -- Pascal's Manale's sumptuous barbecue shrimp are not barbecued at all but rather simmered in an intensely peppered garlic butter broth. It'll stain your favorite silk blouse faster than you can order another Sazerac, so let the servers tie that paper bib around your neck and dig in.

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

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

Best Place to Get an Oyster Po-Boy

1. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; 519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667; -- The various Acme locations offer their fried oyster sandwiches under various names, though the standard oyster po-boy at all of them features the mollusks dredged in a cornmeal batter, fried in vegetable oil and stuffed between eight inches of New Orleans French bread. The Lakeshore Drive and Northshore restaurants also serve the New Orleans Oyster Loaf, which spans 12 inches and includes two dozen fried oysters.

2. (TIE) Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; and Franky & Johnny's (321 Arabella St., 899-9146;

3. Casamento's (4330 Magazine St., 895-9761;

Best Place to Get a Shrimp Po-Boy

1. R&O Pizza Place (216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248) -- An R&O employee waxes poetic about the restaurant's fried shrimp po-boy, citing the always-from-Lake-Pontchartrain shrimp, a secret "homemade batter" technique and the Italian seeded bread that's "always hot." The result certainly registers with our readers.

2. Danny & Clyde's (Citywide;

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

Best Place to Get a Roast Beef Po-Boy

1. Mother's (401 Poydras St., 523-9656) -- Jerry Amato was recently named Restaurateur of the Year by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, a well-deserved honor. The roast beef po-boy is a classic: slow-cooked roast beef and debris gravy piled with cabbage and pickles on French bread that's crusty outside and fleecy inside. The Famous Ferdi, essentially a roast beef po-boy with added baked ham, may have helped this vote.

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

3. R&O Pizza Place (216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248)

Best Place to Get a Meatball Po-Boy

1. R&O Pizza Place (216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248) -- Housemade meatballs come sliced on pizza and po-boy at R&O. As with the fried shrimp po-boys (see Best Place to Get a Shrimp Po-Boy), R&O's meatball po-boys are made with toasted seeded bread; red gravy plays a starring role, as does melted mozzarella cheese.

2. Johnny's Po-Boy Restaurant (511 St. Louis St., 524-8129)

3. Short Stop Po-Boys (119 Transcontinental Drive, Metairie, 885-4572)

Best Place to Get a Burger

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; -- If you like your burgers freshly ground, hand-formed and in hulking 8-oz. patties like our readers like their burgers, Port of Call is calling you, mate. The burger toppings -- mounds of grated cheddar cheese and/or mountains of sauteed mushrooms -- push them over the top.

2. Bud's Broiler (Citywide)

3. Lakeview Harbor (911 Harrison Ave., 486-4887)

Best Place to Get a King Cake

1. Randazzo's Goodchildren Bakery (5001 E. Judge Perez Drive, Violet, 279-1834; 801 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 271-7472; 1615 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 279-7472; -- These are the king cakes sold at K-Mart stores and PJ's coffeehouses during Carnival season. Randazzo's Goodchildren Bakery shops also sell them year-round. Paved with cinnamon, these king cakes may be filled with just about any combination of fruit, cream cheese and nuts.

2. Gambino's Bakeries Inc. (Citywide;

3. Haydel's (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 837-0190;

Best Place to Get Bread Pudding

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Commander's version of this local favorite is particularly unique. Cooks bake a straightforward bread pudding made with cinnamon, raisins and day-old French bread; then they break the bread pudding up, combine it with stiffly beaten egg whites and then bake it again, creating a lofty souffle. At the table, servers fracture the oven-hot souffles with spoons and then drown them in whisky sauce.

2. Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661;

3. Jacques-Imo's Cafe (8324 Oak St., 861-0886;

Best Place to Get Creme Brulee

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; -- Commander's pastry department bakes their creme brulee in wide, shallow dishes as opposed to the deeper, narrower ramekins that are more customary. What's the big deal? The expanded surface area allows for more burnt sugary crunch -- creme brulee's raison d'etre -- with every bite. A crisp tuille basket filled with diced seasonal fruit comes as a lagniappe on the side.

2. Ruth's Chris Steak House (711 N. Broad St., 486-0810; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600;

3. Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661;

Best Sno-Ball Stand

1. Hansen's Sno-Bliz Sweet Shop (4801 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9788) -- The Hansens -- Sno-Bliz founders Ernest and Mary; their son and ice shaver, Judge Gerard; and Gerard's daughter, Sno-Bliz Princess Ashley -- also have our vote for New Orleans' coolest family. Literally. During the hottest months the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Bordeaux streets is a wonderland of ice shaved to snowflake consistency and saturated with a variety of one-of-a-kind, all-homemade syrups. We asked Ashley earlier this summer for the season's hottest flavor, and she said grapeade: a customer-concocted combination of grape and super-tart lemon syrups.

2. Plum Street Snowball (1300 Burdette St., 866-7996)

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

Best Coffeehouse (Name a Specific Location)

1. Rue de la Course (3128 Magazine St., 899-0242) -- Otherwise known as the Big Rue, this java mill may be to Uptown New Orleans what Vesuvio Cafe was to San Francisco's North Beach during the Beat Generation. The Big Rue's greatest attribute is that it manages to feel bohemian, new-millennium hip and intellectual all at once. Silent twosomes play chess beside Elle readers beside medical students cramming for the USMLE.

2. (TIE) Caffe Caffe (4301 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 885-4845) and CC's Coffee House (900 Jefferson Ave., 891-4969;

3. Plantation Coffeehouse (5555 Canal Blvd., 482-3164)

Best Place to Get Pastries

1. Maurice's French Pastries (1114-A S. Carrollton Ave., 866-7052; 3501 Hessmer Ave., Metairie, 885-1526) -- Maurice's has long provided Orleanians with wedding cakes, croquembouche and fruit tarts, though it no doubt boosted the bakery's ratings with our readers when a second location opened near Riverbend in 2001. Customers at the newer cafe may sit for a spell with a cup of coffee and their bakery loot. Maurice's popularity is also bolstered by its king cakes, made both in the traditional French and traditional New Orleans styles.

2. La Madeleine (Citywide;

3. Croissant D'or Patisserie (617 Ursulines Ave., 524-4663)

Best Place to Get Ice Cream

1. Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-0078) -- This old-fashioned Sicilian sweet shop is unparalleled in New Orleans for homespun ice creams. Brocato flavors exist nowhere else in town: zuppe inglese, panna cotta, nocciolata, fiore di latte and seasonal ices such as peach and watermelon. Spumoni, baked Alaska, freshly filled cannoli and a variety of cookies and biscotti fare are best eaten in house with an Italian espresso.

2. Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt (Citywide;

3. Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Parlor (8108 Hampson St., 861-2500; 1 Poydras St., 523-3566; 621 St. Peter St., 523-4001;

Best Jazz Fest Food

1. Crawfish bread -- John Ed Laborde used to bake crawfish bread in his apartment to sell to friends. Now, our readers show their gratitude. The key principle, says Laborde, is the dough, which is always prepared and rolled out by hand. Seasoned crawfish and mozzarella, cheddar, Romano and Parmesan cheeses also contribute to the finished product, which is browned on the Jazz Fest grounds and served warm.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Softshell crab po-boy

Best Hot Sauce

1. Tabasco -- While chefs and civilians debate the virtues of the state's three most popular hot sauces, readers decide that Tabasco reigns supreme. Tabasco's hot red peppers are harvested on Avery Island, a salt-dome island about 140 miles from New Orleans. A variety of pepper sauces include chipotle pepper sauce, habanero pepper sauce, garlic pepper sauce and green pepper sauce.

2. Crystal

3. Louisiana


Best Local Legislator

1. David Vitter -- U.S. Rep. David Vitter, who won this category last year, repeats in '03. A Rhodes scholar in economics and a conservative Republican iconoclast, he was first elected to represent Metairie at the Louisiana Legislature in 1991. A self-styled "reformer," Vitter was elected to Congress in 1999 to replace fellow GOP conservative Bob Livingston. Vitter has been re-elected twice since then.

2. Mary Landrieu

3. Mitch Landrieu

Best New Orleans City Council Member

1. Jackie Clarkson -- Clarkson, the first woman elected to represent District C on the City Council, finished third last year. This year she is No. 1 with our readers. Clarkson's controversial campaign to "clean up" the French Quarter apparently registered with our readers -- and her nearly all-red wardrobe always makes her stand out.

2. Eddie Sapir

3. Oliver Thomas

Best Jefferson Parish Council Member

1. Aaron Broussard -- A Napoleonic history buff and lead singer of his own rock-and-roll band ("Me and the Other Guys"), Broussard, 54, finished third in this category last year. Broussard has been a force in parish politics since he was elected to a district seat on the parish school board in 1974. He is a candidate for parish president this fall.

2. Ed Muniz

3. None

Best Potential Governor

1. Bobby Jindal -- In 1996, Gov. Foster tapped Jindal, then 24, of Baton Rouge to head the state Department of Health and Hospitals. By 27, Jindal was in charge of the state's eight universities and had chaired a bipartisan congressional panel of the future of Medicare. Jindal, now 31, wants to be governor. Our readers say it can happen.

2. Richard Ieyoub

3. Kathleen Blanco

Best New Job for Gov. Mike Foster

1. Trash collector -- Readers recommend a little manual labor before the outgoing guv retires to Oak Lawn plantation. Or maybe readers upset with his environmental policies think it's time for a little karma.

2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent

3. Tester for motorcycle crash helmets

Best Advice for Mayor Ray Nagin

1. Keep up the good work/Hang in there -- Our readers continue to voice strong support for the mayor, a political newcomer who took office in May 2002. Nagin's pro-business, anti-corruption platform obviously resonates -- our readers just want him to keep on keepin' on.

2. Repair roads

3. Focus on the schools

Best Way to Improve Public Schools

1. Raise teachers' pay -- A simple equation that could be on the LEAP test: higher pay equals a better workforce. Gov. Mike Foster recently told lawmakers that they have raised teacher pay by $9,500 or 36 percent -- the second highest percentage spike in the country. However, Louisiana teachers are still below the Southern regional average.

2. Fund schools better

3. Raise teacher standards

Best Reason to Give a Bouquet to the State Legislature

1. None -- Our state lawmakers always try to be on their best behavior in an election year. Alas, to no avail. Lawmakers get paid $120 daily during sessions, whether they work or not. They can buy their own bouquets.

2. They kept the Saints

3. They passed a balanced budget

Best Reason to Give a Brickbat to the Legislature

1. Poor funding for education -- The Legislature has approved an extra $1.5 billion in spending for education since Gov. Foster took office in 1995, but it's not enough for our readers. The legislature has provided $500 million more for college education during that same period -- but Louisiana is nearly last among Southern states when it comes to funding higher education, according to Foster himself.

2. They passed the Stelly tax plan/approved new taxes.

3. They upheld the sodomy law.

Best Friend Louisiana Has in Washington

1. Mary Landrieu -- U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, the oldest of nine children born to former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and national Democratic Party maven Verna Landrieu, is our readers' favorite friend on Capitol Hill. First elected in 1999, she survived a tough re-election fight last year with help from last year's winner in this category, U.S. Sen. John Breaux.

2. John Breaux

3. David Vitter

Best Public Spat

1. Al Copeland vs. Luan Hunter -- Restaurateur Al Copeland is famous for both fried chicken and big beefs. Recall the uproar from residential neighbors over his famous Christmas light display and his public feud with vampire novelist Anne Rice over his restaurant frontage. But Copeland's child custody dispute with ex-wife Luan Hunter has devolved into a federal corruption probe of the Jefferson Parish courthouse, easily beating out his feud with former riverboat casino owner Robert Guidry.

2. Al Copeland vs. Robert Guidry

3. (TIE) Jackie Clarkson vs. French Quarter tarot card readers/park bench lovers/tour groups and Mary Landrieu vs. Suzanne Haik Terrell

Best Local Scandal

1. Canal Street brothel -- A juicy sex scandal that finished second last year climaxed this year. The brothel, hub of a nationwide prostitution network based here in New Orleans, was shuttered by the feds. Canal Street brothel madam Jeannette Maier and other hookers were sentenced to probation -- great deals. But almost all of the cat-house clientele escaped prosecution. And according to the Madam, their customers were among the creme of society.

2. Al Copeland's child custody case

3. School Board lost $20 million

Best Lie from a Local Politician

1. Marc Morial: "I was not aware of patronage or corruption when I was mayor." -- Former Mayor Morial's imperishable (if not precise) response to Mayor Ray Nagin's sweeping corruption investigation last summer is our readers' pick for best lie -- second year in a row. Morial has since assumed the presidency of he National Urban League. Meanwhile, local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten continues to probe for evidence of misconduct during the Morial years -- and no one is calling the federal probes a wild goose chase.

2. Jackie Clarkson: "I am not trying to change the bohemian nature of the French Quarter."

3. Mike Foster: "I will not raise taxes."

Best Local Liberal

1. Mary Landrieu -- U.S. Sen. Landrieu spent a lot of time and campaign money trying to convince voters she has moderated to the political center. Yet, she is still our readers' favorite liberal. The selection of Landrieu might suggest that "local liberal" is itself an oxymoron. Look below at the second and third places for further support for this notion.

2. None

3. Ray Nagin

Best Local Conservative

1. David Vitter -- A staunch opponent of abortion and taxes, U.S. Rep. David Vitter certainly deserves his conservative credentials. A Metairie Republican, Vitter is married to Wendy Baldwin, former chief of trials for the New Orleans District Attorney's Office.

2. None

3. John Hainkel

Best Community/Environmental Activist

1. Carlton Dufrechou, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation ( -- Last year's winner repeats! The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a membership-based organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, covers 16 Louisiana parishes and four Mississippi counties. The group monitors the lake and the basin for pollution "hot spots." Carlton Dufrechou is the LPBF's second director since its founding in 1989.

2. Aaron Viles, Gulf States PIRG

3. The late Sandy Krasnoff, Victims and Citizens Against Crime

Best Watchdog

1. Rafael Goyeneche/ Metropolitan Crime Commission ( -- With crime and politics like ours, Louisiana needs a good watchdog. Led by president Goyeneche, the nonprofit MCC has been a leader against crime and corruption for more than 50 years.

2. Richard Angelico, WDSU-TV

3. C.B. Forgotston (


Best Saints Player

1. Deuce McAllister -- McAllister doesn't showboat or preen for the media, he just shows up and runs like a man possessed on Sundays during football season. Despite a nagging ankle injury late in the 2002 season, McAllister still managed to rush for an NFC-leading 1,388 yards.

2. Joe Horn

3. Aaron Brooks

Best Hornets Player

1. Jamal Mashburn -- "Mash" is a power forward with grace and a deft outside touch, evidenced by his impressive statistics for the 2002-2003 New Orleans Hornets' inaugural season: Mashburn ranked in the Top 20 in the NBA in the categories of points per game, field goals made, assists per game, total points and triple-doubles.

2. Baron Davis

3. P.J. Brown

Best Zephyrs Player

1. Raul Chavez -- Chavez is a scrappy and versatile player, making the transition from catcher to third baseman this year. He can also hit with power, often providing the Zephyrs with multiple RBIs. The Zephyrs' parent organization, the Houston Astros, like what they see from Chavez; they recently signed him to a three-year contract.

2. Jason Lane

3. Kirk Bullinger

Best Local Author

1. Anne Rice -- Born in Mercy Hospital in 1941, Rice is a true New Orleanian, and her many books have bestowed her hometown with a haunted reputation that lives on today, in literature, in Hollywood movies and in the French Quarter each night. You think all those ghostly tours would be going on without her mythologizing of the local underworld?

2. Andrei Codrescu

3. John Biguenet

Best Local Visual Artist

1. James Michalopolous -- His oils melt local architecture into a mix of wavy lines, blurred backgrounds and gorgeously contrasting colors. Michalopolous' prominence is signalled by his three Jazz & Heritage Festival posters, commissioned in 1998, 2001 and 2003. Widespread Panic, John Mooney and other musicians have asked Michalopolous to paint album covers for them, and he's come through with remarkable results.

2. Frenchy

3. George Rodrigue

Best Local Photographer

1. Herman Leonard -- Leonard's photos of jazz musicians have graced album covers and they're the main attraction on the walls of Maximo's Italian Grill on Decatur Street. Yet Leonard's fame hasn't made him aloof. He's a happy sight at second-line parades and at many of this town's live-music shows. Which makes it clear that Leonard's fame came not only from his keen eye but his passion for musicians and their work. In turn, musicians -- and our readers -- are wild about Leonard's work.

2. Louis Sahuc

3. Romney

Best Museum

1. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park, 488-2631; -- In 1910, Isaac Delgado funded an art museum that would be, he said, a "temple of art for rich and poor alike." The museum showcases the marquee painters -- Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Vuillard -- and the lesser-known, such as New Orleans' own Sister Gertrude Morgan.

2. The National D-Day Museum (945 Magazine St., 527-6012;

3. Louisiana's Children's Museum (420 Julia St., 523-1357;

Best Art Gallery

1. Arthur Roger Gallery (432 Julia St., 522-1999; In 1978, the year after the Contemporary Arts Center opened in New Orleans, Arthur Roger opened a gallery here, first in the Garden District. Ten years later, Roger moved his gallery to the stunning space on Julia Street, in the Warehouse District. As the gallery celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall, it brings together an impressive mix of local and nationally known artists, painters and photographers.

2. Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp St., 528-3800;

3. Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (841 Carondelet St., 522.5471;

Best Library Branch

1. Milton H. Latter Memorial Library (5120 St. Charles Ave., 596-2625; -- Some libraries are judged by their access to new technologies. Latter is beloved for its time-honored pleasures. In this former St. Charles Avenue mansion, any card-carrying citizen has the opportunity to sit at a picture window overlooking an expanse of lawn leading to the avenue and while away the day thumbing through magazines or burrowing into borrowed literature.

2. Jefferson Parish Library/East Bank Regional (4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 838-1190;

3. Main Library (219 Loyola Ave., 529-READ;

Best Elementary School

1. Lusher Alternative Elementary School (7315 Willow St., 862-5110; -- Under the guidance of charismatic principal Kathleen Riedlinger, Lusher is a much-needed shining star in the public school system, combining strong academics with a creative, arts-centered curriculum, aided in its mission by a particularly involved group of parents.

2. Metairie Park Country Day School (300 Park Road, Metairie, 837-5204;

3. St. Catherine of Siena School (400 Codifer Blvd., Metairie, 831-1166;

Best High School

1. Benjamin Franklin High School. (2001 Leon C. Simon Drive, 286-2600; -- Located on the University of New Orleans campus, this magnet school was founded in 1957 to promote excellence among New Orleans high school students. The school is achieving this goal -- each year, Franklin produces an impressive number of National Merit and National Achievement semi-finalists. Out of each graduating class, 99 out of 100 students go on to college.

2. Jesuit High School (4133 Banks St., 486.6631;

3. St. Mary's Dominican High School (7701 Walmsley Ave., 865-9401;

Best Local College/University

1. Tulane University (6823 St. Charles Ave., 865-5000; -- The "Harvard of the South" began as the Medical College of Louisiana in 1834, and Tulane School of Medicine remains a top draw for future doctors. Not to be outshined are the other schools and colleges for which Tulane is known, including its Law School, A.B. Freeman School of Business, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Newcomb College. Other prestigious branches include the Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, the Deep South Regional Humanities Center and the Tulane National Primate Research Center.

2. University of New Orleans (2000 Lakeshore Drive, 888-514-4275;

3. Loyola University (6363 St. Charles Ave., 865-3240;

Best Playground

1. Wally Pontiff Junior Playground (1521 Palm St., Metairie, 736-8463) -- Long renowned as Jefferson Parish's oldest and most extensive recreational site for kids of all ages, Metairie Playground features a marble monument to the memory of the late Louisiana State University baseball player Wally Pontiff, who grew up playing sports here.

2. Audubon Park (6500 St Charles Ave., 861-2537;

3. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888;

Best Place for Family Fun

1. Audubon Park/Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 861-2537/581-4629; -- Together, these side-by-side outdoor destinations are truly one of the great things about living in New Orleans. The zoo is distinguished by both its animals, attractions such as the zoo train and Monkey Hill, educational programs and spectacularly oaky grounds. The park boasts numerous playgrounds and picnic areas, and more of those mossy oaks.

2. Six Flags New Orleans (12301 Lake Forest Blvd. 253-8100;

3. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888;

Best Place to Jog/Bike

1. Audubon Park (6500 Magazine St., 861-2537, -- Any fitness expert will say you should stick with an exercise plan that is enjoyable. The serene environ of Audubon Park is an inviting spot, and the 1.5-mile loop through the park is an ideal place to walk, jog or bike. With a smooth paved surface, the path is clearly marked into generous sections for those on foot and wheels, thus keeping distractions at a minimum and the workout's benefits -- plus the park's natural beauty -- as your main focus.

2. Lakeshore Drive

3. Levee bike path

Best Place to Swim

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Ste. 1200

Harahan, 733-1600; 701 Poydras St., Ste. 1300, 588-1600; 111 Veterans Blvd., Ste. 475, Metairie, 832-1600; Readers know the name Elmwood means a bevy of splashing options across metro New Orleans. From serious lane swimming to splashing under a mushroom-shaped fountain, Elmwood pools come in all shapes and sizes.

2. (TIE) Reily Student Recreation Center, Tulane University (Tulane University campus, 6823 St. Charles Ave, 865-5242; and Jewish Community Center (5342 St. Charles Ave., 897-0143; 3747 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 887-5158;

3. YMCA (920 St. Charles Ave., 568-9622; 6691 Riverside Dr., Metairie, 888-9622; 19335 N. 9th Street, Covington, 893-4800;

Best Golf Course

1. The Golf Club at Audubon Park (6500 St. Charles Ave., 212-5290; -- The Audubon Institute's $6 million course improvement project has won acclaim from golfers who fawn over the sculptured fairways and new lagoons. Golf Digest threw around such terms as "spectacular" last October when extolling the revamped par-62 course.

2. English Turn Golf & Country Club (1 Clubhouse Drive, 391-8018;

3. Bayou Oaks Golf Course at City Park (1040 Filmore Ave., 483-9397;

Best Tennis Courts

1. City Park (City Park, Victory Avenue, 483-9383; -- Tennis, anyone? There's always plenty of room to play at City Park, where you'll find 31 courts, usually available without reservations and for a low price. Whatever surface suits your game (or knees) best, you'll find it here, as City Park offers 11 hard courts and 20 clay courts.

2. Audubon Tennis Center (6320 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-1042)

3. New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club (5353 Laurel St., 899-1574)

Best Park

1. Audubon Park (6500 St Charles Ave., 861-2537; -- This Uptown oasis sings of personality and contradiction. Joggers, bikers and skaters zoom under lazy live oak trees; kids swing, shriek and slide near limpid lagoons; dogs romp around serene fountains. It's a gathering spot for everything from runner's clubs to weddings, from kids' drum circles to family reunions.

2. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888;

3. Lafreniere Park (3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie, 838-4389)

Best Place to Get Married

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, 525-9585; -- This building, said to be the first cathedral built in the United States, provides enough "old" for anyone. Which means brides only have to deal with something borrowed, new and blue. Those who spend weekend afternoons in the Quarter know when wedding season has begun because the limos and mule-drawn carriages line up waiting to carry bridal parties away from the cathedral. If the limos are especially fancy, a crowd will gather to watch. Luckily, jugglers and mimes are always nearby to entertain the throngs.

2. Botanical Gardens, City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888;

3. (TIE) St. Joseph Catholic Church (1802 Tulane Ave., 522-3186; and City Park's Pavilion of the Two Sisters (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888;

Best Area to Buy a House

1. Uptown -- With property values that continue to boom -- and with a robust real estate market that shows no signs of slowing down -- families and young professionals alike continue to invest in Uptown. Low interest rates and a ceaseless demand for older, historic houses keeps Uptown on the up-and-up.

2. Lakeview

3. Mid-City

Best Area to Rent

1. Uptown -- The same factors that inspire readers to rate Uptown as the best place to buy a home certainly factor in here: proximity to schools and attractions, and historic neighborhoods. Many choose to enjoy the quality of life without the burden of a mortgage. Populations on the move -- students and others expecting to be in town for just a few years -- rent here to be near the shops, restaurants and bars, along with Audubon Park, the universities and other amenities unique to the area.

2. Mid-City

3. Lakeview

Best Carnival Day Parade

1. Rex -- For its adoring fans, Rex defines the splendor of Mardi Gras; the sun, if there's sun, glittering off the elaborately designed and perfectly themed floats is one of the sublime pleasures of Carnival in New Orleans. Our readers agree that Rex is king indeed.

2. Zulu

3. Thoth

Best Carnival Night Parade

1. Endymion -- Sometimes, size matters. The bulk of beads, the superness of the super-floats, the volume of marching bands, the big-name celebrity who either gets it or doesn't. Our readers voted for Endymion -- which means they know they better get there early to get a good spot for viewing this ever-popular procession.

2. Bacchus

3. Orpheus

Best Six Flags Ride

1. Batman: The Ride -- By all accounts, the biggest and best addition to Six Flags is the new Batman roller coaster. Once the ride begins, the most surprising thing about it is the smoothness of the transport. With your legs dangling free, you execute loop-de-loop with all the ease of a caped crusader, on a track that extends from one end of the park to the other.

2. Mega Zeph

3. Simex Cajun Pirates Ride the Adventure

Best Northshore Destination

1. Abita Brew Pub and Restaurant (72011 Holly St., Abita Springs, 985-892-5837; -- Turbo Dog, Purple Haze and Amber are produced by the Southeast's first microbrewer, whose nerve center is set up across the lake in the piney woods. While away an afternoon on a brewery tour (complete with samples) and then wind up at the Brew Pub for a bite and good conversation in a beautiful locale.

2. Trey Yuen (600 N. Causeway Approach, Mandeville, 985-626-4476)

3. Fontainebleau State Park (Hwy 190, Mandeville, 985-624-4443;

Best West Bank Destination

1. Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve (Southeastern Louisiana, 589-2133; -- Though this national park and natural/historical preserve is spread around six areas in southeastern Louisiana, our readers are referring to the Barataria Preserve in Marrero and the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. In the former, nature lovers can stroll along Bayou Coquille, kayak or canoe underneath cypress and tupelo branches, and photograph swamp creatures in their natural habitats. In the latter, history buffs can explore the graves of soldiers from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, and both sides of the Civil War.

2. Oakwood Mall (197-33 Westbank Expwy, Gretna, 361-1550;

3. Bayou Segnette State Park (7777 Westbank Expwy., Westwego, 736-7140;

Best Eastern New Orleans Destination

1. Six Flags New Orleans (12301 Lake Forest Blvd., 253-8100; -- The best thing you could say about Jazzland was that it was eerily uncrowded. But somehow, getting to repeatedly ride a roller coaster without competition seemed a little hollow. With a revamped kids' area, new shows and scores of rides, Six Flags quickly established itself as the best reason to go east. Now, about that water park ....

2. Audubon Louisiana Nature Center (5601 Read Blvd., 246-5672;

3. Vietnamese Farmers' Market (Saturday mornings, Alcee Fortier Boulevard, 861-5898)

Best Day Trip

1. Mississippi Gulf Coast -- Long a favorite of New Orleanians wanting to get away from it all on a single tank of gas, the coast offers a variety of casinos, some with shows you can't catch elsewhere in the region, from standup by Don Rickles and Jay Leno to Beau Rivage's latest song-and-dance spectacle. Other coastal attractions include a top childrens' museum, space center, and the regular boat to Ship Island.

2. River Road plantations

3. St. Francisville


Best Radio Station

1. WWOZ-FM 90.7 -- WWOZ, the nonprofit, commercial-free, community-supported radio station, repeats as winner again this year. Founded in 1980 atop Tipitina's Nightclub in Uptown, 'OZ thrives as a showcase for local musicians and plays a blend of programs that reflects the musical heritage of the city, from Caribbean to zydeco.

2. KKND-FM 106.7 "The End"

3. WWL-AM 870

Best Radio Morning Show

1. Rod Ryan Show, KKND-FM 106.7 -- Think Howard Stern light and local, and you're almost there. Rod Ryan is a loudmouth, beer-drinking, music-loving maniac -- and we mean that in the best possible way. He's responsible for such new New Orleans institutions as "Tubesday," in which sports and other reports are sometimes read through a cardboard tube. (It's funny. We don't know why. But it still is.) Plus, he actually plays music during drive time to make sure his listeners are wired for the day ahead.

2. Andre Trevigne, WWL-AM 870

3. NPR Morning Edition, WWNO-FM 89.9/KTLN-FM 90.5

Best Radio Afternoon Show

1. David Tyree, WWL-AM 870 -- Radio talk show host David Tyree repeats this year as New Orleans' top afternoon radio talk show host. Tyree's sense of fair play means he offers a relative voice of moderation in the frequently intolerant world of talk radio.

2. Sig, KKND-FM 106.7

3. NPR All Things Considered, WWNO-FM 89.9 /KTLN-FM 90.5

Best Local Radio Talk Show Host

1. David Tyree, WWL-AM 870 -- A Vietnam War combat veteran and former broadcast (television and radio) journalist who has overcome prostate cancer and an involuntary stint in Baton Rouge radio, David Tyree has the appreciative ear of our readers.

2. Andre Trevigne, WWL-AM 870

3. Rod Ryan, KKND-FM 106.7

Best Local Web Site

1. -- Now, you know this election is not rigged. The Times-Picayune's Web site beats Gambit Weekly's and all other sites. We offer our congratulations.



Best Local Publication

1. Gambit Weekly -- Well, thanks. Our readers this year picked winners in the same 1-2-3 order as last year. We're already working to earn your nod for 2004.

2. The Times-Picayune

3. New Orleans Magazine

Best Local Journalist/Columnist

1. Chris Rose, The Times-Picayune -- Chris Rose, the purveyor of the 60-second interview and the Morgus of local journalism, is our readers' selection for this new combined category. But we still can't help but wonder if publisher Ashton Phelps has seen Rose's theatrical Asshole Monologues. (We have and enjoyed it.)

2. Clancy DuBos, Gambit Weekly

3. Ronnie Virgets, Gambit Weekly

Best Local Music Journalist

1. Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune -- Former OffBeat editor and current T-P music writer Keith Spera not only reports on and reviews the formidable music scene, he also appears on WWL-TV's Friday morning show to preview the weekend ahead. Spera's catholic taste in music enables him to write informed pieces on everything from country to metal to classic New Orleans R&B masters. And his prose is lively even by high alternative newsweekly standards.

2. Scott Jordan, Gambit Weekly

3. Bunny Matthews, OffBeat

Best Local Sports Journalist

1. Peter Finney, The Times-Picayune -- An icon and a gentleman, Finney has covered sports in New Orleans for more than 50 years. He recently regaled a Press Club of New Orleans banquet audience with a hilarious story of how sportswriter "Buddy D" and former Gov. Earl Long once compared racetrack notes while riding in separate cars down a state highway -- shouting out odds and favorites.

2. Dave Lagarde, The Times-Picayune

3. John Deshazier, The Times-Picayune

Best Local TV Newscast

1. WWL-TV -- Channel 4 boasts that it is "Louisiana's News Leader," and our readers agree. WWL's dominance over the news market comes not just from the on-air anchors and reporters, but the talented photographers and producers behind the scenes as well. Plus, the cable rebroadcasts mean you can catch the news any time.



Best Local Male TV Anchor

1. Dennis Woltering, WWL-TV -- Woltering's obvious hard work ethic is paying off. The St. Louis native has vaulted from third to first place among our readers, swapping places with his colleague and last year's winner, morning anchor Eric Paulsen. The "most unbelievable story" Woltering says he has covered in more than 25 years of journalism was the Philadelphia police bombing of M.O.V.E. headquarters, which killed 11 members of the group and engulfed a whole neighborhood in fire.

2. Norman Robinson, WDSU-TV

3. Eric Paulsen, WWL-TV

Best Local Female TV Anchor

1. Angela Hill, WWL-TV -- "After 27 years at WWL-TV, Angela Hill is still New Orleans' most beloved anchor," according to the station's Web site profile. No brag, just fact. Our readers agree. A native of Texas, she joined WWL as a reporter in 1975 and now treasures one-to-one interviews.

2. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV

3. Kriss Fairbairn, WDSU-TV

Best Local Male TV Anchor Hair

1. Roop Raj, WDSU-TV -- Roop Raj rules the airwaves with his flawless brush-back. Actually, this kind of speculation drives news anchors and reporters batty. But can you really take your eyes off Raj's 'do?

2. Bob Breck, WVUE-TV

3. John Snell, WVUE-TV

Best Local Female TV Anchor Hair

1. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV -- Swensen and co-worker Hill swapped places since last year, which may be a relief because New Orleanians have been talking about Angela's hair for almost three decades. Swensen's dark tresses truly shine -- as does her distinguished reporting.

2. Angela Hill, WWL-TV

3. Liz Reyes, WGNO-TV

Best Local TV Reporter Who Isn't An Anchor

1. Helena Moreno, WDSU-TV -- Moreno, who has distinguished herself with coverage of the Louisiana serial killer investigations, finishes first in this category for the second year in a row. She's always on the scene, getting in the right people's faces -- and what other local reporter has inspired her own art show?

2. Richard Angelico, WDSU-TV

3. Stephanie Riegel, WWL-TV

Best Local TV Weathercaster

1. Bob Breck, WVUE-TV -- For at least three years now, Bob Breck has been our readers' clear weather favorite. September is the peak month for hurricane activity -- and our readers say that when the eye approaches, their eyes will be watching Breck.

2. David Bernard, WWL-TV

3. Carl Arredondo, WWL-TV

Best Local TV Sportscaster

1. Jim Henderson, WWL-TV -- Henderson repeatedly dominates this category. And what's so encouraging about this solid anchor is that his strong writing is what drives his performance. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he joined WWL in 1978. He writes -- and speaks -- with authority on all local sports and is not afraid to take strong positions in his commentaries.

2. Fletcher Mackel, WDSU-TV

3. Lee Zurik, WWL-TV

Sexiest Local Male TV News Personality

1. Roop Raj, WDSU-TV -- It's Roop running away! (It must be his hair; see above.) The Flint, Mich., native worked at CBS and ABC affiliates in Lansing, where he shot and edited his own reports. He received national attention on MSNBC for his coverage of a Michigan school shooting in 2000. The WDSU Web site lists Rocky as his favorite movie and Dave Matthews as his favorite musician.

2. David Bernard, WWL-TV

3. Fletcher Mackel, WDSU-TV

Sexiest Local Female TV News Personality

1. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV -- Nothing is quite as sexy as brains and beauty. Swensen joined WWL 10 years ago as an overnight assistant news producer. She has worked her way up covering everything from breaking news to her signature story -- the uncovering of a cluster of people in the Morgan City area who were suffering from a rare auto-immune disorder.

2. Helena Moreno, WDSU-TV

3. Karen Carlson, WWL-TV

Best Local Commercial

1. Frankie & Johnnie's Furniture (2600 St. Claude Ave., 943-9400) -- I say, I say, I say -- Let her have it! There is something uniquely charming about this furniture store's TV spot. The script has varied little over the years. And why should it? It works. The perennial winner wins again, easily defeating more sophisticated production works of the two high-powered runner-ups.

2. New Orleans Saints

3. WWL-TV, "Spirit of Louisiana"

Best Locally Produced TV Show

1. Louisiana Jukebox -- The Box is No. 1 -- again. Since its debut in 1996, this nationally award-winning program (featuring former TV news anchor Warren Bell) has showcased New Orleans music talents in cable TV markets throughout the country. Live performances air from Generations Hall in New Orleans and are re-broadcast on Cox area cable channels from Baton Rouge to Cleveland.

2. Fourth Down on 4

3. Informed Sources

Best Reason to Pick Up Gambit Weekly

1. It's a good source for local information.

2. Music listings

3. Restaurant info


Best Shopping Mall

1. Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000; -- Where else in town can you have a birthday party where all guests stuff and dress their own bears, shop at a choice of 120 stores, buy fancy greeting cards, mail them, then reward yourself with a well-deserved massage -- all without sweating or moving your car? Readers say Lakeside does the one-stop thing the best in this area.

2. The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 522-9200;

3. The Esplanade (1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 465-2161;

Best Shopping Area

1. Magazine Street ( -- It's a 6-mile stretch of quaintness that allows shoppers to travel the world in terms of merchandise and cuisine, and embodies a range of attitudes and prices from the uber chic of European designers to the downright bohemian take on vintage, used and "re-engineered" clothing, with lots of art, jewelry, furniture, kitsch and unexpected delights in between.

2. French Quarter

3. Metairie

Best Department Store

1. Macy's (1400 Poydras St., New Orleans Centre, 592-5985; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 465-3985; -- Even without the annual parade of its New York City counterpart, Macy's has won the hearts of local shoppers for its large, well-stocked shoe department, common discount sales and the one-day and early-bird sales on name-brand products. Plus, there's no-hassle parking near the Superdome (or the chic The Esplanade in Kenner).

2. Saks Fifth Avenue (301 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2200;

3. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121;

Best Men's Clothing Store

1. Rubenstein Bros. (102 St. Charles Ave., 581-6666; -- The city's best-dressed men traverse the threshold on St. Charles Avenue near Canal Street to get the latest in men's fashions from head to toe. Part of the attraction is the quality of merchandise -- with designers including Ermenegildo Zegna, Armani, Prada, Brioni and Ralph Lauren.

2. Perlis Inc. (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-675-1711;

3. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121;

Best Women's Clothing Store

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (301 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2200; -- It's where women can find those runway outfits they can't always find locally, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Akris Punto, Rive Gauche, Carolina Herrera, and Badgley Mischka. There's high-quality clothing, from furs to jeans, in a luxurious New York-style atmosphere staffed by fashion-savvy workers.

2. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121;

3. Hemline (609 Chartres St., 529-3566; 605 Chartres St. 568-0111; 838 Royal St., 522-8577; 3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420;

Best Children's Clothing Store

1. Chocolate Soup (2030 Metairie Road, 834-8314) -- Readers who voted this Old Metairie shop the best children's clothing store will be saddened to know it's closing Sept. 6. The pain might be eased, however, by the drastically reduced prices at its going-out-of-business sale of its fashions and accessories for young ones from birth to size 14.

2. Old Navy (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 834-8991; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 263-0864; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 441-8788;

3. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106;

Best Shoe Store

1. Payless Shoe Source (Citywide; -- A must-try shop for those with a shoe fetish and a limited budget or anyone with growing children, Payless stores are almost as plentiful as the rows upon rows of shoes offered within. The already low prices often are discounted, plus there's always some kind of sale going on.

2. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121;

3. Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525;

Best Place to Buy Evening Wear

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (301 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2200; -- Always on the crest of the fashion wave, the store at Canal Place -- the only Saks in the state -- can dress you in just-out evening finery from such makers as Tahari Victor Costa, Adrienne Landau and Dolce & Gabbana. The store is as lovely as the clothes and the personal service can make you feel like a queen.

2. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121;

3. Macy's (1400 Poydras St., New Orleans Centre, 592-5985; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 465-3985;

Best Place to Buy a Men's Suit

1. Perlis (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-674-1711; -- Quality and personalized service are the buzzwords at this business, which has flourished through three generations. Men can find everything from cashmere sports jackets and white Italian linen suits to affordable poplin styles, as well as everything else they need to complete an outfit from shoes to cufflinks.

2. The Men's Wearhouse (1629 Westbank Expwy, Harvey, 362-3114; 3033 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-4295;

3. (TIE) Saks Fifth Avenue (301 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2200; and Rubenstein Bros. (102 St. Charles Ave., 581-6666;

Best Place to Buy Lingerie

1. Victoria's Secret (1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-2045; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 368-6877; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 834-2720; 1 Poydras St., Riverwalk Marketplace, 525-6900; -- It's really no secret at all. You've seen the catalogs (perhaps even kept a few), so you all know that Victoria's Secret is synonymous with sexy lingerie even when it comes to utilitarian everyday undergarments and loungewear.

2. House of Lounge (2044 Magazine St., 671-8300;

3. Saks Fifth Avenue (301 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2200;

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing

1. Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587) -- Funky is the operative word here, followed closely by affordable. Whether searching for true vintage outfits, hats, costume components or just already-worn fashions, the Funky Monkey can supply it. The store is roomy, comfortable and the staff is as interesting and accommodating as the fashions.

2. Thrift City (4125 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-0736;

3. Turncoats Clothing and Art (1926 Magazine St., 299-9004;

Best Thrift Store

1. Thrift City (4125 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-0736; -- A magnet for hipsters and bargain hunters alike, the expansive racks at Thrift City are home to some of the most stylish and cheapest used threads around. Leisure suits and bowling shirts evoke the '70s, and many a Halloween/Mardi Gras costume has been found here as well.

2. Red, White and Blue (6001 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 733-8066; 5050 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-1512)

3. St. Vincent de Paul's (4034 Fourth St., 341-5519; 2800 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 835-2700; 4899 Westbank Expwy., Marrero, 328-4454;

Best Toy Store

1. Toys 'R' Us (3609 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-9513; Bullard Plaza, 12250 I-10 Service Road, 245-8697; 4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-8426; -- It's hard to beat the sheer numbers and assortments of toys, games, bikes, play structures and other diversions for kids of every age that are available in one place here. It's like Santa's workshop without the elves, with all the major toy makers represented.

2. Big Life Toys (3117 Magazine St., 895-8695; 5430 Magazine St., 899-8697)

3. Le Jouet Inc. (1700 Airline Drive, Metairie, 837-0533)

Best Place to Buy Furniture

1. Hurwitz-Mintz Furniture Co. (211 Royal St., 568-9555; 227 Chartres St., 568-9555; 1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; -- It's hard to walk through the French Quarter without noticing the exquisite and uncommon displays in the window of this longtime local furniture standard. All three locations feature upscale, quality furniture on the leading edge of styles you won't find in other places -- at least for a while.

2. Kirschman's (Citywide;

3. Prince and Pauper (3308 Magazine St., 899-2378; 131 Royal St., 523-9449;

Best Place to Buy a Wedding Gift

1. Dillard's (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 833-1075; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, Gretna, 362-4800; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-6050; 5700 Read Blvd., Plaza Lake Forest, 241-8121; -- Boasting a widely used bridal registry along with all the things newlyweds need -- from towels to china -- Dillard's remains a favored destination for people seeking wedding presents. Crystal and china lines include such names as Waterford, Mikasa and Wedgwood.

2. Coleman E. Adler & Sons (722 Canal St., 587-7907; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, 362-5969; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 523-5292)

3. Macy's (1400 Poydras St., New Orleans Centre, 592-5985; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 465-3985;

Best Jewelry Store

1. Aucoin Hart (1525 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-9999; -- Jewelry connoisseurs can fulfill their hearts' desires at this Old Metairie store, because if they don't find just the item they want in stock, one of the store's 11 jewelry makers can create it for them. The third-generation family business buys jewels direct from world markets to give customers better prices.

2. Coleman E. Alder & Sons (722 Canal St., 587-7907; 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Shopping Center, 362-5969; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 523-5292)

3. Mignon Faget Ltd. (710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 333 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, 835-2244;

Best Jewelry Designer

1. Mignon Faget (710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 333 Canal St., The Shops at Canal Place, 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 835-2244; -- For about 30 years, this New Orleans native has brought customers lovely jewelry designs that speak of the nature and emblems that remind us of our beloved city, such as banana flowers, her signature tulip line, fleur de lis, shapes from the sea, crosses and even a collection of items commemorating the Louisiana Purchase. Faget was asked to design the 2003 Mayor's Arts Awards, of which she was a recipient in 2001.

2. Tom Mathis (Symmetry Jewelers, 8138 Hampson St., 861-9925;

3. Dominique Giordano (5420 Magazine St., 895-3909;

Best Dry Cleaners

1. Liberto Cleaners (4814 Prytania St., 897-2161; 8128 Willow St., 861-7812) -- Returning as the No. 1 favorite dry cleaners and laundry service among New Orleanians is Liberto, with two outlets separately owned by the same family. The third-generation business will clean almost anything and also will perform alterations and repairs as well as pick up and deliver your clothes.

2. Deluxe Cleaner, Laundry, Storage (5325 Canal Blvd., 488-7733)

3. Russell's Cleaners (3401 Tulane Ave., 482-3153)

Best Hospital

1. Ochsner Clinic Foundation (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 842-3000, -- Over the past 62 years, Ochsner has expanded into a comprehensive nonprofit system with a 440-bed acute care hospital and more than two dozen clinics serving patients all over the metro area, Northshore and even Baton Rouge. U.S. News & World Report has named it one of America's best hospitals seven times since 1990.

2. East Jefferson General Hospital (4200 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 454-4000,

3. Touro Infirmary (1401 Foucher St., 897-7011,

Best Hospital to Have a Baby

1. Lakeside Hospital (4700 I-10 Service Road W, Metairie, 780-8282, -- This Metairie hospital has delivered more than 86,000 babies since it opened in 1964. It offers several options in birthing rooms, tons of before-and-after support services and a nurturing atmosphere and helpful staff. There are pre-natal classes and parenting and sibling classes for after the baby arrives.

2. Touro Infirmary (1401 Foucher St., 897-7011,

3. East Jefferson General Hospital (4200 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 454-4000,

Best Pediatrician

1. Dr. Paul J. Giorlando (IMG Health Care, 6030 Bullard Ave., Suite 200, 246-4894; 2201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-7374) -- Dr. Giorlando's rapport with his young patients has prompted lots of them as adults to return to his office with their children. Giorlando has served youngsters in New Orleans for several decades.

2. Dr. Stephen W. Hales (3525 Prytania St., 897-0744)

3. Dr. J. Kent Treadway (4325 Clara St., 899-5628)

Best Plastic Surgeon

1. Dr. Calvin M. Johnson Jr. (2427 St. Charles Ave., 895-7642) -- Not only is Dr. Johnson a top New Orleans facial cosmetic surgeon who's operated here for two decades, he also was named one of the top five rhinoplasty (nose) surgeons in the world by W magazine in 2000. He's also written two textbooks on the subject of cosmetic surgery and operates the Hedgewood Surgical Center in a beautifully restored Victorian house on St. Charles Avenue.

2. Dr. Gustavo A. Colon (4204 Teuton St., Metairie, 888-4297)

3. Dr. John M. Church Jr. (3525 Prytania St., 895-4561)

Best Chiropractor

1. Stagni Chiropractic Group (3227 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2225) -- Two generations of Stagnis have eased the aches and pains of New Orleanians for 32 years and counting. The Stagnis (father and son) perform all types of chiropractic care, and according to our readers, do it very well indeed.

2. Dr. Gerry Provance, Provance Chiropractic Sports & Family Clinic (2004 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 456-9296)

3. Dr. Bo Boatwright (8327 Apricot St., 861-9429)

Best Health Club

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-1600; 701 Poydras St., 588-1600; 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 832-1600; -- If your goals involve fitness, health or feeling good, Elmwood most likely has a program that will help you get where you want to go. A division of Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Elmwood has three locations to make staying in shape easier. You can work out alone or with a trainer, take a class with others, join a sports team or take a healthy cooking class.

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

3. Franco's Lakeview Athletic Club (111 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 286-8801;

Best Place to Take a Yoga Class

1. Wild Lotus Yoga Studio (4404 St. Peter St., 485-6536; -- Having just celebrated its first-year anniversary in July, Wild Lotus Yoga Studio has managed to quickly earn the admiration of yoga students around town. One reason might be the serene environments of the restored historic Mid-City building that houses the studio. Or, it could be the diverse and challenging, yet inviting, classes offered by founder Sean Johnson and his staff. Wild Lotus also entertains musicians, and offers a Writing from the Chakras class.

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

3. Franco's Lakeview Athletic Club (111 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 286-8801;

Best Barbershop

1. Aidan Gill for Men (2026 Magazine St., 587-9090; -- There's something manly about an old-fashioned barbershop, and the ever-sardonic, ever-sartorial Mr. Gill retains that feel without being stodgy or out-of-date. An excellent haircut and style (or shave) can be obtained at the hands of Gill or his assistants, and the latest in shaving accoutrements and manly accessories are available.

2. The Golden Shears (6008 Magazine St., 895-9269)

3. Vincent's Barber Shop (2900 Metairie Court Pkwy., Metairie, 835-1835)

Best Hair Salon

1. John Jay Beauty Salon (3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 889-1444; 3142 Pontchartrain Drive, Slidell, 985-643-9894; 540 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 282-7234; 7600 St. Charles Ave., 866-2782) -- John Jay has won more hair design awards than there are hairs on a youngster's head, and his salons have influenced the styles of New Orleanians for decades.

2. (TIE) Paris Parker Salons and Spas (Citywide; and H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377;

3. Stardust Salon and Day Spa (1904 Magazine St., 523-4645)

Best Day Spa

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; -- Belladonna offers a long menu of body and beauty services, including massage, pedicure, manicure and scrubs. It's all delivered in a comfortable atmosphere by nurturing therapists. You also can enjoy makeup services and a whole showroom of gifts, body products, aromatherapy candles and some exquisite bath, bedroom and house wares.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide;

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377;

Best Place to Get a Manicure

1. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide; -- Everything here is natural and good for your fingernails. The focus is on healing, with a technician providing cuticle and nourishing softening treatments as well as hand reflexology.

2. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393;

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377;

Best Place to Get a Pedicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; -- Customers get to watch fish swimming peacefully in aquariums while technicians place tired feet in customized whirlpool salts and remove calluses with a special loofah scrub. They'll trim and file your toenails and buff or polish as you wish, but even better, they'll massage your feet and calves.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide;

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377;

Best Place to Get a Massage

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; -- With a multitude of treatments, the hardest part of having a massage at Belladonna is choosing which one. The massage therapists are highly trained and the facilities are designed for ultimate relaxation. There's also a Tranquility Garden where you can have a massage outside and then relax in the very Zen surroundings.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide;

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377;

Best Tanning Salon

1. Planet Beach (Citywide; -- The local outlets are almost as plentiful as the rays of the sun, but you don't need the sun to get a tan at these salons. You just have to relax and lounge on a tanning bed for a few minutes. Planet Beach is one of the fastest-growing franchises on the continent.

2. Maple Street Tanning (7716 Maple St., 866-5458)

3. Bask Tanning & Hair Inc. (5300 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-2275)

Best Body Piercing/Tattoo Parlor

1. Electric Lady Land Tattoo (8106 Earhart Blvd., 866-3859; 610 Frenchmen St., 947-8286; -- Body art is a very personal (and permanent) expression of one's taste. At Electric Lady Land there are a wealth of tattoo and piercing artists trained in their crafts and able to create both standard and unique works of art on almost any place on your body.

2. Rings of Desire Inc. (1128 Decatur St., 524-6147;

3. Eye Candy Tattoos & Body Piercing Saloon (1578 Magazine St., 299-8222;

Best Place to Buy New CDs

1. Tower Records (408 N. Peters St., 529-4411; -- Open since 1988 in the French Quarter, the sleek and massive Tower Records is home to all styles of music, from artists that play in clubs just blocks away to stars from across the globe. Tower's Louisiana Room offers a wide variety of Cajun, zydeco, gospel and New Orleans-style R&B and jazz artists. Live in-store performances are a big hit during Jazz Fest.

2. Virgin Megastore (620 Decatur St., 671-8100;

3. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411;

Best Place to Buy Used CDs

1. Mushroom (1037 Broadway St., 866-6065) Located near the campuses of Tulane and Loyola universities, Mushroom has long been a favorite destination for college students and fans of alternative rock. The variety of used CDs allows patrons to sell off unwanted tunes, as well as allow the shopper to pick up a great deal on a discounted disc. Imports of live concerts are also available.

2. CD Warehouse (3029 Magazine St., 899-9962; 700 Terry Pkwy., Terrytown, 433-0494;

3. Magic Bus (527 Conti St., 522-0530;

Best CD Store to Find Music by Local Artists

1. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094, -- Just as the name implies, Louisiana Music Factory is the place to shop when you're looking for artists representing the rich and diverse music styles native to our state. The bottom floor is filled with CDs of artists in jazz, Cajun, zydeco, R&B, gospel styles. Upstairs, a massive records collection is on display, so vinyl junkies can pick up classics ranging from Professor Longhair's Crawfish Fiesta to Dr. John's first album, Gris Gris. Live, free-admission performances by local favorites every Saturday is weekly tradition.

2. Tower Records (408 N. Peters St., 529-4411;

3. Virgin Megastore (620 Decatur St., 671-8100;

Best DVD/Video Store to Rent New Releases

1. Blockbuster Video (Citywide, -- New Orleanians love "to make it a Blockbuster night," choosing the national powerhouse as the top choice for new releases. Blockbuster often boasts many copies of the same movie to help insure that what you came for will be in stock, no matter how in-demand it is. The store also posts release dates for upcoming movies.

2. Major Video (320 N. Carrollton Ave., 483-9992; 400 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 392-8257; 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7803; 3020 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1768)

3. Hollywood Video (2831 Belle Chasse Hwy., Terrytown, 394-6800; 2801 Magazine St., 897-1009; 8400 Morrison Road, 242-9663; 4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-3122,

Best DVD/Video Store to Rent Classic/Foreign Films

1. Blockbuster Video (Citywide; -- While the adjective "blockbuster" in most cases applies to big-time summer movie hits, Blockbuster Video also offers movie lovers a wide selection of classic and foreign films. With many of the classics now being restored on DVD, new releases of old greats give the movie a new digital quality.

2. Major Video (320 N. Carrollton Ave., 483-9992; 400 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 392-8257; 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7803; 3020 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1768)

3. Video Alternatives (4725 Magazine St., 891-5347)

Best Bookstore

1. Barnes & Noble (1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929, -- The selection at Barnes & Noble makes it the favorite destination for bibliophiles. Rows and rows of books, everything from cookbooks to history books to novels and poetry, are found at both local Barnes & Noble locations.

2. Maple Street Book Shop (7523 Maple St., 866-4916,

3. Borders Books, Music & Cafe (3131 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-1363,

Best Bookstore to Find Books by Local Authors

1. Maple Street Book Shop (7523 Maple St., 866-4916, -- Tucked away in its serene Riverbend location, Maple Street Book Shop has for the past 39 years specialized in offering titles by local writers, including greats such as Walker Percy, Ellen Gilchrist and Christine Wiltz. Besides such local, masterful fiction, the store also offers books on New Orleans' food, architecture, history and music. Area writers make regular appearances.

2. Barnes & Noble (1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929,

3. Beaucoup Books (5414 Magazine St., 895-2663)

Best Travel Agency

1. Scott Cruises and Tours (4033 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-5506, -- With more than 30 years experience in travel and leisure, Scott Cruises and Tours knows how to plan the perfect trip for you. Scott specializes in cruises, whether you want to journey from the Port of New Orleans to exotic foreign ports, or just take a one-night journey along the Gulf Coast to listen to your favorite band or DJ. Scott can also plan trips such as family adventures to the Grand Canyon, or romantic getaways to Hawaii.

2. Eagle Travel Service (3814 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-4462)

3. Carlson Wagonlit Travel (1124 St. Charles Ave., 522-7777; 701 Metairie Road, 832-0976,

Best Place to Buy a New Domestic Car

1. Lamarque (Citywide; -- With a dedication to service, Lamarque's reputation has allowed the company to grow but still have a personal touch for customer service, an attitude evident in its Web site,, which features a link to email questions and concerns to the company's leader, Ronnie Lamarque.

2. Don Bohn (Don Bohn Ford, 3737 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey, 347-7000; Don Bohn Buick-Pontiac-GMC, 3801 Lapalco Blvd., 347-4070;

3. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet-GEO (701 Baronne St., 569-1369;

Best Place to Buy a New Foreign Car

1. Crescent City Motors (3000 Tulane Ave., 827-1200; -- Offering some of the finest that European carmakers have to offer, Crescent City Motors in Mid-City is home to sleek and stylish models of Saab, Volkswagon, Porsche and Audi. Crescent City Motors also features an on-location service department to repair and tune-up your car. For a free quote on the make and model you desire, visit the Web site,

2. Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165;

3. Benson Mercedes (3727 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 456-3727;

Best Place to Buy a Used Domestic Car

1. Lamarque Lincoln-Mercury (3800 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey, 349-4500; -- Lamarque's West Bank location is known for great deals on reliable used domestic cars, with Lincolns and Mercurys being the focus at this particular dealership. A body shop and service center are located on the grounds.

2. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet (701 Baronne St., 569-1369;

3. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-6030;

Best Place to Buy a Used Foreign Car

1. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-6030; -- Since 1991, veteran Toyota dealer Tony Gullo has offered both new and used cars at his lot. Customers can search the dealership's stock online, as well as schedule appointment and order spare parts. Lakeside is a pioneer of the move to stay open until midnight.

2. Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165;

3. Benson Mercedes (3727 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 456-3727;

Best Place to Buy an SUV

1. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet (701 Baronne St., 569-1369; -- As the demand for the comforts and style of SUVs has boomed in recent years, Sewell has done more than just keep up, it's managed to stay ahead and offer a full line of SUVs from both Cadillac and Chevrolet. Sewell accommodates both makers, showcasing the rugged reliability of Chevrolet, including the popular Tahoe, as well as the sleek style of Cadillac, which makes Escalade.

2. Lamarque Ford (Lamarque Ford, 3101 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2500;

3. Don Bohn Ford (3737 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey, 347-7000;

Best Place to Buy a Sports Car

1. Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165; -- Peake BMW showcases a full range of BMW models. Even the sedan versions of the German-engineered classic have a sporty feel, but several makes of the two-door and convertible models, including the popular, James Bond-inspired Z3, are top choices for the rush that only a speedy sports car can provide.

2. Paretti Imports (3000 Richland Ave., Metairie, 455-2101; 4000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-5420;

3. Benson Mercedes (3727 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 456-3727;

Best Place to Buy a Luxury Car

1. Lexus of New Orleans (8801 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 467-7070; -- Few cars connote luxury like the sleek models of Lexus, and the only local dealership of the cars, Lexus of New Orleans, offers a full range of models. Whether it's the commanding RX 330 SUV or the speedy, responsive SC 430 (a convertible) or the roomy LS sedan, Lexus of New Orleans has it covered.

2. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet (701 Baronne St., 569-1369;

3. Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165;

Best Full-service Gas Station

1. Herb's Shell on State and Magazine streets (6001 Magazine St., 895-8200) -- Capable of much more than just offering gas pumps, the friendly staff at Herb's Shell handles a number of appreciated tasks. Whether it's changing the oil, checking the brakes or doing duties such as installing headlight bulbs (never as easy as it sounds), the workers at Herb's do it quickly and with a smile.

2. Fleur de Lis Car Care Center (247 W. Harrison Ave., 488-8044)

3. Harrison Avenue Shell (932 Harrison Ave., 488-4808)

Best Bank

1. Hibernia Bank (Citywide; -- A trusted local institution, Hibernia Bank is a popular choice for businesses and individuals alike. Online banking, allowing you to pay bills and review your account information with just a few clicks of the computer, is a free service. Businesses, both large corporations and small mom-and-pop operations, can also seek loans that match their needs.

2. Whitney Bank (Citywide;

3. Bank One (Citywide;

Best Wireless Phone Service

1. Cingular (Citywide; -- Cingular is the readers' choice in the intense competition for cell phone customers. Cingular offers nationwide plans that make roaming and long-distance charges as antiquated as the horse and buggy, and a number of options for number of minutes and two-way communications that will fit any need.

2. Sprint (Citywide;

3. Verizon (Citywide;

Best Place to Buy a Cell Phone

1. Cingular (Citywide; -- With 30 locations all across the New Orleans metropolitan area -- from Slidell to Laplace, Harvey to Mandeville -- Cingular has enough stores to meet the incredible demand for its phone and cellular services. In each store, Cingular employees can demonstrate features -- such as text messaging and digital components -- that make cell phones so useful.

2. Sprint (Citywide;

3. Verizon (Citywide;

Best Place to Buy a Computer

1. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; -- Both area Best Buy locations stock a full range of computers, whether you're considering a laptop or desktop, Mac or PC. In addition, Best Buy sells a number of items to complete your computer, from CDs to printers to wireless-connection devices.

2. Gateway (4704 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-3857;

3. CompUSA (8855 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 468-3838;

Best Place to Buy a Stereo

1. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; -- There's little doubt what area of the expansive Best Buy stores houses the stereos, as the models on display show off their decibel prowess. Best Buy can provide the tools from top brands, whether you're looking to get a teenager started with their first stereo or wire the entire house.

2. Circuit City (6011 Bullard Ave., 245-6366; 4945 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 348-2279; 2421 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 467-3339; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 828-7875;

3. Altermann Audio (3213 17th St., Metairie, 834-5400)

Best Place to Buy a DVD/CD Player

1. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; -- At Best Buy, all the top brands are represented, with different makes on display so you can test the quality and match a particular player to your needs. And Best Buy is one-stop shopping, with a huge selection of movies and albums so you can enjoy your new technology as soon as you get home.

2. Circuit City (6011 Bullard Ave., 245-6366; 4945 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 348-2279; 2421 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 467-3339; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 828-7875;

3. A-1 Appliance (1002 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 734-7777; 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-3333; 1925 Industrial Blvd., Harvey, 341-9999; 2801 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 461-4360)

Best Bicycle Store

1. Joe's Bicycle Shop (2509 Tulane Ave., 821-2354) -- Don't let all the lawn mowers fool you -- Joe's is the place to go to find all your biking needs. Whether you're looking to cruise the streets with a sleek, lightweight cruiser or take it to the hills with a rugged mountain bike, Joe's has you covered. The knowledgeable staff can also service your bike's repairs.

2. GNO Cyclery (1426 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-0023;

3. (TIE) Michael's Bicycles (622 Frenchmen St., 945-9505) and Bayou Bicycles (3534 Toulouse St., 488-1946;

Best Sporting Goods Store

1. Oshman's (5300 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-7791; 4329 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-4700; -- Regardless of what sport you enjoy, Oshman's has you covered, stocking its shelves with everything from footballs and basketballs to Frisbees and fishing poles (fishers can also obtain their Louisiana license here as well). Oshman's makes sure you have all the right clothes for your workout or game, offering athletic shoes, shirts, shorts and more.

2. Academy Sports & Outdoors (50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 363-8283; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320;

3. Sports Authority (5151 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 734-7271;

Best Pet Groomers

1. PetsMart (1321 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-0879; 1000 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-2016; -- At PetsMart's grooming salons, the staff can offer a simple cut or a stylish make-over, and go beyond that to offer services including treatment for excessive shedding, skin problems and bad breath.

2. Pooch's Palace (3440 Magazine St., 269-3647)

3. Pet Emporium (2315 Metairie Road, 828-5004)

Best Pet Supplies Store

1. PetsMart (1321 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-0879; 1000 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-2016; -- Admit it. Buying toys for your pets is fun, and the gifts are always appreciated (even if they are later destroyed). PetsMart offers a huge selection of toys for dogs, cats and more, along with needed supplies.

2. Jefferson Feed, Pet and Garden Center (4421 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 733-8572;

3. Double M Feed (Citywide;

Best Veterinary/Animal Clinic

1. Magazine Street Animal Clinic (3458 Magazine St., 891-4115) -- Everyone wants the best for their pet, so that's why so many trust the care of their animals to the Magazine Street Animal Clinic. Whether it's an emergency or important routine care, this Uptown clinic can serve your pet's needs.

2. Metairie Small Animal Hospital (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; 5040 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 455-2345; 4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-4400)

3. Causeway Animal Hospital (1315 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 828-2700;

Best Hotel

1. Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331; -- It's won all kinds of awards for service and quality accommodations -- and just a trip through the lobby gives visitors a hint why. Along with the beautiful guestrooms, suites and even a penthouse with its own patio and panoramic view of the city, there are meeting spaces, a beautiful courtyard and lounges with live entertainment. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans is the only local hotel with the AAA's five-diamond rating.

2. Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000;

3. W New Orleans (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; W French Quarter Hotel, 316 Chartres St., 581-1200;

Best Hotel Lobby

1. Fairmont Hotel (123 Baronne St., 529-7111; -- The Fairmont New Orleans evokes the word "grand" in every sense, especially when you walk into the lobby with its towering columns on both sides, shiny marble floor and a history that includes movie stars, entertainers, royalty and eight U.S. presidents as guests. Originally built as the Gunewald Hotel in 1893 and later called the Roosevelt, then the Fairmont, the hotel during the winter holidays transforms its lobby into a winter wonderland, replete with displays of snow in angel hair, sparkles and holiday cheer.

2. Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331;

3. Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000;

Best Local Attorney

1. Morris Bart (909 Poydras St., 525-1301; -- His name and face are more recognizable to many New Orleanians than some of our local politicians, and he's considered a hero to people who need to recover damages for personal injuries. He was the first Louisiana attorney to advertise his personal injury legal services on television in 1980 and since then has become an expert on such marketing in the state and a fixture on local TV stations.

2. Stephen Rue (Stephen Rue & Associates, 3309 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2400; 4004 Magazine St., 897-1003; 422 Derbigny St., Gretna, 831-2600; 4812 Julia St., 897-1003;

3. Julian Murray (1 Galleria Blvd., Metairie, 833-5600;

Best Auto Repair Shop

1. Pep Boys (Citywide; -- In its 80 years-plus history, Pep Boys has grown into a national chain with a reputation for quick and dependable service, along with quality parts and supplies at an affordable price. Area locations of Pep Boys can handle most of your car's needs, from a quick oil change to installing new tires.

2. Kehoe Tire (5000 Freret St., 897-5050)

3. Philip Bonura Auto Service (1618 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-8584)

Best Florist

1. Villere's Florist (1107 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 833-3716; 812 S. Tyler St., Covington, 985-809-9101; -- When the first Villere's opened in Metairie in 1969, it began a decades-long tradition of providing top-notch service to complement a large selection of fresh flowers. Deliveries and set-up, from large corporate events, weddings and funerals to small romantic greetings, are arranged by a staff of professionals.

2. Tommy's Flowers (1310 N. Rampart St., 522-6563)

3. Peter Chopin (3138 Magazine St., 891-4455)

Best Garden Center

1. Perino's Garden Center (3100 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-7888; -- Perino's covers all facets of your lawn and garden needs. The shop originally started in 1955 selling lawn and garden equipment. The family-owned and operated business has since expanded to offer landscaping services, lawn ornaments, gifts and yard art, making it one of the top garden centers in the South.

2. Home Depot (Citywide;

3. Charvet's Garden Center (9101 Jefferson Hwy., River Ridge, 737-7700; 4511 Clearview Hwy., Metairie, 888-7700; 123 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-7700;

Best Place to Buy Wine

1. Martin's Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; -- The wines at Martin's are carefully selected to provide shoppers with choices from leading vineyards across the globe. Descriptions and a helpful and knowledgeable staff lend advice on how to best pair the wines (which blend perfectly with Martin's great selection of gourmet food and cheese items).

2. Dorignac's (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216;

3. The Wine Seller (5000 Prytania St., 899-6000)

Best Liquor Store

1. Martin's Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; -- Martin's might have wine in its name, but the liquor selection is equally as impressive. Top-shelf items are all featured at prices that can't be beat, with favorite makers, both foreign and domestic, of vodka, Scotch, bourbon, gin and all the other mainstays, as well as some exotic choices.

2. Dorignac's (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216;

3. Elio's (6205 S. Miro St., 866-1852)

Best Local Beer Brand

1. Abita (21084 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, 985-892-1123; -- Since its humble beginnings in 1986, when it produced 1,500 barrels of beer, Abita has used the quality of the local water to become a major player on the beer scene. Various brews are offered, from the Mardi Gras-time Bock to the constantly refreshing Amber to seasonal specialties that come out during Christmas (Red) and summer (Wheat, served best with lemon).

2. Dixie (2537 Tulane Ave., 822-8711)

3. Crescent City Brewhouse (527 Decatur St., 522-0571;

Best Candy Shop

1. Blue Frog Chocolates (5707 Magazine St., 269-5707; -- This little Uptown shop makes its customers hop for joy at the variety and tastiness of its confections. Whether you want to buy novelty chocolates in the shape of a guitar, motorcycle or whatever else, or by-the-piece specialty creations at the candy counter, you'll walk out with quality chocolates and other confections gathered from around the world.

2. Southern Candymakers (1010 Decatur St., 525-6170; 334 Decatur St., 523-5544;

3. Laura's Candies and Creole Pralines (331 Chartres St., 525-3880; 938 Royal St., 524-9259;

Best Neighborhood Grocery

1. Langenstein's Supermarket (1330 Arabella St., 899-9283; 800 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-6682; -- Family-owned and operated (with owners in the stores every day) Langenstein's is known for its quality fresh meats, which you can get cut to order, seafood and produce. Another hallmark is the friendly and efficient service from employees, many of whom have worked at the stores for years.

2. Lakeview Fine Foods (801 Harrison Ave., 482-7333)

3. Zara's Food Store (4838 Prytania St., 895-0581; 2042 Prytania St., 523-3658)

Best Supermarket

1. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; -- Whether at the down-home original location in Mid-City or the shiny new contemporary supermarket Uptown in the old Arabella Street RTA bus barn, shoppers will find fresh, organic produce, meats and health and beauty products, as well as a deli counter and spaces to hang out and enjoy refreshments.

2. Sav-A-Center (Citywide;

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

Best Bakery

1. Maurice's French Pastries (1114 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-7052; 3501 Hessmer Ave., Metairie, 885-1526) -- A sweet tooth's paradise, both Maurice's locations prepare from scratch a wide and tempting variety of French specialty cakes and desserts. Whether you're looking to create your own flavor or trust the chef's style, you'll find everything from strudels to coffee cakes, with pastries that work for breakfast or for elegant cocktail parties.

2. Gambino's (Citywide;

3. La Boulangerie (625 St. Charles Ave., 569-1925; 4526 Magazine St., 269-3777; 3143 Ponce De Leon St., 940-0577)

Best Grocery Store to Buy Fresh Produce

1. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; -- Both Whole Foods stores in town offer produce that is fresh and organically grown, important standards for shoppers. The aisles are stocked with both seasonal and year-round goods.

2. Sav-A-Center (Citywide;

3. Dorignac's (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216)

Best Fruit and Vegetable Market/Stand

1. French Market (1008 N. Peters St., 523-4201) -- With centuries of history as the place to find the freshest goods area farmers have to offer, the bounty of Louisiana is on proud display at the French Market. From bottled pickled okra to huge peppers that will spice up any meal with style, the French Market has it all. The Market annually hosts a festival dedicated to the Creole tomato when the local favorite becomes in season around Memorial Day.

2. Crescent City Farmer's Market (200 Broadway St. on Tue., 3700 Orleans Ave. on Thu., 700 Magazine St. on Sat., 861-5898;

3. Claiborne and Nashville Vegetable Stand

Best Seafood Market

1. Schaeffer and Rusich Seafood (1726 Lake Ave., Metairie, 833-3973) -- A throwback to the days when Bucktown was a fishing village, Schaeffer and Rusich prides itself on delivering to scores of loyal customers the best catches at the best prices. Whether it's time for crawfish, crabs or shrimp, this market has you covered. A number of fish choices also abound, including tasty favorites redfish and trout.

2. Deanie's Seafood (1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 835-4638;

3. (TIE) Big Fisherman (3301 Magazine St., 897-9907) and Captain Sid's Seafood (1700 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-2840)

Best Caterer

1. Martin's Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; -- Readers say it's their favorite place to buy wine and liquor, but Martin's now also has full-service catering with food choices coming from a set menu or custom-designed one. The establishment will provide everything from rental services to bartenders, food, libations and a beautiful presentation.

2. Labella's Catering Inc. (2219 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 466-4675)

3. (TIE) Patton's Caterers Inc. (3625 Park Blvd., Chalmette, 279-4539) and Food Art (801 Carondelet St., 524-2381)

click to enlarge Best Florist: Villere's Florist - DONN YOUNG
click to enlarge Best Fruit and Vegetable Market/Stand: French - Market - EILEEN LOH HARRIST
click to enlarge Best Outdoor Dining: Cafe Degas - DONN YOUNG
click to enlarge Best Hornets Player: Jamal Mashburn - NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
click to enlarge Best Place to Get Gourmet-to-Go: Foodie's Kitchen - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best Place to Get Gourmet-to-Go: Foodie's Kitchen
click to enlarge Best Potential Governor: Bobby Jindal - FRIENDS OF BOBBY JINDAL
  • Friends of Bobby Jindal
  • Best Potential Governor: Bobby Jindal
click to enlarge Best Place to Get Barbecue: Voodoo BBQ - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best Place to Get Barbecue: Voodoo BBQ
click to enlarge Best Friend Louisiana Has In Washington and Best - Local Liberal: Mary Landrieu - MARY LANDRIEU FOR SENATE
  • Mary Landrieu for Senate
  • Best Friend Louisiana Has In Washington and Best Local Liberal: Mary Landrieu
click to enlarge Best Local Legislator and Best Local Conservative: - David Vitter - DAVID VITTER
  • David Vitter
  • Best Local Legislator and Best Local Conservative: David Vitter
click to enlarge Best Actor Working Locally: Ricky Graham
  • Best Actor Working Locally: Ricky Graham
click to enlarge Best Local Female TV Anchor Hair and Sexiest Local - Female TV News Personality: Karen Swensen - WWL-TV
  • WWL-TV
  • Best Local Female TV Anchor Hair and Sexiest Local Female TV News Personality: Karen Swensen
click to enlarge Best Local Music Journalist: Keith Spera
  • Best Local Music Journalist: Keith Spera
click to enlarge Best Bicycle Store: Joe's Bicycle Shop - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best Bicycle Store: Joe's Bicycle Shop
click to enlarge Best West Bank Destination: Jean Lafitte National - Park and Preserve - A.J. SISCO/COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
  • A.J. Sisco/courtesy National Park Service
  • Best West Bank Destination: Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve
click to enlarge Best Acoustic Folk Band/Artist: Theresa Andersson -  - CLAYTON CALL
  • Clayton Call
  • Best Acoustic Folk Band/Artist: Theresa Andersson

click to enlarge Best New Club/Bar and Best Place to Get Wine - By the Glass: The Wine Loft - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best New Club/Bar and Best Place to Get Wine By the Glass: The Wine Loft
click to enlarge Best Watchdog: Rafael Goyeneche of the - Metropolitan Crime Commission - METROPOLITAN CRIME COMMISSION
  • Metropolitan Crime Commission
  • Best Watchdog: Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission
click to enlarge Best Place to Take a Yoga Class: Wild Lotus Yoga - Studio - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best Place to Take a Yoga Class: Wild Lotus Yoga Studio
click to enlarge Best Place to Get Married: St. Louis Cathedral - OSCAR RAJO
  • Oscar Rajo
  • Best Place to Get Married: St. Louis Cathedral
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