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Best of New Orleans 2004 

Editorial assistance from Alison Fensterstock, Megan Graves, Jamal Jackson, Xiomara Myers, Ernest Svenson and Lance Vargas.

It's election time -- no, not that election. For this week at least, we divert your attention to this year's edition of the Best of New Orleans ®. Earlier this summer, Gambit Weekly invited you to submit your choices for all that is best about living in New Orleans. Now, your ballots are in and counted. What follows are your answers.

In addition, our writers offer some of their own views on what's best about our city. From a Xeroxed literary journal to a house in the Sixth Ward, their answers are personal slices of life in the place we call home. Add them all up, and you get the Best of New Orleans ® 2004.

Entertainment and Nightlife


Best Movie Theater

1. AMC Palace 20 -- Elmwood (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, 734-2020) -- With stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound and a snack counter that includes not just movie staples but more adult fare including daiquiris and frozen Jack and Coke, it's no surprise the AMC Palace 20 is one of New Orleans' most popular date spots.

2. AMC Palace 12 -- Clearview (4486 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 734-2020)

3. The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 363-1117; www.landmarktheaters.com)

Best Live Theater Venue

1. Saenger Performing Arts Center (143 N. Rampart St., 569-1520; www.saengertheatre.com) -- This baroque historic landmark was built in 1927, and in 1978 was renovated into a live theater venue. Now it hosts the road company productions of Broadway shows, with Hairspray, The Graduate and Movin' Out all part of the upcoming season.

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

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

Best Local Theater Actor

1. Ricky Graham -- Among the biggest stars in New Orleans theater, Ricky Graham gets ovations just walking on stage. He is not only fearless but also generous, this year taking a supporting role in Sordid Lives. Graham is also a writer and director, and his play Hollywood Heaven won a Big Easy Award this year for Best Comedy.

2. John 'Spud' McConnell

3. Flynn De Marco

Best Local Theater Actress

1. Becky Allen -- This New Orleans actress is perfectly cast in Boobs! The Musical, bringing the saucy, bawdy songs of Ruth Wallis to the stage with broad, good-natured warmth. She is as beloved for her acting as she is for the way she has become an integral part of the city's cultural fabric, whether it's in commercials or embodying the spirit of Mardi Gras riding with the Krewe of Muses.

2. Lara Grice

3. (TIE) Karen Herbert and Heidi Junius

Best New Club/Bar

1. One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St., 569-8361) -- The cool kids were worried when the Shim Sham Club closed and Harry Anderson bought the building that housed El Matador. The Matador's Rio Hackford and Fifi Mahoney's Ryan Hesseling have renovated the Shim Sham into One Eyed Jacks, keeping the intimate front room and large showroom for live rock 'n' roll in the back, but giving the rooms a bordello feel, appropriate for the local home of burlesque.

2. Rasputin's Restaurant & Vodka Bar (333 Poydras St., 525-9444)

3. Hookah Cafe (1132 Decatur St., 566-7057)

Best Dance Club

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com) -- Oz hosts cabaret, variety shows and drag queen performances, but it's best known for a dance floor that doesn't stop. Colored by an intoxicating light show, the spacious floor moves to high-energy dance mixes courtesy of DJs Mary Pappas, Raymond Mattix and Tim Pflueger.

2. Club 360 (2 Canal St., 595-8900; www.club360.com)

3. The Metropolitan (310 Andrew Higgins Dr., 568-1700; generationshall.com)

Best Sports Bar

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- Sports bars are all about beer and televisions. With a wall of bottled beers and a thicket of draft taps on the bar, Cooter's has the suds covered. With eight flat screen televisions and a satellite sports package, there's always a game on, with preference given to local college and pro teams. This Uptown college bar also benefits from an on-site oyster shucker and a kitchen that makes some of city's favorite cheese fries.

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

3. Hytopps Sports Bar & Grill (500 Poydras St., 299-1169)

Best College Hangout

1. Bruno's Bar (7601 Maple St., 861-7615; www.brunosbar.com) -- This Maple Street bar has been keeping Tulane and Loyola students from their homework for 80 years now. With nightly drink specials, televisions and bar games, Bruno's provides university students what many really want most -- affordable distractions from academic stress.

2. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008)

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) -- At 9 or even 10 p.m., you can still shoot pool on a table that slopes noticeably toward Tchoupitoulas Street, but an hour or so later, not only are too many people dancing around the table, but they're dancing on the table. In the front room, the beloved jukebox plays hits from CD after CD of favorites, while a DJ spins in the back room of the bar.

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

3. Grit's Bar (530 Lyons St., 899-9211)

Best Gay Bar

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491) -- It's not unusual to find ravers or girls on a night out dancing at Oz, but at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon streets, it's at the heart of gay Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence. The nightly entertainment, whether a talent show or a game of bingo, inevitably involves drag queens in one capacity or another.

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

3. Good Friends (740 Dauphine St., 566-7191)

Best Neighborhood Bar

1. Bruno's Bar (7601 Maple St., 861-7615) -- Bruno's has the air of familiarity that makes a good neighborhood bar. At Bruno's, Tulane and Loyola students who live on or near Maple Street meet former college students who settled nearby, creating continuity and community. The walls are dotted with newspaper clippings commemorating significant moments in New Orleans sports history, memories shared by regulars and regulars-to-be.

2. (TIE) The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) and Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar (3636 Bienville Ave., 482-9120; www.liuzzas.com)

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

Best Hotel Bar

1. W Hotel; Whiskey Blue (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.starwood.com) -- This classy, hip establishment attracts the well dressed and trendy in the CBD. From the dark blue bar to the comfortable leather chairs, Whiskey Blue is a cool, distinctly modern place to either briefly meet or settle into deep conversation over cocktails.

2. Ritz-Carlton; French Quarter Bar (921 Canal St., 524-1331; www.ritzcarlton.com)

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

Best Gentleman's/Strip Club

1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 524-4222; www.ricks.com) -- Rick's is couples-friendly, serves lunch and claims to be the first publicly traded topless entertainment business, but that's not why people go. Bachelor parties and hordes of men go for the women, but the classy atmosphere certainly helps.

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

3. Gold Club (727 Iberville St., 524-4354)

Best Happy Hour

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-2788; www.cats-meow.neworleansfanatic.com) -- Cat's Meow is best known as the home of karaoke on Bourbon Street, and the three-for-one domestic beer and mixed drink happy hour has helped many college students decide to let their voices be heard belting out the hits.

2. (TIE) Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200) and Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308)

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

Best Ladies' Night

1. TwiRoPa Mills (1544 Tchoupitoulas St., 232-9503; www.twiropa.com) -- With an airplane wing as a bar and cozy corners to duck into for close conversations, TwiRoPa has become a popular dance club, particularly on Thursdays. While DJs spin the hits of the '80s, ladies drink free until 1 a.m.

2. Dino's Bar & Grill (1128 Tchoupitoulas St., 593-0000)

3. The Dock (1926 West End Park, 284-3625; www.thedock.com)

Best Place to Dance to a Live Band

1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 894-8477; www.tipitinas.com) -- It's no surprise that dancers with an affection for New Orleans traditions flock to Tipitina's. The club hosts fais do dos Sunday afternoon and funky weekend shows by the likes of Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Papa Grows Funk and ReBirth Brass Band

. 2. Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl (4133 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133; www.rockandbowl.com)

3. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 529-2624; www.hob.com)

Best Bar Decor

1. Saturn Bar (3067 St. Claude Ave., 949-7532) -- The Saturn Bar still has a jukebox that plays singles, but the real appeal of the bar is on the walls. There's a funky chic that comes with walls covered -- covered -- in works of art that are more outside than outsider art, as well as displays of neon and taxidermy.

2. Whiskey Blue (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.starwood.com)

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

Best Jukebox

1. F & M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784) -- For a long time, the jukebox in the front room of the F & M was a cool collection of soul and pop singles. These days, the jukebox is still bringing people together, but now it does so with CDs full of hits from four decades.

2. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; www.portofcallneworleans.com)

3. Molly's at the Market (1107 Decatur St., 525-5169; www.mollysatthemarket.net)

Best Place to Shoot Pool

1. Fox & Hound English Pub & Grille (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 731-6000) -- It's rare to find a bar with nine pool tables, and it's rarer to find them in immaculate shape. With a sports bar's requisite army of televisions, there are also distractions to take shooters' minds off games that aren't going well.

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

3. (TIE) Whitey's Pool Hall (3764 Derbigny St., Metairie, 833-9122) and F & M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784)

Best Karaoke

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-2788; www.cats-meow.neworleansfanatic.com) -- Karaoke purists may point out that the Cat's Meow isn't the amateur talent showcase karaoke bars can be, but college students and tourists out for a good time appreciate the communal, party atmosphere. If the song's popular, the audience is often singing along.

2. Razoo Bar & Patio (511 Bourbon St., 522-5100)

3. Lucky's Bar (1625 St. Charles Ave., 523-8922)

Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary

1. (TIE) Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; www.thecolumns.com) and Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- These Uptown institutions are favorite places for Bloody Marys for more reasons than just the high quality of the cocktails. In the fall and spring, The Columns' wide porch overlooking St. Charles Avenue is perfect for relaxing with a tangy Bloody Mary. At Commander's Palace, everything feels elegant, including a Bloody Mary made with Commander's housemade Worcestershire, pepper sauce and vegetable juice accompanying an egg sardou.

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

3. Igor's Lounge & Game Room (2133 St. Charles Ave., 522-2145; www.igors.org)

Best Place to Get a Sazerac

1. Sazerac Restaurant and Bar (Fairmont Hotel, 123 Baronne St., 529-4733; www.fairmont.com./neworleans) -- The classic New Orleans drink began as a cognac beverage until around 1870, when rye whiskey instead of cognac was mixed with bitters, sugar and water to produce the complex taste that has made the drink legendary. The Sazerac House, the coffeehouse in which it was developed, moved to the Roosevelt Hotel -- now the Fairmont Hotel -- where it resides today in a room as elegant and Southern as the drink.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Margarita

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com/neworleans.htm) -- The citrus bite of freshly squeezed lime juice and tequila is a beautiful thing. With an impressive tequila collection, many variations are possible at Superior, and on Wednesday's happy hour, they're available three-for-one.

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

3. Vaqueros (2037 Metairie Road, Metairie, 891-6441; www.vaqueros-restaurant.com)

Best Place to Get a Martini

1. Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) -- The Bombay Club has nine specialty martinis and a fine selection of vodkas and gins for those who like their martinis custom-made. More important than the recipes, though, are the bartenders, who have mastered the delicate science of mixing a martini.

2. Whiskey Blue (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.starwood.com)

3. Rasputin's Restaurant & Vodka Bar (333 Poydras St., 525-9444)

Best Place to Get Wine by the Glass

1. The Wine Loft (752 Tchoupitoulas St., 561-0116; thewineloft.net) -- With a knowledgeable staff, patrons can comfortably order from the menu of more than 80 wines sold by the glass. That, in tandem with the Wine Loft's bistro fare, has made it a hip Warehouse District destination.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 269-3792; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com)

3. Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858)

Best Place to Get a Cold Beer

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- In the heat of late summer, a cold beer is almost as necessary as air conditioning. Cooter's keeps its coolers set at about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is very cold indeed.

2. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com)

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

Best Beer Selection

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- The wall-long cooler in Cooter Brown's has made more than one college student weep with joy upon seeing it. It houses more than 400 beers from around the world, and draft fans should be able to find a fresh adventure in one of Cooter's 40 beers on tap.

2. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com)

3. Lager's International Ale House (3501 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-9923; lagersmetairie.draftfreak.com/main.php)

Best Casino

1. Harrah's New Orleans Casino (512 S. Peters St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) -- This year, Harrah's opened the Earl Turner Theatre to bring Earl Turner and Las Vegas-style entertainment to the city. The Canal Street casino, with its vast expanse of slot machines and table games, has become a destination of choice for locals and visitors.

2. Treasure Chest (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 468-6152; www.treasurechest.com)

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

Best Live Music Venue

1. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 529-2624; www.hob.com) -- House of Blues regularly features big-name talent in rock, world music, R&B and hip-hop, so its calendar is required reading each month. The main room is large enough to make shows feel like events, but concertgoers are never too far from the stage, making even an evening with hundreds of people feel intimate.

2. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 894-8477; www.tipitinas.com)

3. Howlin' Wolf (828 S. Peters St., 529-5844; www.howlin-wolf.com)

Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months

1. Prince -- Performing in the Superdome during Essence Festival this summer, Prince delivered a three-hour parade of his hits, showing a heavy debt to James Brown in the arrangements. He was not only musically generous but also affable, seemingly enjoying his time onstage as much as the full Dome enjoyed being there.

2. Eric Clapton

3. Shania Twain

Best Jazz Fest Performance 2004

1. Lenny Kravitz -- Closing the Acura Stage the first Saturday of Jazz Fest, Kravitz featured songs from his then-upcoming album, Baptism. He surprised the audience first with his recently straightened hair, then with a memorable set that veered bravely into jazz funk for a half-hour, generously letting the other band members take substantial solos. After following his personal muse down that alley, he rewarded his audience with his hits.

2. Bonnie Raitt

3. Wyclef Jean

Best Rock Band/Artist

1. Cowboy Mouth -- Cowboy Mouth has been raising hell for 14 years, and concerts still feel as much like tent revival meetings as rock 'n' roll shows. The new album, Live at the Zoo, recorded live at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, captures the band at its wildest, and is the first to feature bass player Mary LaSang.

2. Better Than Ezra

3. Theresa Andersson

Best R&B/Blues Band/Artist

1. Irma Thomas -- The Soul Queen of New Orleans remains one of the city's most cherished musicians. Whether it's her yearly Mothers Day concert at Audubon Park or a show in her own Lion's Den, Thomas gives her fans the New Orleans favorites, with a warmth and spirit that comes from genuine trial and triumph.

2. Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and the Roadmasters

3. Henry Butler

Best Jazz Band/Artist

1. Kermit Ruffins -- The trumpeter's albums embody New Orleans' party spirit, and his Thursday night shows at Vaughan's have become an institution. Tourists from around the world make the trip to the Bywater bar, where they're rewarded with his imaginative, crowd-pleasing takes on jazz standards.

2. Jeremy Davenport

3. Astral Project

Best Cajun/Zydeco Band/Artist

1. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. -- From one of the best-known families in zydeco, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. is one of the most distinctive rubboard players in Louisiana. From his trademark cowboy hat to his wraparound shades, he is a memorable figure onstage, leading his band with James Brown-like athleticism.

2. BeauSoleil

3. Amanda Shaw

Best Brass Band

1. ReBirth Brass Band -- This year's ReBirth for Life features the band at its best, shifting effortlessly from memorable riffs to complex interplay between the horns, to call-and-response trade-offs, all over a consistently funky groove. With its tribute to the departed Tuba Fats, the album also has a timeliness not typically associated with the band.

2. Olympia Brass Band

3. Dirty Dozen Band

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

1. Juvenile -- Juvenile has a gift for bringing his younger days in the Magnolia Project to life in music with adventurous beats, as Juvie the Great, his 2003 Cash Money album, illustrated. On this year's Beginning of the End -- a collaboration with proteges Wacko and Skip -- he continues to show loyalty to his neighborhood with 'Nolia Chop.'

2.(TIE) Master P and Ballzack

3. Mystikal

Best Acoustic/Folk Band/Artist

1. Jim McCormick -- McCormick's You Can't Drown Your Sorrows captures him with one foot in New Orleans and one foot in Nashville. His songs show a quintessentially New Orleanian love for the good times and a Nashvillian appreciation for the songwriting craft, but his live shows are definitely more roadhouse than Opry.

2. Andi Hoffman and the B-Goes

3. Spencer Bohren

Best Band That Doesn't Fit Any of These Categories

1. Bag of Donuts -- This cover band definitely doesn't take itself too seriously, with the whole band in costume, including a guitar player in a Kiss outfit -- right down to the Gene Simmons makeup. Playing hits from the '70s, '80s and '90s, and everything from cartoon theme songs to Metallica's 'Enter Sandman,' Bag of Donuts will do anything to entertain.

2. Bucktown All-Stars

3. Bingo!


FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

Best New Restaurant

1. La Petite Grocery(4238 Magazine St., 891-3377) -- La Petite is a welcome, bistro-inspired addition to the always impressive Magazine Street row of gastronomy. Chef and co-owner Anton Schulte's reduction sauces are a delight, particularly grilled pork loin with choucroute in a caramelly Riesling-cider reduction. This is one delightful room with a view.

2. Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar(Loews New Orleans Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305)

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

Best Northshore Restaurant

1. Trey Yuen Cuisine of China(600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476; www.treyyuen.com/treyyuenmandeville.htm) -- The Wong brothers have dominated the Asian dining experience on the Northshore for years and we can see why. From an interior featuring rosewood ceilings and the mother-of-pearl dining chairs to signature dishes such as the fried softshell crab with Tong Cho sauce, Trey Yuen mixes sophistication with traditional Chinese and regional cuisines.

2. The Dakota Restaurant(629 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-892-3712)

3. La Provence(25020 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-626-7662)

Best Hotel Restaurant

1.(TIE) Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar (Loews New Orleans Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305) and Rib Room (621 St. Louis St., 529-7045; www.neworleansrestaurants.com/ribroom) -- Old shares space with new in this duel of the hotel restaurants, although one could argue Cafe Adelaide, from the Brennan family, speaks to the good old days. Among the many delights at this new restaurant in a new hotel is a variety of crepes that feature duck, portobello mushrooms and sun-dried cherries. At the nearly half-century-old Rib Room, there is always the namesake feast, but don't be surprised with a turf selection that includes Gulf shrimp over angel-hair pasta.

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

3. Rene Bistrot(Pere Marquette Hotel, 817 Common St., 412-2580; www.renebistrot.com)

Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness(3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; www.fivehappiness.com) -- Has it been only two decades that Five Happiness has been the pride of New Orleans' Chinese restaurants? 'Five Happy' can be relentless with any given type of food; witness the 14 different variations on shrimp, including Hunan, Cantonese and Moo Shu.

2. Trey Yuen Cuisine of China(600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476; www.treyyuen.com/treyyuenmandeville.htm)

3.(TIE) China Rose(125 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 283-3333) and P.F. Chang's China Bistro(3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 828-5288; www.pfchangs.com)

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) -- Readers selected perhaps the definitive Italian restaurant in Vincent's. The Uptown location is the locus of Italian dining in Orleans Parish, from its fried calamari to its cannelloni built for two to that tart lemon ice.

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

3.(TIE) Andrea's Northern Italian & Seafood Cuisine(3100 19th St., Metairie, 834-8583; www.andreasrestaurant.com) and Tony Angello's Ristorante(6262 Fleur de Lis Drive, 488-0888)

Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

1. (TIE) Sake Cafe (817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-8829; 4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-7253) and Sake Cafe Japanese Restaurant (2830 Magazine St., 894-0033) -- Different owners operate the various Sake Cafe venues, but no matter where diners go, they can look forward to inspired Japanese cuisine and meticulously crafted sushi offerings.(And yes, all you returning New Orleanians, that's a former K&B store inhabited by the Uptown location).

2. Shogun(2325 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-7477)

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

Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Garce's(4200 D'Hemecourt St., 488-4734) -- Garce's, just a stone's throw from Mid City Lanes and a few blocks off Carrollton Avenue, has become a reader favorite. We could coo over the typically delicious Cuban and Media Noche sandwiches, all pressed and tangy, but the fried Cuban steak with black beans and rice might be the shining star here.

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

3. Serrano's Salsa Company(4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 36, Metairie, 780-2354)

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

1. Byblos(1501 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-9773; 2020 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9777; 3218 Magazine St., 894-1233; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, Lakeside Shopping Center, 830-7333) -- The Byblos empire keeps expanding, and we couldn't be happier. This Middle Eastern favorite has a delectable variety, from the kafta kebabs and baba ghanoush to the crispy falafel and lamb taratour. Don't forget the tahini!

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

3. Lebanon's Cafe(1500 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) -- This defending champ has something reassuring in its open-air kitchens; it's almost as if they want you to know from the get-go that you're in for authentic and very affordable Mexican fare. Many of the dishes are big enough to split(can you say 'Numero Tres'?), and the washing-down options include much-championed margaritas and sangria.

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

3. Superior Grill(3636 St. Charles Ave. 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com)

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

1. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar Inc.(3636 Bienville St., 482-9120) -- We sometimes pause when trying to define just what exactly a 'neighborhood' restaurant is. When we're stuck, we just point out Liuzza's, with its period neon sign, tight-fit tables, veteran wait staff and beer(and root beer) by the bulbous, frosty mugs. The food? Sometimes we can barely get past that Italian eggplant casserole, but when we do, the choices get tough.

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

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

Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood(841 Iberville St. 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 834-1225) -- Whether it's the skyscraper seafood platters, the barbecue shrimp or those cute little boiled red potatoes, Deanie's is one of those iconic area seafood joints whose reputation crosses borders. Orleans Parish residents were thrilled that the Bucktown mainstay set up shop in the French Quarter more than two years ago.

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

3. Bruning's Seafood Restaurant(1922 West End Pkwy., 282-9395)

Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. Praline Connection(542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934; www.pralineconnection.com) -- How many soul food restaurants in town have their own Web site? That's an indication of the widespread popularity of the Connection, which offers expert turns on classics such as red beans and rice and fried chicken. Don't miss the candy shop.

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

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

Best Steakhouse

1. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse(711 Broad St., 486-0810; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600; www.ruthschris.com) -- We could talk forever about the classic grilling technique with butter, or the traditional steak varieties(filet and petite filet, the New York Strip, the Cowboy Ribeye, the Porterhouse for Two, etc.). But there's much more, including the Classic Mixed Grill: a filet, marinated chicken breast and a choice of pork chop or andouille sausage.

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

3. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse(716 Iberville St. 522-2467)

Best Tapas/Small Plate Restaurant

1. Vega Tapas Cafe(2051 Metairie Road, Metairie, 836-2007; www.vegatapascafe.com) -- The small plates craze has finally, belatedly hit New Orleans, but even a change of ownership hasn't stopped readers from continuing their appreciation of Vega. Longtime general manager Glen Hogh took over for Alison Vega, who opened the Old Metairie cafe in 1996. Hogh installed Zac Robertson as the chef, and the small plates at Vega continue to earn a big reputation.

2. Upstairs at Mimi's(2601 Royal St., 947-8015)

3. Hookah Cafe(1132 Decatur St., 566-7057)

Best Thai Restaurant

1. Bangkok Cuisine(4137 S. Carrollton Ave. 482-3606) -- Last year's runner-up is this year's winner. That's how tight the competition is in this category. What do you think tipped the scales this time? We're betting on the discovery of the peppermint chicken, with its light dashes of bamboo shoots, eggplant and fresh mint leaves.

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

3.(TIE) Cafe Equator(2920 Severn Ave., Metairie, 888-4772) and Siam Cafe(435 Esplanade Ave., 949-1750)

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay(113C Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846; 1565 Tulane Ave., 524-4669; 3116 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 780-1063; 216 N. Carrollton Ave., 485-SOUP) -- As this ever-increasing franchise proves, you cannot spell pho without Tau Bay, which recently delighted Mid-City residents by setting up shop in the old Cafe Indo location. Not only does Pho Tau Bay provide some of the lightest and freshest dishes in town, they also offer some of the most affordable.

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

3. August Moon(3635 Prytania St., 899-5129)

Best Breakfast Spot

1. Bluebird Cafe(3625 Prytania St., 895-7166) -- Rain or shine, they line up around the block for Bluebird's now-legendary offerings, whether it's the huevos rancheros or fresh pancakes. Other options include the Mediterranean sausage sandwich, with a spicy grilled sausage patty added to onions, peppers and melted cheese on a seeded bun.

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

3.(TIE) Betsy's Pancake House(2542 Canal St., 822-0213) and Trolley Stop(1923 St. Charles Ave., 523-0090; 614 Carrollton Ave., 866-9306)

Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- We all know the drill by now, right? Start with the Commander's Palace Bloody Mary, start nibbling on the eggs Sardou, then move on to the Muscadine and Chicory Coffee Lacquered Quail, and finish it all off with the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. Yup, that's the traditional jazz brunch at Commander's, a local favorite.

2.(TIE) Brennan's(417 Royal St., 525-9711; www.brennansneworleans.com) and The Court of Two Sisters(613 Royal St., 522-7273; www.courtoftwosisters.com)

3. House of Blues(225 Decatur St., 529-BLUE/2583; www.hob.com)

Best Lunch Specials

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Chef Tory McPhail continually challenges himself; after revitalizing the massive kitchen of the mothership of New Orleans restaurants, McPhail has restored lunchtime at Commander's to the experience it once was. And we're not just talking about the 25-cent martinis, either.

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

3. Semolina(Citywide; www.semolina.com)

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Camellia Grill(626 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9573) -- In a town that believes in tradition, nobody kicks it old school late at night(or anytime, for that matter) like Camellia Grill. Come for the most reliable burgers and the most entertaining wait staff in town.

2. Trolley Stop(1923 St. Charles Ave., 523-0090; 614 Carrollton Ave., 866-9306)

3.(TIE) Angeli on Decatur(1141 Decatur St., 566-0077), Huey's 24/7 Diner(200 Magazine St., 598-4839; www.hueys247diner.com) and La Peniche(1940 Dauphine St., 943-1460)

Best Place to Feed the Whole Family

1. Piccadilly Cafeteria(Citywide; www.piccadilly.com) -- Is there another cafeteria-style restaurant that packages its meals so relentlessly in order to save you a buck or two? We're stumped. Entree specials can come in groups of one, two or three. Kids' nights can include extras such as clowns or musicians, depending on the location.

2. Ryan's Family Steak House(5101 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-4811)

3.(TIE) King Buffet(601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-4383) and Pancho's Mexico Buffet(3780 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-2432)

Best Romantic Restaurant

1. Bella Luna(914 N. Peters St., 529-1583; www.bellalunarestaurant.com) -- Chef Horst Pfeifer could rightly be accused of being New Orleans' kitchen Cupid. The mood gets set immediately, along with the air of anticipation, as you wind your way to the elevator and up to the magnificent view of the Mississippi River. There's also the food, including the steamed Maine lobster tossed with calamari ink pasta. Now that's love.

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

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

Best Cheap Eats

1. Juan's Flying Burrito(2018 Magazine St. 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave. 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com) -- Always a strong contender, Juan's made the impressive leap from third to first this year. This scrappy burrito shop is one of the few places in town tough enough to name one of its items the Gutter Punk.(It tastes much better than it sounds.) Juan's rules.

2. Dot's Diner(2317 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 831-3681; 4150 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 833-9349; 6633 Airline Drive, Metairie, 734-0301; 10701 Jefferson Hwy., River Ridge, 738-9678; 12179 Hwy 90, Luling, 985-785-6836)

3. Taqueria Corona(857 Fulton St., 524-9805; 1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974)

Best Low-Carb Menu

1. Subway(Citywide; www.subway.com) -- Not since Richard Simmons has one person been so symbolic about successful weight loss. Yup, Jared is a phenomenon, having put all his dieting eggs in the low-carb basket that is Subway's heart-healthy menu, which features salads and whole-grain bread.

2. Semolina(Citywide; www.semolina.com)

3. TGI Friday's(Citywide; www.tgifridays.com)

Best Menu for Vegetarians

1. Old Dog New Trick Cafe(closed) -- Whether in its French Quarter alley location or on Frenchmen Street, Old Dog New Trick was an institution for meat-avoiders (a rare though growing breed in this town).

2. Whole Foods Market(3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 891-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

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

Best Dessert Menu

1. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro(2001 St. Charles Ave., 593-9955; 4517 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7620; www.copelandscheesecakebistro.com) -- Do you have to even ask? Cheesecake rules the day at this mammoth temple to Al Copeland, who doesn't believe in doing anything small. Nearly 30 different types of cheesecake are joined by mammoth carrot cakes and other dessert options.

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

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

Best Buffet

1. Harrah's New Orleans Casino(512 S. Peters St., 533-6111; www.harrahs.com/our_casinos/nor/) -- The range of prices is as impressive as the range of food(starting with the $7.99 breakfast and topping out at the $18.99 Sunday champagne brunch). So are the seven stations ready to accompany as many as 400 diners. Don't believe us? How about Casino Player magazine, which also recently voted Harrah's 'Best Buffet.'

2. King Buffet(601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-4383)

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

Best Wine List

1. The Wine Loft(752 Tchoupitoulas St., 561-0116; www.thewineloft.net) -- Two hundred by the bottle, 70 by the glass Š yup, The Wine Loft has a selection all right, as well as a reputation for quickly becoming one of the hot spots in the Warehouse District. The epitome of nightlife chic in New Orleans, The Wine Loft also features small plates to go along with that impressive vine variety.

2. Antoine's(713 St. Louis St., 581-4422; www.antoines.com)

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

Best Chef

1. Emeril Lagasse(Emeril's, Emeril's Delmonico, NOLA) -- A Massachusetts transplant of Portugese descent, Emeril Lagasse is the name and face of New Orleans cuisine. But it's not just Emeril's instant-classic interpretations of traditional local fare that endear him to readers. His charitable efforts through the recently formed Emeril Lagasse Foundation assist numerous community groups and causes, and his decision to keep his ever-expanding corporation a local enterprise makes him a hometown hero.

2. Susan Spicer(Bayona, Herbsaint)

3.(TIE) Tony McPhail(Commander's Palace) and Austin Leslie(Jacques-Imo's Cafe)

Best Service

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- There are plenty of reasons why Commander's is the place locals love to show off to visitors. The food and atmosphere are both New Orleans at its finest, but reliability is another factor. The Garden District landmark always delivers its high standard for service that ensures excellence every meal.

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

3. Antoine's Restaurant(713 St. Louis St., 581-4422; www.antoines.com)

Best Dining Atmosphere

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- This jewel in the Brennan's crown is a stately Garden District landmark that evokes the perfect ambience for both romantic evenings and Sunday brunch for the entire family. With well-manicured gardens and classic decor, Commander's creates its own signature style.

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

3. Bella Luna(914 N. Peters St., 529-1583; www.bellalunarestaurant.com)

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Martinique Bistro(5900 Magazine St., 891-8495) -- This intimate Uptown cottage sports a courtyard both stylish and gracious for local diners, but also lush and romantic enough for its island namesake. An unpretentious staff, great food and extensive wine list complete the experience.

2. Café Degas(3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; www.cafedegas.com)

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

Best Overall Restaurant

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- The Brennans obviously aren't resting on their laurels. You need to look no further than this list for reasons why Commander's Palace was again picked as the city's best restaurant. The restaurant won for best service, atmosphere, turtle soup and bread pudding.

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

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

Best Deli

1. Martin Wine Cellar(3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; www.martinwine.com) -- While it's hard to ignore the huge volumes of great wines at great prices at both Martin locations, the food speaks for itself. Whether you're in a hurry for gourmet-to-go or ready to dine in and relax, Martin offers a huge variety of soups and salads.

2.(TIE) Whole Foods Market(3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoods.com) and Kosher Cajun New York Deli and Grocery(3510 Severn Ave., Metairie, 888-2010)

3. Foodies Kitchen(7457 St. Charles Ave., 865-8646; www.foodieskitchen.com)

Best Place to Get Barbecue

1. VooDoo BBQ(1000 E. James Blvd., St. Rose, 464-1880; 1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; 8550 Pontchartrain Blvd., 283-8301; www.voodoobarbecue.com) -- VooDoo's popularity with local barbecue lovers is evident in the expansion to four locations from its original Uptown site in just two years. All draw crowds for barbecue staples such as wood-smoked pulled pork, beef brisket and pork ribs, a variety of housemade sauces, and slaw and baked beans.

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

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

Best Place to Get Boiled Seafood

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant(841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com) -- It's more than just a joke that the four seasons in Louisiana are oyster, crawfish, shrimp and crab. So, anytime of year is a good time to eat at either Deanie's location, where the kitchen places the perfect spice to heaping mounds of crawfish, crab and shrimp. Try and cool your mouth down with those lagniappe boiled potatoes.

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

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

Best Place to Get Barbecue Shrimp

1. Pascal's Manale Restaurant(1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877) -- Our readers have again decided that the original home to New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp is also the best. Servers at this Uptown spot tie a paper bib in preparation for splashes from a dish featuring a dozen shrimp that swim in an intensely flavorful peppered garlic butter sauce.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Burger

1. Port of Call(838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; www.portorcallneworleans.com) -- While there are pizzas and salads on Port of Call's never-changed menu, the long lines appear nightly for one main reason: burgers that some call the best on the planet. While a few Monsoons(the Port's signature rum concoction) might produce such outbursts, it's hard to argue with the thick, juicy burgers cooked to order and piled high with grated cheese, huge onion slices and more.

2. Bud's Broiler(Citywide)

3. Lee's Hamburgers(103 Schlief Drive, Belle Chasse, 392-9922; 904 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 836-6804; 1042 Front St., Slidell, 985-641-6895; 2100 Airline Drive, Kenner, 472-0966; 4301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-0110)

Best Place to Get Fried Chicken

1. Popeye's(Citywide; www.popeyes.com) -- There's a reason why there seems to be a Popeye's on every corner in town -- fried chicken that beats out some serious competition. Whether you like yours spicy or mild, white or dark, Popeye's is the perfect call for picnics, Saints tailgates, hangovers and parties.

2.(TIE) Chicken Box(Citywide; www.chickenbox.com) and Jacques-Imo's(8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com)

3.(TIE) Dunbar's Creole Cooking(4927 Freret St., 899-0734) and Fiorella's Cafe(1136 Decatur St., 528-9566)

Best Place to Get Gourmet-to-Go

1. Foodies Kitchen(7457 St. Charles Ave., 865-8646; www.foodieskitchen.com) -- While Foodies now has only one location -- the original one in Metairie closed earlier this summer -- your favorite place for gourmet-to-go offers everything from Oktoberfest beer tastings to take-home Thanksgiving dinners. But for most days and most customers, it's where to stop in for dinners such as shrimp cabonara or salmon Arlene.

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

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

Best Place to Get Gumbo

1. The Gumbo Shop(630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; www.gumboshop.com) -- The Gumbo Shop annually stakes its claim as our readers' favorite. The popular French Quarter restaurant tempts all tastes with several versions of the roux-based classic: an herb-infused chicken and andouille, seafood and okra, and the vegetarian gumbo z'herbes.

2. Liuzza's Restaurant & Bar(3636 Bienville St., 482-9120; www.liuzzas.com)

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

Best Place to Get a Muffaletta

1. Central Grocery(923 Decatur St., 523-1620) -- Though, like most of local lore, there are questions about the true origins of the famed muffaletta, most believe that Salvatore Lupo invented the tasty sandwich at Central Grocery in the 1920s. Sliced into quarter wedges, muffalettas are piled high with salami, ham, mortadella, Emmentaler cheese and Central Grocery's famed olive salad.

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(519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667; 724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; www.acmeoyster.com) -- Whether you're scoping the boats in Lake Pontchartrain, enjoying a day in the Quarter or relaxing in Covington, these chilled, choice oysters hit the spot.

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

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

Best Place to Get Pizza

1. Reginelli's Pizzeria(741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite F, Kenner, 712-6868; 874 Harrison Ave., 488-0133; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com) -- Reginelli's expanded to a fifth location this summer, opening in Kenner. Each store offers a variety of menu options, but most customers come in for the pizza, whether it's made to your order or a house specialty like the vegetarian Sun Pie, which combines pesto sauce, mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, red onions, roasted red peppers and goat cheese.

2. Louisiana Pizza Kitchen(95 French Market Place, 522-9500; 615 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-5900; 2112 Belle Chasse Hwy., Gretna, 433-5800)

3. Rocky's Old New Orleans Bar & Pizza Joint(2701 Airline Drive, Metairie, 833-1288; 3222 Magazine St., 891-5152)

Best Place to Get Red Beans and Rice

1. Popeye's(Citywide; www.popeyes.com) -- Al Copeland's recipe for this local tradition results in hearty beans mixed in a thick stew of meats, seasonings and shallots -- plus a few secrets. 2. Dunbar's Creole Cooking(4927 Freret St., 899-0734)

3. Mother's Restaurant(401 Poydras St., 523-9656)

Best Place to Get a Salad

1. Houston's(1755 St. Charles Ave., 524-1578; 4241 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 889-2301; www.houstons.com) -- At either Houston's location, your salad can work as a starter or a meal unto itself. Tossed to order and guaranteed fresh, top choices range from Caesar to tuna sashimi to Jungle Thai Noodle

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

3. Whole Foods Market(3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoods.com)

Best Place to Get Turtle Soup

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Commander's prepares this Creole classic in a timeless fashion, never straying from the recipe featured -- along with the restaurant's other favorites -- in the cookbook Commander's Kitchen. It's considered a bit thicker in consistency than most others in town, and is of course served with sherry.

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

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

Best Place to Get an Oyster Po-Boy

1. Acme Oyster House(519 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-898-0667; 724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 7306 Lakeshore Drive, 282-9200; www.acmeoyster.com) -- At all Acme locations, there are several varieties of the oyster po-boy, including spicy options with a Buffalo-style sauce. All three use cornmeal breading for a crispy, fried oyster, but you'll have to head to the lakefront or Northshore to go large with the oyster loaf, which boasts two dozen oysters.

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

3.(TIE) Casamento's Restaurant(4330 Magazine St., 895-9761) and R&O Pizza Place(216 Old Hammond Hwy., Metairie, 831-1248)

Best Place to Get a Shrimp Po-Boy

1. Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar(5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126) -- The ladies behind the counter at this Uptown diamond in the rough work fast and furious to feed the crowds hungry for their po-boys. The crisp, expertly fried shrimp are piled on French bread in generous portions and accented with a tangy red house sauce that sets Domilise's apart from the competition.

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

3. Danny & Clyde's(Citywide; www.dannyandclydes.com)

Best Place to Get a Roast Beef Po-Boy

1. Mother's Restaurant(401 Poydras St., 523-9656) -- Roast beef debris, the sizzled specks of meat that fall off while the meat cooks, is a welcomed addition to Mother's long list of popular po-boys; however you slice it, roast beef, coupled with gravy, is simply the best.

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

3.(TIE) Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar(5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126) and Russell's Short Stop Po-Boys(4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-3211)

Best Place to Get a French Fry Po-Boy

1. Russell's Short Stop Po-Boys(4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-3211) -- A local delight that would have Dr. Atkins spinning in his grave, the French fry po-boy is a carb bonanza. Russell's is famous for many of its po-boys, including the roast beef and meatball, but ask for your French fried one doused in housemade gravy and it's a true treat.

2. Mother's Restaurant(401 Poydras St., 523-9656)

3. Danny & Clyde's(Citywide; www.dannyandclydes.com)

Best Place to Get a King Cake

1. Randazzo's Goodchildren Bakery(801 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 271-7472; 1615 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 279-7472; 5001 E. Judge Perez Drive, Violet, 279-1834; www.kingcakeexpress.com) -- You don't have to go to Chalmette to enjoy Randazzo's king cake during Carnival -- the local favorite is sold everywhere from PJ's Coffee & Tea to K-Mart, and is shipped across the globe. Options range from the cinnamon-topped traditional to the Grand Marshal, which features cream cheese, strawberry, apple and cherry.

2. Gambino's Bakeries Inc.(3240 S. Carrollton Ave., 485-0171; 5242 Elysian Fields Ave., 288-4262; 4821 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-7500; 300 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 391-0600; www.gambinos.com)

3. Haydel's(4037 Jefferson Hwy., 837-0190; www.haydelbakery.com)

Best Place to Get Bread Pudding

1. Commander's Palace(1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- The uniqueness and popularity of Commander's top desert item becomes obvious when your servers ask early on in the meal if you'll be ordering it later. The question is a necessary one, as each order takes 20 minutes to prepare before the rich treat is doused in whiskey sauce table-side.

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

3. Bon Ton Cafe(401 Magazine St., 524-3386)

Best Place to Get Pecan Pie

1. Camellia Grill(626 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9573) -- The adventures in ordering that help define Camellia Grill allow you to strut your stuff and earn immediate respect. Locals in the know request a 'chocolate pecan pie, flipped on the griddle, ice cream on top,' and enjoy their hot, sweet and delicious treat as tourists around them burn with envy.

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

3. Praline Connection(542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934; 901-07 S. Peters St., 523-3973; www.pralineconnection.com)

Best Place to Get Key Lime Pie

1. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville(1104 Decatur St., 592-2565; www.margaritaville.com) -- While it's a live music venue raucous enough to please any Parrot Head, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville is also a restaurant with an extensive food menu. Its service as a portal to the islands is cemented in the key lime pie, which is made with real key lime and whipped cream atop a Graham cracker crust.

2.(TIE) Clancy's Restaurant(6100 Annunciation St., 895-1111) and Houston's(1755 St. Charles Ave., 524-1578; 4241 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 889-2301; www.houstons.com)

3. House of Blues(225 Decatur St., 412-8068; www.hob.com)

Best Place to Get Bubble Tea

1. Frosty's Caffe(3400 Cleary Ave., Metairie, 888-9600) -- The friendly folks behind Frosty's helped introduced New Orleans to what is now a bona fide national phenomenon -- bubble tea. The drink comes in cute Hello Kitty-inspired cups and features tapioca pearls floating in any of nearly 80 flavors, such as the popular mango.

2. Z'otz(2003 Royal St., 943-9689)

3. Rosie Lea's Bubble Tea Cafe(7638 Maple St., 861-4450)

Best Sno-Ball Stand

1. Hansen's Sno-Bliz Sweet Shop(4801 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9788) -- With national recognition such as a feature on National Public Radio and several magazine write-ups in recent years, the word keeps spreading about this beloved local institution. The Gerard family business is a tradition for many locals, who can't wait for summer's heat to enjoy snowy ice soaked in homemade syrups.

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

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

Best Coffeehouse

1. CC's(900 Jefferson Ave., 891-4969; www.ccscoffee.com) -- Located on one of the city's most bustling corners, this CC's is not only popular in terms of real estate but also because of its sunny, open atmosphere inside and tables outside. The coffee is complemented by teas imported from around the globe, plus a variety of bagels, muffins and desserts.

2. Rue de la Course(the location formerly at 3128 Magazine St., 899-0242)

3.(TIE) Fair Grinds Coffee House(3133 Ponce de Leon St., 948-3222; www.fairgrinds.com) and PJ's Coffee & Tea(5432 Magazine St., 895-0273; www.pjscoffee.com)

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 is where New Orleanians go for everything from the perfect wedding cake to a sweet tooth-soothing treat. Maurice's pastry chef Jean Luc specializes in German pound cakes, kugelhopf, with flavors including white chocolate and wild blueberry. A variety of fruit tarts are also popular.

2. La Madeleine(Citywide; www.lamadeleine.com)

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

Best Place to Get Ice Cream

1. Angelo Brocato(214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-0078) -- Angelo Brocato is an air-conditioned step back in time, a local institution since its days in the French Quarter that still manages to serve Old World charm and classic ice cream parlor sentiment in Mid-City. Choose between favorites such as fruity gelatos, spumoni, tiramisu and cannolis.

2. Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt(Citywide; www.baskinrobbins.com)

3. Marble Slab Creamery(4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-2167)

Best Jazz Fest Food

1. Crawfish bread -- With Jazz Fest gracing us each year during the peak of crawfish season, it's no wonder why mud bugs feature in all your favorite three treats from the Fair Grounds. But John Ed Laborde's recipe, combining hand-made bread with four cheeses and spiced crawfish, toasted and served warm, takes top honors.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Boiled crawfish

Best Hot Sauce

1. Tabasco -- A symbol of our state as much as cypress trees and dirty politics, the hot red peppers cultivated on Avery Island produce just the right spice. The McIlhenny family has for generations delivered a hot sauce considered essential to Louisiana cuisine.

2. Crystal Hot Sauce

3. Louisiana Hot Sauce


POLITICS

Best Local Legislator

1. David Vitter-- U.S. Rep. Vitter has won this category every year since 2001, topping all federal and state legislators in Louisiana. A conservative who earned his reform credentials as an often lonely champion of good government in the state House of Representatives, Vitter is now campaigning statewide for a U.S. Senate seat.

2. Mary Landrieu

3. Steve Scalise

Best New Orleans City Council Member

1. Jackie Clarkson-- There are seven to choose from. But a majority of our readers are wacky for Jackie. An irrepressible champion for a cleaner French Quarter and a well-paid, happy New Orleans Police Department, the Democrat from Algiers is a tireless worker for District C, our readers say.

2. Jay Batt

3. Eddie Sapir

Best Jefferson Parish Council Member

1. Jennifer Sneed-- A favorite among East Jefferson residents during her tenure in the state House of Representatives, newly elected parish council member Sneed has broadened her appeal and her constituency. A conservative Republican and former television journalist, she led the fight to defend term limits and reform the parish charter.

2. (TIE) Tommy Capella and John Young

3. Aaron Broussard

Best Local Figure Who Should Run for President

1. Ray Nagin-- Midway through his first four-year term, it's obviously an understatement to say that Mayor Nagin, a businessman and Democrat, is still popular with our readers. A majority thinks the self-styled 'turn-around artist' belongs in the White House! (And all his predecessor wanted was a third term as mayor.) The runners-up are actually on the Nov. 2 election ballot, but in races other than the one for president.

2. Bobby Jindal

3. David Vitter

Best Way to Improve Public Schools

1. Replace the school board-- Our readers' response does not bode well for the five incumbent members of the Orleans Parish School Board who are up for re-election in the Sept. 18 primary elections.

2. More parental involvement

3. Raise teachers' pay

Best Local Politician Deserving of a Bouquet

1. Ray Nagin-- It's not enough to nominate Nagin for president, our readers want hizzoner to receive a coveted bouquet from Gambit Weekly. Nagin's reputation as a foe of political patronage and corruption has clearly lengthened his political honeymoon.

2. Mary Landrieu

3. Jackie Clarkson

Best Local Politician Deserving of a Brickbat

1. Orleans Parish School Board-- The seven-member board is underpaid, overworked and apparently short of love and respect. Our readers opine that the board most deserves our brickbat.

2. Ray Nagin

3. Jackie Clarkson

Best Friend New Orleans Has in Baton Rouge

1. Mitch Landrieu-- The gregarious Democrat who served the city for years as a state representative, Lt. Gov. Landrieu is now just a heartbeat away from the governor's job. As the No. 2 executive in state government, he is working to develop tourism and health care-- two key components of the local economy.

2. Kathleen Blanco

3. John Hainkel

Best Friend Louisiana Has in Washington

1. Mary Landrieu-- Sen. Landrieu does the best job of bringing home the bacon, readers say. Landrieu has been campaigning relentlessly for millions of dollars in federal funds to restore our coastal wetlands, a natural barrier against hurricanes and flooding.

2. David Vitter

3. John Breaux

Best Public Spat

1. New Orleans School Board vs. Anthony Amato-- This summer's school board drama is the runaway favorite for best brouhaha. It started with the alleged plot by a board majority for the ouster of the popular school chief. In the ensuing public uproar, the Legislature passed a far-reaching law stripping the board of much of its power and making Amato one of the most powerful superintendents in the nation. Now the alleged plotters are battling for their political lives. Stay tuned.

2. Ray Nagin vs. black ministers

3. Phil Capitano vs. Nick Congemi

Best Local Scandal

1. New Orleans School Board vs. Anthony Amato-- Is it a spat or a scandal? When it involves allegations of secret meetings, last-minute court orders, the alleged firing of a man just as he takes off for a family reunion, it's both.

2. Public school money misappropriation

3. Marc Morial investigation

Best Lie From a Local Politician

1. Marc Morial-- 'My administration was not corrupt.' The readers' dubious achievement award goes to the former mayor. Obviously, they are unconvinced by Morial's response to ongoing federal investigations that have brought his friends and relatives under scrutiny.

2. Orleans Parish School Board: 'We didn't try to fire Tony Amato.'

3. Kathleen Blanco: 'I will raise teachers' pay.'

Best Local Liberal

1. Mary Landrieu-- Talking about killing someone with praise. U.S. Sen. Landrieu has spent a lot of time and energy trying to position herself as a centrist, but our readers apparently feel there is something to love about both Mary and liberalism.

2. Mitch Landrieu

3. Ray Nagin

Best Local Conservative

1. David Vitter-- Louisiana's conservative for the new millennium, Vitter has won this category every year since 2000. A longtime opponent of abortion and taxes, Vitter has lately become a standard-bearer of another conservative cause-- opposing United Nations monitoring of American elections. You want more conservative cred? His support of President Bush's war on terror includes 'unshackling our intelligence community from the unreasonable restrictions Congressional liberals placed upon them in the past.'

2. Bobby Jindal

3. John Hainkel

Best Community/Environmental Activist

1. Carlton Dufrechou-- Three-peat! The executive director of Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation wins readers' raves for a third straight year. Under Dufrechou's leadership, the nonprofit citizens' group has strengthened its efforts to carry out its mission of restoring and preserving Lake Pontchartrain.

2. Ann Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade

3. Laura Maloney, Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)

Best Watchdog

1. Rafael Goyeneche-- The slimmed-down executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission repeats as our readers' favorite. The nonprofit MCC has recently partnered with the FBI to set up a corruption hotline in the state capitol, while maintaining a strong presence at its home base in New Orleans.

2. Gambit Weekly

3. Richard Angelico, WDSU-TV


LOCAL LIFE


Best Saints Player

1. Deuce McAllister -- Last season, Mississippi's Deuce McAllister established himself as one of the most dominant and explosive running backs in the NFL. For the past two seasons, he has rushed for 3,196 yards and 21 touchdowns. This year, he looks to anchor what should be a productive offense.

2. Joe Horn

3. Aaron Brooks

Best Hornets Player

1. Baron Davis -- You can't fault Baron Davis for any of the Hornets' post-season woes. Playing in obvious pain, Davis turned in heart-wrenching performances as it was one-series-and-out for the team in last year's playoffs. This year, the Hornets brought in new coach Byron Scott, and Davis looks to further establish his role as team leader, staying in town this summer to work out and assist Scott.

2. David Wesley

3. P.J. Brown

Best VooDoo Player

1. Aaron Bailey -- What a year for the New Orleans VooDoo! The city's Arena Football League franchise made the playoffs, and more importantly, energized a new fan base. An offensive specialist-- a position unique to Arena's high-flying style-- Bailey was known for making big plays and putting up big numbers.

2. Dan Curran

3. John Fitzgerald

Best Zephyrs Player

1. Taylor Buchholz -- The Zephyrs acquired pitcher Taylor Buchholz last November from the Phillies organization, and already the right-hander is a favorite with the fans. As of presstime, Buchholz's 2004 record was 6-7, with a 5.23 ERA.

2. Kirk Bullinger

3.(TIE) Phil Hiatt and Kyle Logan

Best Local Author

1. Anne Rice -- Her move this year from the Gothic confines of her Garden District home to suburban tranquility got people talking once again about the writer that Gambit readers hold closest to their hearts. Despite the relocation, as an author and a public citizen, Rice remains closely identified to New Orleans and its underworld.

2. Poppy Z. Brite

3. Andrei Codrescu

Best Local Visual Artist

1. James Michalopoulos -- The vibrant colors and surreal shapes of Michalopoulos' oil paintings manage to capture the mythic qualities of New Orleans. From his brilliant 2003 Jazz Fest poster of Mahalia Jackson to his signature architectural renderings, Michalopolous' work has a global reputation for honoring the elusive spirit of the city.

2. Frenchy

3. George Rodrigue

Best Local Photographer

1. Romney -- Romney stays busy with global clients that include models, rappers and corporations. An expert in fashion photography, Romney is a frequent contributor to the pages of Gambit Weekly.(Look at this week's cover shot for an example of his unique style.)

2. David Richmond

3.(TIE) Shannon Brinkman and Louis Sahoc

Best Museum

1. New Orleans Museum of Art(1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park, 488-2631; www.noma.org)-- In addition to its impressive permanent collection, NOMA offers blockbusters such as this year's crowd-pleasing The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt. This fall, it presents a hometown hero in the American Folk Art Museum-organized retrospective of Sister Gertrude Morgan.

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

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

Best Art Gallery

1. Arthur Roger Gallery(432 Julia St., 522-1999; 730 Tchoupitoulas St., 524-9393; www.arthurrogergallery.com)-- Now a quarter-century old, Arthur Roger Gallery is known for showcasing artists of local, national and international renown. In addition to contributing to art education projects in the greater community, the gallery's adventures have included shows of the photography of filmmaker John Waters.

2. Rodrigue Gallery(721 Royal St., 581-4244; www.georgerodrigue.com)

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

Best Library Branch

1. Milton H. Latter Memorial Library(5120 St. Charles Ave., 596-2625; www.nutrias.org)-- As you pass Latter Library by car or streetcar, you might think it's another gracious mansion on a hill. It is-- but it's a mansion filled with books. Latter has computers and other modern library trappings, but the real reason to come here is to sit in a comfy chair, pick up a book or magazine, and watch the rest of the avenue bustle on its way.

2. Jefferson Parish Library/East Bank Regional(4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 838-1190; www.jefferson.lib.la.us)

3. Main Library(219 Loyola Ave., 529-READ; www.nutrias.org)

Best Place to Park Downtown

1. Canal Place(333 Canal St., 522-9200; www.theshopsatcanalplace.com)-- For catching a movie, going shopping in the mall or hitting the French Quarter, the covered parking at Canal Place is our readers' favorite. Validation is available for shoppers and moviegoers. Plus, the top floors afford a striking view of the Mississippi River.

2. Jackson Brewery(600 Decatur St., 566-7245; www.jacksonbrewery.com)

3.(TIE) Harrah's New Orleans Casino(512 S. Peters St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) and New Orleans Centre(1400 Poydras St., 568-0000)

Best Elementary School

1. Lusher Alternative Elementary School(7315 Willow St., 862-5110; www.gnofn.org/~lusher/)-- Recognized by the Kennedy Center for its infusion of the arts into its curriculum, Lusher also boasts strong academics and a diverse student body. And when spring comes around, its annual crawfish boil is an Uptown tradition.

2. Isidore Newman School(1903 Jefferson Ave., 899-5641; www.newman.k12.la.us/)

3. Edward Hynes Elementary School(990 Harrison Ave., 483-6100; www.hynesschool.org)

Best High School

1. Jesuit High School(4133 Banks St., 486-6631; www.jesuitnola.org)-- In its Mid-City location since 1926, Jesuit has some of the city's most loyal alums. The school's rigorous education standards, religious training, and extra-curricular and athletic programs continue to raise the bar for local private and parochial schools.

2. Benjamin Franklin High School(2001 Leon C. Simon Drive, 286-2600; www.nops.k12.la.us)

3. Isidore Newman School(1903 Jefferson Ave., 899-5641; www.newman.k12.la.us/)

Best Local College/University

1. Tulane University(6823 St. Charles Ave., 865-5000; www.tulane.edu)-- This familiar Uptown landmark is woven into the fabric of local life, making it possible to overlook that the university has gained international attention for its schools of medicine, business and law, among other prestigious programs.

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

3. Loyola University(6363 St. Charles Ave., 865-3240; www.loyno.edu)

Best Playground

1. Danneel Park(St. Charles Avenue at Octavia Street)-- The land left by Rudolph Danneel in 1906 is a favorite Uptown gathering place for the sippy-cup set. With playground equipment that especially favors pre-schoolers(kiddy swings and springy rides are always in demand), Danneel serves as many kids' first introduction to the big world outside their backyards.

2. Wally Pontiff Junior Playground(1521 Palm St., Metairie, 736-8463)

3. Audubon Park(6500 St. Charles Ave., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)

Best Place for Family Fun Outdoors

1. Audubon Zoo(6500 Magazine St., 581-4629; www.auduboninstitute.org)-- There's the zoo train, the refurbished Monkey Hill and the endangered species carousel. In fact, there's so much to do at Audubon Zoo that parents have to make sure the kids spend some quality time with the critters during an afternoon trip. The stately grounds, educational programs and collection of animals from around the world make this one of the world's best zoos.

2. Audubon Park(6500 St. Charles Ave., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)

3. City Park(1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; wwww.neworleanscitypark.com)

Best Place for Family Fun Indoors

1. Aquarium of the Americas(1 Canal St., 800-774-7394; www.auduboninstitute.org)-- On hot or rainy days(or even when it's nice outside) folks head down to the Aquarium to marvel at the otherworldly jellyfish, laugh at the otters' antics and sit in awe in front of the massive shark tank. There are frequent special events and crafts projects, and don't forget New Orleans' biggest movie screen: Entergy IMAX Theatre.

2. Louisiana Children's Museum(420 Julia St., 523-1357; www.lcm.org)

3. Chuck E. Cheese's(3701 General DeGaulle Drive, 367-1214; 7000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-5959; 124 North Shore Blvd., Slidell, 866-224-2025; www.chuckecheese.com)

Best Place to Jog

1. Audubon Park(6500 St. Charles Ave., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)-- The 1.5-mile path around the park includes a number of workout stations and a number of chances to take in the park's beauty. Plus, it offers an opportunity to see friends-- and show them you're keeping to your workout routine.

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

3. Lakefront

Best Place to Bike

1. Levee bike path-- For those who don't want to go around in circles, this is the course for you. By following the path along the Mississippi River, you can experience one of the rarest commodities in this city: elevation.

2. Audubon Park(6500 St. Charles Ave., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)

3. Lakefront

Best Golf Course

1. The Golf Club at Audubon Park(6500 St. Charles Ave., 212-5290; www.auduboninstitute.org)-- The revamped par-62 course offers the chance to enjoy the park's beauty while competing on what golfers say is a course that's trickier than it first appears. Golf Digest awarded Audubon an impressive four-and-a-half stars.

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

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

Best Tennis Courts

1. City Park Tennis Center (Victory Avenue, 483-9383; www.neworleanscitypark.com) -- With 11 hard courts and 20 clay courts, City Park is New Orleans' preferred place to hit the nets. It also received a nod from Tennis magazine, which last year named it one of the nation's top 25 municipal tennis facilities.

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

3. Reily Student Recreation Center (Tulane University, 865-5431; www.tulane.edu/~camprec/)

Best Park

1. City Park (1 Palm Drive, 482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com) -- One of the country's great metropolitan parks, City Park has it all: places to get married, play golf or tennis, go down a dragon slide, ride a retro carousel, boat, fish, visit a renowned art museum, and much more. And when the lights go up for Celebration in the Oaks, it is transformed into a place of magic.

2. Audubon Park (6500 St. Charles Ave., 861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org)

3. Lafreniere Park (3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie, 838-4389; www.metairie.com/recreation/lafreniere.htm)

Best Public Statue/Monument

1. Robert E. Lee, Lee Circle -- Since 1884, the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has stood on its pedestal, facing northward. Even New Orleanians who don't pine for moonlight and magnolias recognize the Lee statue as a literal turning point for the city -- it's where both the streetcar and Mardi Gras parades begin their journeys downtown.

2. Joan of Arc, Decatur Street

3. Andrew Jackson, Jackson Square

Best Place to Get Married

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, Jackson Square, 525-9585) -- Talk about a storybook romance and wedding. What could be more picturesque than culminating a courtship in a marriage ceremony surrounded by a baroque cathedral with lots of rich woods, gilding and frescoes on the ceilings and walls? To make the experience even more meaningful, the church is not only the oldest church in Louisiana, but also the oldest continually active cathedral in the United States.

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

3. City Hall (1300 Perdido St., 565-6000)

Best Neighborhood/Area to Buy a House

1. Uptown -- Geographically, Uptown covers a lot of ground in terms of actual streets and neighborhoods where you can put down roots. One of the great things about the area is the range of house styles available, from historic cottages to mansions to bungalows, and their proximity to shopping, dining, entertainment and parks. Plus, you can find a house in almost any price range, depending on how much of a do-it-yourselfer you are.

2. Lakefront

3. Old Metairie

Best Neighborhood/Area to Rent

1. Uptown -- It's great to rent in a central location where you can easily get to any part of the city you want -- by bus, streetcar, bike, taxi or car -- and you're never more than a couple of blocks from at least one good bar and a fine restaurant. Another reason people want to rent Uptown is that it's so darn picturesque, from the graceful oak trees to the architecture. A spate of renovations has made the interiors of rental units in the area a lot more modern than they look from the outside.

2. Mid-City

3. Lakeview

Best Festival

1. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival -- Not even the rain of the second weekend could diminish New Orleans' love for Jazz Fest. Some come for the national headliners and international talent -- this year's South African program was particularly impressive, topped by Hugh Masekela -- while others love the local artists, some of whom play their best sets of the year. Then again, many just love being at the Fair Grounds for people-watching and sampling southern Louisiana's finest food.

2. French Quarter Festival

3. Voodoo Music Experience

Best Carnival Day Parade

1. Rex -- The most storied parade of Mardi Gras continues to be the most popular, perhaps because of its imaginative, intelligent themes and beautiful, ornate floats. This year's parade, 'The Winged World,' was so colorful it lit up an otherwise gray Fat Tuesday. After the LSU Tigers were named NCAA co-champions this year, Rex invited LSU's marching band -- the Golden Band From Tigerland -- to lead the parade.

2. Zulu

3. Thoth

Best Carnival Night Parade

1. Endymion -- This perennial favorite returned to its traditional Mid-City route, and the crowds were out to welcome Endymion back. The 'Saturday Night at the Movies, The Sequel' theme produced floats covered with celebrity faces, but the crowds really turn out for the stars -- Leann Rimes, this year -- and the throws.

2. Bacchus

3. Orpheus

Best Day Trip

1. Gulf Coast -- There's no place to cop some ocean breezes like the Gulf Coast. With Ship Island, the casinos, Biloxi and Pensacola all well within a tank of gas, it's one of New Orleanians' favorite ways to get out of town.

2. St. Francisville

3. Plantations


MEDIA

Best Radio Station

1. WWOZ-FM 90.7 -- Homegrown harmonies triumph once more, as this nonprofit, community-supported radio station repeats as winner. The station's organic, decidedly not pre-programmed presentation and its musically savvy, active-in-the-local-scene DJs have gained 'OZ international respect -- and the undying loyalty of New Orleanians and Gambit readers.

2. WWL-AM 870

3. WRNO-FM 99.5

Best Radio Morning Show

1. Walton & Johnson, WRNO-FM 99.5 -- These kings of Arbitron still command first-cup-of-coffee fealty from the show's original New Orleans audience, even if the duo has been based in Houston since 2002. Locale is just about all that's changed; hosts John Walton and Steve Johnson are still known for providing politically incorrect content, crazy-ass antics and rollicking rants to drive to work by.

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 is a perennial readers' poll winner. His weekday show, which airs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., is topical and respected. Chances are if you ever find yourself even in the remotest vicinity of a watercooler, people will be talking about something they heard on his show.

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

3. Afternoon Train Wreck, KKND-FM 106.7

Best Local Radio Talk Show Host

1. David Tyree, WWL-AM 870 -- Tyree lowers the AM volume a bit, thankfully putting the 'talk' back in talk radio. His rather novel idea of a radio talk show avoids the usual demagoguery (and, frankly, tedium) of other hosts, focusing instead on a relatively free exchange of ideas and perspectives.

2. Andre Trevigne, WWL-AM 870

3. Buddy D, WWL-AM 870

Best Local Web Site

1. www.nola.com -- The Times-Picayune's Web site remains tops with locals for its mix of news, weather, traffic information, sports, forums and chat rooms. Our personal favorite thing about nola.com? Don't ask us to choose among the site's many cams: Streetcar Cam, Rivercam, Bourbocam, Karaokecam (live from Cats Meow) and others.

2. www.bestofneworleans.com

3. www.wwltv.com

Best Local Publication

1. Gambit Weekly -- You like us. You really like us.

2. The Times-Picayune

3. New Orleans Magazine

Best Local Journalist/Columnist

1. Chris Rose, The Times-Picayune -- Whether he's slyly sucking up to the celebrity of the moment for his signature 60-second interview, making us see the world through Rose-colored glasses or apprising us of need-to-know information like his home bathroom situation or the failed attempts to put Confederacy of Dunces on film, columnist Chris Rose remains the toast of this town.

2. Clancy DuBos, Gambit Weekly

3. (TIE) James Gill, The Times-Picayune, and Angus Lind, The Times-Picayune

Best Local TV Newscast

1. WWL-TV -- 'Louisiana's News Leader' takes first-place honors from Gambit Weekly readers once again. The affiliate also remains an extremely strong ratings presence nationwide, attributable in no small part to its popular and esteemed on-air news personalities, high quality photography and production, and innovative broadcasting mindset (which spawned the how-did-we-ever-live-without-it Channel 15 NewsWatch).

2. WDSU-TV

3. WGNO-TV

Best Local Male TV Anchor

1. Eric Paulsen, WWL-TV -- The St. Louis native with the affable on-screen presence first came to WWL in 1977 after stints in Savannah, Ga., and Madison, Wisc. This year, he returns to the top spot in this category after a one-year hiatus. Early risers know Paulsen as the station's cheerfully subdued morning anchor (alongside Sally-Ann Roberts), but he's also the news guy who snagged that final Tennessee Williams broadcast interview.

2. Norman Robinson, WDSU-TV

3. Dennis Woltering, WWL-TV

Best Local Female TV Anchor

1. Angela Hill, WWL-TV -- What is there to be said about New Orleans' favorite news diva that hasn't already been said a thousand times? This town just wouldn't be the same without her. She's not just an intelligent, warm, trustworthy anchorwoman -- she's part of the family.

2. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV

3. Kriss Fairbairn, WDSU-TV

Best Dressed Local Male TV Personality

1. Norman Robinson, WDSU-TV -- We'd say sitting atop the results of this particular category probably suits the always-dapper Mr. Robinson just fine. This snappy dresser has brought his timeless style to the WDSU newsroom for a decade and counting.

2. David Bernard, WWL-TV

3. Roop Raj, WDSU-TV

Best Dressed Local Female TV Personality

1. Angela Hill, WWL-TV -- The hair. The jewelry. The colors. It's clear that Gambit voters appreciate that Angela Hill's news sense never gets in the way of her individual, fun fashion sense.

2. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV

3. Helena Moreno, WDSU-TV

Best Local TV Reporter Who Isn't an Anchor

1. Helena Moreno, WDSU-TV -- The votes are in, and Moreno takes top honors in this category for an impressive third year in a row. Since joining the WDSU news team in 2000, this Mexican-born reporter has made a name for herself with solid investigative and news reporting.

2. Roop Raj, WDSU-TV

3. Frank Davis, WWL-TV

Best Reporter Who's Ready to Go National

1. Helena Moreno, WDSU-TV -- Take all of the things referenced above, but add an on-air demeanor full of ambition and gravitas. Not that New Orleans is exactly a tiny market, but this up-and-comer clearly has higher aspirations -- and the skills set to make it happen.

2. Roop Raj, WDSU-TV

3. Karen Swensen, WWL-TV

Best Weathercaster

1. Bob Breck, WVUE-TV -- No one takes a hurricane quite as seriously as Bob Breck, but we think it's his unique swirl of intensity and folksy charm that viewers (and Gambit readers) respond to most. Who knew weather could be so entertaining and informative?

2. David Bernard, WWL-TV

3. Carl Arredondo, WWL-TV

Best Sportscaster

1. Jim Henderson, WWL-TV -- This has to be the winning streak to top all winning streaks. Jim Henderson is, quite simply, the man. His commentaries are contemplative and provocative, while his anchoring style is so superior that even the sports-challenged among us (and, yes, there are a few) sit in rapt attention.

2. Lee Zurik, WWL-TV

3. Fletcher Mackel, WDSU-TV

Best Local Commercial

1. New Orleans Saints -- Peter A. Mayer Advertising has convinced Gambit readers that, yes, indeed, life is better with football. The agency scores a touchdown with its series of Saints ads, including the 'bread relay' filmed at Robert's Fresh Market and reenacting the ESPY Award-winning series of laterals that came at the end of the Saints' loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

2. WWL-TV's 'Spirit of Louisiana' series

3. Six Flags

Best Locally Produced TV Show

1. Fourth Down on Four -- Since Saints fans just can't get enough, WWL wisely gives them even more. Viewers can relive the ups and downs of the weekend's games in this popular weekly show, which generally airs after the news on Sunday nights.

2. Louisiana Jukebox

3. Informed Sources

Best Reason to Pick Up Gambit Weekly

1. Calendar/listings

2. Ads/classifieds

3. Local coverage/news


GOODS AND SERVICES


Best Shopping Mall

1. Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000; www.lakesideshopping.com) -- Lakeside has kept shoppers happy with the myriad stores under its main roof -- including national favorites such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Steve Madden, Guess? and Discovery Channel. Plus, there's a train for kiddies that changes according to the season.

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

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

Best Shopping Area

1. Magazine Street -- From the chic to the ultra-quirky, a variety of goods and a comfortable array of price ranges can be found in this 6-mile wonderland. Go here to find vintage shoes, fine antiques, offbeat fashions, a haircut by a real barber, fresh flowers, handmade gifts, spa services, the ultimate java, a hardware store or an heirloom rug. New shops open on this street all the time.

2. Metairie

3. French Quarter

Best Department Store

1. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com) -- This local favorite moved up from third place last year by offering shoppers a true one-stop place to buy high-quality merchandise at reasonable prices, including clothing by a range of makers, shoe departments that are hard to beat in quality and price, and even a travel agency.

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

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

Best Men's Clothing Store

1. Perlis Inc. (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-675-1711; www.perlis.com) -- It's hard to say what men like most: the one-on-one personal service, the variety of fashions from suits to casual wear to shoes, the Perlis crawfish logo shirts, or just the intimate feeling of being in a small haberdashery. It's probably a combination of all these things that keeps Perlis in the forefront of men's minds when it comes to shopping.

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

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

Best Women's Clothing Store

1. Ann Taylor (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal Place, 529-2306; New Orleans Shopping Centre, 1400 Poydras St., 587-9101; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-1127; www.anntaylor.com) -- It's a national chain, but shopping at Ann Taylor feels more like you're being catered to at a local boutique. With 50 years of experience under its belt, the stores have refined their offerings to polished takes on updated classic clothing designs that focus on professional women and, at Ann Taylor Loft, value-conscious women with more relaxed lifestyles.

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

3. Hemline (609 Chartres St., 529-3566; 3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; www.hemlinenola.com)

Best Children's Clothing Store

1. Gap Kids (Citywide; www.gapkids.com) -- A rainbow of colors and stylish neutrals are fashioned into the latest designs for the young, hip set, whether they need to pick up something for the playground, a birthday party, school uniforms, socks and shoes, or just a cool hat.

2. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106; www.pippenlane.com)

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

Best Clothing Store for Teenagers

1. Gap (Citywide; www.gap.com) -- It's always a safe bet you'll find things teens want to wear at Gap, whether you need jeans and T-shirts or something less casual. Pre-adults also like the fun-loving colors, sweaters, skirts, hair adornments, socks, handbags and accessories -- plus the stores have really good sales on items that are still in season.

2. Old Navy (Citywide; www.oldnavy.com)

3. American Eagle (Citywide; www.ae.com)

Best Shoe Store for Men

1. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com) -- With hundreds of styles to choose from, the men's shoe department at Dillard's rivals stand-alone shoe stores for variety, brands, colors and sizes available -- and it provides one-stop shoe shopping because the selection runs the gamut from dress and casual to boots, sandals and athletic shoes.

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

3. Perlis Inc. (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-675-1711; www.perlis.com)

Best Shoe Store for Women

1. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com) -- Red, pink, teal, silver, black, high heels, flats, boots, athletic shoes, sandals, pointed toe, rounded toe, slides, large sizes, children's sizes -- these are a few of the reasons Dillards' shoe department rose to the top of the reader's poll. In a word: selection.

2. Shoe Nami (807 Royal St., 524-3522; 3319 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-0805; 3118 Magazine St., 895-1717)

3. Feet First (518 Chartres St., 566-7525; 4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; www.feet-first-stores.com)

Best Place to Buy Evening Wear

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 301 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) -- You don't have to travel to New York or Los Angeles for top-designer evening apparel. Just go to the fashion haven that is Saks Fifth Avenue, the only one in the state. There you'll be treated like a celebrity by the sales associates and find evening wear similar to what you see on the runways or red carpets -- plus you can get everything you need to complete the look, from jewelry to makeup to shoes.

2. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com)

3. Perlis Inc. (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-675-1711; www.perlis.com)

Best Place to Buy a Men's Suit

1. Perlis Inc. (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-675-1711; www.perlis.com) -- Although the store also sells women's fashions, when you walk in, the showroom is decidedly masculine, with men's clothing, shoes and accessories wherever you turn. There is value in the myriad styles of suits in tropical wool, cashmere, poplin, linen and other fabrics, a lifetime of free alterations -- and same-day alterations in some circumstances -- and prices that start at just over $200 for a quality suit.

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

3. (TIE) Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com) and Men's Wearhouse (1629 Westbank Expwy., Space C, Harvey, 362-3114; 3033 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-4295)

Best Place to Buy Lingerie

1. Victoria's Secret (Citywide; www.victoriassecret.com) -- Do Gambit readers love Victoria's Secret because the mannequins in the windows are replicas of the bodies of supermodels? Or could it be that the catalogs are more popular in many homes than magazines that require subscriptions? Maybe it's because it is the one store men don't complain about shopping in, or that the fashions sold here just make women feel pretty.

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

3. Frederick's of Hollywood (Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9780; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 467-0655, www.fredericks.com)

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing

1. Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587) -- Shoppers won't find monkeys here, but they may go wild for the unusual fashions -- vintage, used and new -- and the prices. The expanded shop now has equal space for women's and men's fashions, and draws in lots of people who want to trade in old clothes (many vintage) in good condition for cash or cool items from the store's racks.

2. Thrift City (4125 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-0736; www.sunshinethrift.com)

3. Salvation Army Thrift Store (601 Terry Pkwy., Terrytown, 368-3050; 9661 Chef Menteur Hwy., 243-5000; www.salvationarmyus.org)

Best Place to Buy a Swimsuit

1. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com) -- The styles, colors and makers of swimsuits available during peak season here are almost mind-boggling. The Lakeside location has nearly half a floor dedicated to itsy-bitsy bikinis and more modest two pieces, one-piece suits and cover-ups galore for women, and lots of suits for men as well.

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

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

Best Thrift Store

1. Thrift City (4125 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-0736; www.sunshinethrift.com) -- Operated by AmVets, this thrift store has become a favorite for people all over town who are looking for a spectacular costume for Mardi Gras or Halloween. A bargain hunter's paradise, its vast showroom is packed with hidden treasures you can wear to work -- including 95-cent ties and almost-new dress blouses for $4 to $5.

2. Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana (Citywide; www.goodwill.org)

3. Red, White & Blue Thrift Store (5050 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-1512; 6001 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 733-8066)

Best Toy Store

1. Toys R Us (3156 Pontchartrain Drive, Slidell, 985-641-0754; 3609 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-9513; 4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-8426; 12250 Bullard Road, 245-8697; www.toysrus.com) -- Walking in to this giant toy wonderland instills the same reaction as entering Disney World for the first time: you don't know where to go first because way too many playthings are around you. Here, you can find almost any favored toy in stock for a reasonable price, and also can stock up on kids' clothes, bikes and backyard play structures.

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

3. Big Life Toys (5430 Magazine St., 899-8697)

Best Place to Buy Furniture

1. Hurwitz-Mintz Furniture Co. (211 Royal St., 568-9555; 1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; www.hurtwitzmintz.com) -- Hurwitz-Mintz prides itself on being competitive with anyone on the same brands. Styles in the more than 115,000 square feet of showrooms in the two stores range from antique reproductions to today's edgier designs. The business has thrived since 1923.

2. Kirschman's (5800 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 889-2770; www.kirschman.com)

3. Doerr Furniture Inc. (914 Elysian Fields Ave., 947-0606)

Best Place to Buy Lamps/Lighting

1. Lighting Inc. (Pontchartrain Square, 3547 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 727-9368; 4201 Tulane Ave., 486-5761; www.lightinginconline.com) -- The Ber family has spent two generations perfecting the business, which will light up any space you can think of -- inside or out -- with quality fixtures that are installed correctly. There are sconces, chandeliers, table lamps, floor lamps, ceiling fans with lights, and more, all in designs ranging from classic (read Tiffany) to whimsical, and even tables and mirrors.

2. The Home Depot (Citywide; www.homedepot.com)

3. Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse (1351 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 227-0495; 3640 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0114; www.lowes.com)

Best Antiques Store

1. Bush Antiques (2109 Magazine St., 581-3518; www.bushantiques.com) -- Customers love the variety of antiques and architectural accents here and the way owner Allain Bush arranges them into attractive vignettes that display their versatility. They're also lovingly tried out for comfort by the black-and-white feline diva, Rita, who watches over the store and greets those who enter.

2. M.S. Rau (630 Royal St., 523-5660; www.rauantiques.com)

3. Charbonnet & Charbonnet Antiques (recently relocated to 216 Main St., Old Town, Bay St. Louis, Miss., 228-466-9931; www.charbonnetantiques.com)

Best Fabric Store

1. Fabrixx (755 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-1118; outlet store 51 Park Place Drive, Covington, 985-809-1110) -- George Seidmann has established this fabric store as a home-decorating mecca that draws customers from all over the region by stocking a variety of fabric types, colors and prints, all conveniently arranged in color palettes and all at discount prices. To complete the picture, the shop does upholstering and custom pillows and carries trims and hardware.

2. Hancock Fabrics (2104 Franklin Ave., Gretna, 367-5761; 2727 Edenborn Ave., Metairie; 3550 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2655; www.hancockfabrics.com)

3. Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts (Citywide; www.joann.com)

Best Place to Buy a Wedding Gift

1. Coleman E. Adler & Sons Inc. (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 523-5292; 722 Canal St., 523-5292; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 523-5292; www.adlersjewelery.com) -- Whether you're looking for china place settings, flatware, crystal clocks or decorative figurines, Adler's can offer pieces that will add spark. The fourth-generation, locally owned and operated business knows what New Orleans likes -- it even offers a Galatoire's table top carafe -- and the quality it desires.

2. Dillard's (Citywide; www.dillards.com)

3. Macy's (New Orleans Centre, 1400 Poydras St., 800-456-2297; Esplanade Mall, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 800-456-2297; www.macys.com

Best Place to Have Something Framed

1. Gordon's (605 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 393-9121; 725 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9416; 2518 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-2472) -- The staff here will provide innovative matting, whatever frame and color schemes you desire, and will have your piece ready for the wall in a short period of time -- all at a price that will allow you to expand your art collection. 2

. Michael's Arts & Crafts (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 818-2112; 8851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 464-9884)

3. Eric's of Metairie (4310 Waverly St., Metairie, 455-9339)

Best Jewelry Store

1. Coleman E. Adler & Sons Inc. (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 523-5292; 722 Canal St., 523-5292; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 523-5292; www.adlersjewelery.com) -- Opened by a local family in 1898, Adler's has provided the city with investment-quality fine jewelry pieces for four generations, and Adler family members still operate the stores. Not only can you get sparkly adornments at this full-service store, you also can find a range of watches, clocks, gifts, fine writing instruments, decorative items and more.

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

3. Mignon Faget (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; 710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-2244; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; www.mignonfaget.com)

Best Dry Cleaner

1. Liberto Cleaners (4814 Prytania St., 897-2161; 8128 Willow St., 861-7812) -- Standing out as the best for the third year in a row, Liberto has earned devotion from its customers by cleaning everything possible, performing alterations and repairs, and even picking up soiled items and dropping them off after they've been cleaned. The third-generation business has two outlets that are separately owned by the same family.

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

3. Metairie Cleaners (123 Focis St., Metairie, 835-7980)

Best Hospital

1. East Jefferson General Hospital (4200 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 454-4000; www.eastjeffhospital.com) -- East Jefferson General rose a spot in the rankings since last year. Opened in 1971, the hospital has state-of-the art diagnostic technology and employs some 800 physicians and 2,700 support staff members to keep patients comfortable and healthy. Its Emergency Medical Services advanced life-support ambulance is a real lifesaver, providing 911 response for the East Bank of Jefferson Parish, answering about 40,000 calls a year.

2. Ochsner Clinic Foundation (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 842-3000; www.ochsner.org.)

3. Touro Infirmary (1401 Foucher St., 891-7011; www.touro.com)

Best Hospital to Have a Baby

1. Lakeside Hospital (4700 South I-10 Service Road, Metairie, 780-8282; www.lakesidehospital.com) -- Special deliveries happen 24/7 at Lakeside: in fact, the hospital estimates that more than 86,000 babies have been born here. With hotel-like labor, delivery and recovery (LDR) rooms, superior medical care and nursing support, Lamaze classes and a Breastfeeding Support Center, that number is expected to continue climbing.

2. East Jefferson General Hospital (4200 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 454-4000; www.eastjeffhospital.com)

3. Memorial Medical Center, Baptist Campus (2700 Napoleon Ave., 899-9311; www.memmedctr.com)

Best Pediatrician

1. Dr. J. Kent Treadway (4325 Clara St., 899-5628) -- Working out of his Uptown clinic, Dr. Treadway is known both for his sense of humor (he's made his rounds in Mardi Gras costumes -- last year he was the Crocodile Hunter) and his conscientious care of hundreds of infants, toddlers and children throughout New Orleans.

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

3. Dr. Paul Giorlando (IMG Health Care, 6030 Bullard Ave., Suite 200, 246-4894; 2201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-7374)

Best Plastic Surgeon

1. Dr. John M. Church Jr. (3525 Prytania St., 895-4561) -- Whether it's plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons or to solve health or quality-of-life problems, Dr. Church is our readers' choice for quality procedures. Patients praise his high-tech office, expertise and bedside manner, and the high number of referrals he receives is a testament to their satisfaction.

2. Dr. Calvin Johnson Jr. (2427 St. Charles Ave., 895-7642)

3. Dr. Samuel Parry (3221 General DeGaulle Drive, 433-3331)

Best Chiropractor

1. Dr. Gerry Provance (Provance Chiropractic Sports and Family Clinic, 2007 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 456-9296) -- As the chiropractor for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team and the New Orleans Saints, Dr. Provance has had some very high-stakes joints and vertebrae in his hands. Because an increasing number of amateur athletes and weekend warriors are opting for the benefits of chiropractics, Dr. Provance's services are in high demand.

2. Dr. Craig Ledet (Chiro-Med Health Services, Inc., 8422 Oak St., 861-8000)

3. Dr. Ken Christensen (2447 Royal St., 948-3215)

Best Health Club

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Suite 1200, Harahan, 733-1600; 701 Poydras St., Suite 1300, 588-1600; 111 Veterans Blvd., Suite 475, Metairie, 832-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com) -- When you need to get your sweat on, Elmwood offers more than 100 classes per week in everything from high-energy aerobics to calming tai chi. Other specialized workouts include martial arts, weight training, racquetball and a rock-climbing wall, plus amenities including a cafe and nutrition/lifestyle consultants.

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

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

Best Place to Take a Yoga Class

1. Wild Lotus Yoga Studio (4842 Perrier St., 899-0047; www.wildlotusyoga.com) -- This fast-rising little Uptown studio has become a big force in offering a variety of classes for all levels. This includes strenuous workouts (power, rock, hot yoga), restorative sessions (flow, therapeutic and serenity yoga), rejuvenative classes (yin yang and energy yoga), and specialty classes such as prenatal, kids and parent/baby yoga, kirtan (chanting), and tai chi.

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

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

Best Barbershop

1. Aidan Gill for Men (2026 Magazine St., 587-9090; www.aidangillformen.com) -- Ladies are welcome to shop at Aidan Gill, but make no mistake about it -- this old-school men's salon proclaims that 'unisex is a dead word.' Aidan backs that up with masculine barbering services including The Shave at the End of the Galaxy, a time-honored ritual that includes the application of hot towels, hot oils and shaving balm, finished off with a bracing ice-towel application. It'll go down better with a shot of Irish whiskey.

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

3. Mr. Louis's Barber Shop (8218 Maple St., 861-1055)

Best Hair Salon

1. Paris Parker Salons and Spas (Citywide; www.parisparker.com) -- These upscale salons use all-natural Aveda products to pamper and protect your locks. They offer services ranging from basic cuts to elaborate styles and updos, from single-process colors to corrective colors and highlights, and special services such as the scalp-balancing Purescriptions treatment.

2. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

3. John Jay Beauty Salon (540 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 282-7234; 7600 St. Charles Ave., 866-2782; 3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 889-1444)

Best Day Spa

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Slip into this little oasis on Magazine Street for a mini-vacation that can include such pleasures as restorative facials, rejuvenating body buffs, recharging soaks, massages, mud baths, and even a turn on the 'chi machine.' Consult the long menu of spa services to find the perfect treatment for what ails you -- you might even get it in the Zen tea garden outside.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

Best Place to Get a Manicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Whether you need a basic manicure, a therapeutic treatment for tired hands or a system to repair damaged nails, you can let your fingers do the walking to the manicurists here. And who says these treatments are just for the ladies?

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

Best Place to Get a Pedicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Soak your tootsies in a swirling bath and relax -- all the pedicure options here ensure your feet will be pampered and presentable. The 'Cinderella Pedicure' is billed as a spa facial on your feet; the 'Walk on the Beach' uses sand, sea minerals and other ocean treats; and the 'Extreme Pedicure' is for feet that need extra attention.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

Best Place to Get a Massage

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- What kind of relaxed do you want to be? Belladonna offers a long list of massages that incorporate elements and techniques such as aromatherapy, shiatsu, stretching, deep-tissue, pressure-point, reflexology and acupressure -- as well as specialty services that include a warm stone massage, pregnancy massage, and the 'earth, moon and sun' massage.

2. Earthsavers Relaxation Spa and Shop (Citywide; www.earthsaversonline.com)

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

Best Tanning Salon

1. Planet Beach (Citywide; www.planetbeach.com) -- Get those golden rays from a variety of beds suited to your base tan. Casper the Ghost can start off on a Solar System basic unit, the more sun-kissed can move up to the more intense VIP bed, and the überbronzed can hit the hardcore Platinum unit. Stand-up units are available for an even, all-over tan, and Planet Beach also sells a variety of beach-friendly clothing and skin products.

2. Bask Tanning & Hair Inc. (5300 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-2275; www.basksalon.com)

3. H2O Salon & Day Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; www.h2osalon-spa.com)

Best Body Piercing/Tattoo Parlor

1. Electric Ladyland Tattoo (8106 Earhart Blvd., 866-3859; 610 Frenchmen St., 947-8286; www.electricladyland.net) -- Gambit readers aren't the only ones who love Electric Ladyland; its tattoo artists Annette LaRue and Cameron Sweet won 'Best in Show' at the 2003 Southern Comfort Tattoo Expo, and the shop boasts of that fateful inking of Angelina Jolie's name onto Billy Bob Thornton (a reminder that love may come and go, but tattoos stay put).

2. Rings of Desire Inc. (1128 Decatur St., 524-6147; www.ringsofdesire.com)

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

Best Arcade

1. Fun Arcade (612 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-2806; 6850 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 456-1667) -- For years, Fun Arcade has been the hangout of choice for pinball wizards and techno-heads looking to try out new games and beat their own high scores, or those of their friends. With glare-reducing windows and games that range from amateur to seasoned pro, it's all play, all day (and night).

2. The Game Room (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 838-7906)

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

Best Place to Buy CDs

1. Tower Records (408 N. Peters St., 529-4411; www.towerrecords.com) -- This mega-music store in the French Quarter carries music of most genres, by everyone from popular musicians to obscure artists. Other goodies include DVDs, music books, magazines and fanzines, and free in-store performances.

2. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094, www.louisianamusicfactory.com)

3. Virgin Megastore (620 Decatur St., 671-8100; www.virginmegamagazine.com)

Best CD Store to Find Music by Local Artists

1. Tower Records (408 N. Peters St., 529-4411; www.towerrecords.com) -- In addition to stocking national and international artists, Tower has carved out a niche for area artists, offering a big selection of music by local favorites in its Louisiana room. Jazz is represented especially well, but the other genres -- including Cajun, zydeco, brass band, rock, and rhythm and blues -- are all here.

2. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094, www.louisianamusicfactory.com)

3. Virgin Megastore (620 Decatur St., 671-8100; www.virginmegamagazine.com)

Best DVD/Video Store to Rent New Releases

1. Blockbuster Video (Citywide; www.blockbuster.com) -- With large stacks of new releases coming in regularly, Blockbuster members don't have to wait long to see that movie they didn't catch in the theaters. Check the board by the cashier to see the release dates for upcoming movies, and grab a big tub of movie popcorn or cinema-sized candy before you head home to watch your flick.

2. Major Video (Citywide)

3. Hollywood Video (Citywide; www.hollywoodvideo.com)

Best DVD/Video Store to Rent Classics/Foreign Films

1. Blockbuster Video (Citywide; www.blockbuster.com) -- 'Blockbusters' aren't the only type of movie offered here; classics and foreign films also command a healthy audience. Peruse the wall of new releases for a foreign find, or comb through the stacks for a work that's stood the test of time.

2. Major Video (Citywide)

3. Hollywood Video (Citywide; www.hollywoodvideo.com)

Best Bookstore

1. Barnes & Noble (1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929; www.barnesandnoble.com) -- Sure, these stores offer shelves and shelves of books, in just about any genre you can name. But its wide selection of music, large children's section and in-store cafe are other reasons why it's our readers' favorite.

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

3. Borders Books, Music & Cafe (3131 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-1363; www.borders.com)

Best Bookstore to Find Books By Local Authors

1. Barnes & Noble (1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929, www.barnesandnoble.com) -- It may be a national chain, but Barnes & Noble does pay homage to its Louisiana locations with a good selection of books by area writers from the past to the present. Frequent book signings put readers in touch with their favorite local (and national) writers.

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

3. (TIE) Beaucoup Books (5414 Magazine St., 895-2663) and Borders Books, Music & Cafe (3131 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-1363, www.borders.com)

Best Travel Agency

1. Brennan Travel (433 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-3200; www.brennantravel.com) -- These travel agents can offer their expertise on destinations and accommodations, wrangle low fares, and find special travel deals, packages and discounts. They can even book concert and sports tickets, and offer creative suggestions on your trip that you wouldn't have considered.

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

3. AAA (3445 N. Causeway Blvd, Suite 201, Metairie, 838-7500; www.aaa.com)

Best Place to Buy a Pre-Owned Car

1. (TIE) Lamarque Motor Co. (Lamarque Ford, 3101 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-2500; Lamarque Jeep Chrysler and Downtown Dodge, 2226 Canal St., 822-7121; Lamarque Nissan, 13050 I-10 Service Road, 246-2000; www.lamarque.com) and Lexus of New Orleans (8811 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Metairie; 207-3100; www.lexusneworleans.com) -- Ronnie Lamarque says every dealership he owns puts customer satisfaction first, and that's a sentiment appreciated by our readers. The Lexus dealership emphasizes client education in both sales and service, and offers a high-quality selection of used vehicles.

2. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-6030; www.lakesidetoyota.com)

3. Saturn of Metairie (3400 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 838-9000; www.saturnofmetairie.com)

Best Place to Buy a New Car

1. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-6030; www.lakesidetoyota.com) -- Custom-build your Toyota car, SUV or truck here, or check out the wide range of existing rides in the showroom and on the lot. With special incentives, deals on new vehicles and service 'til midnight, readers give this dealership their two thumbs up.

2. Saturn of Metairie (3400 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 838-9000; www.saturnofmetairie.com)

3. (TIE) Lexus of New Orleans (8811 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie; 207-3100; www.lexusneworleans.com) and Royal Honda (5600 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-2277; www.royalhonda.com)

Best Place to Get Cheap Gas

1. Discount Zone (1620 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 828-0480) -- With regular unleaded prices squeaking just below $1.70 last week, all 12 pumps at this Spur station were consistently busy. Another factor in its popularity: a convenience store with Western Union service, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, American Spirit cigs and bagged ice. 2. Spur (3600 Gen. DeGaulle Drive, 362-0754)

3. Danny & Clyde's (4320 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 888-0129)

Best Bank

1. Hibernia Bank (Citywide; www.hibernia.com) -- Those green ATMs are all over the place, which is one reason why readers like Hibernia. Other reasons include online banking, personal loans, credit cards and mortgages, and commercial and small business services that include insurance, investing, lending and business planning and management.

2. Whitney Bank (Citywide, www.whitneybank.com)

3. Bank One (Citywide, www.bankone.com)

Best Wireless Phone Service

1. Cingular (Citywide; www.cingular.com) -- With cellular phone services vying for your business, Cingular's individual and family plans, media packages (with messaging and wireless Internet) and international services make it the local winner. Extras include perks like wake-up calls, 'Joke of the Day' and Escape-A-Date, which lets you schedule a 'rescue' phone call to extract you from a lousy blind date.

2. Verizon (Citywide, www.verizon.com)

3. Sprint (Citywide, www.sprintpcs.com)

Best Place to Buy Home Electronics

1. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; www.bestbuy.com) -- TVs! DVD players! Home theater sound systems! Karaoke machines! With a full range of movies, CDs and video games as well, Best Buy pretty much has what it takes to keep yourself fully plugged in and entertained without leaving the house.

2. Circuit City (Citywide; www.circuitcity.com)

3. Radio Shack (Citywide; www.radioshack.com)

Best Place to Buy a Camera

1. Lakeside Camera & Imaging (3508 21st St., Metairie, 885-8660; 2121 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-1776; lakesidecamera.com) -- Lakeside sells a wide variety of new and used digital, film and video cameras, plus all the equipment you need -- but that's only the beginning. With a photo lab, digital imaging, fine art reproduction, photography classes, a portrait studio and more, Lakeside can do just about anything possible with an image (or teach you how to do it yourself).

2. Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; www.bestbuy.com)

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

Best Bicycle Store

1. Joe's Bicycle Shop (2509 Tulane Ave., 821-2354; www.joesbicycles.com) -- When you find yourself just spinning your wheels, stop at Joe's for repairs, a rental or a replacement. A favorite of die-hard cyclists around town, Joe's offers new Schwinn and GT bikes, deals on used or consignment bikes, and even cool custom-built models using whatever parts suit your fancy.

2. GNO Cyclery (1426 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-0023; www.gnocyclery.com)

3. Bayou Bicycles (3534 Toulouse St., 488-1946; www.bayoubicycles.com)

Best Sporting Goods Store

1. Academy Sports & Outdoors (50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 363-8283; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320; 800 Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 729-4300; www.academy.com) -- Whatever your workout or sport, you're likely to find supplies for it here. And with sturdy men's, women's and children's clothing, from jeans to work boots, Academy has you covered after the game, too.

2. Oshman's Supersports USA (5300 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-7791; 4329 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-4700; www.oshmans.com)

3. Sports Authority (5151 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 734-7271; www.thesportsauthority.com)

Best Pet Groomers

1. PETsMART (6851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-2222; 1321 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-0879; 1000 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-2016; www.petsmart.com) -- PETsMART's trained groomers can get even the most matted mutt or filthiest feline ready for the show ring. Using high-quality 'pet salon' products, these PETStylists provide everything from nail clipping to tooth brushing and everything in between.

2. Petco (1629 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 362-6711; 3500 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-1880; www.petco.com)

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

Best Pet Store

1. PETsMART (6851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-2222; 1321 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-0879; 1000 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-2016; www.petsmart.com) -- This pet superstore has pretty much everything a domestic creature (and its owner) needs, including food, supplies and habitats, plus supplies for wild birds, too. All three area locations offer adoption centers, grooming services and training classes, and the Metairie and Harvey stores have well-pet clinics.

2. Petco (1629 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 362-6711; 3500 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-1880; www.petco.com)

3. Jefferson Feed, Pet & Garden Center (4421 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson, 733-8572; http://yp.bellsouth.com/sites/jeffersonfeed/)

Best Veterinary/Animal Clinic

1. Metairie Small Animal Hospital (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; 5040 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 455-2345; 4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-4400; msah.cur.com) -- Since 1946, people have entrusted their pets to this small animal hospital, which has grown to very big proportions over the years. With 10 veterinarians and more than 40 support staff, MSAH is open around the clock. It also offers boarding and grooming, and a pick-up and delivery service.

2. (TIE) Causeway Animal Hospital (1315 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 828-2700; www.causewayanimalhospital.petplace.com) and Southern Animal Foundation (1823 Magazine St., 671-8235; www.southernanimalfoundation.org)

3. Lakeview Veterinary Hospital (6245 Memphis St., 482-2173)

Best Hotel

1. Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331; www.ritzcarlton.com) -- Sumptuously appointed rooms and five-star service only scratch the surface at the Ritz-Carlton. New Orleans' outpost of this international luxury chain includes an unparalleled day spa, a popular jazz nightclub and restaurant, fabulous courtyard, and deluxe meeting accommodations.

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

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

Best Local Civil Attorney

1. Morris Bart (Morris Bart. P909 Poydras St., 525-1301; www.morrisbart.com) -- Bart's name has become synonymous with 'One call, that's all,' the catchphrase on his ubiquitous TV and print commercials advertising his personal-injury legal services. The Tennessee native stayed in New Orleans after graduating from Loyola University Law School, and became the first attorney in Louisiana to run personal-injury ads on television.

2. Michael Hingle (Michael Hingle & Associates, 201 St Charles Ave., 568-1161 and 523-6800; 3501 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 836-7405; 401 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 363-0098)

3. 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; www.louisianacriminallaw.com)

Best Local Criminal Attorney

1. Provino 'Vinny' Mosca (201 S. Galvez St., 525-7556) -- This veteran criminal defense attorney has a name you've likely heard before. Not only is Mosca a Harahan city councilmember and former mayor, but he has represented a number of local high-profile defendants, most notably the Canal Street Brothel defendants.

2. Frank DeSalvo (201 S. Galvez St., 821-3161 and 524-4191)

3. Arthur 'Buddy' Lemann III (938 Lafayette St., 522-8104)

Best Auto Repair Shop

1. Fleur de Lis Car Care (247 W. Harrison Ave., 488-8044) -- More than just a gas station, this friendly service center can solve your vehicular woes, install new tires, or conduct your next brake-tag inspection. A longtime Lakeview favorite, it's a small shop with an extensive clientele.

2. Trep's Auto Service (318 N. Alexander St., 486-5884; www.trepsauto.com)

3. Uptown Auto Specialist (501 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-8392)

Best Florist

1. Villere's Florist (1107 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 833-3716; 812 S. Tyler St., Covington, 985-809-9101; www.villeresflorist.com) -- Sure, Villere's offers fresh-cut arrangements for weddings and other grand events, as well as individual bouquets for someone special. But this far-reaching Metairie shop also offers tropical flowers and plants, European and dish gardens, silk and dried floral arrangements, gourmet and fruit baskets, candles and gifts.

2. (TIE) Peter A. Chopin Florist (3138 Magazine St., 891-4455) and Federico's Family Florist (5606 Canal Blvd., 482-0249)

3. Urban Earth (528 Jackson Ave., 524-0100)

Best Garden Center

1. Perino's Garden Center (3100 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-7888; www.perinos.com) -- Perino's is known for a selection of healthy and hardy plants for indoors and outdoors, plus garden supplies, Christmas trees and other lawn merchandise. This family-owned business also offers professional landscaping services, and will answer all of your gardening-related questions.

2. Home Depot (Citywide; www.homedepot.com)

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

Best Place to Buy Wine

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer St., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com) -- It offers more than 2,000 choices for wine, including fine and rare bottles, so why wouldn't you peruse the racks at Martin Wine Cellar for that perfect vintage? Knowledgeable staff members can help you decide, and Martin's offers regular wine-related events, as well as gifts for the most discriminating oenophile.

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

3. (TIE) Cork & Bottle Fine Wines (3700 Orleans Ave., 934-1386) and The Wine Seller (5000 Prytania St., 899-6000)

Best Liquor Store

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer St., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com) -- While 'wine' may be its middle name, Martin Wine Cellar is also home to an enviable variety of fine spirits and beers from around the world. In fact, this local favorite started out as a humble liquor store in the 1970s, and has since grown into a one-stop shop for wines and spirits, gourmet foods, barware and gifts.

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

3. Prytania Liquor (1300 Arabella St., 891-0448)

Best Local Beer Brand

1. Abita (21084 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, 985-892-1123; www.abita.com) -- This Louisiana staple seems to be everywhere, from supermarket coolers to bar taps to the source itself: its brewery on the Northshore. So it's hard sometimes to imagine that Abita started not so long ago (1986, to be exact) as a mom-and-pop brewing operation. Today, Abita offers a wide variety of brews, including seasonal options and select draft blends.

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

3. Zea Rotisserie & Brewery (4450 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-9090; www.neworleansrestaurants.com/zea/)

Best Candy Shop

1. Blue Frog Chocolates (5707 Magazine St., 269-5707; www.bluefrogchocolates.com) -- Readers love the creative selection of gourmet and novelty chocolates, seasonal candies and other cool confections at this quirky Uptown shop. Blue Frog can design a logo or other custom shape out of chocolate, making this confectioner a favorite for corporate clients as well as chocoholics and Valentine's Day sweeties.

2. (TIE) Godiva Chocolatier (1 Poydras St., Riverwalk Marketplace, 522-1269; 1401 Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade Mall, Kenner, 464-6422; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 834-3278; www.godiva.com) and Laura's Candies and Creole Pralines (331 Chartres St., 525-3880; 938 Royal St., 524-9259; www.laurascandies.com)

3. Southern Candymakers (1010 Decatur St., 525-6170; 334 Decatur St., 523-5544; www.southerncandymakers.com)

Best Neighborhood Grocery

1. Langenstein's (1330 Arabella St., 899-9283; 800 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-6682; www.langenstein.com) -- Renowned for its meat market (where you can get meats cut to order) and homemade Louisiana specialties including seafood gumbo, turducken and crawfish bisque, Langenstein's has been feeding the neighborhood since 1922. This family-owned supermarket also has a florist, deli, seafood market and bakery.

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

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

Best Neighborhood Grocery on the Northshore

1. Acquistapace's Covington Super Market (125 E. 21st Ave., Covington, 985-893-0593) -- This 20-year-old grocery is best known for its meats, but is quickly developing a reputation for its vast selection of fine wines and spirits. If you're overwhelmed by the 4,000-plus labels, never fear: the Acquistapace family will help you match bottles with recipes. Grab a po-boy from the deli on your way out.

2. Rouse's Supermarket (1200 Business Hwy 190, Covington, 985-867-5232; www.rouses.com)

3. Columbia Street Natural Food Market (415 N Columbia St., 985-893-0355)

Best Supermarket

1. Sav-A-Center (Citywide; www.sav-a-centers.com) -- These stores have all the conveniences of major supermarket chains, including long hours, self-service checkouts and Bonus Reward cards. But they also have many of the amenities of specialty grocery stores, including a variety of organic produce, hard-to-find foods (including vegetarian and ethnic brands) and a respectable bakery, deli, salad bar and fish/meat markets.

2. Winn-Dixie (Citywide; www.winndixie.com)

3. Robert Fresh Market (Citywide; www.robertfreshmarket.com)

Best Bakery

1. Maurice French Pastries (1114 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-7052; 3501 Hessmer Ave., Metairie, 885-1526; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com) -- Chef Jean-Luc Albin has brought the essence of the French Alps to New Orleans, supplying area restaurants with outrageous desserts and operating two bakeries that offer a range of specialty cakes, tarts and other enticing confections.

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

3. (TIE) Gambino's Bakeries (3240 S. Carrollton Ave., 485-0171; 5242 Elysian Fields Ave., 288-4262; 4821 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-7500; 300 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 391-0600; www.gambinos.com) and Haydel's (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 837-0190; www.haydelbakery.com)

Best Grocery Store to Buy Fresh Produce

1. Whole Foods Market (3135 Esplanade Ave., 943-1626; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoods.com) -- Craving white asparagus, pluots or cippolini onions? Whole Foods' produce department specializes in exotic or specialty fruits and veggies, not to mention more familiar items. The national chain is a major buyer of organic produce and goods from regional farms. A third area Whole Foods is currently under development in Metairie.

2. Sav-A-Center (Citywide; www.sav-a-centers.com)

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) -- This market began as an 18th-century riverside trading spot and evolved into a multi-ethnic outdoor market for meats, produce and dry goods, and finally into the community market that thrives there today. Billed as the nation's oldest continually operated public produce market, the French Market offers fresh fruits and vegetables from area farmers 24 hours a day.

2. Crescent City Farmers' Markets (Tuesday at 200 Broadway, Wednesday at French Market Place and Gov. Nicholls St., Thursday at 3900 Orleans Ave., Saturday at 700 Magazine St., 861-5898; www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org)

3. Claiborne and Nashville fruit stand

Best Caterer

1. Food Art (801 Carondelet St., 524-2381; www.foodartinc.com) -- Food Art's owners and staff treat each event, from grand galas to intimate gatherings, with attention to excellence in cuisine, presentation, service and creativity. They'll also arrange ancillary elements including flowers, photography and entertainment.

2. (TIE) Joel's Fine Catering (3930 Euphrosine St., 827-2400, www.joels.com) and Rommel's Catering (3209 Taft Park, Metairie, 888-6229)

3. (TIE) Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350; www.martinwine.com) and Partysist (8020 Olive St., 488-4234, www.partysist.com)

click to enlarge Best Deli, Best Liquor Store and Best Place to Buy Wine: - Martin Wine Cellar - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Deli, Best Liquor Store and Best Place to Buy Wine: Martin Wine Cellar
click to enlarge Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Juvenile
  • Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Juvenile
click to enlarge Best Barbershop: Aidan Gill for Men - ROMNEY
  • Romney
  • Best Barbershop: Aidan Gill for Men
click to enlarge Best Men's Clothing Store and Best Place to Buy - a Men's Suit: Perlis Inc. - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Best Men's Clothing Store and Best Place to Buy a Men's Suit: Perlis Inc.
click to enlarge Best Friend New Orleans Has in Washington - and Best Local Liberal: Mary Landrieu
  • Best Friend New Orleans Has in Washington and Best Local Liberal: Mary Landrieu
click to enlarge Best Friend New Orleans Has in Baton Rouge: - Mitch Landrieu
  • Best Friend New Orleans Has in Baton Rouge: Mitch Landrieu
click to enlarge Local passions over public schools are reflected - in the Best Public Spat and Best Local Scandal awards. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Local passions over public schools are reflected in the Best Public Spat and Best Local Scandal awards.
click to enlarge Best Hornets Player: Baron Davis
  • Best Hornets Player: Baron Davis
click to enlarge Best Place to Get Bubble Tea: Frosty's Caffe - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Harrah's New Orleans Casino, which now features - performer Earl Turner, wins Best Casino. - GREG MILES
  • Greg Miles
  • Harrah's New Orleans Casino, which now features performer Earl Turner, wins Best Casino.
click to enlarge Belladonna Day Spa wins Best Place to Get a Massage, as - well as a handful of other categories. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Belladonna Day Spa wins Best Place to Get a Massage, as well as a handful of other categories.
click to enlarge Commander's Palace wins Best Overall Restaurant, - among numerous other awards. - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Commander's Palace wins Best Overall Restaurant, among numerous other awards.
click to enlarge Best Museum: New Orleans Museum of Art
  • Best Museum: New Orleans Museum of Art
click to enlarge Best Local College/University: Tulane University
  • Best Local College/University: Tulane University
click to enlarge Best Arcade: Fun Arcade - DONN YOUNG
click to enlarge Cooter Brown's Tavern wins for both Best Place to Get a - Cold Beer and Best Beer Selection. - DONN YOUNG
  • Donn Young
  • Cooter Brown's Tavern wins for both Best Place to Get a Cold Beer and Best Beer Selection.
click to enlarge Best Northshore Restaurant: Trey Yuen Cuisine of China - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Northshore Restaurant: Trey Yuen Cuisine of China
click to enlarge Best Hotel: Ritz-Carlton New Orleans
  • Best Hotel: Ritz-Carlton New Orleans
click to enlarge Best Live Theater Venue: Saenger Performing - Arts Center
  • Best Live Theater Venue: Saenger Performing Arts Center
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