Best Live Theater Venue
1. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (616 St. Peter St., 522-2081; www.lepetittheatre.com) — Though Le Petit is currently restructuring (the plan is to reopen with a full season in late 2012), it remains first in the hearts of Gambit readers. Now all of you will be buying season tickets to keep the new Le Petit fiscally solvent. Right? Right??
2. Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts (1419 Basin St., 287-0351; www.mahaliajacksontheater.com)
3. Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.cabaretlechatnoir.com)
Best Local Theater Performer
1. Becky Allen — Big, bawdy and funny are Becky Allen's trademarks, no matter the show. Who else in town could go from starring in ...And the Ball and All (perhaps her most iconic comic role) to taking on the role of Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?
2. Ricky Graham
3. Bryan Batt
Best Dance Club
This French Quarter dance destination is not for the faint of heart (or of liver). Twentysomethings flock to the bar for a sweat-soaked night of Flaming Dr. Pepper Shots and dancing (rhythmically grinding) that stretches into the wee hours. Although near the touristy haunts of Bourbon Street, the bar attracts a crowd of mostly locals. Strangely, the space often doubles as a literary hub during the week, hosting poets and writers like Andrei Codrescu.
2. Oz (800 Bourbon St, 593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com)
3. Republic (828 S. Peters St., 528-8282; www.republicnola.com)
Best Bar to Watch Sports
1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) — Cooter's topped our sports bar poll in 2009 and 2010 as well, and it's been the site of WWL Saints radio broadcasts featuring the Cajun Cannon, Bobby Hebert. The sporting oasis in the Riverbend boasts numerous wide-screen TVs and lives up to its nickname as the "Hall of Foam" with more than three dozen brews on tap and even more in bottles. Besides po-boys, burgers and seafood platters, you'll also find Philly cheesesteaks (hard to find in New Orleans).
2. Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com)
3. TIE: Fox and Hound (Elmwood Village Center, 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., 731-6000; www.foxandhound.com)
3. TIE: Tracey's (2604 Magazine St., 897-5413; www.traceysnola.com)
Best Bar to Network
With a heady craft cocktail list, comfortable seating (including a sizeable outdoor space) and a strict enforcement of dress code, this tony Freret Street lounge attracts a well-heeled crowd and is ideal for networking. With Freret Street flourishing as an increasing number of businesses set up shop there, the trailblazer in the street's revitalization is still the place to be.
2. The Columns Hotel's Victorian Lounge (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; www.thecolumns.com)
3. Oak (8118 Oak St., 302-1485; www.oaknola.com)
Best College Bar
1. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) — The perennial winner in this category is the grande dame of college watering holes, counting generations of area university students as its loyal customers. You'll find Greeks and geeks and anyone in between enjoying the bar's cheap-but-sizable drinks, happy hour specials, pool tables and the signature 50 Cent Night and floppy slices of "Boot Pizza."
2. Bruno's Tavern (7538 Maple St., 861-7615; www.brunostavern.com)
3. F and M Patio Bar (4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784; www.fandmpatiobar.com)
Best Gay Bar
While dance clubs in the 700 and 800 blocks of Bourbon Street come and go (anyone remember 735?), Oz remains a stalwart and beloved fixture. Whether it's hosting a neon-themed party or a white party, Oz invites partiers from across the spectrum of sexual orientations to get down.
2. Bourbon Pub/Parade (801 Bourbon St., 529-2107; www.bourbonpub.com)
3. Good Friends (740 Dauphine St., 566-7191; www.goodfriendsbar.com)
Best Neighborhood Bar
1. Finn McCool's (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com) — Finn McCool's is a popular Irish pub in Mid-City that always has a competitive edge. Die-hard soccer fans gather early on weekends and throughout the week to watch games from European leagues, and New Orleans Saints and football fans wear their colors on Sunday afternoons. The bar also is home to a pub quiz series on Monday nights.
2. St. Joe's Bar (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744)
3. Pal's Lounge (949 N. Rendon St., 488-7257)
Best Hotel Bar
1. Carousel Bar (Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com) — A perennial favorite, the Carousel is undergoing a facelift and an expansion, taking over some space from the hotel's Hunt Room Grill. Leave the rotating bar to the tourists; the Carousel is the place for a perfect Vieux Carre cocktail (preferably while sitting near the window watching the hurlyburly of Royal Street). Besides, where else does the room seem to spin around you before you've even had your first drink?
2. Sazerac (Roosevelt Hotel, 123 Baronne St., 648-1200; www.therooseveltneworleans.com)
3. Swizzle Stick (Loews New Orleans Hotel, Cafe Adelaide, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305; www.cafeadelaide.com)
Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club
With dancers beckoning from the door or the railing of the grand winding staircase to the second floor, Rick's Cabaret is one of the most noticeable clubs on Bourbon Street. Since opening in the 1990s, Rick's has been one of the city's most upscale and polished gentlemen's clubs. It's modern in design and full of amenities including a state-of-the-art sound system, VIP rooms and memberships. Monday Night Football is broadcast on widescreen TVs on both floors and the Friday buffet lunch has been an attraction for more than a decade.
2. Visions (4000 Downman Road, 240-0069; www.visionsmensclub.com)
3. Larry Flynt's Hustler Club (225 Bourbon St., 524-0010; www.hustlerclubs.com)
Best Happy Hour
It may sometimes take at least an hour to get a table at this popular Uptown spot, but that doesn't bother the after-work crowds who are more than happy to knock back margaritas while snacking on chips and queso at this Tex-Mex joint's bar. Year after year, this is the favorite among those for whom Cinco de Mayo is to be celebrated every day of the year.
2. Domenica (Roosevelt Hotel, 123 Baronne St., 648-6020; www.domenicarestaurant.com)
3. American Sector (945 Magazine St., 528-1940; www.nationalww2museum.org/american-sector)
Best Bar for Nonsmokers
Locals love d.b.a. for its consistently exciting roster of nightly live music and its top-shelf selection of beer and liquor. But before this year, it was hard to avoid secondhand-smoking an entire pack of cigarettes when patronizing the Frenchmen Street spot. But one of the best got better when the bar/music venue went smoke-free at the beginning of 2011, and smokers and non-smokers alike seem to have been fine with the change.
2. Cure (4905 Freret St., 302-2357; www.curenola.com)
3. Oak (8118 Oak St., 302-1485; www.oaknola.com)
Best Place to Dance to a Live Band
Opened as a neighborhood joint in 1977, Tip's has stayed true to its roots even while gaining prominence as a bastion of southern Louisiana music and culture. A weekly Cajun fais do-do (which has been running for 24 years), a free concert series and no-smoking policy give attendees incentive to two-step across the dance floor.
2. Rock 'n' Bowl (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-1700; www.rocknbowl.com)
3. Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St., 866-9359; mapleleafbar.com)
Best Bar to People-Watch
1. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com) — There are different atmospheres for different moods here, with a locals' bar on one side of the street entrance and a rollicking piano bar on the other — and one of the busiest courtyards in the city. Its worldwide fame puts it on lists of must-see places in New Orleans, so there are lots of Hurricane first-timer tourists to entertain you.
2. Molly's at the Market (1107 Decatur St., 525-5169; www.mollysatthemarket.net)
3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 942-3731; www.drinkgoodstuff.com)
Best Movie Theater
1. Prytania (5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.theprytania.com) — Every year, Best of New Orleans voters eschew chain multiplexes in favor of the nearly 100-year-old neighborhood theater. Owner and serious movie buff Rene Brunet runs his theater like a gracious host, greeting patrons and regaling captive listeners with his expansive film knowledge. The theater's single screen shows anything from the latest blockbusters to classics, to New Orleans Film Society Screenings and campy cult classics for the Midnight Movie Series (The Human Centipede anyone?).
2. Theatres at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 525-1254: www.thetheatres.com)
3. AMC Palace 20 (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, 888-262-4386)
Best Place to See Comedy
1. La Nuit Comedy Theater (5039 Freret St., 231-7011; www.lanuittheater.com) — Smack in the middle of the newly revived Freret Street strip, La Nuit has an ever-changing array of standup shows, improv troupes and plays to make you laugh. And if you want to get into the act, proprietor Yvonne Landry teaches improv classes at all levels (the new season of classes begins Sept. 10).
2. The Theater at Harrah's (8 Canal St., 533-6111; www.harrahsneworleans.com)
3. Carrollton Station (8140 Willow St., 865-9190; www.carrolltonstation.com)
Best Place for Karaoke
Though many locals would rather chug a shot of Tabasco than brave Bourbon Street, the siren song of a certain sultry feline is enough to overpower this aversion. The Cat's Meow's popularity proves that off-key, alcohol-fueled serenades aren't the sole terrain of tourists — but if anyone you know catches your rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" live-streamed on the Cat's Meow website, you may wish they were.
2. Little Tokyo (310 N. Carrollton Ave., 485-5807; 1340 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-6088; 1521 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 831-6788; www.littletokyonola.com
3. Kajun's Pub (2256 St. Claude Ave., 947-3735; http://kajunpub.com)
Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary
1. Louisiana Superdome (1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, 587-3663; www.superdome.com) — It's really genius to have the city's best Bloody Mary at the Superdome. It's a potion if the Saints are having "one of those days," and a great mood topper when we end up in the Win column. The cocktail provides 20 percent of the vitamin C you need for the day. Thanks, Superdome, for keeping Saints fans healthy.
2. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St, 525-4823; www.patobriens.com)
3. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com)
Best Place to Get a Margarita
1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.neworleans.superiorgrill.com) — It's not hard to understand the draw of Superior Grill. Its margaritas are made with freshly squeezed juice, come frozen or on the rocks and its variety of tequilas includes Margarita Gold and Gran Gala. It's a prime spot for mingling, especially during happy hour, which offers two-for-one or a large for the price of a small starting at 3:30 p.m. daily, when $6 will get your buzz started.
2. El Gato Negro (81 French Market Place, 525-9752; 300 Harrison Ave., 488-0107; www.elgatonegronola.com)
3. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com)
Best Place to Get a Martini
1. The Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) — Decorated as an upscale British gentleman's club, with live music nightly, The Bombay Club has the right ambience for a romantic meal, a business meeting or sharing exotic elixirs with friends. Mixologist Cheryl Charming has created a diverse menu of martinis, ranging from the Vesper (named after James Bond's love interest in Casino Royale) to a Chocolate Mocha-tini.
2. Columns Hotel's Victorian Lounge (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308: www.thecolumns.com)
3. Cure (4905 Freret St., 302-2357; www.curenola.com)
Best Place to Get Wine By the Glass
1. Wine Institute of New Orleans (W.I.N.O.) (610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000; www.winoschool.com) — It's the place to become an oenophile without breaking the bank. There are classes that teach about types of wines and pairings, or sample 120 wines by the ounce — kept fresh with a state-of-the-art Enomatic wine serving system — to help you decide what you want to imbibe by the glass. To seal the deal, W.I.N.O. offers a menu of small plates ranging from cheese plates, pate and bruschetta to a chicken salad.
2. Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com)
3. Oak (8118 Oak St., 302-1485; www.oaknola.com)
Best Beer Selection
1. Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1556; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) — Gambit readers willing to travel the globe pint-ways chose this Uptown beer emporium (and its Mid-City home) as the best in its class for another year in a row. Choose from more than 100 bottled beers and 50 drafts, served in signature glasses you can take home on Wednesdays. Dogs are welcome, and you'll likely find them lapping at the beer-tap water fountain (and sudsy shrine) on the patio.
2. Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com)
3. Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles Ave., 586-9243; www.theavenuepub.com)
Best Locally Brewed Beer
1. Abita Amber — This Munich-style lager is the Abita Brewery's flagship brew, and its brown label and caramel color are found both in backyard barbecues and on Old Line restaurant tables. It goes with everything, and soon will be everywhere — Abita will premiere its canned beers next year.
2. Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
3. NOLA Blonde Ale
Best Bar for Craft Cocktails
1. Cure (4905 Freret St., 302-2357; www.curenola.com) — The slower the better at this lush, high-ceilinged spirits sanctuary. Master mixologists prepare finely tuned cocktails noted by GQ, Esquire and Travel + Leisure as some of the country's best among a renaissance of lovingly recreated libations and new concoctions. Pro tip: Obey the dress code and imbibe appropriately.
2. Bar Tonique (820 N. Rampart St., 324-6045; www.bartonique.com)
3. Twelve Mile Limit (500 Telemachus St., 488-8114)
1. Harrah's Casino (8 Canal St., 533-600; www.harrahsneworleans.com) — Whenever your spirits need a lift — or you're feeling really lucky — go to Harrah's, where you'll find 115,000-square-feet of entertainment space. If the bright lights, constant bells of winning slot machines, and the laughter and drinks don't pull you out of your slump, you can attend a music show at the casino's theater or head to Masquerade's for some music, dancing and drinks served on an ice bar (yes, the bar is made of ice).
2. Treasure Chest Casino (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-8000; www.treasurechest.com)
3. Boomtown Casino (4132 Peters Road, Harvey, 366-7711; www.boomtownneworleans.com)
Best Live Music Venue
1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) — An emblematic banana and a Professor Longhair bust distinguish this venerable Uptown institution, whose 2010 and 2011 concert seasons have included artists from Joanna Newsom, Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene, to Patti Smith and Wanda Jackson, to dozens of headlining local artists like Trombone Shorty and the Radiators (for the band's farewell performances).
2. House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.hob.com)
3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 942-3731; www.dbabars.com)
Best Live Music Show in the Past 12 Months
1. Lady Gaga — The pop megastar unleashed her live, glitter-bombed party-performance in New Orleans in April 2011 at the New Orleans Arena (she headlined a sold-out stop in December 2009 at the UNO Lakefront Arena). Weeks before the release of her third album Born This Way in May, Gaga rained down her ultra-hits on grand sets and costumes over two breathless, sweaty hours at the Arena.
2. Britney Spears
3. Radiators Final Show at Tipitina's
Best Jazz Fest Performance 2011
1. Arcade Fire — The anthemic Canadian indie rock outfit surprised both the Grammys (with a win for 2011's Album of the Year for The Suburbs) and Jazz Fest attendees, with an encore performance of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with fellow Fest headliner Cyndi Lauper. Their set counted cuts from 2008's Neon Bible and 2004 breakout LP Funeral, closing with a monumental rendition of "Wake Up." The band also hit the grounds and performed with Haitian outfit and Arcade Fire collaborator RAM.
2. Jimmy Buffett
3. Bon Jovi
Best Local Rock Band/Artist
1. Better Than Ezra — Despite the fact its signature single "Good" debuted more than 15 years ago, Better Than Ezra was voted by readers once again as the best rock band. The trio hasn't remained idle — it released Paper Empire in 2009, and the Better Than Ezra Foundation donates regularly to area charities and groups. The band's annual Carnival season gigs draw hundreds of fans — and BTE shared New Orleans on the road with the Krewe of Rocckus tour.
2. Cowboy Mouth
3. Anders Osborne
Best Local Jazz Band/Artist
1. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews — Jazz circles might not cast Shorty as a jazz player per se, but Troy Andrews' family legacy and influence certainly comes from the jazz universe. Besides, Gambit readers needed a category for the versatile performer, whose 2010 album Backatown and the upcoming For True mold New Orleans jazz, funk, soul and rock into uniquely New Orleans masterworks, jazz or not.
2. Kermit Ruffins
3. Irvin Mayfield
Best Cajun/ Zydeco Band/Artist
1. Amanda Shaw — When she made her debut in 2001 with Little Black Dog, Shaw, now 21, began her career bridging contemporary pop and country with traditional Cajun and zydeco music, led by her warp-speed fiddle playing. Her 2010 release Good Southern Girl highlights her whiplash fiddling and playful, powerful vocals — always on display at her full-throttle live shows (which you seemingly can find almost anytime).
2. Rockin' Dopsie Jr.
Best Local Brass Band
1. Rebirth Brass Band — The brothers Frazier and the group they founded with Kermit Ruffins in 1982 keep the Rebirth alive, whether on a world tour or packing the dance floor every week at the Maple Leaf. Rebirth's latest album, Rebirth of New Orleans, is the band at its rowdy, sweaty and funky self, and despite its 29-year-old history, it doesn't seem to be slowing down — Rebirth grabs the No. 1 Best of New Orleans spot year after year.
2. Hot 8 Brass Band
3. Soul Rebels Brass Band
Best Local Rap/ Hip-Hop/ Bounce Artist
1. Lil Wayne — Lil Tunechi snagged the title last year while locked up in Rikers. Now a free man, Weezy has been hard at work, dropping mixtapes, touring, and releasing the anticipated follow-up to 2008's Tha Carter III with... The Carter IV, out this week. Two other albums between Carter sequels received middling reviews at best, but global hype over the fourth (and the four singles it already produced) show the McMain alum back in his mid-2000s groove.
2. Big Freedia
3. Katey Red
Best Local DJ
1. DJ Soul Sister — The "queen of rare groove," Melissa Weber could make you the best mixtape ever, but she's typically busy behind a pair of turntables inspiring even locked-knee nerds to make like Funkadelic and put on their happy feet. Soul Sister's Saturday night "Hustle" party approaches a decade of dance parties, preceded by her 17-year-old Saturday set on WWOZ for the funkiest two-hour block on U.S. radio.
2. DJ Jubilee
3. DJ Captain "Chiggy Chiggy" Charles
Best Local Funk/ R&B Band/ Artist
1. Galactic — The funk quintet released the acclaimed Ya_Kay_May in 2010, a cross-section of New Orleans music history, from its living legends (Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint) to its hip hop torchbearers (bounce performers Big Freedia, Cheeky Blakk). But its centerpiece, of course, is Galactic, whose outrageous, explosive funk powerhouse has shaken up New Orleans stages and music halls since 1994.
2. Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
3. Big Sam's Funky Nation