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The Best of New Orleans® — 2007 

Our annual readers' poll serves up the city's best once again.

Quick -- name the absolutely best thing about New Orleans. Can't do it, can you? Well, that's as it should be. That's because there are just so many good things about this city -- despite everything that's happened in the last two years -- that every year we have to enlist our readers' help in compiling the comprehensive compendium of all things wonderful about New Orleans. Accept no impostor or imitators (and there are plenty, but we take imitation as a compliment) -- Gambit Weekly publishes the original and the most authoritative Best of New Orleans® on the planet. We can make that claim because we have the world's foremost New Orleans authorities helping us do it: you, our readers! So, as we look back this week on the second anniversary of you-know-what, let's also take an admiring look in our collective mirror -- because there's still a lot to love about ourselves.

ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE

Best Movie Theater

1. Prytania Theater (5339 Prytania St., 891-6412) -- New Orleans' only stand-alone movie house recently installed more comfortable seating, perhaps as a way of rewarding steadfast visitors for years of loyal, if not always luxe, patronage. You also may have noticed the new Megaplex-worthy marquee -- replete with Fresnel stage lighting rigged to a nearby street sign -- advertising the theater's latest attraction. It's kind of hard to miss. Then again, who would want to miss the Prytania?

2. AMC Palace 20 Elmwood (1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., 734-2020)

3. Landmark Canal Place Cinema (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 363-1117)

Best Live Theater Venue

1. Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812) -- The Best Live Theater Venue isn't just a venue for traditional theater. Alongside the more conventional dramatic and cabaret productions Le Chat Noir presents every week, you'll find less easily classifiable acts such as BustOut Burlesque and the Bingo! Show. As artistic director and proprietor Barbara Motley likes to say: Keeps 'em guessing.

2. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (616 St. Peter St., 522-2081) 3. Southern Rep Theatre (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 522-6545; www.southernrep.com)

 

Best Local Theater Actor

1. Ricky Graham -- Is there more than one Ricky Graham? The sheer number of productions in which this stage vet has credits seems a near impossibility for a single performer. In August, Le Chat Noir, winner of the Best Live Theater Venue, presented a composite production of his recent hits -- no word yet as to which of the Grahams played lead.

2. John "Spud" McConnell 3. Sean Patterson

 

Best Local Theater Actress

1. Becky Allen -- Southern Rep's leading lady, billed as New Orleans' only female female impersonator, is also the First Lady of Crescent City thespians. After years of enriching the local community with her singular brand of comedy, it's hard to imagine local theater without the image of Becky Allen's bold, brassy visage at center stage.

2. Veronica Russell

3. Lara Grice

Best New Club/Bar

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

Best"new" club doesn't feel all that new, then the people behind this hardly revamped venue have done their job well. Republic kept everything that worked at the old Howlin' Wolf (the two-tiered layout, the eclectic mix of local rockers and national outfits) and kicked to the curb everything that didn't (a post-1990 sound system hasn't exactly hurt).

2. The Rusty Nail (1100 Constance St., 525-5515; www.therustynail.org)

3. (TIE) Pravda (1113 Decatur St.) and 45 Tchoup (4529 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9066)

Best Dive Bar

1. Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge (7612 Oak St., 861-2802; www.snakeandjakes.com) -- The only suits you'll find at this Oak Street institution are those of the birthday variety. Ditch your clothes in any other joint in town and you're rewarded with a free ride to OPP. Do so in Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge -- on certain Thursday nights around Mardi Gras, anyway -- and you're rewarded with a free round of drinks. Holiday cheer, indeed.

2. The Club (4336 Magazine St., 218-8035)

3. Saint Bar and Lounge (961 Saint Mary St., 523-0050)

Best Dance Club

1. Gold Mine Saloon (705 Dauphine St., 586-0745; www.goldminesaloon.net) -- There is no shortage of places to shake it in the French Quarter, making the honor bestowed upon this converted horse stable and blacksmith shop all the more impressive. Pound a Flaming Dr. Pepper with one of the regulars or take a spin on the Wheel of Booze and see if your feet don't instantly feel a little lighter.

2. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491)

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

Best Sports Bar

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- Hundreds of rare imported beers and microbrews, not to mention New Orleans' most palatable pub-grub menu, await you at this Riverbend tavern, which readers vote as the

Bestplace to spend fall Saturdays and winter Sundays. That it kick-started the welcome trend of wall-to-wall flat-panel televisions decorating even the city's most rundown dive bars is just head on the proverbial pint.

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

3. Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (1200 S Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 731-6000; www.tentcorp.com)

Best College Hangout

1. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) -- In addition to a well-coiffed contingency, the Boot also possesses that essential college-hangout intangible: location. The only bar on Broadway, it's situated between two munchie mavens -- one traditional (pizza) and one exotic (crepes) -- and it sits beneath the Mushroom, New Orleans'

Bestindependent record store. Parents, now you know where all that "financial aid" has been going.

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

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) -- F&M's is the place where between-shifts bartenders and waiters go to turn their nightly tips into somebody else's. As such, it rarely gets going until both hands on the clock point lakeside. You'll know it's a good night if the patio is packed and the felt on the pool table has been transformed into a makeshift dance floor. The jukebox also is a perennial favorite.

2. Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge (7612 Oak St., 861-2802; www.snakeandjakes.com)

3. Gold Mine Saloon (705 Dauphine St., 586-0745; www.goldminesaloon.net)

Best Gay Bar

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491) -- Oz is such a queer-culture landmark that it's morphed the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon into a veritable man mecca. Rainbow flags fly high over the always-hopping hotspot, which has won this award so many times it's on the verge of earning sponsorship rights. And you thought Southern Decadence was just a weekendlong event.

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

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

Best Neighborhood Bar

1. Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com) -- Sigmund Freud once said of the Irish, "This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever." The same could be said of New Orleanians, which might explain why so many Crescent City dwellers recognize the common ground to be found over a slow-poured pint of Guinness at this ever-friendly Mid-City patch of clover.

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

3. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191)

Best Hotel Bar

1. Carousel Bar/Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com) -- Get the spins before you down your first drink at this posh, well-appointed adult merry-go-round, where French Quarter guests mingle with downtown movers and shakers while John Autin's baby grand provides the perfect background soundtrack. Few hotel bars represent the decadent charm of New Orleans as well as this gilded beauty.

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

3. Whiskey Blue/ W Hotel (333 Poydras St., 207-5016; www.starwoodhotels.com)

Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club

1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 524-4222; www.rickscabaret.com) -- Nice pair ... great rack ... better billboards. You've seen the signs, now meet their maker: Rick's Cabaret, the classiest gentlemen's club you'll ever deny visiting. Did you also know that parent company Rick's Cabaret International, Inc., is a publicly traded company? Hundreds of teenage male readers just became interested in the stock market for the first time.

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

3. Visions Mens Club (4000 Downman Road, 240-0069; www.visionsmensclub.com)

Best Happy Hour

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) -- In Superior parlance, a "pint-sized" margarita translates roughly to "you just ordered 16 ounces of Sauza Conmemorativo." Already St. Charles' early-bird hotspot before its recent extreme makeover, the now-enclosed patio means you can sip your citric concoction in comfort as opposed to braving the hellacious mid-afternoon heat. Add a basket of carne asada tacos and any hour becomes a happy one.

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

3. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191)

Best Ladies Night

1. Dino's Bar & Grill (1128 Tchoupitoulas St., 558-0900) -- Drop into Dino's on a Thursday night, when ladies' drinks are free no matter what they order, and watch a wonderful dichotomy unfurl: men choking back cheap beer while the women sip single-malt scotch. Don't worry, guys: The full kitchen means there's always a ribeye or a crawfish pie to ease the pain.

2. (TIE) One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net) and Phillips Restaurant & Bar (733 Cherokee St., 865-1155)

3. Masquerade (Harrah's Casino, 365 Canal St., Suite 900, 533-6000; www.harahs.com)

Best Place to Dance to a Live Band

1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-TIPS; www.tipitinas.com) -- At Tipitina's, "sweatin' to the oldies" takes on a whole new meaning. Even Fess' bust beads up on the hottest nights at this Uptown haunt, whose varied grooves ensure that there's always something to get anyone's feet moving. From jam bands to slam bands, brass bands to crass bands -- so long as you can dance to it, Tip's doesn't discriminate.

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

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

 

Best Bar Patio/Courtyard

1. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com) -- This Hurricane haven in the heart of the Quarter is the most famous courtyard in a neighborhood famous for its courtyards. The torch-lit patio is perfect for whiling away sweltering summer nights while getting lit up like a torch. But, no matter how hot it gets, don't take a dip in the enticing fountain. They insist it's only decorative.

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

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

Best Jukebox

1. Port of Call Restaurant & Bar (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; www.portofcallneworleans.com) -- As if high-octane cocktails, loaded baked potatoes and burgers as big as your head weren't reason enough to love Port of Call, its staff piles it on with the most soul-stirring musical selections this side of Saturn (or the Saturn Bar, at the very least). Stones versus Beatles ... Otis versus Marvin ... Diana versus Gladys ... Who wins? You do.

2. (TIE) Molly's at the Market (1107 Decatur St., 525-5169; www.mollysatthemarket.net) and Saint Bar and Lounge (961 St. Mary St., 523-0050)

3. Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com)

Best Place Outside the Dome to See a Saints Game

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- Is it too late to amend these categories? On any given Sunday, when Cooter's is packed to the gills with black and gold and you're 5 feet away from one of its hi-def plasma screens, sipping on some icy suds and slurping down a raw oyster, it just might be the

Best place to see a Saints game, period.

2. Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com)

3. Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (1200 S Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 731-6000; www.tentcorp.com)

Best Place to See Stand-up Comedy

1. Harrah's Casino (365 Canal St., Suite 900, 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) -- No, not the fumbled splits and double-downs on the $10 blackjack tables. (Besides, that's sit-down comedy, right?) We're talking about the world-class side-splitters who pass through the casino theater on a weekly basis. Did you hear the one about Ted Kennedy and the rabbi? If not, you should go to Harrah's more often!

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

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

Best Place to Shoot Pool

1. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) -- This is the third bar category in which Cooter's finished on top, meaning this place does a lot of things really, really well. Of course, its patrons love the beer, food and televisions as well as the spread of pool tables.

2. Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 731-6000; www.tentcorp.com)

3. Balcony Bar and CafŽ (3201 Magazine St., 895-1600)

Best Place to Karaoke

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-3492; www.catsmeow-neworleans.com) -- Cat's Meow, Bourbon Street's bastion of bad amateur performers, upset last year's winner for

Best Place to Karaoke, the always popular "Anywhere your friends can't find you." Actually, Cat's Meow won last year, too -- and if your friends find you here, drag 'em up on stage with you! With a songbook the size of War and Peace and a system that makes drunken morons sound like Dean Martin, it's a no-brainer.

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

3. Southport Hall & Deck (200 Monticello Ave., 835-2903; www.newsouthport.com)

Best Place To Get a Bloody Mary

1. Pat O'Brien's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com) -- With an unspecified list of ingredients and the highly subjective heat factor, the Bloody Mary might be the most difficult drink in The Bartender's Bible to properly nail down. When someone does, however, it's as if fireworks went off in your mouth. Pat O'Brien's is famous for its tongue-staining Hurricanes, but it's Pat O's other red cocktail that Gambit readers remember this year.

2. Igor's Lounge (2133 St. Charles Ave., 568-9786)

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

Best Place to Get a Mojito

1. St. Joe's Bar (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) -- It's no surprise that Ernest Hemingway, cocktail connoisseur that he was, often took to adding mint leaves to his classic daiquiri. (Not to mention his estate outside Havana and reputed relationship with Fidel Castro.) After tasting the mojito at St. Joe's -- sweet and tart with a bracing herbal bite -- even Papa would agree it's Cuba's

Best representative in the Crescent City limits.

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

3. Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen St., 945-4472; www.cafemarigny.com)

Best Place To Get a Margarita

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) -- Whether they dig silver or a–ejo, a jolt of Grand Marnier or a jigger of Cointreau, any margarita drinker worth his or her salt would agree that Superior's Styrofoam pints hold the tastiest mix in town. The house blend isn't bad, but it's on the top shelf where the true treasures -- like the dos Dons, Julio and Eduardo -- are hiding out.

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

3. Felipe's Taqueria (6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776)

Best Place To Get a Martini

1. Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) -- Anyone ordering extra-dry martinis needs to face up to the fact that all they really want is a whole lot of liquor. A classic martini -- with gin, thank you very much -- contains vermouth, and the kind folks at the Bombay Club aren't afraid to use it. Try one Sazerac style: Coat your rocks with the dry stuff, strain over olives and enjoy.

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

3. Whiskey Blue (W Hotel, 333 Poydras St., 207-5016; www.starwoodhotels.com)

Best Place To Get Wine By the Glass

1. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com) -- This oenophilic emporium scores points not only for sheer number of glasses offered -- as many as some places' list of bottles -- but for breadth of selection as well. Buttery Russian River Chardonnay? Bor-ing. Mysterious Mourvédre or a tart Txakolina? Now you're talking. The club-style pours, each of which comes with its own cute little carafe, are a classy touch, too.

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

3. Sip (3119 Magazine St., 894-7071; www.sipwinenola.com)

Best Place to Get a Cold Beer

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191) -- Perhaps it's the result of wrapping fish and chips in lead-leaching newspaper, but Britain has it backwards: Beer is never supposed to be served warm. It should always be bone-chillingly cold. If your lips don't stick to the rim of your pint, it isn't cold enough. That's how it's done at the Bulldog, and that's why people love the place.

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

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

Best Beer Selection

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191) -- Any bar offering Lindemans Framboise on tap is putting a lot of stock in its patrons. Though the bottle list is no slouch, the Bulldog probably Best ed Cooter's this year on the merits of its bountiful drafts, which line the entire wall like endless spouts of manna. Spaten? Easy. Spaten Optimator? Yawn. Spaten's Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel? Pull up a stool, friend.

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

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

Best Beer Brand

1. Abita -- Abita is such a strong brand that mothers here bottle it for their babies. Actually, that isn't true. But would that surprise you? Head to Abita Springs for a tour and see how the brewmaster makes it so good. Just be sure you have a plan to get back -- 24-mile bridges have a way of growing longer following afternoons at a brewery, you know.

2. Miller

3. Guinness

Best Casino

1. Harrah's Casino (365 Canal St., Suite 900, 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) -- Harrah's has everything that's emblematic of New Orleans beneath one giant roof. Think about it: There's scrumptious food (courtesy of John Besh), brilliant live music, comedy and burlesque (by way of the Harrah's Theater and Masquerade), and lots of people looking to take your money. Losing your shirt at the craps table has never been so much fun.

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

3. Treasure Chest (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 800-298-0711; www.treasurechest.com)

Best Live Music Venue

1. Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-TIPS; www.tipitinas.com) -- It's no surprise that the stiffest competition in the entire survey can be found in this category. While the impressive schedule at House of Blues and inimitable history of the Maple Leaf both seem worthy, Tip's wins for offering a bit of both. (Plus it has the

Best sound in town.) Throw in the work done by the Tipitina's Foundation, and it's understandable that our readers wanted to give something back.

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

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

Best Place to Hear Free Live Music

1. Wednesdays at the Square (Lafayette Square, 602 Camp St.; www.wednesdayatthesquare.com) -- Nestled beneath the towering skyscrapers and federal buildings of the Central Business District, Lafayette Square is a tree-shaded oasis in the middle of a downtown desert. For 12 weeks from early April to mid-June, bring a picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy afternoon-siesta serenades by any number of New Orleans' shining musical lights. It's the perfect way to say bye to spring and sigh to summer.

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

3. (TIE) French Quarter Fest (522-5730; www.fqfi.org) and Spotted Cat (623 Frenchmen St., 943-3887)

Best Live Music Show in Last 12 Months

1. The Police -- All that tantric activity has allowed Sting to do something else for an abnormally long period of time: perform. Considering it's been more than two decades since the Police did anything close to arresting, the win has to be something of a surprise even to the band's most ardent fans. The King of Pain should take some pleasure from having so many of our readers wrapped around his finger.

2. Danny O'Flaherty at Le Chat Noir

3. Fats Domino at Tipitina's

Best Jazz Fest Performance 2007

1. Harry Connick Jr. -- First, New Orleans' favorite son paid tribute to Alvin Batiste in the Jazz Tent. Then he took the Acura Stage and paid tribute to all New Orleanians. Harry Connick Jr. has been an exemplary ambassador for the city since the days following Katrina; his emotional performance at the 2007 Jazz Fest was just the latest example.

2. Rod Stewart

3. John Mayer

Best Local Rock Band/Artist

1. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes -- Who knew that a Jesuit university could produce such filthy funk? Loyola local boys Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes are, at this moment, putting the finishing touches on what will surely be the album to bring them wider notoriety. Ironically, David Fricke, senior editor of Rolling Stone, called them "one of New Orleans' Best -kept secrets" ... in his publication.

2. Better Than Ezra

3. Bag of Donuts

Best New Local Band

1. Glasgow! -- These local rockers earn their exclamation point on the recent release One of Me. The album's infectious pop/rock is propelled by the back-porch strings of the Craft brothers, burbling bass by Cory Schultz and brash percussion from drummer Eric Rogers. They're some of the most technically sound musicians in town, and Glasgow! milks its members' talents for all they're worth.

2. Gradoux Stew

3. VaVaVoom

Best Local Jazz Band/Artist

1. Kermit Ruffins -- Horatio Hornblower has nothing on Kermit Ruffins. From cooking up a storm at his regular Vaughan's Thursday night gig to bringing down the White House as a personal guest of President Bush, Kermit and his Barbecue Swingers are having quite the year already. This award has lots of challengers for the cherry on Kermit's 2007 sundae.

2. Trombone Shorty

3. Irvin Mayfield

Best Cajun/Zydeco Band/Artist

1. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. -- Like father, like son. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. has an unfair advantage on the rest of this field: There are zydeco strands woven into his DNA. Dopsie's dad was a forefather in the field, and Junior rocks a washboard every bit as hard.

2. Amanda Shaw

3. Zydepunk

Best Local Brass Band

1. Rebirth Brass Band -- Yet another hotly contested category, the Best Local Brass Band is a title Rebirth surely could share with any number of its horn-blowing brethren. Thanks to the longtime crew, Tuesday nights at the Maple Leaf are now the stuff of legend, imbuing even the most rhythmically challenged souls with a shuffling new step.

2. Soul Rebels

3. Hot 8 Brass Band

Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

1. Lil' Wayne -- Lil' Wayne isn't so little anymore. When the 24-year-old former prodigy beat out fellow Cash Money man Juvenile for the honor of

Best Local Hip-Hop Artist (on the merit of epic mix tape Da Drought), the chances of Gambit getting a shout out on at least one rap battle track in 2008 increased exponentially. Perhaps that was the plan all along.

2. Juvenile

3. Baby Boy

Best DJ/Electronica Artist

1. DJ Soul Sister -- There are no rarer grooves than the ones DJ Soul Sister liberates every week. Her regular Mimi's in the Marigny gig has been a cathartic breath of fresh air since Katrina, and her Saturday night radio show on WWOZ, a 14-year mainstay of the station, is like a '70s history lesson come to colorful life.

2. Quintron

3. Raj Smoov

FOOD/ RESTAURANTS

Best New Restaurant

1. Lüke (333 St. Charles Ave., 378-2840) -- The latest restaurant from chef John Besh has quickly won a dedicated downtown following with its blend of traditional French and German dishes and heavy doses of Louisiana seafood. The handsome dining room of dark woods and polished brass is especially bustling during weekday lunches when guests often head straight for the reasonably priced, three-course daily specials. Carafes of wine and the restaurant's own line of beers enliven the evenings.

2. Felipe's Taqueria (6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776)

3. Baru (3235 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 467-5404)

Best New Orleans Restaurant

1. Galatoire's Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021; www.galatoires.com) -- It just doesn't get any more "New Orleans" than Galatoire's, the 102-year-old culinary landmark that offers a slice of old Creole elegance and hospitality in the heart of bawdy Bourbon Street. Classic dishes like fried eggplant, souffle potatoes, trout meuniere and pompano with crabmeat are favorites here. The first-floor dining room, with its antique atmosphere and no-reservations policy, remains the place to see and be seen.

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

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

Best Metairie Restaurant

1. Drago's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar (2 Poydras St., 888-9254; 3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com) -- With its own refrigerator truck shuttling between the restaurant and the docks, Drago's literally goes the extra mile to ensure the freshest local seafood. The shuckers here go through an especially prodigious volume of oysters, whether plated raw or charbroiled with garlic butter. Drago's is also a destination for Maine lobsters and other specialties like the "shuckee duckee," a blackened duck breast over linguini pasta.

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

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

Best Kenner Restaurant

1. Le Parvenu Restaurant (509 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 471-0534) -- For a French bistro experience with local accents, our readers endorse the cozy-looking cottage glowing in the heart of Kenner's Rivertown district. Le Parvenu's food is a tribute to the rich sauces and classic preparations of French cuisine, enhanced with the freshness of local seafood. Crabmeat and shrimp join forces with mirliton for a distinctly Louisiana-style bisque, while broiled lamb and breaded lobster tails with a heady Cognac sauce take more of a Continental turn.

2. (TIE) Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar (3203 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-6454) and Smitty's (2000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-1647)

3. TeCoRo's Seafood & Italian Restaurant (3525 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 466-5550; wwwtecoro.com)

Best Northshore Restaurant

1. Trey Yuen Cuisine of China (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476; www.treyyuen.com) -- Fine dining and the grandeur of imperial Chinese architecture go hand-in-hand when our readers think of their favorite Northshore restaurant. Past the gardens and within the pagoda-style building, Trey Yuen's many regulars feast on multi-course "dynasty dinners" with smoked tea duck, shrimp Kew and curry shrimp in addition to the large ˆ la carte menu.

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

3. La Provence (25020 Hwy. 190 E., Lacombe, 985 626-7662; www.laprovencerestaurant.comReservations)

Best West Bank Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) -- Merely crossing the Mississippi River has been known to make some readers' mouths automatically water for the taste of pho broth, crisp rice paper spring rolls and char-grilled pork over noodles. It is often Pho Tau Bay that both inspires and answers these fantasies, and in the process, this Far East cafe has earned our readers' highest praise among West Bank restaurants.

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

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

Best Hotel Restaurant

1. Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar (300 Poydras St., 595-3305; www.cafeadelaide.com) -- Readers' dreams of living in a Brennan family restaurant are partially answered at Cafe Adelaide. Here, at least, they can take a room at the Loews Hotel and stay close to the kitchen of chef Danny Trace and his citrus-lacquered mahi mahi or Louisiana boucherie platter. Meanwhile, the restaurant's sleek Swizzle Stick Bar provides its own potent reasons to be glad that rooms for the night can be had just upstairs.

2. Rib Room (Omni Orleans, 621 St. Louis St., 529-7045; www.omniroyalorleans.com)

3. The New Orleans Grill at the Windsor Court (300 Gravier St., 523-6000; www.windsorcourthotel.com)

Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; www.fivehappiness.com) -- Going into its third decade, Five Happiness remains the darling of readers when it comes to the tried-and-true standards of Chinese cooking and inventive house specialties. Completely rebuilt and remodeled after Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant and its large banquet facility still serve countless portions of baked duck, shrimp with honey-roasted pecans and asparagus with chicken.

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

3. August Moon (3635 Prytania St., 899-5129; www.augustmoonneworleans.com)

Best Creole Restaurant

1. Jacques-Imo's Cafe (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com) -- The word has been out now for years about this offbeat, eclectic Creole cafe in the Riverbend, but popularity and large crowds thronging its doors have done nothing to dampen its fans' enthusiasm. Spirited cooking, huge portions, a seemingly endless list of specials and a loose, party atmosphere have cemented Jacques-Imo's in the hearts of many.

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

3. Arnaud's Restaurant (813 Bienville St., 522-8767; www.arnaudsrestaurant.com)

Best Italian Restaurant

1. Vincent's Italian Cuisine (7839 St. Charles Ave., 866-9313; www.vincentsitaliancuisine.com) -- Old World hospitality and traditional recipes augmented with local seafood have propelled this long-time favorite to the top of our readers' list of Italian food affections. The smells of roasting garlic, fresh herbs and simmering sauces surely stay on regulars' minds and draw them back time and again for house specialties like fried eggplant sticks, cannelloni stuffed with veal, spinach and cheese, or sauteed oysters over angel hair pasta.

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

3. Irene's Cuisine (539 St. Philip St., 529-8811)

Best Japanese/ Sushi Restaurant

1. Sake Cafe Uptown (2830 Magazine St., 894-0033) -- Whether they come for an intense sashimi experience at the sushi bar or for a feast of raw and cooked dishes in a comfortable booth, devotees of Sake Cafe come often and have high praise for their favorite Japanese restaurant. The space is chic and modern and makes a fitting backdrop for the precise, artful creations of fish, rice, vegetables and sauces that have established this ambitious restaurant's name.

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

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

Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Baru Cafe (3235 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 467-5404) -- One of the area's newest Latin American restaurants has also proven to be the most popular. Working from traditional Colombian family recipes and presented in a laid-back setting, Baru offers offbeat flavors of roasted corn, farmers cheese, stuffed yucca and tart chimichurri sauces with main dishes of fish, beef and pork.

2. Taqueria Corona (5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; 1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Suite 6, Metairie, 885-5088)

3. Lola's (3312 Esplanade Ave., 488-6946)

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

1. Byblos (3218 Magazine St., 894-1233) -- Our readers looked up-market when pondering their favorite Mediterranean-style restaurant and found Byblos sitting at the top of the hill. Taking an upscale approach to hummus, pita and other familiar staples of its Middle Eastern gastronomic repertoire, Byblos also presents dishes like drunken halloumi cheese and lamb chops with a high level of presentation, a hip ambience and a full bar.

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

3. Lebanon's Cafe (1500 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-6200)

Best Mexican Restaurant

1. Taqueria Corona (5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; 1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Suite 6, Metairie, 885-5088) -- Locals say adios to the familiar Tex-Mex style fare and hola to authentic, casual Mexican cooking at this long-lived cantina. Celebrating such specialties as tongue tacos and the grilled green onion appetizer known as cebollitas, our readers endorse Taqueria Corona for a taste of something different -- while also appreciating old standbys like hefty burritos, fried fish tacos and shrimp flautas.

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 (3636 Bienville St., 482-9120; www.liuzzas.com) -- It will take more than ceiling-high floodwaters to keep this favorite New Orleans neighborhood restaurant down. Freshly repaired and renovated after Katrina, Liuzza's continues to win over readers with its fantastically frigid beer mugs, local Creole-Italian comfort food, a dining room as bustling as a family dinner and creations like the Frenchuletta -- Liuzza's own take on the muffuletta, served hot on French bread with housemade olive salad.

2. Joey K's Restaurant & Bar (3001 Magazine St., 891-0997; www.joeyksrestaurant.com)

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

Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; 841 Iberville St., 581-1316) -- Boiled, fried, stuffed or sauteed, local seafood and Deanie's are practically synonymous for many of our readers. With its own seafood market located right next door, Deanie's keeps the spirit of the old Bucktown fishing village alive. It is famous for its formidable portions and family-friendly pricing. Just try tackling the towering seafood combo platter if you have any doubts.

2. (TIE) Drago's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar (2 Poydras St., 888-9254; 3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com) and GW Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467; www.gwfins.com)

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

Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934; www.pralineconnection.com) -- The Praline Connection began as a home-delivery service for families too busy to prepare home-cooked meals, but since 1990 it has been a landmark of the Frenchmen Street scene. It's been close to our readers' hearts as well -- and it comes to the top of their minds when they want dishes like crowder peas with okra, fried chicken, collard greens with turkey necks or a hearty bowl of file gumbo.

2. Dunbar's Creole Cooking (501 Pine St., Loyola University Broadway Activities Center, 861-5451)

3. Lil Dizzy's Cafe (1500 Esplanade Ave., 569-8997)

Best Steakhouse

1. Ruth's Chris Steak House (3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600: www.ruthschris.com) -- Long before the nation knew about the trademark sizzle of Ruth's Chris steaks, this New Orleans-bred chain was a local favorite for movers and shakers or those simply in search of a fine cut of beef. The company has been based in Florida since Hurricane Katrina, but readers still rank its Metairie restaurant tops for topnotch steak.

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

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

Best Thai Restaurant

1. Basil Leaf (1438 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-9001) -- A deft hand with traditional recipes and dishes that blend local, seasonal seafood have made Basil Leaf a go-to spot when Gambit readers want the aromatic, fresh-tasting fare of Thailand. Whether it's sauteed calamari in red curry sauce or a fried soft-shell crab with Asian vegetables, seafood is always a good choice here. Soups, noodle dishes and plenty of vegetarian options provide a world of flavor.

2. Sukhothai (1913 Royal St., 948-9309)

3. Singha Thai Cafe (413 Carondelet St., 581-2205)

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) -- Many New Orleans area residents had their first taste of Vietnamese cooking in the dining rooms of the Pho Tau Bay restaurants, and they have returned the favor by voting this family-run eatery the

Best in its category yet again. Only the original Gretna location is open since the flood, but those with a taste for its fresh, soothing soups, noodle bowls and egg rolls make the pilgrimage from near and far.

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

3. (TIE) Doson Noodle House (135 N. Carrollton Ave., 309-7283) and Nine Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

Best Breakfast Spot

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679) -- If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it might also have made the burgers, omelets, chili cheese fries and chocolate freezes all the more irresistible at this landmark Riverbend diner. Reopened this spring after a long, storm-induced hiatus, the Camellia Grill has new owners and several significant upgrades -- but it retains all its old charm for readers who gladly throw diets to the wind and join the lunchtime line to wait for a counter seat.

2. Bluebird Cafe (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166)

3. Slim Goodies (3322 Magazine St., 891-3447; www.slimgoodies.com)

Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but many Gambit readers consider brunch at Commander's the most celebratory. The stately dining rooms are decorated with balloons, and a jazz combo roves around playing cheerful New Orleans tunes. The traditional jazz brunch table d'hote special starts out with a Commander's Palace Bloody Mary and concludes with a bread pudding souffle for dessert.

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

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

Best Lunch Special

1. Joey K's Restaurant (3001 Magazine St., 891-0997; www.joeyksrestaurant.com) -- Like attentive students, regulars at Joey K's know to pay close attention to the blackboard. That's where this Uptown neighborhood joint posts its daily specials, with such belly-filling bargains as lamb shank with mustard greens, stewed chicken with potatoes and white beans with pork chops. The everyday special of all-you-can-eat fried catfish keeps them coming back, too.

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

3. Mat & Naddie's Restaurant (937 Leonidas St., 861-9600; www.matandnaddies.com)

Best Late-night Dining

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679) -- While finding a lunchtime line might be as sure a thing as a big, juicy burger at Camellia Grill, our readers know that night time is the right time to walk on in for an after-hours feast. The salvation of many a late night out on the town, the kitchen here still puts out the diner standards with panache, whether the mood calls for an omelet, a sandwich or a slice of pecan pie ˆ la mode.

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

3. Angeli on Decatur (1141 Decatur St., 566-0077; www.angelipizza.com)

Best Place to Feed the Whole Family

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com) -- Family members who can't seem to agree on anything still manage to find common ground at Deanie's, where wallet-friendly prices and a huge menu of local favorites offer something for everyone. Junior doesn't like oysters? Little sis doesn't want to fuss with boiled crabs? Grilled chicken or hamburger po-boys should tide them over until the Nectar Soda floats and Gold Brick sundaes come out for dessert.

2. Piccadilly Cafeteria (citywide; www.piccadilly.com)

3. (TIE) Felipe's Taqueria (6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776) and Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com)

Best Cheap Eats

1. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com) -- Our readers know how to wrap up a bargain at either the Uptown or Mid-City locations of this popular Tex-Mex eatery. The namesake burritos here are so heavy it's hard to imagine them ever actually taking flight but, aerodynamics notwithstanding, their combinations of meat, beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and other vegetables make a satisfying meal to eat with one hand while counting your change with the other.

2. Felipe's Taqueria (6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776)

3. (TIE) Mona's Cafe (4126 Magazine St., 894-9800; 1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175; 504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743) and Piccadilly Cafeteria (citywide; www.piccadilly.com)

Best Menu for Vegetarians

1. Mona's Cafe (4126 Magazine St., 894-9800; 1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175; 504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743) -- While carnivores cut into kebabs, our vegetarian readers rejoice in the many meatless menu options at this local chain of Middle Eastern cafes. Wrapped up as a pita bread sandwich or served as a platter with thick, creamy hummus, Mona's falafel is the Middle Eastern answer to the garden burger. Other classic dishes like baba ghanouj, tabouli and grape leaves offer fresh veggie variety.

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

3. 13 Monaghan's (517 Frenchmen St., 942-1345; www.13monaghan.com)

Best Dessert and Where to Get It

1. Bread Pudding at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- You have to order it at the start of the meal, but that's no problem since many readers surely have Commander's bread pudding souffle on their minds on the way in the door. The restaurant calls this grand finale the "queen of Creole desserts," and it is rumored to devote a corner of its kitchen exclusively to preparation of the popular dish. The whiskey sauce added tableside is the master stroke.

2. Cannoli at Angelo Brocato's (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com)

3. Cheesecake at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro (4517 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7620; www.copelandscheesecakebistro.com)

Best Buffet

1. The Buffet at Harrah's Casino (365 Canal St., Suite 900, 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) -- Even if your cards never add up to blackjack, our readers say you can count on a square meal and a fair deal at the Canal Street casino's buffet. It features a wide variety of foods prepared at individual cooking stations such as La Rotisserie, Pacific Rim, Louisiana Classics, the Garden District, American Bounty, International and Sweet Treats.

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

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

Best Wine List

1. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com) -- Art Nouveau architectural touches and a prominent St. Charles Avenue address are all well and good, but one of the main draws for cognoscenti of The Delachaise is its varied, sophisticated wine list. The selection of bottles is large and well composed, and guests need only scan the long blackboard by the bar to see the many nightly by-the-glass options. Chef Chris DeBarr turns out fine small plates of gourmet food to refresh the palate.

2. Tommy's Wine Bar (752 Tchoupitoulas St., 525-4790)

3. Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393; www.emerils.com)

Best Chef

1. John Besh -- Between opening another new restaurant -- Lüke in the CBD -- and taking over a beloved local dining destination -- La Provence in Lacombe -- chef John Besh has earned top props this year from our readers. A New Orleans native, Besh has been busy expanding his restaurant empire, which started with his flagship Restaurant August and also includes Besh Steakhouse in Harrah's Casino. He also has been active representing New Orleans cuisine in national media and charitable circles.

2. Emeril Lagasse

3. (TIE) Donald Link and Susan Spicer

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Martinique Bistro (5908 Magazine St., 891-8495) -- The enclosed courtyard at Martinique apparently is not the Best -kept secret in al fresco dining. The Uptown bistro has an unassuming facade, a cozy dining room and an adjoining brick-walled courtyard that would be easy to miss unless you know exactly what you are looking for. The word is out, though, and Martinique's lush courtyard is the perfect spot to enjoy French- and Caribbean-inspired contemporary cooking.

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

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

Best Deli

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Suite A-1, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; www.martinwine.com) -- A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine and thousands of choices. Martin Wine Cellar is a gourmet and a gourmand's delight. Pick a bottle from a deep selection spanning the globe's

Best known and newest wine regions and then head to the deli counter for anything from a sandwich to a well-curated selection of cheeses, cured meats (like prosciutto), patŽ, olives, nuts and foie gras. The Metairie location also has lunch specials like red beans and rice, steak and frites, lemongrass chicken and seafood gumbo on Fridays.

2. Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; www.steinsdeli.net)

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

Best Place to Get Barbecue

1. VooDoo BBQ & Grill (1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; www.voodoobbqandgrill.com) -- Slow cooking and quick service are what keep VooDoo BBQ's mojo going. VooDoo takes its sweet time while cooking brisket, pulled pork and ribs. Off the grill, there are VooDoo burgers and chicken sandwiches, Caribbean jerk chicken and Cajun smoked sausage. For sides, add on rattlesnake beans, corn pudding, mac and cheese and even fresh, steamed vegetables. The final touch is a choice of homemade barbecue sauces.

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

3. Corky's Ribs & Bar-B-Q (4243 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-5000; www.corkysbarbq.com)

Best Place to Get Boiled Seafood

1. Deanie's Seafood Restaurant (1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; www.deanies.com) -- Bucktown is synonymous with fresh local seafood, and Deanie's anchors the scene. Regulars peel into piles of spicy, boiled crawfish, shrimp and crabs according to the season. There's even a Bucktown Boil Pizza for a little change of pace. Deanie's also offers oysters, shellfish, catfish and more seafood in a variety of dishes.

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

3. Big Fisherman Seafood (3301 Magazine St., 897-9907)

Best Place to Get Tapas

1. Mimi's in the Marigny (2601 Royal St., 872-9868) -- Small plates of Spanish and Latin American dishes suit the late-night vibe at Mimi's. The tapas menu is perfect for noshing at the bar or sharing at a table in the upstairs lounge while waiting for jazz bands or DJ Soul Sister's rare-groove sessions. Popular dishes include spicy empanadas with roasted red-pepper aioli, mushroom toast, calamari with chorizo, ceviche in a prickly lime and jalapeno marinade and cold dishes like roasted peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese.

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

3. Baru Cafe (3235 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 467-5404)

Best Place to Get a Burger

1. Port of Call Restaurant & Bar (838 Esplanade Ave., 523-0120; www.portofcallneworleans.com) -- Port of Call's big, thick, juicy burgers tower almost like a lighthouse on the edge of the French Quarter. The ever-popular bar and burger joint draws crowds early on weekends and late at night. As always, the burgers come with a couple of options like cheese or mushrooms and a baked potato on the side.

2. (TIE) Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679) and Lee's Hamburgers (904 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 836-6804; 1507 Metairie Road, Metairie, 837-8990; 2100 Airline Drive, Kenner, 464-1859; 3516 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-4291; 4301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-0110)

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

Best Place to Get Fried Chicken

1. Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits (Citywide; www.popeyes.com) -- Popeyes packs its punch not with spinach but spicy seasonings. Whether it's a three-piece box on the go or a family pack for parade watching, Popeyes chicken is the local favorite. Add some biscuits and hearty red beans and rice and the tradition is complete.

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

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

Best Place to Get Gourmet-To-Go

1. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) -- As if the fresh produce and organic products weren't enough, Whole Foods will do the cooking for customers. The gourmet emporium has all the ingredients for unique sandwiches, slices of pizza, baked goods, cold salads and prepared items ready to go. The chef regularly prepares a good variety of choices, so all you have to do is order. With wines, imported beers, bottled waters and other beverages, there's everything you need for a great meal wherever you decide to dine. &

2. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Suite A-1, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; www.martinwine.com)

3. Chez Nous Charcuterie (5701 Magazine St., 899-7303)

Best Place to Get Gumbo

1. Gumbo Shop (640 St. Peter St., 525-1486; www.gumboshop.com) -- It's not hard to remember where to find good gumbo, but it may be hard to choose once you get there. In the heart of the French Quarter, the Gumbo Shop simmers down the choice to seafood and okra gumbo with crab, shrimp and a touch of tomato and a chicken and andouille gumbo enriched with a chicken stock. You're bound to be bowled over by one of them.

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

3. Mandina's Restaurant (3800 Canal St., 482-9719)

Best Place to Get a Muffuletta

1. Central Grocery (925 Decatur St., 523-1620) -- It only seems right that the creator of the muffuletta is the reigning favorite. The landmark deli counter at Central Grocery does one thing and does it well. Just walking in the store affords a fragrant whiff of all the right ingredients. Central Grocery makes its own olive salad and stuffs the Italian round loaves with Italian cold cuts and Provolone cheese.

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

3. DiMartino's Famous New Orleans Muffulettas (1788 Carol Sue Ave., Terrytown, 392-7589; 3900 Gen. DeGaulle Drive, 367-0227)

 

Best Place to Get Oysters on the Half Shell

1. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; www.acmeoyster.com) -- The more things change, the more they stay the same. Katrina shook up the oyster beds but couldn't shake locals from their love of the bivalves. Just a few years shy of it's 100th anniversary, Acme Oyster House is again the bar of choice for fresh-shucked oysters with lemon wedges, horseradish, ketchup and crackers. Get a raw dozen in the original French Quarter space or other metro-area locations.

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

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

 

Best Place To Get Pizza

1. Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com) -- Reginelli's is on a roll. The local gourmet chain recently reopened its Lakefront location, is expanding to Baton Rouge, was named independent pizzeria of the year by trade-mag Pizza Today, and now it's on top of the Gambit Weekly readers' poll. Casual ambience, gourmet pies, salads and appetizers make Reginelli's a big, thick slice of local life.

2. Slice Pizzeria (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437)

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

 

Best Place to Get Red Beans and Rice

1. Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits (Citywide; www.popeyes.com) -- As common a staple as red beans are, no trip to Popeyes seems complete without a small tub of red beans and rice. Its rib-sticking creamy version uses shallots and seasonings to make it the most popular version in town. With Popeyes all over the metro area, you're never too far away from a fresh, steaming bowl.

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

3. Dunbar's Creole Cooking (501 Pine St., Loyola University Broadway Activities Center, 861-5451)

 

Best Soup and Where to Get It

1. Turtle Soup at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Move over gumbo, turtle soup is back in vogue with New Orleans diners. The dark, rich, thick soup came out of its shell and snapped up top honors in locals' bowls, and Commander's Palace's classic Creole version wins the race. Chef Tory McPhail starts with a blonde roux that darkens with the addition of veal stock, includes plenty of snapping turtle and vegetables and finishes it with a traditional splash of sherry.

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

3. Turtle Soup at Mandina's Restaurant (3800 Canal St., 482-9719)

 

Best Place to Get an Oyster Po-boy

1. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; www.acmeoyster.com) -- Acme has the right touch with oysters, whether you want them raw or fried. Readers prefer the revered restaurant's oyster po-boys to other popular sandwich makers' versions. Acme keeps it simple with golden fried oysters on French bread, dressed to order. Some locations also offer a traditional oyster loaf with butter and pickles.

2. Domilise's Po-boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

3. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047)

 

Best Place to Get a Shrimp Po-boy

1. Domilise's Po-boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126 ) -- Po-boys are the name of the game at Domilise's Uptown, and hungry patrons come from all over town for the shrimp version. The sandwich shop dresses the sandwiches in the traditional manner but keeps them packed with lightly breaded and seasoned petite shrimp so that every bite is full of the tender morsels.

2. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047)

3. (TIE) Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056; 985-246-6155; www.acmeoyster.com) and Crabby Jack's (428 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 833-2722)

 

Best Place to Get a Roast Beef Po-boy

1. (TIE) Parasol's (2533 Constance St., 897-5413; www.parasols.com) and Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047) -- The battle of big, juicy roast beef po-boys is the monster-truck show of local sandwiches. Parkway is known for ladling its chunky, debris-like roast beef onto big loaves of French bread. Parasol's goes with slices of gravy-bathed roast beef. The two otherwise unparalleled sandwiches tied for first, and we think the only appropriate thing to do is enjoy this local delicacy at both.

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

3. Domilise's Po-boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

 

Best Crepes

1. La Crepe Nanou (1410 Robert St., 899-2670; www.lacrepenanou.com) -- Summer is the best time for La Crepe Nanou's eponymous crepe. The dessert crepe is a thin, delicate pancake filled with vanilla, chocolate and coffee ice cream and garnished with chocolate sauce and almonds. There are several ice cream-filled crepes to keep things cool, but the savory side of the menu offers versions stuffed with beef tips braised in red wine and a Florentine crepe with spinach, egg and bacon. For seafood, try the crab crepe with Mornay sauce or a crawfish-stuffed crepe with lobster sauce.

2. Crepes a la Carte (1039 Broadway St., 866-2362)

3. Petunia's Restaurant (817 St. Louis St., 522-6440; www.petuniasrestaurant.com)

 

Best Place to Get Bread Pudding

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Besides dealing with the mouth-watering anticipation, Commander's Palace's guests need to get an early start on the signature bread pudding souffle by ordering ahead of time. When dessert finally arrives, waiters delicately spoon whiskey sauce into the airy treat. It makes bread pudding into a dreamy, cloudlike delight and a perennial favorite with New Orleans diners.

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

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

 

Best Place to Get Créme Brulee

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) -- Cake icing is sold in individual containers because plenty of folks don't mind skipping the cake altogether. But créme brulee lovers don't have it so easy. Maybe that's why Commander's Palace's version is so popular. The custard is served in a very shallow but wide dish so there's the maximum amount of crunchy caramelized-sugar crust in every bite. The powdered sugar fleur de lis on top is also a nice touch.

2. Ruth's Chris Steak House (3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600: www.ruthschris.com)

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

 

Best place to Get a Frozen Coffee Drink

1. PJ's Coffee (Citywide, www.pjscoffee.com) -- When iced coffee just isn't cold enough, locals head straight to PJ's Coffee for a granita. The coffee slushy is smooth, sweet and caffeine rich. As a densely packed slush, it also melts slowly and keeps you cooler longer.

2. CC's Coffee House (Citywide; www.communitycoffee.com)

3. Starbucks (Citywide; www.starbucks.com)

 

Best Sno-ball Stand

1. Plum Street Snoball (1300 Burdette St., 866-7996; www.plumstreetsnoball.com) -- Grab a spoon and dig into brightly colored fruit flavors or go the creamy condensed-milk route with dreamsicle or nectar cream sno-balls. The coffee sno-ball also is a popular option.

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

3. Pandora's (901 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1220)

 

Best Coffeehouse

1. PJ's Coffee (Citywide, www.pjscoffee.com) -- When it comes to coffeehouses, local pride matters. All the top vote-getters are local chains offering their own coffee roasts. PJ's Coffee, created by Phyllis Jordan in 1978, is the hottest spot for a cup of joe. With pastries, bagels, Wi-Fi at some locations, wine at some locations and other amenities, its cups floweth over.

2. CC's Coffee House (Citywide; www.communitycoffee.com)

3. Rue de la Course (1140 S. Carrollton Ave., 899-0242; 3121 Magazine St., 861-4343)

 

Best Place to Get Pastries

1. La Boulangerie (4526 Magazine St., 269-3777; 625 St. Charles Ave., 569-1925) -- Locals in the know have patronized La Boulangerie for years for its authentic French-style flakey croissants and fresh pastries. The bakery has a great handle on all sorts of baked goods, from sweet confections to breads. Just remember that baking is an early bird's profession, so time your visit accordingly.

2. Maurice French Pastries (4951 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 455-0830; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com)

3. Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com)

 

Best Place to Get Ice Cream/Gelato

1. Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) -- Angelo Brocato is the first name in ice cream, gelato and Italian ice for New Orleanians of several generations. Now more than a century old, the multigenerational family business is enjoying the hot summer as locals head to the Mid-City ice cream parlor for a variety of homemade flavors, including lemon ice, spumoni and gelati made with fresh fruit or imported Sicilian flavors like amaretto and chestnut.

2. Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania St., 894-8680; www.creolecreamery.com)

3. Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311)

 

Best Jazz Fest Food

1. Crawfish Bread -- The Jazz Fest season is just too short. New Orleanians get months of crawfish fresh out of the bayous, some variety of shrimp nearly year-round, but just two weekends of dishes only available on the Fair Grounds. The gooey, cheesy, crawfish tail-filled concoction that is Crawfish Bread topped this year's list of precious food items. Panorama Foods from Marksville, La., is the annual provider of Crawfish Bread, Shrimp Bread and Sausage and Jalapeno Bread.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Cochon de Lait Po-boy

 

Best Restaurant That Delivers

1. Reginelli's Pizzeria (741 State St., 899-1414; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Jefferson, 818-0111; www.reginellis.com) -- Reginelli's is expanding but there's no telling when there will be a pizzeria open on your block. In the meantime, you can always call for delivery. Calzones, salads, Mediterranean-accented appetizers and gourmet pies like the mushrooms, capers and meat-laden Tony's Play are just a phone call away. To take advantage of $2 pitchers of beer on Mondays and Tuesdays, you still have to go to the restaurant.

2. Italian Pie (Citywide; www.italianpierestaurants.com)

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

 

 

POLITICS

Best Local Legislator

1. Bobby Jindal -- The GOP wunderkind is doing his star turn this year, finishing atop several categories while leading the pack (so far) in the governor's race. Jindal's star really started rising after Hurricane Katrina, when he seemed to be among the few Louisiana politicians who kept his head -- and his poise -- in the midst of the storm. Our readers responded by picking him as the best legislator.

2. Mary Landrieu

3. J.P. Morrell

 

Best New Orleans City Council Member

1. Arnie Fielkow -- He probably thought that working for New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson was a tough gig, but now former Saints front-office man Fielkow is earning his props as the new president of New Orleans' City Council. As recently as two weeks ago -- after balloting had concluded -- Fielkow again showed his mettle by smoothly guiding the council through the transition after Oliver Thomas' guilty plea (to corruption charges) and resignation.

2. Stacy S. Head

3. Shelley Midura

 

Best Jefferson Parish Council Member

1. Jennifer Sneed -- Representing a district that includes Old Metairie, Bucktown and large swaths of new Metairie requires a lot of balance, and that's probably what got Sneed the nod this year as Jefferson's top council member. Her colleagues think highly of her as well, electing her council vice-chair.

2. Thomas Capella

3. Elton Lagasse

 

Best Candidate for Governor

1. Bobby Jindal -- Is he doing an end-zone dance yet? Jindal has been far out front in the polls since Katrina sank Gov. Kathleen Blanco's fortunes. Of course, he was out in front four years ago, too, and still finished second in the end. Could it be that voters are having a statewide case of buyers' remorse? If so, look for Jindal to stay in front this time around -- and answer any attacks hurled his way.

2. Walter Boasso

3. Mitch Landrieu

 

Best Candidate for Indictment

1. William Jefferson -- Hey, nothing succeeds like success, right? Who better to win this dubious honor than a guy who's already under federal indictment. And not for some wimpy income tax thing, either. We're talking RICO, money laundering, international fraud, conspiracy -- the MLB of federal corruption. Long ago, Dutch Morial pegged him as "Dollar Bill" -- and it only took the feds 26 years to collar him.

2. David Vitter

3. Mayor Ray Nagin

 

Best Public Spat

1. Blanco vs. Nagin -- Ever since Mayor Ray Nagin endorsed Bobby Jindal for governor in 2003, he and The Governess have been at odds. Katrina only made it worse. He claims that her administration is unresponsive to the city's needs; she claims that he doesn't communicate -- or that he's insulting when he does -- and that he never gets the city's act together. She'll be gone from the scene come January. Unfortunately, we're stuck with Nagin for almost three more years.

2. Nagin vs. Jordan

3. Jordan vs. Reilly

 

Best Local Scandal

1. David Vitter -- Who says Republicans aren't sexy? At least, as far as sexy headlines go, Louisiana's junior U.S. senator is hot-hot-hot. OK, he has to pay for it, but think of all the bad press we've been spared because he didn't roll out of some Georgetown bar, stumbling drunk into the gutter with one arm around a secretary and another twirling a pair of panties that he just coaxed off a blushing coed. Yeah, it could be worse.

2. William Jefferson

3. Eddie Jordan

 

Best New Gaffe for Mayor Ray Nagin

1. Running for governor -- Talk about the Peter Principle! Here's a guy who worked his butt off to get re-elected as mayor, then promptly resumed his routine of being utterly disengaged (and disingenuous). What's a rock-star politician to do if he just can't handle the day-to-day demands of leadership? Run for higher office, of course! It's all part of keeping the Nagin brand out there.

2. Philadelphia insults

3. Murders just a blip

 

Best Lie From a Local Politician

1. Bill Jefferson: "I am innocent." -- We think all three of the top finishers should be tied for this one. Then again, any man who can top "I promise there's an honorable explanation" for the $90,000 in marked Benjamins in his freezer perhaps ought to have this award named after him. Should we call it "The Dollar Bill" or "The Jeff"? Perhaps that could be a topic for next year's readers' poll.

2. David Vitter: "I believe in family values."

3. David Vitter: "I didn't have sex with that woman."

 

Best Community/ Environmental Activist

1. Brad Pitt and Global Green -- Really, it's not fair that a bunch of Uptown dames would have to compete against Mr. Brangelina. Heck, most of them probably voted for him! But give the guy his due: he came, he saw, he committed. Putting not just his name but also his money behind rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward, Pitt deserves all the kudos he gets locally and internationally.

2. Women of the Storm

2. Carlton Dufrechou

 

Best Reform We Still Need

1. Education -- As they say, it's not the heat, it's the stupidity. Need we say more?

2. Crime

3. Criminal Justice System

 

Best Do-gooder

1. Bobby Jindal -- We're beginning to wonder if the state GOP stuffed the ballot box. After all, it's Jindal's job to do good, isn't it? Anyway, the congressman's popularity obviously carries over to several categories in our survey, and this is but one of them.

2. Ann Milling/Women of the Storm

3. Garland Robinette

 

 

LOCAL LIFE

Best Saints Player

1. Drew Brees -- You knew it would have to be something Saint-sational to dethrone Deuce McAllister as the top player, and Brees brought it on by slinging for a league-leading 4,418 passing yards and becoming the starting quarterback for the NFC in the 2007 Pro Bowl. But more than that, he led an inspired group of young men who brought smiles and cheers to many of us during a time when the only thing in New Orleans that seemed to be recovering was the Saints.

2. Deuce McAllister

3. Reggie Bush

 

Best Hornet's Player

1. Chris Paul -- Paul might have suffered a season-ending injury, but he certainly didn't suffer the dreaded sophomore jinx after having won the 2006 Rookie of the Year honors. In 2007, Paul pumped in 17.3 points and dished out 8.9 assists per game, which was the fourth highest in the NBA. Hopefully, his numbers will continue to climb now that the Hornets are returning to New Orleans full time for the 2008 season.

2. Tyson Chandler

3. Peja Stojakovic

 

Best Zephyrs Player

1. Jake Gautreau -- Gautreau, a former Tulane Green Wave standout and an All-American selection in 2001, returned home after spending the 2006 season in the cold confines of Buffalo, N.Y. The return has done him some good, with his batting average climbing more than 40 points and his capable glove helping propel the Zephyrs to the top of their division.

2. (TIE) Fernando Tans and Phil Humbert

3. Sandy Alomar Jr.

 

Best Voodoo Player

1. Andy Kelly -- The 2007 season was likely Kelly's swan song. The all-time leader in career passing yards, touchdowns and completions in the Arena Football League began the season strong with the Voodoo posting an impressive record of 4 wins and 3 losses. Injuries began to take their toll, though, and Kelly was replaced, likely for good, by Steve Bellasari. He will be missed.

2. Steve Bellasari

3. (TIE) Dan Curran and James Lynch

 

Best Local Author

1. Anne Rice -- Although she now pens tomes more appealing to Bible thumpers than bloodsuckers, Rice remains a fan favorite. Just as Rice made vampires more accessible to the public -- we could swear we've sat next to Lestat late nights at the Maple Leaf -- she's currently bringing a more human side to God with 2006's Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt.

2. Chris Rose

3. Poppy Z. Brite

 

Best Local Artist

1. James Michalopoulos -- It may be cliche to say Michalopoulos brings the city to life with his paintings -- the way his houses jut out in angles that can only be produced by the settling of our shaky land, or how a beatified Louis Armstrong wipes his brow in a impressionistic late-evening French Quarter scene in Michalopoulos' 2001 Jazz Fest poster -- but there is a lot of truth to some cliches.

2. Frenchy

3. George Rodrigue

 

Best Museum

1. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658-4100; www.noma.org) -- The recently planted crepe myrtles and young live oaks along the Lelong Avenue entrance to NOMA hint at the beauty and aesthetic tradition that awaits visitors inside. Just as crepe myrtles bloom seasonally, so do the frequent traveling exhibitions, such as Ninth Ward scion Henry Casselli's display of work, while the permanent collections featuring Picassos, Miros, and other masters bespeak the towering-oak majesty of a venerable New Orleans institution.

2. National World War II Museum (previously D-Day Museum) (945 Magazine St., 527-6012; www.nationalww2museum.org)

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

 

Best Art Gallery

1. Arthur Roger Gallery (432 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com) -- Maybe the category should be called "Best Art Galleries." The Arthur Roger Gallery has two locations, and both strive to showcase an expansive perspective of art: local, national and international. The galleries have always boasted a number of local artists, and upcoming exhibitions include the apocalyptic paintings of Luis Cruz Azaceta and the musical and street life paintings and sculpture of Willie Birch.

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

3. LeMieux Galleries (200 Metairie Road, Metairie, 837-4044; 332 Julia St., 522-2988; www.lemieuxgalleries.com)

 

Best Art Market

1. Mid-City Arts Market (Palmer Park, S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne avenues; www.artscouncilofneworleans.org) -- Don't worry, the market hasn't moved, but it has gone through a name and management change. It's now called "Arts Market of New Orleans." For three years, the market was a labor of love for founder Wendy Laker, but it's now under the auspices of the Arts Council of New Orleans. Gene Meneray will oversee the last-Saturday-of-every-month market, and he hopes to expand it to include more art, musical acts and children's performers.

2. Bywater Art Market (Markey Park, Royal at Piety street, 944-7900)

3. French Market (Decatur and N. Peters streets)

 

Best Place to Use Free Wi-Fi

1. CC's Coffee House (Citywide; www.communitycoffee.com) -- What makes CC's the best free Wi-Fi place? Trumpets sound, an answer builds from an almost inaudible whisper to a chorus of: It's Free! Sure, there are other places that offer free Wi-Fi, but at CC's you don't get a lot of the IP problems you might encounter at other hotspots. There's no need to ask the staff for assistance -- just connect, start surfing and ... did we mention that it's free?

2. Rue de la Course (1140 S. Carrollton Ave., 899-0242; 3121 Magazine St., 861-4343)

3. PJ's Coffee (Citywide, www.pjscoffee.com)

 

Best Place for Family Fun

1. Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 581-4629; www.auduboninstitute.org) -- A good measure of just how important Audubon Zoo is to family fun is that many parents include it in their weekend to-do lists. Paint the garage, plant the garden and take the kids to the zoo. They might not get to the painting or planting, but they will have as good a time as their little ones (and big ones) as they chatter with the monkeys, gawk at the gorillas and peer at the white alligators.

2. City Park (City Park and Lelong avenues; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

3. Aquarium of the Americas (1 Canal St., 581-4629; www.auduboninstitute.org)

 

Best Place to Jog

1. Audubon Park -- What's your Audubon Park loop? For traditionalists, it's keeping to the circular road that winds almost 2 miles around most of the interior of the park, including the golf course, the fountain, the shelters and the dark stretch of live oak canopy. On the other hand, there are those people who will cross Magazine Street and run along The Fly before returning to the road of their more conservative brethren.

2. City Park (City Park and Lelong avenues; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

3. Levee

 

Best Place to Bike

1. Levee -- Any bicyclist will tell you that there aren't enough biking trails in the metro area -- but that the bike trail on the Mississippi River Levee is one of the best. The trail begins at Audubon Park near The Fly and goes all the way upriver to Kenner (and beyond). With two lanes of smooth asphalt, it's great for training, but go early before the sun beats you down -- and stay to the right if you're just trying to get in a relaxed ride.

2. Audubon Park

2. City Park (City Park and Lelong avenues; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

 

Best Golf Course

1. Audubon Park -- As arguably the South's oldest golf course, the Audubon Golf Course, which was redesigned in 2001 by renowned golf architect Denis Griffith, is considered by many golfers to be sacred ground. The lush landscapes, lagoons teeming with ducks, geese and swan, and well-kept greens only reinforce the idyllic setting of these urban links.

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

3. City Park (City Park and Lelong avenues; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

 

Best Tennis Court

1. City Park (City Park and Lelong avenues; www.neworleanscitypark.com) -- With 21 courts (11 hard courts and 10 clay courts), City Park's tennis center makes it easy to secure a court no matter your level of skill. And speaking of skills, City Park Tennis does offer lessons for beginning players, intermediate players and advanced players. If you're too old to dream of volleying with Roger Federer, then you might think of enrolling your kids for lessons. It's how the Williams sisters got started -- and their dad doesn't work anymore.

2. Audubon Park

3. (TIE) New Orleans Lawn and Tennis Club (5353 Laurel St., 899-1574) and University of New Orleans (2000 Lakeshore Drive, 280-6000; www.uno.edu)

 

Best Place to Get Married

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine, 525-9585; www.stlouiscathedral.org) -- There are plenty of places to get married in New Orleans, but for many Catholics, especially those from old New Orleans families, St. Louis Cathedral's striking trinity of slate-covered spires rising above the hand-painted ceiling murals and its majestic stained glass convey a sense of beauty and tradition that makes a couple's wedding day unforgettable.

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

3. Audubon Tea Room (Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St., 212-5301; www.auduboninstitute.org)

 

Best Local Big Easy Rollergirl

1. Pontchartrain BeAtch -- She's a mild-mannered art gallery assistant by day, but at night she tosses aside her horn-rimmed glasses, sheds her meek persona, and transforms into the Pontchartrain BeAtch, who rains the havoc of her eight wheels, two sharp elbows and bone-shattering hips on the forces of evil, who usually come in the form of the Black Team.

2. Cherry Pi

3. (TIE) Archbishop Pummel and Bruise Springsteen

 

Best Place to Work Locally

1. Peter A. Mayer Advertising (324 Camp St., 581-7191; www.petermayer.com) -- The advertising business is a 24/7 commitment, so respecting your staff is just good business. When Peter A. Mayer began the company, he wanted to make sure his staff was treated like family. Forty years and 125 "family members" later, that philosophy still exists and is worth more than just a good compensation package.

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

3. Ochsner (1514 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 842-3000; www.ochsner.org)

 

Best Fest Outside New Orleans

1. Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest -- It's a rite of spring. Sometime in mid-April, the town of Ponchatoula explodes with all things strawberry -- daiquiris, shortcake, the Strawberry Strut race, the famous "Jelly Belly" game and thousands of flats of that delectable, juicy red fruit -- all of which leaves no doubt that Ponchatoula is the "Strawberry Capital of the World."

2. Festival Internationale in Lafayette

3. Bonnaroo

 

Best Carnival Day Parade

1. (TIE) Rex and Zulu -- These two parades belong together -- does anyone go to Zulu without sticking around for Rex? It's the pomp and heraldry of Rex, New Orleans' oldest parading organization, and the hilarious social satire -- black men in black face with characters like "Witch Doctor" and "Big Shot" -- of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club that let locals and visitors alike know that it's Carnival time.

2. Tucks

3. Thoth

 

Best Carnival Night parade

1. Muses -- This all-female krewe is relatively young by Mardi Gras standards (founded in 2000), but the women already have become an annual favorite. Last season's parade featured great throws -- satin sleep masks and the coveted Muses' shoes -- a satiric theme ("Supermuses"), and a message of hope: "You Have The Power To Save New Orleans."

2. Endymion

3. Bacchus

 

Best Reason to Stay in New Orleans

1. The People -- Yes, we've all lost close friends and even family who have moved away in the past two years, but there are still plenty of folks here who can raise your spirits and make you feel as if you're part of a community with a simple nod of the head and a "yeah, you right." For those who have left? You'll never meet people like the ones you've known all those years in New Orleans.

2. Food

3. It's Home

 

Best Thing Discovered in New Orleans

1. People -- It's a completely unscientific fact that you can discover more characters in New Orleans than anywhere else in the world. Where else will you find total strangers willing to start dancing together in a second line with handkerchiefs twirling over their heads just because they heard a few notes from a trumpet?

2. Food

3. Taco trucks

 

Best Pothole to Avoid

1. Washington Avenue and Magazine Street -- This is one opponent the pothole killer might have to be wary of. It's rumored that the hole is so deep that it can easily swallow up David Vitter's apology, William Jefferson's reasonable explanation, and that cute little Vespa scooter your girlfriend convinced you to buy. The National Guard had the right idea: drive all-terrain vehicles when in New Orleans and stock up on MREs in case you fall into a hole such as this one.

2. Broadway and Fontainebleau streets

3. (TIE) Earhart Boulevard and Carrollton Avenue; and Oak Street and Carrollton Avenue

 

Best Place to Worship

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine, 525-9585; www.stlouiscathedral.org) -- This place conveys a spirituality that isn't limited to a particular religion. Since 1727, New Orleanians -- rich, poor, free and enslaved -- have worshipped side by side on this hallowed ground. Just knowing that, without looking up at masterfully crafted architecture or the iconic artwork, should inspire anyone to fall on their knees and give thanks.

2. Holy Name of Jesus Church (6220 LaSalle Place, 865-7430; www.hnjchurch.org)

3. Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest

 

MEDIA

Best Radio Station

1. WWOZ -- How many local radio stations can brag about -- thanks to the power of the Internet -- a listening audience that spans the globe? WWOZ counts itself in that number and with it's blend of all sounds New Orleans -- R&B, gospel, jazz, zydeco, brass bands and on and on -- it's not hard to picture a guy in Istanbul obeying DJ Billy Delle's command to: "Turn it up loud, turn it up proud."

2. WWL

3. B97

 

Best Local Radio Show

1. The Think Tank with Garland Robinette, WWL Radio -- Robinette's show is always topical and always filled with interesting guests and lots of divergent opinions, kinda like New Orleans itself. Thanks to WWL's 50,000-watt signal and the Internet, folks all over the planet can stay tuned in to local goings-on.

2. The Walton & Johnson Radio Show, Bayou 95.7 FM

3. The Spud Show with John "Spud" McConnell, WWL Radio

 

Best Local Radio Talk Show Host

1. Garland Robinette on WWL Radio -- Robinette's guests know they won't be able to evade his probing questions or his intolerance for incompetence and evasiveness. He was our "cover boy" for last years "Best of New Orleans" edition, and this year's results show that he's still going strong.

2. John "Spud" McConnell hosts The Spud Show WWL Radio

3. Tom Fitzmorris hosts The Food Show on WWL Radio

 

Best Local Web Site

1. Nola.com -- It's much more than The Times-Picayune on-line. The site provides up-to-the-minute local news updates and allows the reader a voice by immediately following articles with a comments section. The blogs, including Mr. Bill's aka Walter Williams', and the forums open dialogue among readers as well, turning the site into a virtual coffeehouse of people sharing the news of the day.

2. Bestofneworleans.com -- Gambit Weekly

3. WWL-TV.com

 

Best Local Publication

1. Gambit Weekly -- When we first saw this result, we thought you chose us for our award-winning writing along with insightful arts and entertainment coverage, alluring special sections, provocative political commentary, stupendous art work and amazing editorial insight. Then we scanned down the page and found out it was for our entertainment listings. Fine.

2. The Times-Picayune

3. New Orleans Magazine

 

Best Local Columnist

1. Chris Rose (The Times-Picayune) -- The popularity of Rose's column is confirmed every time the guy takes a break -- people send in concerned emails wondering if he's all right. Rose is fine, at least as much as any of us who went through The Thing, and he'll continue to express our collective fears over violent crime, show disgust at the dearth of a recovery and shout out what it is to be a New Orleanian and why we'll never leave.

2. Clancy DuBos (Gambit Weekly)

3. Angus Lind (The Times-Picayune)

 

Best Local TV Newscast

1. WWL -- In the broadcast news business, familiarity doesn't breed contempt; it instills trust. Generations of viewers have tuned in and trusted the confident veteran anchor teams -- Eric Paulson and Sally Ann Roberts in the mornings, Angela Hill and Dennis Woltering in the early evening, and now Mike Hoss and Lucy Bustamante at night--because they can count on them to get the story right.

2. WDSU

3. Fox-8 WVUE

 

Best Local TV Anchor

1. Norman Robinson (WDSU) -- Norman Robinson, like James Earl Jones, possesses a voice that can make even a nursery rhyme sound critical. More than that, though, Robinson is truly on our side, asking public officials during his (now canceled) "hot seat" segment the uncomfortable but critical questions pertaining to the city's recovery. When teamed with Chris Matthews of CNBC's Hardball during last year's mayoral debates, Robinson was the true flamethrower, while Matthews' queries felt more like wild pitches.

2. Angela Hill (WWL)

3. Roop Raj (WDSU)

 

Best Dressed Local Male TV Personality

1. Norman Robinson -- It's time we either retired this category or renamed it "Norman Robinson's Best Dressed Local Male TV Personality." The debonair Mr. R should start coming to work in concert T-shirts and ripped jeans to give the other male anchors a chance or start cross dressing in order to challenge the female anchors. Knowing Robinson's sense of style, he'd probably still win.

2. Roop Raj (WDSU)

3. Bob Breck (Fox-8 WVUE)

 

Best Dressed Local Female TV Personality

1. (TIE) Angela Hill and Helena Moreno -- Hill, who has owned this category since its inception, has never met a color she didn't like, and there's no question she can accessorize in a way that would make Mignon Faget jealous. But is she starting to feel threatened by the up and coming Moreno? Is it time for a head-to-head throw-down on the runway?

2. Lucy Bustamante (WWL)

3. Margaret Orr (WDSU)

 

Best Local TV Reporter Who's Ready to Go National

1. Lucy Bustamante (WWL) -- It almost seems strange to suggest that Bustamante should move to network news when she's such a great example of homegrown talent. She got her start on WWL's Our Generation show, she was a reporter for a Houma TV station while still at Loyola University, and she only returned to New Orleans four years ago. Still, with her composure, passion and obvious empathy for people affected by the news, Bustamante's next step might be a national stage.

2. Helena Moreno (WDSU)

3. Roop Raj (WDSU)

 

Best Local TV Weathercaster

1. Bob Breck (Fox-8 WVUE) -- All right, gang, let's be perfectly clear on Bob Breck: he's been forecasting the weather here for more than 25 years, and while he can be quirky at times, he isn't an alarmist. When Breck says you should be concerned and keep an eye on the weather, you should be concerned and keep an eye on the weather. That's why he's "the weather authority."

2. Carl Arredondo (WWL)

3. Margaret Orr (WDSU)

 

Best Local TV Sportscaster

1. Jim Henderson (WWL) -- Henderson consistently displays a dedication to the fans even when he has to put the hammer on the players, coaches and owners. No one who heard it will ever forget him calling out Saints owner Tom Benson following the news that Benson might move the Saints to San Antonio. If the New Orleans Saints ever win a Super Bowl, the fans should give Henderson a ring.

2. Fletcher Mackel (WDSU)

3. Juan Kincaid (WWL)

 

Best Local Commercial

1. Frankie & Johnnie's Furniture -- "No credit? No problem!" Sure, there's higher quality furniture out there than what the Special Man is hawking, but if anyone believes that there's a better local commercial than Frankie & Johnnies, all I can say is: "Let 'em have it."

2. SDT Trash Commercials

3. (TIE) New Orleans Saints "Winning is an attitude" and Abita Beer

 

Best Reason to Pick Up Gambit Weekly

1. Entertainment Listings -- The listings editor's head has been swelling ever since we found this out, but the truth is the credit has to go to his predecessor, Katie Walenter. Noah Bonaparte Pais, our new listings editor, promises to follow Walenter's trailblazing path inletting readers know weekly where they can experience everything -- restaurants, theaters, galleries, museums, music venues, festivals, exercise, dance and more -- that this city still has to offer.

2. Ads

3. Food reviews

 

 

GOODS AND SERVICES

Best Men's Clothing Store

1. Perlis (Jackson Brewery, 600 Decatur St., Suite 103, 523-6681; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985- 674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) -- Perlis has everything a man needs for a wardrobe that's quintessentially New Orleans. From the perfect Mardi Gras polo, to summertime seersucker, to shirts and accessories bearing the iconic crawfish, Perlis is suited to give any man the panache of a Southern gentleman. With its vast inventory and personalized service, it's only natural that this New Orleans tradition claims this category again.

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

3. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (230 Carondelet St., 528-9491; 3213 17th St., Suite 10-12, Metairie, 620-2265; www.josabank.com)

 

Best Women's Clothing Store

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 301 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) -- After fires swept this downtown department store during Katrina, the city's high-end clothing mavens thought that they might have to fly to Manhattan for their fix of designer duds. But in November of last year, Saks was back and so were its clients, ready as ever to fill their closets with Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Burberry and Michael Kors from this Canal Street retail mecca.

2. Hemline (605 Metairie Road, Metairie, 309-8778; 615 Chartres St., 592-0242; 3308 Magazine St., 269-4005)

3. (TIE) Hickory Chicks (1915 Hickory Ave., Suite A, River Ridge, 324-2454) and Perlis (Jackson Brewery, 600 Decatur St., Suite 103, 523-6681; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985- 674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com)

 

Best Children's Clothing Store

1. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106; www.pippenlane.com) -- AnnaBeth Goodman, wife of actor John Goodman, wanted to fill a void in the Magazine Street shopping scene -- the need for a high-end children's clothing store. Thus Pippen Lane was born, and Uptown mommies have flocked there ever since. Pippen Lane also carries footwear, furniture, toys and gifts -- making it a perfect place to hit up before a baby shower, a child's birthday or your own due date.

2. Gap Kids (Citywide; www.gap.com)

3. Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3076; www.orientexpressed.com)

 

Best Shoe Store for Men

1. Dillard's (North Shore Square,150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com) -- Nothing conjures up more fear in a man's heart than the prospect of fighting crowds for a new pair of shoes at a mall department store. Luckily, Dillard's Shoe Store for Men is strategically located for the less-spirited shopper, offers elbow room and a great selection and is consistently a shoe-in for this category.

2. Perlis (Jackson Brewery, 600 Decatur St., Suite 103, 523-6681; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985- 674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com)

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

 

Best Shoe Store for Women

1. Shoe Nami (1508 Edwards Ave., 818-2940; 3118 Magazine St., 895-1717; 3319 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-0805) -- They say that shoes are the period on the end of a good wardrobe, but at Shoe Nami, they're the exclamation point. Since its opening, this homegrown boutique has quickly stolen the hearts and feet of local women, and it's easy to see why. It offers shoes in every color and style imaginable -- from subdued flats to neon, patent leather stilettos -- all at affordable prices that make it the best once again.

2. (TIE) Dillard's (North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com) and Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; www.feetfirststores.com)

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

 

Best Place to Buy Evening Wear

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 301 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) -- Locals love the fresh-off-the-runway fashions at Saks Fifth Avenue, giving them that New York look right here in New Orleans. The look might set you back a few hundred (or thousand) dollars, but the heads you'll turn at that cocktail party make it worth every penny. Saks won the category in 2005 and now that it's reopened, it takes top honors once again.

2. Dillard's (North Shore Square,150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com)

3. Perlis (Jackson Brewery, 600 Decatur St., Suite 103, 523-6681; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985- 674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Man's Suit

1. Perlis (Jackson Brewery, 600 Decatur St., Suite 103, 523-6681; 1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985- 674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) -- The 2005 winner in this category, Perlis does more than the ubiquitous crawfish polo shirt; this veteran haberdasher also carries a large selection of designer suits. With shoes and ties to match and free lifetime alterations with any purchase, Perlis is the one-stop shop for a man looking for a perfect outfit.

2. Rubenstein's (102 Saint Charles Ave., 581-6666; www.rubensteinsneworleans.com)

3. Men's Wearhouse (1629 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 362-3114; 3033 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 837-6648; www.menswearhouse.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Lingerie

1. Victoria's Secret (North Shore Square, 150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-626-6196; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 312, Kenner, 468-2045; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-2720; www.victoriassecret.com) -- It's fun buying lingerie based on aesthetic beauty alone, but that lacey, rhinestone-adorned thong most likely won't brave the 9-to-5 workday. Fortunately, Victoria's Secret has both risque numbers just worn to be taken off and breathable panties that still feel good under a business suit. Wherever you are and whatever kind of girl you are, it's no secret that this store is a good beneath-it-all bet.

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

3. Basics Underneath (5513 Magazine St., 894-1000; www.basicsunderneath.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing

1. Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587) -- One look through Funky Monkey's used pieces and you'll wonder why their original owners got rid of them in the first place. A dig might produce a pair of vintage Yves Saint-Laurent pumps, a mod number from the '60s, or a pocketbook fit for a cocktail party. These oldies-but-goodies juxtaposed with new fashions and one-of-a-kind creations from local designers make Funky Monkey a winner year after year.

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

3. Goodwill (184 Gause Blvd. W, Slidell, 985-649-2909; 397 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 467-1467; 1000 Hwy. 190B, Covington, 985-892-3937; 4021 Behrman Place, 362-2334; 9323 Jefferson Hwy., River Ridge, no phone available; www.goodwill.org)

 

Best Place to Buy Eyewear

1. St. Charles Vision (3200 Severn Ave., Metairie, 887-2020; 8040 St. Charles Ave., 886-6311; www.stcharlesvision.com) -- Its customers might have trouble seeing on the way in, but the folks at St. Charles Vision make sure everyone sees well -- and looks good -- on the way out. With it's board-certified team of optometrists, St. Charles Vision helps you sift through a variety of designer frames to find the pair most flattering for you. It's easy to see why readers picked this as the best once again.

2. Uptown Eyewear (4004 Magazine St., 899-3937)

3. (TIE) Lenscrafters (The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 100, Kenner, 465-0444; www.lenscrafters.com) and Sunglass Hut (Citywide; www.sunglasshut.com)

 

Best Thrift Store

1. Bloomin' Deals (4645 Freret St., 897-9128) -- This Freret Street shop may be small, but it has a lot more to offer than your average thrift store. Run by the local Junior League, Bloomin' Deals has a great selection of ball gowns, cocktail dresses, children's clothing and even some fun houseware items. The store's close proximity to Loyola and Tulane universities also makes it an ideal place for style-conscious students when mom and dad's money stream runs dry.

2. Thrift City USA (601 Terry Pkwy., Gretna, 363-0006)

3. Red, White & Blue (6001 Jefferson Hwy., 733-8066)

 

Best Shopping Mall

1. Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000; www.lakesideshopping.com) -- Lakeside has the best of both worlds -- it's got the high-end fare akin to any Magazine Street block and it's nestled right in the heart of Metairie. Boasting more than 120 stores and eateries, this mall claims this category every year.

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

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

 

Best Consignment Shop

1. Prima Donna's Closet (1206 St. Charles Ave., 525-3327; 3213 17th St., Metairie, 885-3327; www.primadonnascloset.com) -- Whether you end up picking out an evening gown, a fur coat or a wedding dress, you're not going to pay a lot for it at Prima Donna's Closet. Most of the stock looks like it's never been worn, and you're bound to find some big-name designers amid the pieces -- probably why this consignment shop tops this category for another year.

2. On the Other Hand (8204 Oak St., 861-0159; www.ontheotherhandconsignment.com)

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

 

Best Toy Store

1. Toys R Us (137 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-639-9997; 3609 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-9513; 4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-8426; www.toysrus.com) -- If you've ever had a kid, known a kid or been a kid, you've been there and -- just admit it -- you loved it. The mere sight of this store's wall-to-wall selection of toys, games, dolls and more makes any child giddy and any adult regress at least 10 years. Just try to resist the urge to test-drive the store's bikes and scooters on the sales floor; it's against the rules.

2. Magic Box (5508 Magazine St., 899-0117)

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

 

Best Place to Buy Furniture

1. Hurwitz-Mintz (1751 Airline Drive, Metairie, 378-1000; www.hurwitzmintz.com) -- With its Airline location boasting more than 80,000 square feet of display space, it's easy to see why our readers once again chose Hurwitz-Mintz as the best place to buy furniture. While admiring all the furniture -- ranging from the classic to the contemporary -- you can also gain some decorating inspiration from the store's Design Studio.

2. Rooms To Go (62 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 367-4100; 401 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 892-8484; 5800 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-2688; www.roomstogo.com)

3. Halpern's Furnishing Store (1532 St. Charles Ave., 304-0039; 1600 Prytania St., 566-1707)

 

Best Place to Buy Lamps/Lighting

1. Lighting Inc. (Pontchartrain Square, 3574 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-9368; 8180 Earhart Blvd. Suite B-E, 486-5761; www.lightinginconline.com) -- Locals missed the great prices and great staff of Lighting Inc. when its Tulane Avenue location closed after Katrina. Many drove to the Northshore location or ordered from the store's Web site, but now loyal customers can go to this repeat winner's newly opened Earhart Boulevard location.

2. Lowe's (121 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 832-7100; 1351 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 227-0495; 2501 Elysian Fields Ave., 948-8568; 3640 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0114; www.lowes.com

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

 

Best Antiques Store

1. M.S. Rau Antiques (630 Royal St., 523-5660; www.rauantiques.com) -- A past winner, M.S. Rau is the No. 1 choice for astute antique admirers in New Orleans. The French Quarter store boasts an array of antique jewelry, art, furniture and other items dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The best part is that every purchase is backed by a 125 percent guarantee.

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

3. Top Drawer (4310 Magazine St., 897-1004)

 

Best Fabric Store

1. Fabrixx (755 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-1118; 51 Park Place Drive, Covington, 985-809-1110) -- Fabrixx has something for everyone, from clothing designers in the making to parents just trying to make their kid a Halloween costume. Those more adept at sewing can take home high-quality fabrics at great prices and whip up original creations. The store offers volumes of easy-to-follow patterns for those who need help.

2. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts (1111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-2910; 7000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite A, Metairie, 456-2083; www.joann.com)

3. Hancock Fabrics (2104 Franklin Ave., Gretna, 367-5761; 4310 Waverly St., Metairie, 455-9111; 6409 Airline Drive, Metairie, 733-1142; www.hancockfabrics.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Wedding Gift

1. Adler's (722 Canal St., 523-5292; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 523-5292; www.adlersjewelry.com) -- Whether you'd like to give something with a New Orleans flare, like a Sewerage & Water Board water meter floor mat, or something less region-specific, like a set of fine china -- Adler's remains the place to find that perfect wedding gift. Also voted last year's winner, Adler's has been a beloved New Orleans tradition since 1898.

2. Bed, Bath and Beyond (4410 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-6930; 127 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-641-8664; 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-1608; www.bedbathandbeyond.com)

3. Dillard's (North Shore Square,150 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-646-0130; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 362-4800; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-6050; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-1075; www.dillards.com)

 

Best Place to Have Something Framed

1. Gordon's of Metairie (725 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-9416) -- After you get past the shelves of scented candles and wicker, hidden in the back of Gordon's of Metairie is where readers consistently bring their treasured artworks to get them framed. The skilled staff can custom frame anything from your rare art to your daughter's school pictures.

2. Michael's (1200 S Clearview Pkwy., 818-2112; www.michaels.com)

3. (TIE) LeMieux Galleries (200 Metairie Road, Metairie, 837-4044; 332 Julia St., 522-2988; www.lemieuxgalleries.com) and Framin' Place and Gallery (3535 Severn Ave., Suite 1, Metairie, 885-3311)

 

Best Jewelry Store

1. Mignon Faget Ltd. (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-2244; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; www.mignonfaget.com) -- Look around town and you'll always see silver renderings of animals and fleur de lis gracing the necks of local women. Mignon Faget has always been a favorite, especially after Katrina, and she tops this category once again. And if wearing Mignon's creations is not enough to satisfy your craving for her work, this local jewelry store also carries home decor, gifts and more.

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

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

 

Best Local Jewelry Designer

1. Mignon Faget (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-2244; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; www.mignonfaget.com) -- The local jewelry designer's name has become synonymous with New Orleans and high-end wearable art. Her creations can be found in the jewelry box of practically every woman in the city, and as if she weren't popular enough already, her artistic innovations became even more ubiquitous after the storm. From the simple but elegant pendants to her more elaborate collections, Mignon Faget has everything a New Orleans woman needs to be properly accessorized.

2. Symmetry Jewelers (8138 Hampson St., 861-9925; www.symmetry-jewelers.com)

3. Thomas Mann Gallery (1804 Magazine St., 581-2113; www.thomasmann.com)

 

Best Dry Cleaner

1. Liberto Cleaners (4814 Prytania St., 897-2161; 8128 Willow St., 861-7812) -- Afraid of leaving your $200 denim at the cleaner only to have it returned to you a mashed-up mess? Liberto's will clean your jeans by hand and not with automated machinery. That's probably why this family-owned business takes top honors in this category once again.

2. DeLuxe Cleaners (5325 Canal Blvd., 488-7716)

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

 

Best Hospital

1. Oschner Foundation Hospital (1514 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 842-3000; www.ochsner.org) -- Oschner faced Katrina with a well-executed storm preparation plan, making it one of the only hospitals open after the hurricane's wrath. Locals know that if Oschner can brave Katrina, it can do just about anything else.

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

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

 

Best Doctor for a Nip and Tuck

1. Dr. Kamran Khoobehi (4720 I-10 Service Road, Suite 403, Metairie, 779-5538; www.khoobehi.com) -- Need a lift? Locals have been flocking to Dr. Kamran Khoobehi to handle those delicate but oh-so-important little nips and tucks. This Metairie-based plastic surgeon specializes in a number of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries for when skin goes south or a confidence booster is needed.

2. Dr. Elliott Black (4228 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 883-8900

3. Dr. Michael Moses (1603 Second St., 895-7200)

 

Best Place to Get a Facial

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Taking top honors for another year, Belladonna offers nine different facials that run the gamut of skin concerns from redness to wrinkles. Visitors also love the retail aspect of the spa, where they can buy products to keep their skin looking good long after they leave.

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

3. H2O Salon and Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377)

 

Best Chiropractor

1. Sylvi Beaumont (1138 S Carrollton Ave., 864-1234) -- This Uptown chiropractor is who achy locals turn to for relief from pulled muscles, spasms, pains and worse. Instead of just offering a quick fix for aches and pains, Beaumont coaches patients on how to lead lifestyles that will bring about the results they want.

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

3. Dr. Gordon DuBois (1138 S. Carrollton Ave., 905-9985, www.neworleanschiropractic.net)

 

Best Health Club

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (Heritage Plaza, 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 475, Metairie, 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 112, Kenner, 739-1600; One Shell Square, 701 Poydras St., Suite 1300, 588-1600; Elmwood Plaza Shopping Center, 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Suite 1200, Harahan, 733-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com) -- Perhaps it's the sheer size of the facility. Maybe the state-of-the-art cardio machines or sleek weight-training equipment. Possibly the gigantic 20-lane swimming pool. Or the massage center, pro shop or heart-healthy menu at the cafe that make this fitness multiplex New Orleans' premier workout location for exercisers of all ages and interests. This includes those just starting a new routine as well as the seasoned tri-athlete or marathoner.

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

3. New Orleans Jewish Community Center (5432 St. Charles Ave., 897-0143; www.nojcc.com)

 

Best Place to Take a Yoga Class

1. Wild Lotus Yoga (4842 Perrier St., 899-0047; www.wildlotusyoga.com) -- Serenity is the key to practicing yoga. So it's good to know you won't lose your focus worrying about the best place to take a class -- Gambit readers voted hands down, feet in the air, for this Uptown yogi hotspot. It offers advanced classes like vinyasa-style hot yoga or power yoga and less strenuous classes that focus on relaxation and meditation.

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

3. Salvation Studio (2917 Magazine St., 896-2200)

 

Best Barbershop

1. Aidan Gill for Men (2026 Magazine St., 587-9090; www.aidangillformen.com) -- This Magazine Street traditional barbershop offers a timeless sense of style and sophistication that appeals to the dapper dandy inside every man, while its Old World charm satisfies the unique sensibilities of New Orleanians and their love of tradition. There's something hip about stepping back in time and something cutting-edge about the classics that make Aidan Gill as enchanting as the sense of history his shop evokes.

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

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

 

Best Place to Get a Manicure/Pedicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- If necessity is the mother of invention, Belladonna Day Spa, as our readers confirm, is certainly ahead of the game. Constantly reinventing its spa menu with new services such as the Thai pedicure -- with lemongrass and Kafir lime soak and a volcanic clay mask -- Belladonna understands the need for quality skin care and luxurious, invigorating spa treatments to revitalize tired hands and feet.

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

3. Paris Parker Aveda Salons & Spas (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 888-990-2468; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-990-2468; 4900 Prytania St.,888-990-2468; 4900 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 888-990-2468; www.parisparker.com)

 

Best Hair Salon

1. Paris Parker Aveda Salons & Spas (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 888-990-2468; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-990-2468; 4900 Prytania St.,888-990-2468; 4900 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 888-990-2468; www.parisparker.com) -- Getting a haircut or color is serious business. The relationship a client has with his or her stylist shouldn't be taken lightly. Paris Parker's multiple locations and diverse range of hairstylists ensure that you'll find a designer or colorist who understands your personality and unique sense of style.

2. H2O Salon and Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377)

3. Kenneth's Hair with Style (400 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-5556)

 

Best Day Spa

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Belladonna sweeps another category! With it's full-service day spa and extensive menu, it's no wonder that New Orleanians are willing to devote an entire afternoon to the pampering of Belladonna's skin-care specialists and massage therapists. This spa offers everything from facials, manicures and pedicures to microdermabrasion, aromatherapy and waxing -- and each treatment is personalized for your specific skin care needs.

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

3. H20 Salon and Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377)

 

Best Place to Get a Massage

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) -- Massages are wonderful. Absolutely fantastic. They make you feel great and provide many health benefits. But here's the rub: They're sometimes expensive and take a good amount of time out of your day. That's why it's important to know what you're getting for your money. At Belladonna, the spa experience is definitely worth every penny, with several types of massages available, from hydrotherapy to warm stone, reflexology and prenatal massage.

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

3. H2O Salon and Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377)

 

Best Tanning Salon

1. Planet Beach (Citywide, www.planetbeach.com) -- Here in Louisiana, because we have the heat and humidity of the tropics -- but not the glistening sand and saltwater beaches that make it tolerable -- city folks often prefer to maintain a sun-kissed look with the help of a tanning salon. Both sunless and UV tanning beds, as well as multiple locations to choose from, make Planet Beach the top spot for an urban sunbath.

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

3. Bamboo Apothecary (4112 Magazine St., 895-1664)

 

Best Body Piercing/ Tattoo Parlor

1. Electric Ladyland Tattoo Studio (610 Frenchmen St., 947-8286; www.electricladyland.net) -- Like the unique little niche where this Marigny tattoo studio is located on Frenchmen Street -- amid jazz clubs and bars filled with merry, flushed drinkers, late-night carousers and rabble rousers -- Electric Ladyland exudes a sort of busty, burlesque yet old-time sailors' port-of-call character. A little badass, a little hip, pretty sexy and a whole lot of fun, the studio's artists each have an individual style that displays their talents and makes the place Gambit Weekly readers' premier tattoo parlor.

2. Crescent City Tattoo Co. (4800 Magazine St., 269-8282)

3. (TIE) Electric Expressions (2317 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-8662; www.electricexpressions.com) and Eye Candy Tattoos (1578 Magazine St., 299-8222; www.eyecandytattoo.com)

 

Best Place to Buy CDs

1. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com) -- Do you like instant gratification? Does the click-clack sound of thumbing through rows of CDs get your heart racing? Are you the type who wants a tangible compact disc you can hold in your hand? Are you easily excited by cover art and liner notes? Is The Real Thing important to you? If the answer is yes to any of the above, get help now by visiting Louisiana Music Factory.

2. Best Buy (120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com)

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

 

Best Place to Buy Local Music

1. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com) -- Cajun, Zydeco, traditional and modern New Orleans Jazz make up most of this music shop's stock, qualifying it as not only the Best of New Orleans' local music stores but also the store with the widest selection of Louisiana music in the world. It also sells books, posters, DVDs and other music memorabilia.

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

3. Best Buy (120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com)

 

Best Bookstore

1. Barnes and Noble Booksellers (1601B Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3414 Hwy. 190, Suite 10, Mandeville, 985-626-8884; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929; www.barnesandnoble.com) -- It's easy to be the best bookstore when you also happen to be the biggest. But there's something to be said for being the biggest as well. In the New Orleans area, B&N has the biggest book selection across every genre. If you're looking for something national or international, something on a broader political topic or a more specific social science, travel books or even study guides and test-prep materials, you're likely to find what you want at Barnes & Noble.

2. Octavia Books (513 Octavia St., 899-7323; www.octaviabooks.com)

3. Maple Street Books (7523 Maple St., 866-4916; www.maplestreetbooks.com)

 

Best Locally Owned Bookstore

1. Octavia Books (513 Octavia St., 899-7323; www.octaviabooks.com) -- If, like Groucho Marx, you'd never join a club that would have you as a member, you're missing out at Octavia Books. In addition to frequent author signings and readings, Octavia has a well-established book club that meets once a month. A wide variety of well-respected choices such as Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop and Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay showcase the intellectual integrity of the group and hint at some pretty thought-provoking topics for discussion.

2. Maple Street Books (7523 Maple St., 866-4916; www.maplestreetbooks.com)

3. Garden District Book Shop (The Rink, 2727 Prytania St., 895-2266; www.gardendistrictbookshop.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Pre-owned Car

1. Ray Brandt Automotive Group (Citywide; www.raybrandtauto.com) -- Buying a pre-owned car often requires some wheeling and dealing to get the best value for your money. Ray Brandt offers a variety of ways to get the most out of a vehicle, new or used, such as options on trading-in, leasing and other types of financing. Brandt specializes in Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Nissan, Scion and Toyota.

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

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

 

Best Place to Buy a New Car

1. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 800-833-2128; www.lakesidetoyota.com) -- Beggars can't be choosers. But fortunately for you, if you're buying a new car, you most likely won't have to beg, so you can afford to be at least a little picky. And who wouldn't want the best deal and the best service? Best of New Orleans car buyers choose Lakeside Toyota as the place to go for a brand-new vehicle.

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

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

 

Best Financial Institution/Bank

1. Capital One (Citywide; www.capitalone.com) -- People are funny about money. So are banks when they slam you with extra fees and bogus-sounding charges. That's why it's important to bank at an institution that's not going to screw you over with weird rules and nonsensical regulations, one that understands the diverse needs of its clientele and offers multiple services for a variety of purposes. We're guessing that's why our readers endorse Capital One. Hey, what's in your wallet?

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

3. Whitney (Citywide; www.whitneybank.com)

 

Best Wireless Phone Service

1. AT&T/Cingular (www.wireless.att.com) -- One has to wonder if this vote has anything to do with the fact that AT&T is the exclusive service provider for the new iPhone. How many of you out there completed Gambit Weekly's Best of New Orleans ballot online at our Web site using your iPhone? No matter. Snagging that Apple agreement certainly puts AT&T at the forefront of cellular desirability.

2. Verizon (www.verizonwireless.com)

3. Sprint (www.sprint.com)

 

Best Place to Buy Home Electronics

1. Best Buy (120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com) -- The name says it all. It's the best place to buy the latest gadget you've been looking for, especially if you're not too keen on Web shopping and waiting for shipping. As a national chain, Best Buy has corporate purchasing power to secure the best and biggest selection of electronics under one roof -- and make same-day purchase and possession a reality.

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

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

 

Best Place to Buy a Mattress

1. Bedding Plus (110 Terry Pkwy., Terrytown, 227-8332; 1837 Airline Drive, Metairie, 837-2437) -- After Katrina, many of our readers suddenly realized that the only piece of furniture they had to sit on was their brand-new bed. Perhaps that's why they sprang Bedding Plus to the top of this category. Need a new queen-size, Sealy Posturepedic pillow-top mattress with individually coiled springs for long-term back support? This is one big decision you can sleep on -- for years!

2. Sam's Club (181 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-641-1401; 1527 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 361-3966; 3900 Airline Drive, Metairie, 831-2911; 455 31st St., Kenner, 467-9677; www.samsclub.com)

3. Doerr Furniture (914 Elysian Fields Ave., 947-0606; www.doerrfurniture.com)

 

Best Place to Buy a Camera

1. Best Buy (120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com) -- Everybody's going digital, even grandparents, these days, and everyone seems to agree that when it's time to invest in a new camera, it's time to go to Best Buy. You can also find film and a host of Web and camcorder devices there.

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

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

 

Best Bicycle Store

1. GNO Cyclery (1426 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-0023; www.gnocyclery.com) -- What has two wheels, works like a charm and fits your bill? You guessed it: a bicycle from GNO Cyclery. This local shop is dedicated to finding the perfect bike for you by offering a wide selection of Orbea, Cannondale and Trek bikes. It uses the Fit Kit method of customization to match the bike to your body by assessing three main contact points -- feet, saddle and hands -- and offers six months of free tune-ups and maintenance after purchase. Even if you didn't buy your bike at GNO, the cyclery's technicians can fix all makes, and in most cases offer a 24-hour turnaround on repairs.

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

3. Adam's Bicycle World (701 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 828-1862; www.adamsbicycleworld.com)

 

Best Sporting Goods Store

1. Academy Sports + Outdoors (50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 263-6000; 800 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 729-4300; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320; 61107 Airport Road, Slidell, 985-646-4720; www.academy.com) -- You can't hit it out of the park every time, but your sporting goods supplier should. And if you want to be at the top of your game, you need your equipment to be up there as well. The first-place favorite among New Orleans fans for service, performance and selection at a sporting goods store goes to Academy Sports.

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

3. Massey's Professional Outfitters (1200 W. Causeway Approach, Suite 13, Mandeville, 985-674-0536; 3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; www.masseysoutfitters.com)

 

Best Veterinary/Animal Clinic

1. Metairie Small Animal Hospital/Clinics (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; 4041 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-4400; 5040 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 455-2345; www.mash.com) -- When it comes to pet accoutrements, some of us adopt a more utilitarian, minimalist approach while others are more inclined to frilly froofiness. Whether or not we dress our pets or color coordinate their toys, we can all agree that excellent veterinary care is an absolute necessity. MSAH pulls out all the stops, offering not just great primary care, but also boarding, grooming and dentistry.

2. Prytania Animal Hospital (4907 Prytania St., 899-2828; www.prytaniavet.com)

3. Maple Small Animal Clinic (7608 Maple St., 866-6316)

 

Best Place to Board Your Pet

1. Zeus' Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718) -- Leaving your pet behind when you go on vacation or a business trip can be stressful, and trying to find a reliable house sitter who will not only feed the pet and let it out, but also will give it as much love and attention as you would is more difficult than it seems. At Zeus' Place your furry friend will receive several walks a day, clean accommodations and food dishes, and they'll be in good, healthy company, as all owners are required to provide up-to-date vaccination records for their boarded pets.

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

3. Causeway Animal Hospital (1315 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 828-2700; www.causewayanimalhospital.com)

 

Best Place to Have Your Pet Groomed

1. PetSmart (Citywide; www.petsmart.com) -- If your dog could brush his own teeth and clean his ears with a Q-tip, no doubt he'd do it. If you could have a two-way conversation with him (in English), chances are you'd ask, "What can I do to help? Should I just take you someplace where you can get totally groomed?" No doubt he'd reply, "Now that's smart." Perhaps that's why this chain adopted the last reply as its motto.

2. Zeus' Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718)

3. Petco (1629 Westbank Expwy. Suite E, Harvey, 362-6711; 3500 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-1880; 3520 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Metairie, 454-0468; 5300 Tchoupitoulas St., 899-6122; www.petco.com)

 

Best Hotel

1. W New Orleans (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.starwoodhotels.com) -- New Orleans is one of the best vacation destinations in the country, but locals often forget that we, too, can take a break in our own city and enjoy its premier attractions. We've got some of the best hotels and restaurants in the world right in our own backyard, so take advantage of the fact that you're living in the lap of luxury and check into the W New Orleans for a weekend getaway from home -- without leaving your hometown.

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

3. Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com)

 

Best Hardware Store

1. Harry's Ace Hardware (3535 Magazine St., 896-1500; www.harrysacehardware.com) -- When it comes to hardware, you're a nuts-and-bolts kinda person, right? So, what you need is a place where they'll give it to you straight. No runaround, no excuses. This neighborhood hardware store has everything you need for basic home repairs and other projects without the overwhelming, super-size warehouse atmosphere that's more appropriate for someone looking to construct an entire building.

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

3. Clement Hardware & Variety (6000 Magazine St., 899-0711)

 

Best Auto Repair Shop

1. Uptown Auto Specialist (501 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-8392) -- Whether you get stranded Uptown or downtown, transport your import by tow to this Riverbend full-service shop to doctor it up. Or, if you simply need some routine maintenance (brakes, tires or tune-ups), it specializes in Mercedes, BMW, Volvos and other imports.

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

3. Crescent City Automotive Inc. (4619 Magazine St., 899-3800)

 

Best Full-service Gas Station

1. Uptown Shell Service Station (6001 Magazine St., 895-8200) -- Sometimes your car just needs a little sumthin'-sumthin', you know? Maybe a little air in the tires, new windshield wipers or a quick vacuum job. So give your vehicle that extra TLC and take it to Uptown Shell, Gambit Weekly readers' pick for New Orleans' best full-service station.

2. Fleur De Lis Center (247 W. Harrison Ave., 304-8583)

3. City Park Shell (3494 Esplanade Ave., 488-1720)

 

Best Florist

1. Villere's Florist (750 Martin Behrman Ave., Metairie, 835-8565; 1107 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-3716; 1027 Village Walk, Covington, 985-809-9101; www.villeresflowers.com) -- Whether they're for a prom, wedding, birthday, anniversary or some other social occasion, floral arrangements need just the right touch. Family-owned and operated for nearly 40 years, Villere's understands the delicacy of interpersonal relationships and the unique way that flowers can communicate a range of sentiments to friends and family alike.

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

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

 

Best Garden Store

1. Perino's (3100 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-7888; www.perinos.com) -- The flora certainly flourish at this local nursery, garnering one big, green thumbs-up from Best of New Orleans voters for another year. In addition to its fine foliage, Perino's also offers fountains, from the ornate to the simple, as well as a wide variety of garden art, tools and accessories.

2. Green Parrot Nursery (4920 Tchoupitoulas St., 894-1100)

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

 

Best Place to Buy Wine

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; 3500 Magazine St. 894-7420; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Suite A-1, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; www.martinwine.com) -- New Orleans wine enthusiasts vote this local chain most satisfactory in meeting their oenophilic needs. If you discover that you've run out of wine and have nothing but water to serve your guests, you don't need a miracle -- just stop by one of three metro locations. And for you pagan epicures, there's plenty of opportunity to indulge that Dionysian impulse with a wide variety of gourmet foods and rare vintages.

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

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

 

Best Liquor Store

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; 3500 Magazine St. 894-7420; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Suite A-1, Mandeville, 985-951-8081; www.martinwine.com) -- From this nomination, can we infer that New Orleanians can't choose between wine and spirits? Or is it just that Martin Wine Cellar covers all the bases? Well, we do know that it carries spirits of all varieties: brandy, bourbon, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka and even grappa. And from aperitif to digestif, it's got a spirit for every indulgence.

2. Elio's Wine Warehouse (6205 Miro St., 866-1852)

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

 

Best New Orleans Neighborhood Grocery

1. Langenstein's (1330 Arabella St., 899-9283; www.langensteins.com) -- When the Langenstein family (Michael and his two sons George and Richard) opened up shop 85 years ago, they probably didn't anticipate that their family recipes for New Orleans-style dishes such as crawfish bisque, seafood gumbo, red beans and sausage and grillades would still be in use nearly a century later. The neighborhood grocery store specializes in the family's signature favorites and those staple ingredients necessary for all local foods.

2. Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

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

 

Best Jefferson Neighborhood Grocery

1. Dorignac's Food Center (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com) -- After Katrina, Dorignac's became a truly metropolitan "neighborhood" grocery, attracting thousands of New Orleanians as well as its traditional base of Jeffersonians. We suspect this venerable, family-owned grocery has held onto many of its "new" customers since then, and for good reason. A great wine and cheese selection, a superb deli, hot-plate and sandwich lunches prepared to order and great prices all around make Dorignac's a local institution.

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

3. Zuppardo's Family Supermarket (5010 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-1150; www.zuppardos.gourmetfoodmall.com)

 

Best Northshore Neighborhood Grocery

1. Rouse's Supermarket (1200 Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-867-5232; 1644 Gause Blvd., Slidell, 985-646-2620; 3461 E. Causeway Approach, Mandeville, 985-727-7515; www.rouses.com) -- Anthony Rouse learned about good, fresh food from working in his father's produce shipping business before opening his first grocery store in Houma almost a half-century ago. The chain has grown -- it's now the largest Louisiana-owned grocery retailer -- with stores in almost a dozen towns. Rouse's buys its produce and seafood from Louisianans and sells store-made meals prepared from Louisiana recipes. You can even get home-smoked and Cajun specialty meats such as sausage, boudin and turducken, as well as boiled seafood.

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

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

 

Best Supermarket

1. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) -- While there may be individual neighborhood groceries that bag the first-place trophy in their area, none made the sweep for best overall supermarket like Whole Foods did. It's easy to see why voters want to make groceries at this gorgeous market -- it's got bright, fresh produce, organic meats and cheeses, a fine wine selection, a gluten-free aisle and ready-made meals, to name just a few reasons.

2. Sav-A-Center (Citywide; www.savacenter.com)

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

 

Best Bakery

1. La Boulangerie (4526 Magazine St., 269-3777; 625 St. Charles Ave., 569-1925) -- Just about any day of the week, a line can be seen extending out the doors of this French bakery's two New Orleans locations. Forming daily in the wee hours of the morning, a queue of loyal -- and hungry -- customers eagerly await their turn at the counter for flaky croissants, sweet pastries and freshly baked breads like olive-rosemary loaf. Bakery-goers know to get there while the goods are hot and before they're gone.

2. Maurice French Pastries (4951 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 455-0830; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com)

3. Gambino's Bakery (300 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 391-0600; 4821 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-7500; http://gambinos.info)

 

Best Place to Get a King Cake

1. Randazzo's Camellia City Bakery (3501 Pontchartrain Drive, Slidell, 800-684-2253; www.kingcakes.com) -- From the mouths of the bakers: Randazzo's king cakes are "made with love from beginning to end." Hand-braided and baked fresh daily, these are must-have treats during Carnival season, whether you're living in New Orleans or not. As a small business that understands the importance of tradition, Randazzo's also ships cakes to families and friends who can't be present to partake in the festivities of the Mardi Gras season.

2. Haydel's Bakery (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 800-443-1342; www.haydelbakery.com)

3. Gambino's Bakery (300 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 391-0600; 4821 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-7500; http://gambinos.info)

 

Best Place to Get a Wedding Cake

1. Swiss Confectionery Inc. (747 St. Charles Ave., 522-7788) -- When you walk by Swiss Confectionery on St. Charles Avenue, it's easy to feel like a kid again. There's nothing quite so mesmerizing as the display of sweet candied and frosted confections in a storefront window -- against which you'll want to press your face and drool when you see the gorgeous wedding cakes inside. This family-owned and operated traditional confectionery appeals not only to the child (motivated by the consumption of sugar) within, but also to the adult who longs for the beauty, symmetry and romance that are so aptly portrayed in the artistry of the cakes.

2. Haydel's Bakery (4037 Jefferson Hwy., 800-443-1342; www.haydelbakery.com)

3. Gambino's Bakery (300 Lapalco Blvd., Gretna, 391-0600; 4821 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 885-7500;http://gambinos.info)

 

Best Place to Buy Fresh Produce

1. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) -- Being a large-scale provider of all-natural, organic foodstuffs automatically raises the bar for fresh produce. It's to the company's credit that this national chain maintains high standards for not only the organic produce it sells but also the conventional fruits and veggies it offers. Walking into a store where produce is freshly washed, hydrated, neatly stacked, bruise- and wilt-free makes a big difference in a grocery experience.

2. Crescent City Farmers' Market (Uptown Square, 200 Broadway St., 861.5898, Tuesdays; 700 Magazine St., 861.5898, Saturdays; www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org)

3. French Market (Decatur and N. Peters streets)

 

Best Place to Buy Jeans

1. Jean Therapy (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 60, Metairie, 833-6144; 5505 Magazine St., 897-5535; www.jeantherapy.com) -- If shopping's your cardio and splurging is your therapy, what better place to do it than a jean boutique? Jeans are hard to shop for. The key is to look good and feel comfortable. At Jean Therapy, the latest hip-hugging denim is always in stock, as are more classic designer cuts, so there's something flattering for every body.

2. Gap (Riverwalk, 1 Poydras St., 529-4962; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-3807; The Esplanade, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., 464-6556; Slidell Mall, 173 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-781-7501; Premier Centre, 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-2686; www.gap.com

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

 

Best Contractor

1. Boh Bros. Construction Co. (730 S. Tonti St., 821-2400) -- As New Orleans' largest construction company and in its third generation as a leading contractor for Louisiana, Boh Bros. has enjoyed success and stability for decades. Contracting hundreds of projects per year, both industrial and commercial, the company now services most if not all of the Gulf South.

2. Gibbs Construction (736 Citrus Blvd., 733-4336; www.gibbsconstruction.net)

3. Carriere-Stumm Inc. (4034 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-8833; www.carriere-stumm.com) BONO-OpenMic 8-28-07 Photo by Cheryl Gerber Checkpoint Charlie open-mic-night host Jim Smith shows off his own talents during a Tuesday night session.

click to enlarge Best Place to Get a Manicure/Pedicure, Best Day Spa, Best - Place to Get a Massage and Best Place to Get a Facial: - Belladonna Day Spa - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Best Place to Get a Manicure/Pedicure, Best Day Spa, Best Place to Get a Massage and Best Place to Get a Facial: Belladonna Day Spa
click to enlarge Best Breakfast Spot and Best Late-Night Dining: Camellia - Grill - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Breakfast Spot and Best Late-Night Dining: Camellia Grill
click to enlarge Best Hotel Restaurant: Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Hotel Restaurant: Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar
click to enlarge Best Place to Buy Jeans: Jean Therapy - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Place to Board Your Pet: Zeus' Place
  • Best Place to Board Your Pet: Zeus' Place
click to enlarge Best Community/Environmental Activist: Brad Pitt - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Best Place to Get Pizza and Best Restaurant That Delivers: - Reginelli's Pizzeria - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Place to Get Pizza and Best Restaurant That Delivers: Reginelli's Pizzeria
click to enlarge Best Deli, Best Place to Buy Wine and Best Liquor Store: - Martin Wine Cellar - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Local Big Easy Rollergirl: Pontchartrain BeAtch - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Locally Owned Bookstore: Octavia Books - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Place to Get a Margarita and Best Happy Hour: Superior - Grill - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best Place to Get a Margarita and Best Happy Hour: Superior Grill
click to enlarge Best Pothole to Avoid: Washington Avenue and Magazine - Street - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Neighborhood Bar: Finn McCool's Irish Pub - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Best Local Theater Actor: Ricky Graham
  • Best Local Theater Actor: Ricky Graham
click to enlarge Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months: The Police
  • Best Live Music Show in the Last 12 Months: The Police
click to enlarge Best Hornets Player: Chris Paul - NBA PHOTOS]
  • NBA Photos]
  • Best Hornets Player: Chris Paul
click to enlarge Best Women's Clothing Store and Best Place to Buy Evening - Wear: Saks Fifth Avenue - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best New Orleans City Council Member: Arnie Fielkow - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Best New Orleans City Council Member: Arnie Fielkow
click to enlarge Best Latin American Restaurant: Baru Cafe - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Consignment Shop: Prima Donna's Closet - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
click to enlarge Best Sno-ball Stand: Plum Street Snoball - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Best Local Jazz Band/Artist: Kermit Ruffins - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Best Live Theater Venue: Le Chat Noir - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Lil' Wayne - CASH MONEY RECORDS
  • Cash Money Records
  • Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Lil' Wayne
click to enlarge Best Kenner Restaurant: Le Parvenu - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
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