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As the final medals are hung on the Bejing games' strongest, fastest and brightest competitors, the quest for gold standards continues right here in New Orleans. The 2008 Best of New Orleans honorees exhibit true excellence and are justly rewarded in our medal round.

Gambit Weekly pooled the top judges in all categories: our readers. We asked them to score the best of the best in the city. They weighed in on everything from chefs to Saints, politicians to plastic surgeons, cakes to tires, spas to clubs. We've tabulated the results and recognize the winners of gold, silver and bronze in every category.

We salute the winners, invite everyone to check out the competition and look forward to another year of the best of New Orleans. Let the games begin.

Entertainment and Nightlife

Best Live Theater Venue

1. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre (616 Saint Peter St., 522-2081; www.lepetittheatre.com) " Tucked away in the heart of the Quarter, on a dead-end elbow of road that faces Andrew Jackson and his steed in the Place d'Armes, this little theater has steadfastly glammed up the old square since the Drawing Room Players founded it as a community playhouse in 1916. The 2008-09 schedule shows no signs of slowing the pace, with Broadway favorites (Rent, The Producers) and Pulitzer Prize winners (Crimes of the Heart) among the scheduled productions.

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

3. Southern Repertory Theater (The Shops at Canal Place, 365 Canal St., 522-6545, www.southernrep.com)

Best Local Theater Actor

1. Ricky Graham " This category, along with its female counterpart, is nearing lifetime-achievement status for perpetual victors Ricky Graham and Becky Allen, who soon might find themselves exempt from competition just to give other thespians a fighting chance. Each win is well deserved, however, as the two stage sages work a crowd like no others. Graham never stops working: on holiday on Cape Cod with main squeeze Varla Jean Merman, he's staging a late-summer run of Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte! in Provincetown.

2. Sean Patterson

3. John 'Spud" McConnell

Best Local Theater Actress

1. Becky Allen " Besides making Susan Luccis out of every other deserving actress in town, Allen is having an August to remember. She graced Teatro Wego as The Queen of Bingo earlier this month, and currently stars in both Hot Flashes at Le Petit Theatre's Muriel's Cabaret and another dinner-theater production, Nunsense A-Men, at the Harahan Lions Club. A sign of Allen's unmatched prolificacy: all are repeat roles, as is this award by Gambit readers.

2. Veronica Russell

3. (TIE) Cammie West

3. (TIE) Lara Grice

Best New Club/Bar

1. Le Phare (523 Gravier St., 636-1891; www.lepharenola.com) " A sleek, modern space with style to burn, this Gravier Street newcomer immediately endeared itself to the well-heeled CBD crowd with a spate of regular enticements: Tuesday night salsa dancing, Wednesday-Friday happy hours and assorted art, music and film happenings on weekends. Midweek eye-catchers include DJ Damion Yancy's 'The Good Life" residency on Thursdays and 'Blush," a Wednesday grab-bag that has featured everything from Style Lab fashion shows to Vespa showcases by the Transportation Revolution.

2. Mid City Yacht Club (440 S. St. Patrick St., 483-2517; www.midcityyachtclub.com)

3. Pravda (1113 Decatur St., 525-1818; www.myspace.com/pravdaofnola)

Best Dive Bar

1. Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge (7612 Oak St., 861-2802; www.snakeandjakes.com) " Take heart, Snake & Jake's: Christmas Clubbers still smarting from Gambit's exclusion of their favorite dive from June's 'Best 50 Bars" issue made amends here, voting your late-night icon tops among those joints where necessities such as dollar beers and bartenders who drink with you make it a favorite watering hole. Just don't take off your clothes and expect anything more than a free ride to Orleans Parish Prison.

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

3. The Saint (961 Saint Mary St., 523-0050; thesaintneworleans.com)

Best Dance Club

1. Republic New Orleans (828 S Peters St., 528-8282; www.republicnola.com) " Winner of 2007's Best New Club category, Republic shows some range with this second award. The club has diversified its late-night portfolio, deftly mixing indie-rock shows into its schedule of popular 'Throwback" Fridays and balancing populist DJ dance nights with primped-and-crimped, after-hours private events. It's proof positive that fans of Old Wave, new rave, glossy pop and classic hip-hop can all get down under the same roof.

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

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

Best Sports Bar

1. Cooter Brown's (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) " How do we love thee, Cooter Brown's? Let us count the ways: more than 200 bottled beers and 42 drafts representing 35 countries; 16 hi-def plasma screens showing hundreds of football, baseball or basketball games every week; and all the oysters " fried or glistening on the half shell " that our bivalve-binging gullets can manage. Or shall we just compare thee to a New Orleans summer's day? Thou art more lively, and certainly more temperate.

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

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

Best College Hangout

1. Bruno's Tavern (7538 Maple St., 861-7615; www.brunostavern.com) " What makes a great college hangout? Bruno's knows. How else to explain the crowds that flock to this Maple Street staple for LSU Saturdays and Saints Sundays, or the weekend nights, when it's crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with Tulane and Loyola students? Perhaps the collegiate appeal is best summarized by the signature French fries, which come adorned with a pantry-purging assortment of oddities: roast beef, pecans, golden raisins and blue cheese. It's perfect for padding a bellyful of booze " er, fueling an all-nighter during finals.

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

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

Best Gay Bar

1. Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491; www.ozneworleans.com) " Somewhere under the rainbow lies Oz, Bourbon Street's bastion of gay culture. The club, ground zero for Southern Decadence, can actually back up its 'World Famous" claims. It's been recognized by Details magazine as one of America's top 50 party spots, and it's the home base in New Orleans for out-and-proud nighthawks. The balcony is the spot to let it all hang out, figuratively or " if you're so inclined and can make bail " literally.

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

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

Best Neighborhood Bar

1. St. Joe's Bar (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) " Don't let the dozens of crucifixes dangling over your head dissuade you from ordering that fourth St. Joe's mojito. Chances are, if you live Uptown or in the Irish Channel, the bar is a short amble " or, depending on your tab, stumble " from your doorstep. The rear courtyard is a virtual town hall for Magazine Street denizens, who have no shortage of dark venues from which to choose for their, ahem, civic meetings.

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

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

Best Hotel Bar

1. The Carousel Bar (Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com) " Hotels house many of New Orleans' favorite watering holes. And why not? They employ people just to open your door, the bathrooms are always spic-and-span and, should you exceed your alcohol threshold, there's always a comfy bed just an elevator ride away. At Hotel Monteleone's The Carousel Bar, you get all this with your drinks and more: tickled ivories, tony environs and a center that rotates 360 degrees. Be careful, or you could find yourself living there.

2. Whiskey Blue (W Hotel, 333 Poydras St., 207-5016)

3. The Swizzle Stick (Loews Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 636-3300; www.loewshotels.com)

Best Gentlemen's/Strip Club

1. Rick's Cabaret (315 Bourbon St., 524-4222; www.ricks.com) " Going to Rick's for anything resembling 'cabaret" could be the new generation's version of subscribing to Playboy for the articles. Yeah, whatever. It's the allure of scantily clad women that draws Bourbon Street stumblers into this palace of pleasure, of course, and the French Quarter institution has some of the finest and friendliest exotic dancers in the city.

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

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

Best Happy Hour

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) " Superior was the mid-afternoon drinking spot on St. Charles Avenue even before it added a see-through garage-door-like apparatus to its popular patio. Now, the competition is not even close. The hours will be even happier when the mercury dips south of 80 and the restaurant/bar rolls up the walls to let in the late-day breezes. It's also one of the few places you can get a premium frozen margarita.

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

3. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; http://bulldog.draftfreak.com)

Best Cheap Drinks

1. Ms. Mae's (4336 Magazine St., 218-8035) " People who appreciate a late-night libation fretted when news spread about the fire that ravaged Ms. Mae's last year, closing the previously uncloseable dive for repairs. Would we have to go back to paying $6 for 6 a.m. well whiskey at some other, more profit-minded institution? Fear not, booze-for-breakfast crowd. Your Early Times is still available at the earliest times " and still for less than nondistilled grains (i.e., cereal).

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

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

Best Place to Dance to a Live Band

1. Tipitina's (504 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) " Late-night sweaty funk jams at Tipitina's are more than just parties; they're a decades-old tradition that is practically mandatory for anyone who wants to truly earn their 504 area code. The after-midnight shows during Jazz Fest " which have become early-morning dance parties on the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground " are the stuff of legends.

2. Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St., 866-9359 or 866-5323)

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 (624 Bourbon St., 588-2744; www.patobriens.com) " Before hurricanes became something to fear instead of something that made us want to have a party, the fastest way to engender an outsider to the local lifestyle involved Pat O's courtyard and uncertain ratios of rum and fruit juice. Its PTSD-triggering name notwithstanding, the signature blood-colored cocktail remains as popular as ever in the Quarter's craziest backyard, where the torches aren't the only things getting lit on a regular basis.

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

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

Best Bathroom Graffiti

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 522-8450; www.portofcallneworleans.com) " While the most, um, colorful restroom-wall art is usually found in the gents' stalls, the downtown burger-and-baked-potato outpost scored points for its ladies' room, which features a makeshift decoupage wallpaper made from cut-up National Geographic magazines " each decorated with the requisite additions in ink, natch.

2. Mimi's in the Marigny (2601 Royal St., 872-9868; www.myspace.com/mimis_marigny)

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

Best Movie Theater

1. Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 891-6412; www.theprytania.com) " There's a not-so-small satisfaction that comes in patronizing the Prytania, New Orleans' last independent movie house " and the last single-screen theater in Louisiana. It's a throwback to the days when neighborhood film palaces trumped the AMC multiplex variety. While most of those have either burned down or closed, this little-theater-that-could is keeping the 'Let's All Go to the Lobby" tradition alive, one flickering light at a time.

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

3. Landmark Canal Place Cinema (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 363-1117; www.landmarktheatres.com

Best Place to See Stand-Up Comedy

1. Harrah's Theatre (228 Poydras St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) " When it's not hosting popular touring productions like the martial-arts theatrics of 'Jungua" or the female-impersonation revue 'Glitz," Harrah's Theatre has served as home to some of the best touring comedians.

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

3. La Nuit Comedy Theater (2301 Soniat St., 899-0336; www.lanuittheater.com)

Best Place to Shoot Pool

1. The Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 731-6000; www.tentcorp.com) " Fox & Hound traded places with the venerable choice, Cooter Brown's, in this year's polling, an acknowledgment of the Metairie bar and grill's plush and lush nine tables to go along with its equally spacious bar and dining rooms.

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

3. The Mayfair (1505 Amelia St., 895-9163)

Best Place to Karaoke

1. Cat's Meow (701 Bourbon St., 523-3492; www.701bourbon.com) " With six full bars and a namesake drink that hearkens the Hurricane, Cat's Meow knows full well the definition of 'liquid courage" when it comes to inspiring visitors and locals to get up onstage and sing it 'My Way." Its song catalogue is as formidably impressive as the perfect balcony perch. This perennial winner " thanks in part to its video cam " has become known around the world, even if its warbling participants haven't.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Bloody Mary

1. Pat O'Brien's (624 Bourbon St., 588-2744; www.patobriens.com) " Yes, we know that the drink that made Pat O'Brien's famous is that toxic shock of a cocktail, the Hurricane. But when you consider the grandeur of Pat O's 4,000-square-foot patio, what better way to absorb the Old World charm of the French Quarter than with a good old-fashioned Bloody Mary amid the bricks, wrought iron and flaming fountain. Bloody good time.

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

3. Superdome (1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, 587-3663; www.superdome.com)

Best Place to Get a Mojito

1. St. Joe's Bar (5535 Magazine St., 899-3744) " If you can't think of a fresher summer cocktail than the mojito, regulars can't think of a better place to enjoy one than the nationally recognized blueberry mojito at St. Joe's. Not satisfied with just the minty spark of a regular mojito, the blueberry mojito ups the sweetness factor. Bartenders at St. Joe's marvel at the domino effect of just one order of a mojito: 'It gets contagious," one bartender claims. 'Someone will see someone else order it, and they'll order one."

2. Bridge Lounge (1201 Magazine St., 299-1888)

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

Best Place to Get a Margarita

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) " Let's face it, anyone can make a margarita. But it takes a special place with a special location and a special happy hour to deliver the goods on a consistent basis. Superior Grill earns its name with what is considered one of the area's most extensive margarita lists. The range is vast, too, from top-shelf ('Designer") to run-of-the-mill. And the flavors rock, with sangria as a unique choice.

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

3. Nacho Mama's (3242 Magazine St., 899-0031; www.nachomamasneworleans.com)

Best Place to Get a Martini

1. The Bombay Club Restaurant & Martini Bistro (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) " The sheer number of martinis at the Bombay Club " 115 total " is intimidating enough. Then you start to see how that number plays out, in sophisticated fashion. There's the Pink Pearl (with a dash of grapefruit juice), the Cajun King Martini (don't forget the Tabasco olives) and the Twister (orange and cranberry juice), all of which are admirable updates of a venerable drink.

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

3. Sweet Fire and Ice (701 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-3437)

Best Place to Get Wine By The Glass

1. W.I.N.O. (610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000; www.winoschool.com) " The Wine Institute of New Orleans isn't so punch-drunk by its acronym that it hasn't figured out how to raise a new generation of oenophiles. All those wine classes have paid off as W.I.N.O. surpassed perennial favorite the Delachaise this year as the best place to get wine by the glass. The state-of-the-art wine-serving system allows guests to taste 80 different wines by the ounce before making an ultimate commitment.

2. The Delachaise (442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com)

3. Martin Wine Cellar (3500 Magazine St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-951-808; www.martinwine.com)

Best Beer Selection

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; bulldog.draftfreak.com) " A competition that rivals anything the SEC has to offer features the Bulldog coming out on top once again with its massive selection of ales, lagers and combinations (steam or wheat). Spaten rules the German draft selections, while you have to love the Belgian Lindemans bottle options.

2. Cooter Brown's (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 " Whether it's the Amber, Golden, Restoration Ale, Light or the exotic Purple Haze, Abita has become the beer of Louisiana " rich in flavor, body and, now, history. It's ever-expanding line of beers " soon to include Andygator in a large bottle " is replacing the area's old means of beer choice. New Orleans once was home to some 30 breweries, mostly producing light-bodied lagers and pilsners. Abita is still growing in production, but its craft-brewing mission is churning out more styles than ever before " now more than 20. Just stop by the brewery's new luxe tasting room to see what's on tap.

2. Dixie

3. Budweiser

Best Casino

1. Harrah's (228 Poydras St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) " With Harrah's, it's not just about the slots, although locals love the convenience of seeking their fortunes at the foot of Canal Street. New Orleanians and tourists could spend a whole day (and night) at Harrah's, thanks in part to John Besh's high-end steakhouse, the entertainment and nightclub offerings at Harrah's Theatre and Masquerade, and special touring events that come through town. For sheer fun, Harrah's is a safe bet.

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

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

Best Live Music Venue

1. Tipitina's (504 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) " From its humble beginnings as a musical clubhouse for 14 like-minded friends to its current status as a charitable powerhouse for New Orleans artists, Tip's has held on strong to its position as the city's premier independent music club for 30 years. A generation of musicians " including Troy Andrews and Amanda Shaw " came of age under the beatific mural of Professor Longhair. Now, with multiple educational programs and frequent 'homegrown" music showcases, a new era of young artists is being nurtured on the legendary stage.

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

3. The Maple Leaf (8316 Oak St., 866-9359 or 866-5323)

Best Place to Hear Free Live Music

1. Lafayette Square (601 S. Maestri Place, 581-1039; www.wednesdayatthesquare.com) 'Free" is the magic word, but at the Young Leadership Council's Wednesday at the Square concert series, it's hard to believe you get the quality of music you do without buying a concert ticket or paying a cover charge. When spring weather rolls around, CBD workers can drift out of their offices and into a party that features cocktails and snacks from multiple New Orleans eateries, plus a bazaar showcasing the work of local artisans. And the musical acts are top-flight: Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville, Eric Lindell and the Pine Leaf Boys all have rocked happy hour under the leafy canopy of Lafayette Square.

2. French Quarter Festival (Woldenberg Park; www.fqfi.org)

3. Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 897-3448; www.myspace.com/4801magazine)

Best Live Music Show In The Last 12 Months

1. Michael Bublé " The best live music show in New Orleans of the past year came courtesy of a Canadian? Not so hard to believe when you listen to Bublé's Grammy-winning brand of slick, big-band pop and swing. It's a perfect fit for a city that produced the swank crooner Harry Connick Jr. The neo-Rat Packer shone like Dean Martin's Brylcreemed coif at the New Orleans Arena in February, showing his playful humor and laying down swinging classics.

2. E.O.E.

3. Radiators 30th Anniversary

Best Jazz Fest Performance 2008

1. Stevie Wonder " Stevie Wonder's first Jazz Fest spot since 1973 " when he showed up for an impromptu jam with the Meters " was a long time coming, and did not disappoint the legions of fans who cheered through intermittent rain showers at the Acura Stage. Wonder's daughter, Aisha Morris, accompanied her dad through an eclectic set of soul-fried selections from his formidable catalog.

2. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

3. Billy Joel

Best Local Rock Band/Artist

1. Cowboy Mouth " The unabashed good-time rockers have remained at the top of the local heap for more than 15 years. The group is powered by the exhortations of drummer/bandleader Fred LeBlanc, whose goal is to make the audience sweat as much as he does, especially to Cowboy Mouth's signature hit, 'Jenny Says." At the end of '07, the band released its first full-length album, The Name of the Band is Cowboy Mouth, which caught the band delivering NOLA-style rockness at the Roxy in Los Angeles " LA to L.A. in the best possible way.

2. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes

3. Better Than Ezra

Best New Local Band

1. E.O.E. " Formerly incarnated as the socially conscious world fusion outfit Atman Roots, E.O.E. re-emerged with a new, improvisational sound that blends global rhythm with hip-hop and experimental jazz. Its musical commentary on the George W. Bush administration says it all in its patois title: 'Him Crazy Man."

2. The Vettes

3. High Ground Drifters

Best Local Jazz Band/Artist

1. Kermit Ruffins " The former Rebirth Brass Band horn-tooter has trumpeted his way into New Orleans' pantheon of greats with feel-good weekly gigs full of smoke (barbecue and other) and swing. Ruffins now holds court at his recently purchased club, Sidney's Saloon, on St. Bernard Avenue in the heart of Treme.

2. Trombone Shorty

3. Irvin Mayfield

Best Cajun/Zydeco Band/Artist

1. Rockin' Dopsie Jr. " Rockin' Dopsie Jr. fronts his Zydeco Twisters with a washboard " unusual in zydeco, where the bandleader usually plays an accordion " and a bushel of flamboyant attitude that earned him the title 'Mick Jagger of the Marsh." With performances that are utter explosions of Creole funk, Dopsie carries the torch for the traditional sound " staying true to the music's bayou heritage while electrifying it with contemporary energy.

2. Amanda Shaw

3. Zydepunks

Best Local Brass Band

1. Rebirth Brass Band " The mighty Rebirth holds steady at the top after a quarter-century of bass-heavy second-line rhythms and funky innovations to the traditional street-parade sound. The brothers Frazier celebrated their milestone anniversary this year with a Jazz Fest-timed (and aptly named) release, 25.

2. Soul Rebels

3. Hot 8 Brass Band

Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

1. Lil' Wayne " From Hollygrove to Hot Boy to putative Best Rapper Alive, Dwayne Michael Carter truly (trilli?) arrived this year with a slew of mix tapes topped off with the multi-platinum cherry that was June's hotly awaited Tha Carter III " an eclectic tour de force of club bangers, radio candy and genuine weirdness. Weezy F. Baby " the world is your erster.

2. Ballzack

3. Juvenile

Best DJ/Electronica Artist

1. DJ Soul Sister " The stalwart DJ Soul Sister is New Orleans' queen of the right-on party situation, with her weekly Soul Power radio spot on WWOZ-FM buttressed by three live sets of deep funk and rare groove each week. This year, she reached new heights with a London gig, a profile in Wax Poetics magazine and a turn spinning at Essence Fest. Her newest party is the Friday-night banger 'Enjoy" at Takumi restaurant on Magazine Street and Washington Avenue.

2. Beverly Skillz

3. Damion Yancy

Food/Restaurants

Best New Restaurant

1. Patois (6078 Laurel St., 895-9441; www.patoisnola.com) " Filled with the rich history of its renovated space (Norby's po-boy shop once ruled here), Patois took over the more recent venture (Nardo's) and has become a hit with New Orleanians. That's mainly due to chef Aaron Burgau's contemporary Louisiana approach that pulls from French, Italian and Spanish influences. Come for the pork chop stuffed with homemade Cajun boudin; stay for the late-night bar scene.

2. Bistro Daisy (5831 Magazine St., 899-6987)

3. (TIE) Vizard's (5015 Magazine St., 529-9912)

3. (TIE) Arabesque (127 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-7233; www.arabesque-nola.com)

Best New Orleans Restaurant

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " Located in a Victorian house that once was a bordello, Commander's history is as rich as its food. The restaurant is one of New Orleans' (and hence, the world's) most famous restaurants, an ongoing tribute to haute Creole cuisine. Once the home of such great chefs as Emeril Lagasse and the late Jamie Shannon, Commander's is now helmed by up-and-comer Tory McPhail. Sunday Brunch was never better.

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

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

Best Metairie Restaurant

1. Drago's (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; www.dragosrestaurant.com) " There is a wide variety of restaurants and cuisines in Jefferson Parish, but it will come as no surprise to regulars at Drago's that readers voted this popular seafood eatery the best restaurant in Metairie. Dubbed the area's most popular seafood restaurant by Zagat in 2007, Drago's lives high on its reputation as the place to go for charbroiled oysters. Its lobster Marco is almost as popular.

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

3. Austin's (5101 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 888-5533; www.austinsno.com)

Best Kenner Restaurant

1. Le Parvenu (509 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 471-0534) " Chef/owner Dennis Hutley has made Le Parvenu one of the most charming reasons to visit historic Rivertown, with its French bistro ambience and its Creole cuisine. Diners can't get enough of his rich sauces and carefully prepared Louisiana seafood " the crab and shrimp bisque is a must " which keep it at the top of our readers' list.

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

3. Harbour Seafood & Oyster Bar (3203 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-6454)

Best Northshore Restaurant

1. Trey Yuen (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476; www.treyyuen.com) " The chefs Wong knew exactly what they were doing when they set up shop on the Northshore, adding a Louisiana sensibility to traditional and regional Chinese dishes. That's why you can enjoy fried soft-shell crab with Tong Cho sauce or crawfish in spicy lobster sauce. The pagoda-style building reminds everyone of the restaurant's inspiration, and the massive multi-course 'dynasty dinners" clearly made an impression on readers.

2. La Provence (25020 Hwy. 190, Lacombe, 985-626-7662; www.laprovencerestaurant.com)

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

Best West Bank Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 368-9846) " We had a funny feeling that readers would stick with Vietnamese as a winner for Best West Bank Restaurant, and despite all the options across the river, Pho Tau Bay remains the most recognizable. It has 20 different beef broth soups, and its light, refreshing spring rolls always get accolades.

2. Red Maple (1036 Lafayette St., Gretna, 367-0935)

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

Best Hotel Restaurant

1. Cafe Adelaide (Loews Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305; www.cafeadelaide.com) " There was a time when hotel restaurants were an afterthought, a place to stop on the way out or the way back in from a day of sightseeing, and mostly because of convenience and not excellent cuisine. Restaurants like the Brennan family's Café Adelaide, however, have dramatically changed that perception, with chef Chris Lusk's flair for Southern and contemporary Louisiana specialties making the eatery a destination for tourists and locals alike. Be sure you check out the new chef's corn-crusted redfish and crawfish.

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

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

Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness (3511 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; www.fivehappiness.com) " Considering how reliable this Mid-City mainstay has been for two decades, you can imagine how relieved New Orleanians were when Five Happiness renovated and reopened after Hurricane Katrina, banquet hall and all. We knew locals couldn't get through the week without the famous Triple Dragon of beef, chicken and shrimp, all swimming in hot garlic sauce.

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

3. China Rose (3501 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 887-3295; www.chinaroseno.com)

Best Creole Restaurant

1. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; www.jacquesimoscafe.com) " Deciding on Best Creole Restaurant in New Orleans is like choosing Best Piano Player. It's a matter of whose style an individual likes the most. It's no surprise that defending champ Jacques-Imo's stood out with readers who like their Creole delivered with a little kick. Jack Leonardi is nothing if not inventive as is evident in his alligator sausage cheesecake and his audacious fried roast beef po-boy. It's always a party with Leonardi, whose cooking is as colorful as his Bermuda shorts.

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

3. Dick & Jenny's (4501 Tchoupitoulas St., 894-9880; www.dickandjennys.com)

Best Italian Restaurant

1. Vincent's (7839 St. Charles Ave., 866-9313; www.vincentsitaliancuisine.com) " It should come as no surprise that the winner of Best Italian Restaurant would have a little Creole influence, which is the case at Vincent's (on top for the sixth straight year). That's why we love its corn and crabmeat bisque. Vincent's also respects traditional Italian dishes such as veal Florentine and homemade Italian sausage.

2. Venezia (134 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-7991; 587 Central Ave., Jefferson, 734-3991; www.venezianeworleans.com)

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

Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

1. Sake Café (2830 Magazine St., 894-0033) " Maybe it's the added mojo of being housed in an old K&B pharmacy that helped Sake Café Uptown earn its award, but the restaurant doesn't need much help in delivering its mesmerizing sashimi offerings at the sushi bar. Then there are seafood dishes such as the crispy fillet of grouper served with sweet chili sauce.

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

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

Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Baru Bistro & Tapas (3700 Magazine St., 895-2225) " Baru continues to make its mark after its relatively recent emergence on the New Orleans dining scene. It's a bit of a Latin-American hodgepodge, marrying Colombian cooking with a Caribbean flare, hence the cazuela bouillabaisse with mussels, clams and shrimp in a garlic broth.

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

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

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

1. Mona's (3901 Banks St., 482-0661) " In another rivalry of the city's best in Mediterranean offerings, Mona's reclaims the top spot, and not just because of its go-to servings of falafel, gyros, hummus and kebabs. Mona's also keeps shoppers happy with its grocery next door to its Mid-City location.

2. Byblos (3218 Magazine St., 894-1233; 1501 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-9773; www.byblosrestaurants.com)

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

Best Mexican Restaurant

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) " To show its superiority, this grill leaped from third to first this year, no doubt impressing happy-hour fans with its famous drink specials and margaritas. But you also have to eat, and Superior has earned a following with its parillada mixta platter for two: mesquite-grilled beef and chicken fajitas, shrimp and baby-back ribs.

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

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

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

1. Liuzza's (3636 Bienville St., 482-9120; www.liuzzas.com) " Yet another Mid-City landmark that just had to reopen after the flood, this 60-year-old institution is still exuding that hard-to-define neighborhood charm. The Frenchuletta spin on the muffuletta, the French fry po-boy, the rich-roux gumbo, filling entrees like the grilled calf liver with smothered onions and brown gravy " yes, this is a neighborhood restaurant. Actually, we think part of its popularity comes from its bulbous, frosted beer mugs.

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

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

Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood (1713 Lake Ave., Bucktown, 831-4141; 841 Iberville St., 581-1316; www.deanies.com) " Deanie's is the very definition of a New Orleans seafood restaurant, with fresh catches delivered every which way " fried, broiled, sautéed, stuffed, you name it. That freshness is aided by the seafood market next door. You need that kind of back-up with monsters like the seafood platter, which has enough shrimp, oysters, catfish, soft-shell crab, crawfish balls and French fries to feed four hungry people.

2. Drago's (3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 888-9254; 2 Poydras St., 584-3911; www.dragosrestaurant.com)

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

Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0600) At 84 years old, chef/co-owner Leah Chase had nothing to prove in reopening one of the world's most famous Creole restaurants, which originally started serving diners in 1941. But she came back from Katrina anyway, first for takeout and special events and now for early dinners. She's always ready to serve up spicy stuffed shrimp, rich gumbo and fried chicken.

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

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; Harrah's Hotel, 525 Fulton St., 533-6000; www.ruthschris.com) " New Orleanians still weep for the closing of the Mid-City Ruth's Chris, which didn't survive Katrina, but they continually flock to the Metairie location of the renowned steakhouse, which is famous for steaks sizzling in butter. The company headquarters moved to Florida, but locals remember that it all started here, and from the porterhouse to the petite filet, Ruth's still brings the beef. (If you find yourself downtown when you're jonesing for a steak, you can check out the new Ruth's Chris location in Harrah's Hotel.)

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. La Thai Cuisine (933 Metairie Road, Metairie, 828-3080; 4938 Prytania St., 899-8886; www.lathaiuptown.com) " A surprise winner this year, La Thai didn't even place in last year's readers' poll. But maybe that's because not everyone had yet tried the panko-crusted Chilean sea bass with spicy coconut green curry, jumbo lump crabmeat, sautéed veggies and jasmine rice. Those and the restaurant's more traditional Thai dishes convinced Gambit readers that the eatery deserves a place among New Orleans' Thai elite.

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

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

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 368-9846) " Considering the West Bank's vibrant Vietnamese community, it makes sense that the best West Bank restaurant is also the area's best Vietnamese restaurant. It's all about the pho at this longstanding favorite, but the spring rolls and super-affordable sandwiches are popular, too.

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

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

Best Breakfast Spot

1. Bluebird Cafe (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166) " There's a reason for the long line that pushes out the door and down the sidewalk in front of this Prytania Street restaurant. It makes us wonder who hasn't had breakfast at the Bluebird (which actually inspired a similar restaurant up in Atlanta), with its famed huevos rancheros, migas and buckwheat pancakes. They're all served by a hip, young staff and even a large meal won't break the bank.

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

3. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679; www.camelliagrill.net)

Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " We can't think of a more traditional, more New Orleans, more historic pick for Best Brunch than the mothership that is Commander's Palace. This defending champion features a jazz combo that plays traditional favorites, and Bloody Marys and mimosas that take the edge off a groggy Sunday morning. Dishes like the bourbon-lacquered Mississippi quail keep regulars coming back.

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

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

Best Lunch Specials

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " For a restaurant that is considered one of the crown jewels of New Orleans dining, Commander's Palace delivers something of a bargain at lunch. One thing that lures midday diners is the 25-cent martini (liquid lunch), but the lunch specials also draw heavy praise for their modest prices, generous portions and typical Commander's quality.

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

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

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679; www.camelliagrill.net) " The reopening " really, the saving " of Camellia Grill is one of the truly great post-Katrina success stories, if for no other reason than it continued a late-night dining ritual in Riverbend that speaks to a bygone era. A classic diner, Camellia Grill features jovial servers in uniforms, who call out customers' order to the line cook behind them. This is where people who are winding down like to top off the night with a dessert, an early-morning omelet or a late-night burger (depending on how you look at the time).

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

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

Best Place to Feed the Whole Family

1. Picadilly (citywide; www.piccadilly.com) " There are those of us who will swear that Piccadilly's fried chicken is competitive with some of the more famous soul-food restaurants in town, and that's just the tip of the dining iceberg at this popular cafeteria chain. This moveable feast keeps diners moving happily down the line " happy, that is, if they can make up their minds among the countless offerings of salads, soups, entrees, desserts and lunch specials.

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

3. Popeyes (citywide; www.popeyes.com)

Best Place to Get a Cajun Dish

1. Mulate's (201 Julia St., 522-1492; www.mulates.com) " In a city that has long struggled to keep up with the Cajun heritage of southwest Louisiana, New Orleans has some of its own Cajun tradition smack-dab in the dining room at Mulate's. In the grandest tradition of an old-school Cajun restaurant, a large hall allows room for diners to expand their waistlines while making room for Cajun dancing, courtesy of groups such as Lee Benoit, La Touché and Bayou Deville. Dancing might be required after the restaurant's seafood platter with gumbo.

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

3. Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123; www.cochonrestaurant.com)

Best Cheap Eats

1. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com) " Those retired punk rockers from Atlanta have found the formula for success, inspired in part by those early DIY days, but offering dependable Mexican food for those on a budget. That their burritos are affordable is impressive enough, but their huge size and big taste make the Flying Burrito transcendent.

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

3. Camellia Grill (626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679; www.camellliagrill.net)

Best Menu For Vegetarians

1. Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; 3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) " The popular national grocery chain beat out defending champ Mona's this year, thanks to its stellar produce section and a deli that knows how to satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

2. Mona's (citywide)

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

Best Dessert and Where to Get It

1. Bread Pudding Soufflé at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " Shhhh. Soufflés are in the oven. This airy dessert has again risen to the top of local diners' list of dreamy sweets. All they need to do now is wait for the server to delicately puncture the top and spoon in the warm whiskey sauce. It's an elevated take on a simple classic.

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

3. Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding at Lilette (3637 Magazine St., 895-1636; www.liletterestaurant.com)

Best Buffet

1. Harrah's Casino (2 Poydras St., 533-6000; www.harrahs.com) " Sometimes we wonder if the folks at Harrah's are employing counter-intuitive logic by stocking their buffet with so many options " how are gamblers supposed to wager when they're so distracted by the food available? The Buffet seems to have as many serving stations as the casino has gambling options.

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

3. King Buffet (601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-4383; www.kingbuffet.net)

Best Wine List

1. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com) " At a time when New Orleans suffered from a surprising dearth of wine bars, the Delachaise opened along St. Charles Avenue and, despite some impressive competition (some of which are no longer around), it remains readers' favorite. It's the happiest blackboard jungle in town, with glasses and bottles of wine chalked up above the bar " reds, whites, bubbly and more are the reasons Gambit Weekly rated the Delachaise No. 4 in its '50 Top New Orleans Bars."

2. W.I.N.O. (610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000; www.winoschool.com)

3. Restaurant August (301 Tchoupitoulas St., 299-9777; www.restaurantaugust.com)

Best Chef

1. John Besh " First there was Restaurant August, which quickly rose to the top of New Orleans' dining institutions, then there was Besh Steakhouse, which serves prime cuts of beef to high rollers inside Harrah's Casino. Then Besh took over La Provence in Lacombe. With LÜke in the CBD " a brasserie serving German cuisine " the James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006 continues his ever-expanding cooking empire.

2. Susan Spicer

3. Emeril Lagasse

Best Outdoor Dining

1. Martinique Bistro (5908 Magazine St., 891-8495; www.martiniquebistro.com) " Like most hidden treasures, Martinique Bistro doesn't look like much to passersby on Magazine Street. But once you walk inside, you marvel at the flora and fauna and the iron patio chairs and tables " all set off by lighting that makes Martinique one of the most romantic dining experiences in town. Whiffs of jasmine top off this little slice of heaven.

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

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

Best Deli

1. Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; www.steinsdeli.net) " You have to hand it to Stein's: This year the Lower Garden District spot beat out a local legend in defending champ Martin Wine Cellar and a national powerhouse in Whole Foods Market to take the deli gold. Specialty meats such as the Molinari pancetta or the Biellese Mild Copa dazzle those looking for variety, but that's nothing compared to the 50 different cheeses from around the world at this Italian and Jewish deli.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com)

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

Best Place to Get Barbecue

1. Voodoo Bar-B-Q (1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; www.voodoobbqandgrill.com) " This year's order of finish matched that of last year, with Voodoo holding steady with its tried-and-true selection of traditional choices like ribs, pulled pork and brisket but also more daring grill offerings like the Caribbean jerk chicken " with all the sides and barbecue sauces that go with it.

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

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

Best Place to Get Boiled Seafood

1. The Galley (2535 Metairie Road, Metairie, 832-0955) " Old Metairie turns into Bucktown at The Galley, which shot past defending champ Deanie's this year in the Boiled Seafood category. The Galley sure knows how to heat up the water, and readers just love its boiled crawfish and shrimp. Its soft-shell crab po-boy is a Jazz Fest favorite.

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

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

Best Place to Get Barbecue Shrimp

1. Pascal's Manale (1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877) " When it comes to acknowledging the best place to get barbecue shrimp, New Orleanians figure it's best to go with where it all started " the legendary spot that opened in 1913 and lays claim to inventing the popular dish. The barbecue shrimp stay in their shell at Pascal's Manale, drowning in a peppery sauce that's as tangy as it is spicy.

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

3. Crazy Johnnie's (3520 18th St., 887-6641; www.crazyjohnnies.net)

Best Place to Get a Burger

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 522-8450; www.portofcallneworleans.com) " Just to be clear, New Orleans has tons of great burgers all over town that are served in widely different styles and sizes. But Port of Call remains the place where you can still find a line snaking out the door and down the sidewalk on Esplanade Avenue of people waiting to get a burger. Those half-pound patties are high-quality and always come served as ordered, and almost demand loaded baked potatoes as a side.

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

3. Bud's Broiler (citywide; www.budsbroiler.com)

Best Place to Get Fried Chicken

1. Popeyes (citywide; www.popeyes.com) " Only in New Orleans could a chain restaurant command so much respect " and deservedly so. Those of us who had to spend some of that dreaded evacuation time away from the city found ourselves flocking to whatever Popeyes we could find, searching for those mild or spicy boxes of Al Copeland's greatest gift to New Orleans.

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

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

Best Place to Get Gourmet-To-Go

1. Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; 3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) " Why doesn't Whole Foods just go ahead and set up its own restaurant, complete with maitre' d and serving staff, linen tablecloths and candles? There are plenty of us who have faked out our dates by having them come over for dinner and passing off Whole Foods' gourmet offerings as our own), but they know better. Sure, there are soups and salads, pizzas and burgers, but there also are plenty of other tasty dishes (salmon, in particular) that impress here.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com)

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

Best Place to Get Gumbo

1. Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; www.gumboshop.com) " The Gumbo Shop for Best Gumbo, seems like a no-brainer, right? Considering the heated competition around the city, the readers' choice of the Gumbo Shop deserves special attention. It's seafood-okra gumbo and chicken-andouille gumbo could give it the fuel it needs to win over readers' stomachs for years to come.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Muffuletta

1. Central Grocery (923 Decatur St., 620-0174) " Clearly our readers have long, long memories (and discriminating palates). It's plain to us that in picking Central Grocery, they are paying homage to the legacy of Salvatore Lupo, who opened the Decatur Street landmark in 1906 and gave birth to that curious New Orleans/Italian delicacy of olive salad, cured meats and circular loaves. The muffuletta remains a New Orleans culinary legend and is still made while you watch and served cold by the legendary grocery.

2. Nor-Joe's (505 Frisco Ave., Metairie, 833-9240)

3. DiMartino's (3900 Gen. Degaulle Drive, 367-0227; www.dimartinos.com)

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) " Acme Oyster House jumped two notches up to No. 1 among readers this year based on it's ability to deliver large, fresh bivalves on demand. Acme also offers a full menu of other seafood and New Orleans favorites to complement your oysters.

2. Drago's (3232 N. Arnoult Road, 888-9254; 2 Poydras St., 584-3911; www.dragosrestaurant.com)

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

Best Place to Get Pizza

1. Reginelli's (741 State St., 899-1414; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272; 5608 Citrus Blvd., Harahan, 818-0111; 874 Harrison Ave., 488-0133; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-6868; www.reginellis.com) " There's always a reason to name Reginelli's the tops in New Orleans; last year the local pizza chained earned a top honor from Pizza Today magazine, partly thanks to its triumphant return to the Lakefront and its move into Baton Rouge. Our readers' reason: the pizzeria's devotion to quality ingredients and gourmet pies, which add up to some mighty tasty pizzas.

2. Slice (1513 St. Charles Ave., 25-7437; www.slicepizzeria.com)

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

Best Place to Get Red Beans and Rice

1. Popeyes (citywide; www.popeyes.com) " Let's call it a package deal: With New Orleans' favorite fried chicken comes New Orleans' favorite red beans and rice. Creamy and filling, Popeyes red beans hit us right where we live.

2. Ignatius Eatery (4200 Magazine St., 896-2225)

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

Best Salad and Where to Get It

1. Jamaican Jerk Salad at Cafe Rani (2917 Magazine St., 895-2500) " Grilled chicken spiced with the heat of jerk sauce sits atop spinach with apple, grapes, raisins, walnuts and olives. It's garnished with sun-dried tomato and blue cheese, and is served with pepper jelly vinaigrette dressing on the side. No wonder this salad is tops with readers.

2. Sena Salad at Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer St., 896-7300; www.martinwine.com)

3. Spinach Salad at Zea (1525 St. Charles Ave., 520-8100; 4450 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-9090; 1655 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-0799; 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-7733; www.zearestaurants.com)

Best Place to Get an Oyster Po-Boy

1. Domilise's (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126) " In trading places with Acme Oyster House in the hearts of readers this year, Domilise's re-establishes its mark as a treasured neighborhood po-boy shop. The oysters are golden-fried and plentiful, served on the light and crisp Leidenheimer bread favored for po-boys.

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

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 Place to Get a Shrimp Po-Boy

1. Domilise's (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126) " Domilise's earns the Gambit Double Po-Boy Whammy Award by topping the readers' poll for best oyster and shrimp po-boy " no small feat given the competition. The neighborhood spot defends its title in this category, thanks to over-stuffed loaves of small, salty shrimp that sometimes are plentiful enough for a second po-boy.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Roast Beef Po-Boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047) " This renovated shack provides the very reason why roast beef po-boys can be a treasure. There's the garlic-infused meat, the tender cooking process and gravy with just enough debris to make a delightful mess without any regrets. That's a Parkway roast beef po-boy, and that's the kind New Orleanians love.

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

3. Parasol's (2533 Constance St., 897-5413; www.parasols.com)

Best Crépes and Where to Get Them

1. Crabmeat Crépe at Crépe Nanou (5002 Pitt St., 899-4827; www.lacrepenanou.com) " We've known for years that readers loooove the crepes at La Crépe Nanou (it's in the name, after all). But this year we found out exactly what kind of La Crépe Nanou crepe the readers love most. (OK, read on, there are actually two.) With its jumbo lump crabmeat in a Mornay sauce and served with creamed spinach on the side, this crépe is Nanou's priciest and most popular offering.

2. The Crépe Nanou at Crépe Nanou (5002 Pitt St., 899-4827; www.lacrepenanou.com)

3. Florentine Crepe at Coffea Cafe (3218 Dauphine St., 342-2484)

Best Place to Get Tacos

1. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950; www.juansflyingburrito.com) " Even the very welcome trend of the taco truck hasn't kept readers from bestowing this prize on their old favorite, Juan's Flying Burrito. We aren't sure whether it's because of the Juan's Tacos, the Americanos, the Pork 'n' Slaw, the Mardi Gras Indians or the Fish Tacos. (Maybe it's all of the above.)

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

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

Best Place to Get Salsa

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; www.superiorgrill.com) " Ask anyone what they like most about salsa, and they'll talk about (A) the freshness and (B) that little cilantro kick that breathes life into every bite. Superior Grill's salsa is made fresh daily with lots of veggies (tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro) that are grilled in the morning and then mixed together later in the day. It has even started bottling Superior Grill salsa at its Shreveport location, and it's available statewide.

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

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

Best Place to Get Bread Pudding

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " For kicks and giggles, try Googling 'Commander's Palace" and 'bread pudding." To make a long search short, let's just say that Commander's version is the very definition of bread pudding. There's just something about that exquisite mix of French bread, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and raisins (plus a dash of bourbon) that makes diners want to save room for dessert.

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

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

Best Place to Get Creme Bržlée

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com) " We love the finishing touch that Commander's Palace puts on its signature creme bržlée dessert: a fleur de lis symbol. What lies underneath is just as delightful, rich, creamy and decadent.

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

3. Vizard's (2203 St. Charles Ave., 529-9912; www.vizardsontheavenue.com)

Best Place to Get a Frozen Coffee Drink

1. PJ's (citywide; www.pjscoffee.com) " New Orleans is blessed with not one but two Louisiana coffeehouse chains, which has made this neck-and-neck battle for a frozen coffee drink a fun one to watch for years. PJ's gets the nod again this year with its famous granita, which is always sweet, always slushy and has a real caffeine kick.

2. CCs (citywide; www.ccscoffee.com)

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

Best Place to Get Ice Cream

1. Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania St., 894-8680; www.creolecreamery.com) " It takes a special ice cream shop to unseat the legendary Angelo Brocato's, but Creole Creamery is so popular that even some marriages got their courting start at this charming Uptown spot. We'll take the 'Tchoupitoulas Challenge," in which anyone who finishes the monster gets his or her name on the wall. If you can finish a sundae with eight scoops of ice cream and a choice of eight toppings, well, you're a winner, too.

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

3. Baskin Robbins (citywide; www.baskinrobbins.com)

Best Place to Get Gelato

1. Angelo Brocato's (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) " This Mid-City legend has been serving gelato to generations of New Orleanians for more than a century. If you ever dine Italian, this is the place to come for dessert, whether you favor spumoni, lemon ice or gelati and fresh fruits or nuts.

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

3. La Divina Gelateria (3005 Magazine St., 342-2634; www.ladivinagelateria.com)

Best Sno-Ball Stand

1. Plum Street Sno-balls (1300 Burdette Ave., 866-7996; www.plumstreetsnoball.com) " While Hansen's rightly made national news post-Katrina, Gambit readers once again have made their choice for Plum Street and its fruity flavors and creamy condensed-milk options. But that's not all; Plum Street's varied menu includes a coffee sno-ball and a nectar cream confection.

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

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

Best Coffeehouse

1. CC's (2917 Magazine St., 891-2115;www.ccscoffee.com) "The CC's on the edge of the Garden District is a sunny spot often crowded with people working on laptops, reading papers and spilling out into the courtyard it shares with Café Rani and a couple of other businesses. Full picture windows look out on Magazine Street, and there's the quieter and shadier back room looking out on the courtyard. It's easy to see why it's a popular place to work, meet friends or relax with a cup of coffee.

2. CC's (900 Jefferson Ave., 891-4969; www.ccscoffee.com)

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

Best Place to Get Pastries

1. La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine St., 269-3777) " French-inspired in a Francophile city, La Boulangerie serves up some of the flakiest croissants in New Orleans. The pastries come out just as fresh, sweet and tasty, starting early in the morning and lasting into the afternoon. The fruit tarts are a particular favorite.

2. Maurice French Pastries (4949 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 455-0830; www.mauricefrenchpastries.com)

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

Best Restaurant That Delivers

1. Reginelli's (citywide; www.reginellis.com) " With such a wide variety of Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired pizzas, it would be a shame to mandate that New Orleanians make a trip to Reginelli's locations. So the pizzeria brings the pies to us and has been duly rewarded with the readers' top pick.

2. Five Happiness (3511 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; fivehappiness.com)

3. Mikimoto Japanese Restaurant (3301 S. Carrollton Ave., 488-1881; www.mikimotosushi.com)

Politics

Best Local Legislator

1. Mary Landrieu " Louisiana's two-term U.S. senator topped the readers' lists as she gears up her re-election campaign, just as she hopes to top voters' ballots on Nov. 4. Landrieu has worked hard since Katrina, using both her seniority and her seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to bring home the bacon " and jobs and money for levees and infrastructure, which no doubt explains why she won this category.

2. State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans

3. State Rep. Walker Hines, D-New Orleans

Best New Orleans City Council Member

1. Arnie Fielkow " Who says rookies can't out-shine veterans? Fielkow, who wins this category for the second year in a row, continues to earn high marks as one of New Orleans' two at-large council members. Word has it he's looking intently at the next mayor's race, which is now less than 18 months away.

2. Stacy Head

3. Jackie Clarkson

Best Jefferson Parish Council Member

1. John Young " The popular Young flirted with running for Congress earlier this year, then opted to stay put. Apparently that decision sits well with our readers, who like him right where he is, as he is. Young also is the early favorite to succeed Parish President Aaron Broussard, who is term limited.

2. Tom Capella

3. Jennifer Sneed

Best Candidate For Indictment

1. Bill Jefferson " So many scoundrels, so little time. Ah, but 'Dollar Bill" Jefferson ran away with this one again! (He won last year, too.) We're not so sure he'll fare as well in his bid for re-election, though. He faces a field of six Democratic challengers, plus several independents. If he survives that gauntlet, he still faces federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Virginia, where he stands accused of 16 counts of bribery, fraud and racketeering.

2. Mayor Ray Nagin

3. Derrick Shepherd

Best Public Spat

1. Legislative pay raises " This is one category in which readers got their, um, money's worth out of politics. We can't recall another issue that generated such an outcry from citizens, bloggers and talk radio. One unusual aspect of this 'public spat" is that it wasn't between politicians, but between politicians and the people they're supposed to represent. The good news is that the people won. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who earlier had cut a deal to let the legislative pay raises slide, concluded it was safer to double-cross other pols than to two-time the voters. He vetoed the raise, and it's considered dead until after the next elections.

2. Nagin vs. Lee Zurik/WWL

3. City Council vs. Nagin

Best Local Scandal

1. Bill Jefferson " To say that Congressman Bill Jefferson is 'scandalized" is the understatement of the year. He faces 16 federal criminal counts (including fraud, bribery and racketeering) in northern Virginia, and several of his siblings (see the third-place finisher in this category) likewise face federal criminal charges here in New Orleans. When it comes to scandals, though, our readers put 'Dollar Bill" in a league all by himself.

2. David Vitter, the DC Madam and whores

3. Bill Jefferson's Family — Betty, Mose, et al.

Best One-Way Ticket for Mayor Nagin

1. Dallas " Our traveling mayor has earned a rest, according to our readers, who want to send him 'home" to his putative 'vacation home" in Dallas. For those counting down hizzoner's time left in office, it's now down to 20 months " after which he'll be free to move about the country but no longer on our dime.

2. Anywhere else

3. Hell

Best Reform We Still Need

1. Improve public schools " We'd like to say that this is good news, that local public schools have finally won 'first prize" at something but that's not quite the case. In fact, improving public education took first-place 'honors" in this category last year as well. The silver lining in all this is that local citizens appear to be more attuned to the needs and conditions of public schools than ever before, and that's a good first step.

2. A new mayor

3. Better levees

Best Do-Gooder

1. Gov. Bobby Jindal " Louisiana's new governor remains a favorite among readers, even if some of his 'reforms" strike insiders and analysts as a tad shallow. Then again, he could have won this one solely on the basis of vetoing the legislative pay raise.

2. Arnie Fielkow

3. Brad Pitt

Local Life Best Saints Player

1. Drew Brees " Maybe Deuce and Reggie split the running back vote. Or maybe Drew Brees beat out his backfield competition because, unlike those physical specimens, the vertically challenged quarterback's dimensions (209 lbs and a generous 6 feet) more closely resemble those of GAMBIT readers. More likely it's because " as opposed to New Orleans breezes, and with apologies to Stuart Scott " he's cooler in the pocket than the other side of the pillow.

2. Deuce McAllister

3. Reggie Bush

Best Hornets Player

1. Chris Paul " Was there ever any doubt? Last we checked, despite their solid contributions to the past year's playoff run, no one was shouting 'TC6!" or 'PS16!" from the stands. (Although Peja did have that hilarious running-headshot gig for a while.) With his dizzying skill set and clairvoyant court vision, Chris Paul isn't just the best current Hornets player " he's arguably the best one, period.

2. Tyson Chandler

3. Peja Stojakovic

Best Zephyrs Player

1. Brian Stokes " A new addition to the Mets farm system, Stokes made it to the final day of spring training with the parent club before being designated for assignment. His loss was New Orleans' gain, however, as his steady starts kept the Zephyrs within striking distance of first-place Oklahoma. In August, Stokes was called up to New York, where he's had modest success on the mound (9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and at the dish (2 hits in three plate appearances).

2. Jesus Feliciano

3. Valentino Pascucci

Best Voodoo Player

1. Danny Wimprine " Wimprine beat out Steve Bellisari for the starting quarterback position in 2008, and then you could say the University of Memphis grad ran with it: 85 touchdowns through the air, more than 4,000 yards and better than a 60 percent completion rating. The New Orleans native, a product of John T. Curtis High School, also left Memphis holding many of the major passing records, including completions (782), yards (9,891) and touchdowns (77).

2. Steve Bellisari

3. James Jordan

Best Local Author

1. Chris Rose " From the Bayou's Dave Barry to bona fide Pulitzer Prize contender: such was the developmental path of Rose during the past five years. The Times-Picayune fixture's columns were always good for a chuckle, but following Hurricane Katrina, his tremendous memoir 1 Dead in Attic became a compendium of tragedy and triumph, struggle and survival.

2. Anne Rice

3. Poppy Z. Brite

Best Local Artist

1. George Rodrigue " Whether you love or hate that inscrutable blue dog, Rodrigue is among the unquestionable contenders for artist laureate of New Orleans. His series of Cajun Country portraits captured the spirit of south Louisiana with remarkable delicacy, and his recent show at the New Orleans Museum of Art ranked among the institute's most popular exhibits ever.

2. James Michalopoulos

3. Frenchy

Best Museum

1. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, 658-4100; www.noma.org) " NOMA is the grande dame of NOLA exhibition spaces. The current displays, from a celebration of the Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero to a eulogy for the late Mississippi native and local artist Cole Pratt, reflect the breadth and depth of its curators. The rebounding Mid-City grounds are host to everything from the weekly Storyland children's events to the annual Voodoo Music Experience.

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

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

Best Art Gallery

1. Arthur Roger Gallery (432 Julia St., 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com) " With multiple exhibition spaces to bolster his case, perhaps Arthur Roger had an unfair advantage on his competition in this category. The trailblazer's Warehouse District art complex encompasses not one gallery but two: the elegant original on Julia Street, which moved from its first location on Magazine Street in 1988, and the Tchoupitoulas Street 'Project Space," a 2003 addendum inside the Renaissance Arts Hotel.

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

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

Best Art Market

1. Arts Market of New Orleans (Palmer Park, South Claiborne and South Carrollton avenues) " Searching for ancient NOPSI collector's items? Shingles embossed with fleur de lis? Painted street-tile name tags? Chances are you'll find them at this Palmer Park gathering, which specializes in New Orleans iconography made by local artisans and crafters. The monthly event also features a variety of area treats and plenty of entertainment for kids.

2. Bywater Art Market (Markey Park, Royal and Piety streets)

3. Freret Street Market (4400 block of Freret Street)

Best Place to Work Wireless (Outside Your Home/Office)

1. CC's Coffeehouse (citywide; www.ccscoffee.com) " The comfy local coffee chain has all the essentials for working portable: a blazing-fast WiFi network, leather-bound chairs and a wide assortment of leaded beverages. Of course, these are all reasons that you will get no work done at CC's, too: Internet time-wasters beckon, the chairs beg for reclining and, with just as many decaffeinated options, the lead is entirely optional.

2. PJ's Coffeehouse (citywide; www.pjscoffee.com)

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

Best Place For Family Fun

1. Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 581-4629; www.auduboninstitute.org) " Is there any other choice? From the elephants to the swamp exhibit, from the white alligator to the big cats, there's always something comfortingly familiar and other things that are brand-new at the zoo. Visitors love it as much as kids do (and there's no finer place in the city to play hookey from work " trust us). One sure sign that we're on the road to recovery: This year, for the first time since Katrina, the sea lion pool is open again. Welcome home, guys.

2. City Park

3. Audubon Park

Best Local 5k/10k Race

1. Crescent City Classic (www.ccc10K.com) " An Easter weekend tradition for 30 years, the CCC draws both local enthusiasts and professional athletes who run 6.2 miles through the streets of New Orleans. Starting in the French Quarter, the course goes through Tremé, Esplanade Ridge and Mid-City before ending in City Park. Since it's in New Orleans, there's also food, music and crazy costumes.

2. Red Dress Run (www.neworleanshash.tripod.com)

3. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (www.komen.org)

Best Golf Course

1. Audubon Golf Course (6500 Magazine St., 212-5290; www.auduboninstitute.org) " The links in Audubon Park are again our readers favorite golfing spot. There are gently sloping greens, four lagoons and centuries-old live oaks adorning the 62-par course. The park itself has been a golf destination for locals for more than a century.

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

3. City Park (1040 Filmore Ave., 483-9390; neworleanscitypark.com)

Best Tennis Courts

1. City Park (www.neworleanscitypark.com) " City Park's tennis courts reopened in 2006, but recent renovations have kept them at the top of our reader's list. The park recently resurfaced its 11 hard courts and 10 rubico (clay) courts. They're open for play from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

2. NOLTC (5353 Laurel St., 899-1574)

3. Audubon Park (Tchoupitoulas Street at Audubon Park, www.auduboninstitute.com)

Best Place to Get Married

1. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, 525-9585; www.stlouiscathedral.org) " Harry Connick Jr. did it. So did Al Copeland. And last month, WWL-TV's Lucy Bustamante did it, too. On a nice Saturday afternoon, when the black limousines pull up on the sidewalks around Jackson Square and the crowds gather to crane their necks in hopes of glimpsing the bride as she comes out, you can look at the faces of the young women watching and see the dream reflected in their eyes as well.

2. The Botanical Garden (City Park, 1 Palm Drive, 483-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com)

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

Best Local Big Easy Rollergirl

1. Pontchartrain BeAtch " Flat track roller derby fans again voted Pontchartrain BeAtch as their favorite rollergirl. Better known as Jordan Blanton, she's stepping down after two years as captain of the Crescent Wenches. But she'll still be burning up the track as the season gets rolling in September. She also was honored by the league, which voted her best captain and best 'Booty Blocker" at the end of last season. 'Wenches for life!" she says.

2. Archbishop Pummel

3. Stinky Lafitte

Best Place to Work Locally

1. Tulane Unversity (6823 St. Charles Ave., 862-8000; www.tulane.edu) " History, prestige, an intellectually stimulating environment, a diverse campus community, and a great benefits package are among the reasons Tulane employees feel theirs is the best workplace in the city. Not only do they get to attend classes tuition-free at the 174-year-old institution, but they receive a generous vacation package, insurance and retirement plan as well as working in beautiful surroundings Uptown or facilities in the bustling business/medical district downtown.

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

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

Best Place to Meet Nonlocals

1. Bourbon Street " They may be drunk, they may be messy, but they're almost always friendly " especially if you're buying. And they're easy to spot: Just look for the Mardi Gras beads worn in September, the yard dogs filled with Hurricanes, and (gulp) the open-toed shoes and sandals. (You might want to tell them why that last one is a bad idea on Bourbon Street.)

2. Pat O'Brien's (624 Bourbon St., 588-2744; www.patobriens.com)

3. Jazz Fest

Best Festival Outside New Orleans

1. Strawberry Festival (Pontchatoula) "Pontchatoula has its attractions during any season: antique stores, quaint restaurants and even Hardhide, the town alligator, who's on display downtown year-round. But in April, it's the town's strawberry crop that draws tens of thousands of fans for a weekend-long salute to the fruit, with music, food, a parade, a 10K run, and, of course, a Strawberry Queen.

2. Festival International (Lafayette )

3. Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tenn.)

Best Carnival Day Parade

1. Rex " The original Carnival daytime parade is still an annual favorite. The group's beautifully painted floats truly make them shine in the sun. This year's river theme was particularly majestic, with floats depicting the Mississippi and Atchafalya rivers as well as the Ganges and the mythical river Styx. Other details don't disappoint, from signature floats like the Boeuf Gras to the gold-painted hooves of the Captain's steed. All hail Rex.

2. Thoth

3. Zulu

Best Carnival Night Parade

1. Muses " Any parade that wants to dethrone the Krewe of Muses has big shoes to fill. With neon-colored wigs, loquacious float details and exuberant energy, Muses inspired Gambit readers with its annual nighttime romp down the avenue. Or were they doing the hustle in tune to this year's disco theme? And oh, the accessories! Muses continues to toss a broad array of throws from themed disco beads to beaded purses to toothbrushes, compacts and shoes, shoes, shoes.

2. Endymion

3. Bacchus

Best Reason to Stay in New Orleans

1. The food/restaurants " Readers decided New Orleans' cuisine is the best reason to remain here. It's hard to decipher whether that is a question of feast or famine, scarcity or abundance. Assuming we just eat three times a day, is it that we're reminded often of the good fortunes of having a unique indigenous cuisine, or is it that we spend all of the in-between time anticipating the next meal? We prescribe a thrice daily regimen of further testing.

2. The people

3. The culture

Best Way to Go Green (Besides Recycling)

1. Switch to bicycle/cycle more "Hey, lardbutt. Yeah, you. Remember how much fun you used to have on your 10-speed or your Huffy? And remember how you nearly had to take out a second mortgage last time you filled up your car? With all the advantages of riding a bike, helping the environment is just one of 'em " lagniappe, practically.

2. Walk more

3. Use solar power

Best Cellphone Drop-Out Spot

1. Crescent City Connection " Can you hear me now? CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Can you hear me no. The space between traffic lanes may be a neutral ground, but the space between the banks is a dead zone. But since we presume that only passengers are losing their calls, our recommendation is to sit back and enjoy the view.

2. Causeway Bridge

3. Bonne Carre Spillway

Best Pothole to Avoid

1. Anywhere in Lakeview " It seems that Lakeview suffered not only a levee breach but also a minor asteroid shower. Readers couldn't choose their favorite pothole in the neighborhood and gave the entire district the nod as the place to simulate a lunar landing and go crater hopping.

2. Fleur de Lis Drive

3. South Jefferson Davis Parkway at Bienville Street

Best Intersection to Get Caught by Traffic Camera

1. Clearview Parkway at Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie " George Orwell may have predicted a society of government surveillance in his dystopic novel 1984, but he either underestimated the pace of developing technology or the efficiency of bureaucracy in installing the equipment. Either way, the honeymoon is over, especially at the corner of Clearview and Veterans Memorial Boulevard. Gambit readers have learned the hard way that Big Brother is less the totalitarian overlord and more a meter maid mailing out tickets. So start obeying the traffic lights, or they're bringing out the rats.

2. Carrollton Avenue at Earhart Expressway

3. Carrollton Avenue at Canal Street

Best Location For New Pumping Stations

1. 17th Street Canal " Based on the responses to the question about new pumping stations, readers either took it as a joke, or as a genuine question that needed a serious suggestion. In regards to those who chose City Hall, we remind people that pumps are for water and not sewage. More importantly, the top answer demonstrates what most folks seem to know: One of the city's greatest vulnerabilities is still the 17th Street Canal. It's critical to pump water out of it and keep it out.

2. City Hall

3. Metairie Media Best Radio Station

1. 90.7 WWOZ " It's been more than 25 years since Andy Warhol called WWOZ the greatest radio station in the world. Back then, the world couldn't hear 'OZ. But now its Web cast is a daily beacon of New Orleans music to the world. As far as the local community is concerned, it may be the only radio station, given that it plays local music and supports local musicians like no other. And if you can't make it to Jazz Fest or other big festivals, 'OZ is on location keeping you tuned in to the best shows and the best local music.

2. WWL

3. B-97

Best Local Radio Show

1. The Think Tank with Garland Robinette (WWL) " Our 'cover boy" for the 2006 Best of New Orleans issue remains a huge hit with readers, and we're also glad to see (or rather, hear) him back on the air after his recent ailment. Nobody gets listeners going faster or better than Robinette, whose show has won this category for the third year in a row.

2. Talk Gumbo with John 'Spud" McConnell (WWL)

3. The Food Show with Tom Fitzmorris (WWL)

Best Local Radio Talk Show Host

1. Garland Robinette " WWL-AM's Robinette really came into his own as a radio host and media force during and after Hurricane Katrina, and for the third consecutive year, our readers have rewarded him with top honors in this category. Robinette's time slot shifted from afternoons to mid-day, so listeners can now catch him from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 'the big 8-70."

2. John 'Spud" McConnell

3. Tom Fitzmorris

Best Local Web Site

1. nola.com " Hey, wait a minute! How did these guys sneak in here past our own Web site? Oh, well. This at least proves once and for all that we don't stuff the ballots. Truth be told, nola.com is a perennial winner in this category, with no small amount of credit going to its content, which is provided largely by The Times-Picayune.

2. bestofneworleans.com

3. wwltv.com

Best Local Publication

1. Gambit Weekly " Thank you, dear readers. We think you're the best, too!

2. The Times-Picayune

3. The Levee

Best Local Columnist

1. Chris Rose " Another perennial winner in this category, Rose's signature 60-second interviews and passionate rants about anything from local political scandals to cultural wars always make him an interesting read.

2. Clancy DuBos

3. Angus Lind

Best Local TV Newscast

1. WWL Channel 4 " Our readers back up what the local Neilson ratings show: that WWL-TV news is the dominant TV newscast in this market and one of the most dominant local newscasts in the country. Watching channel 4 news is like red beans and Mardi Gras in New Orleans " more than a habit, it's part of our cultural identity.

2. WDSU 6

3. Fox 8

Best Local Blog

1. 'Offsides" with Fletcher Mackel " The WDSU sports reporter and anchor has established himself as a guy with inside knowledge and strong opinions, and he doesn't mind when readers fire back. You can keep up with his postings at www.wdsu.com/offsidesblog/index.html.

2. Ashley Morris (ashleymorris.typepad.com)

3. blogofneworleans.com

Best Local TV Anchor

1. Angela Hill " The undisputed queen of local TV news for more than 30 years, Angela Hill continues to win the hearts of viewers of all ages. The nicest thing about Hill is that she really is as nice in person as she seems on camera " a rarity in this era of media superstars.

2. Mike Hoss

3. Norman Robinson

Best Dressed Local Male TV Personality

1. Roop Raj " WDSU's morning anchor always manages to look like 'Mister After 6" (as in ready to make a night of it), which is not easy for someone who probably has to get up before 4 a.m. every day.

2. Norman Robinson

3. Eric Paulsen

Best Dressed Local Female TV Personality

1. Lucy Bustamante " Our readers love Lucy, and so do we. She wins this category for the first time, after finishing behind colleague Angela Hill several times. It may be a sign that WWL has not only the reigning queen of local TV news on its anchor desk, but also the heir apparent.

2. Angela Hill

3. Margaret Orr

Best Local TV Reporter Who's Ready to Go National

1. Lucy Bustamante " Here's another sign of Bustamante's star power: She has won this category three years in a row. That's actually two pieces of good news " first, she remains a favorite among our readers, and second, she has not taken their compliment to heart and left town.

2. Roop Raj

3. Lee Zurik

Best Local TV Weathercaster

1. Bob Breck " Yep, he's still 'Your Weather Authority," folks. Breck has been on the New Orleans weather scene for more than a quarter-century, and that's almost how long he's been winning this category. For lots of reasons, viewers (and our readers) never tire of him. He's always engaging and, above all, accurate.

2. Dawn Brown

3. Carl Arredondo

Best Local TV Sportscaster

1. Jim Henderson " If ever there were a category in which we might consider retiring the perennial winner's jersey, this would be it. Henderson's smooth-as-silk delivery is exceeded only by his unwavering, fans-first approach to covering sports. Watching Henderson's sportscasts (or listening to him call Saints games on the radio) is always the next best thing to being there.

2. Fletcher Mackel

3. Scott Cody

Best Local Commercial

1. SDT LLC Waste & Debris Services (937 Esplanade Ave.; 100 West Virtue St., Chalmette; 3901 Houma Blvd., Suite 207, Metairie; 940-2177; www.sdt@sdtwds.com) " So is Sidney Torres IV the newly crowned king of local commercials? Although some may say Torres is a modern-day equivalent to the recently departed Al Copeland, enough of our readers admit that they look forward to those short SDT commercials where Sidney enlists the help of friends like Lenny Kravitz , Kid Rock and the occasional brass band to promote his waste disposal business, that all we can say is: 'Let him have it."

2. Abita (21084 Hwy. 36, Covington, 800-737-2311; www.abita.com)

3. NOPD Recruitment (715 S. Broad St., 658-5858; www.cityofno.com/Portals/Portal50/portal.aspx)

Best Reason to Pick Up Gambit Weekly

1. Entertainment calendar/listings " New Orleans can often be a sensory overload, with some of the best bites, sights and sounds competing for your attention on any given night of the week. But Gambit Weekly's entertainment calendar and listings make this experiential city a little less overwhelming, functioning as a menu of the city's entertainment, community and cultural event offerings. And since you can pick up Gambit just about everywhere, you really have no excuse to be bored. And where else would you find out about the next Wargame Convention or Toastmasters meeting alongside concerts and gallery openings?

2. Local news/politics

3. Restaurant reviews

Goods and Services

Best Men's Clothing Store

1. Perlis (1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985-674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) " If Mardi Gras had an official sponsor, it might be Perlis. Those purple, green and gold polo shirts are as synonymous with Mardi Gras as plastic beads and public drunkenness. Any other time of the year, New Orleninians are sporting clothes and accessories with the retailer's signature crawfish, or are looking sharp in custom-fitted seersucker. Because it carries the brand power of any designer and is a trusted local name, readers consistently choose Perlis as the best.

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

3. Jos. A. Bank (3320 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 620-2265; 230 Carondelet St., 528-9491; www.josbank.com)

Best Women's Clothing Store

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saks.com) " Women who worship at the thrones of Carrie Bradshaw and Jimmy Choo flock to Saks Fifth Avenue for NYC fashions at CBD convenience. With more designers represented in one location than a red carpet, Saks is the home to a woman's best friends: Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg and countless others. Ever since the store's $36-million renovation after fires stemming from Hurricane Katrina, local women have dubbed Saks their retailer of choice.

2. Hemline (609 Chartres St., 592-0242; 3308 Magazine St., 269-4005; 605 Metairie Road, 309-8778; 206 Lake Drive, Covington, 985-892-9436; www.shophemline.com)

3. Dillard's (Northshore 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 Children's Clothing Store

1. Pippen Lane (2929 Magazine St., 269-0106) " For those mommies who like keeping up with the Shiloh Jolie-Pitts, the Suri Cruises and others in the oddly-named celebrity baby circuit, Pippen Lane is the New Orleans home for kiddie couture. This Magazine Street retailer has imbedded celebrity status " AnnaBeth Goodman, actor John Goodman's wife, is its creator. The store also carries accessories, furniture and toys that would fit in perfectly in the closets and rooms of any power couple progeny, making it the readers' top pick once again.

2. Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 99-3060; www.orientexpressed.com)

3. GAP Kids (Riverwalk Marketplace, 1 Poydras St., 529-4962; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-3807; The Esplanade, 1401 W Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 464-6556; www.gap.com)

Best Shoe Store

1. Shoenami (3102 Magazine St., 895-1717; 807 Royal St., 568-0111; 3319 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-0805; 1508 Edwards Ave., Harahan, 818-2940) " This tidal wave of shoes and accessories has long been the sole occupant of the Best of New Orleans top spot. This homegrown boutique is perfect for topping off an outfit " its wide selection of shoes is arranged by color, and the store also carries matching bags and jewelry. Plus, everything is extremely affordable, making it a little less heartbreaking when that stiletto heel becomes the unsuspecting victim of a pothole.

2. Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 526 Royal St., 569-0005; www.feetfirststores.com)

3. Dillard's (Northshore 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 Dollar Store

1. Dollar Tree (800 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 734-9825; www.dollartree.com) " Here's a tip: after you've spent way too much money on a movie ticket at the nearby movie theater, avoid the concession stand and hit up Dollar Tree for some cheap movie snacks. Besides carrying just about everything else " from school supplies to shampoo " this readers' favorite has a wall full of candy. Ever wondered how many packs of SnoCaps you could hide in your bag? Dollar Tree gives you an opportunity to find out.

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

3. Super 10 — 8207 Oak St.

Best Place to Buy Jeans

1. Jean Therapy (5505 Magazine St., 897-5535; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Blvd., 833-6144; The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 558-3966; www.jeantherapy.com) " Shopping for jeans can often turn into an experience that requires years of therapy afterwards. But shopping for denim at Jean Therapy is therapeutic in a good way. Its wall-to-wall selection of designer denim and its helpful staff make it easy to find the perfect pair. Plus, its Metairie and Magazine Street locations are among the few spots in the metro area where favorite brands like True Religion, 7 for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity are sold.

2. Gap (Riverwalk Marketplace, 1 Poydras St., 529-4962; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-3807; The Esplanade, 1401 W Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 464-6556; www.gap.com)

3. Old Navy (Elmwood Shopping Center, 1136 S Clearview Pkwy., 729-6170; Oakwood Shopping Center, 197 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 362-0184; The Esplanade, 1401 W Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 441-8788; The Premier Centre, 3450 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-9225; www.oldnavy.com)

Best Place to Buy Evening Wear

1. Saks Fifth Avenue (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2200; www.saksfifthavenue.com) " If anyone knows anything about evening wear, it's New Orleanians. With all the Mardi Gras balls and other see-and-be-seen events that happen in this city, having impeccable evening wear is important. Readers have picked Saks Fifth Avenue as their evening wear destination once again " and they would know.

2. Dillard's (Northshore 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. Mimi (5500 Magazine St., 269-6464)

Best Place to Buy a Man's Suit

1. Perlis (1281 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 6, Mandeville, 985-674-1711; 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661; www.perlis.com) " For a New Orleans man with summertime social obligations who would prefer not to suffer a heat stroke, seersucker is a logical choice. This makes Perlis the haberdashery of choice for the White Linen Night-goers and other men of distinction around town " or just anyone who wants to feel like a mint julep-drinking, slow-talking Southern gentleman. But at any time of the year, men frequent Perlis to purchase custom-fitted suits thanks to the locally owned retailer's personalized service.

2. Jos. A. Bank (3320 N. Causeway Blvd., 620-2265; 230 Carondelet St., 528-9491; www.josbank.com)

3. Men's Warehouse (3033 N. Causeway Blvd., 837-6648; www.menswarehouse.com)

Best Place to Buy Lingerie

1. Victoria's Secret (citywide; www.victoriassecret.com) " This lingerie empire used to be the place for strictly secret sexiness, with its primary selection of stuff meant to be worn under clothes or behind bedroom doors. But in recent years, Victoria's Secret has expanded its line to include comfy pieces and pajamas in its PINK collection, athletic and workout wear, and swimsuits that are all sexy, yet permissible for public wear.

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

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

Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing

1. Funky Monkey (3127 Magazine St., 899-5587) " While it may present a problem when you're trying to get rid of your old, worn clothes, the fact that Funky Monkey only accepts used items of the highest quality is great when you're shopping. Look through the denim rack and you'll likely find jeans bearing the same labels as high-end retailers, but for a fraction of the price. There are also vintage pieces and one of the best costume selections in town.

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

3. Lili Vintage Boutique (4514 Magazine St., 891-9311; www.lilivintage.com)

Best Place to Buy Eyewear

1. St. Charles Vision (8040 St. Charles Ave., 866-6311; 3200 Severn Ave., Metairie, 887-2020; Northlake Shopping Center, 1846B N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-8103; St. Charles Vision Outlet, 837 Clearview Pkwy., Elmwood, 733-0406; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3551; 3909 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey, 328-9733; www.stcharlesvision.com) " Having to wear glasses may not be the most enjoyable experience, but St. Charles Vision will make sure you look good doing it. Its knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the wide selection of designer frames to find which one looks best on you. With many convenient locations, it's clear why St. Charles Vision is voted the best year after year.

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

3. 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)

Best Thrift Store

1. Red, White and Blue Thrift (5728 Jefferson Hwy., 733-8066; 5050 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 347-1512) " Jefferson Highway might be the Rodeo Drive of thrift stores, but readers have singled out Red, White and Blue as the best secondhand purveyor out of the many neighboring rivals. There's also a second location on Lapalco Boulevard on the West Bank if you can't get enough of the store's great selection of used clothes, accessories and house wares. Those dedicated to digging have been known to find designer gems at both locations.

2. Bloomin' Deals (4645 Freret St., 891-5845)

3. Bridge House (1160 Camp St., 522-4475; www.bridgehouse.org)

Best Shopping Mall

1. Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000, www.lakesideshopping.com) " You might spend an hour in its parking lot on a Saturday, but the more than 120 stores and eateries that await you make fighting (sometimes literally) for a parking spot worth it. The Metairie mall will be adding a Macy's department store, makeup mecca Sephora and " thankfully " an extra parking garage in the near future. It bridges the gap between the convenience of mall shopping and the quality of stand-alone boutiques, and it consistently takes top honors.

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

3. Oakwood Shopping Center (197 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 362-1900; www.oakwoodcenter.com)

Best Consignment Shop

1. Prima Donna's Closet (1206 St. Charles Ave., 522-3327; 3213 17th St., Metairie, 885-3327; 4409 Chastant St., Metairie, 885-3650; www.primadonnascloset.com) " Not surprisingly, Prima Donna's Closet is among the Best of New Orleans for another year. This retailer is almost museumlike in its display of used evening wear that looks like it's never been touched, much less worn. But unlike a museum, you can buy what you see " and for not much money. Both Metairie and Uptown locations of this favorite consignment shop carry women's attire " like evening gowns, coats and even wedding dresses " by big designers at small prices.

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

3. On the Other Hand (8204 Oak St., 861-0159; www.ontheotherhandconsignment.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) " You might also find Toys 'R" Us listed under Electronics 'R" Us, Bicycles 'R" Us or Children's Clothing 'R" Us; the ever-expanding inventory of this store encompasses just about everything. This toy mega-store has been making kids and their big-kid parents happy for years, and reigns on top once again.

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

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

Best Place to Buy Furniture

1. Hurwitz-Mintz (1751 Airline Drive, 568-9555; www.hurwitzmintz.com) " It's hard to compete with the many floors and more than 80,000 square feet of display space in this Airline Drive furniture superstore, making Hurwitz-Mintz the top pick once again. The showroom has both contemporary pieces and the best of decades past. If the size of this store is overwhelming, its helpful " and patient " sales team is also there to help you navigate.

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

3. Rooms to Go (5800 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-2688; 60 Westbank Expy., Gretna, 367-4100; 409 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-809-3993; www.roomstogo.com)

Best Place to Buy Lamps/Lighting

1. Lighting Inc. (8180 Earhart Blvd., 486-5761; 3547 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-727-9368; www.lightinginconline.com) " In its post-Katrina location on Earhart Boulevard, Lighting Inc. is still delivering the quality lighting at competitive prices that earned it the top spot in the past. There's even an online feature that allows you to find the perfect lighting using an advanced search tool, and then create a wish list that the store staff will receive and use to create your order. But shopping in the showroom is just as easy and enjoyable, with its vast selection and friendly staff.

2. Lowes (citywide; www.lowes.com)

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

Best Antiques Store

1. Bush Antiques (2109 Magazine St., 581-3518; www.bushantiques.com) " With an inventory highly influenced by the owners' trips to Europe, there's no question why this antique store ranks high with visiting celebrities and GAMBIT readers. It stands out among the rest of the Magazine Street antique stores " and there are a lot of them " with its warm interior that makes it impossible not to envision all of these treasures in your own home.

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

3. Mac Maison (3963 Magazine St., 891-2863)

Best Fabric Store

1. Fabrixx (755 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-1118; 3926 Barron St., 889-0827; 51 Park Place Drive, Covington, 985-809-1110) " Whether you upholster furniture for a living or are just looking for a piece of fabric for a pillow, Fabrixx has everything " and at affordable prices. The fabric store is the favorite for a second year in a row, probably because of its selection and its ceiling-high books of patterns to get your sewing career started.

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

3. Hancock Fabrics (4310 Waverly St., 455-9111; 2104 Franklin Ave., Gretna, 367-5761; 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) " Something from Adler's will make your gift stand out among the toasters and blenders that tend to pile up at weddings. Rightfully calling themselves a 'New Orleans Tradition Since 1898," Adler's has everything from home wares to pieces bearing emblematic New Orleans symbols like the Sewerage and Water Board logo, fleur de lis and even Galatoire's Restaurant.

2. Bed, Bath & Beyond (Clearview Shopping Center, 4410 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-6930; 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville; 985-727-1608; www.bedbathandbeyond.com)

3. Dillard's (Northshore 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. Michael's (8851 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 464-9884; www.michaels.com) " If it's printed on paper or some similar material, Michael's can probably frame it. In the back of this Elmwood store, which specializes in crafts, hobbies and home décor, is a skilled staff prepared to frame your photos, art or anything you feel is important enough to display.

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

3. Framin' Place & Gallery (3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-3311; www.nolaframing.com)

Best Jewelry Store

1. Mignon Faget (3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-5207; The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; www.mignonfaget.com) " In every New Orleans women's jewelry box, you're bound to find a piece of Mignon Faget jewelry. From her signature silver pendants to her ubiquitous fleur de lis items, the Mignon Faget brand is synonymous with New Orleans. Besides its handcrafted jewelry, the storefronts on Magazine Street, in Lakeside Mall and in Canal Place also carry home wares to give your house a touch of quiet elegance.

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

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

Best Local Jewelry Designer

1. Mignon Faget (3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 837-5207; The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 524-2973; www.mignonfaget.com) " One of the most recognizable names in New Orleans, Mignon Faget has been in the business of design since 1969. She started off as a clothing designer, and then went on to create the jewelry and home décor that would make her famous. Readers consistently pick her as Best in New Orleans, and anyone would agree.

2. Dominique Giordano (5420 Magazine St., 895-3909; dgiordano.com)

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

Best Dry Cleaner

1. Liberto Cleaners (8128 Willow St., 861-7812; 4814 Prytania St., 897-2161) " Sometimes it's difficult to trust expensive clothing to a dry cleaner, but Liberto nixes the automated machinery used by most establishments in favor of cleaning garments by hand. This trustworthy family-owned business makes it deserving of top honors once again.

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

3. Young's Cleaning and Restoration (905 Harrison Ave., 872-0931)

Best Hospital

1. Ochsner Foundation Hospital (1514 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 842-3000; www.ochsner.org) " With seven hospitals and more than 35 health-care centers, there is bound to be a Ochsner location near you. Gambit readers consider Ochsner a trusted name in health care, and the U.S. News and World Report agrees, naming it one of 'America's Best Hospitals" in 2007. Ochsner, a nonprofit, academic, multi-specialty, health-care system, employs 8,000 people, including 600 physicians in 80 medical specialties and subspecialties.

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

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

Best Doctor For a Nip and Tuck

1. Dr. Kamran Khoobehi (3901 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-5538; www.khoobehi.com) " Boost your spirits with a little nip and tuck to redefine the face and body. Dr. Khoobehi provides state-of-the-art cosmetic and reconstructive surgery with trained staff in a soothing atmosphere.

2. Dr. Michael Moses (1603 2nd St., 895-7200; www.drmoses.com)

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

Best Place to Get a Facial

1. Earthsavers (5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-0225; 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133; www.earthsaversonline.com) " You might not know every ingredient that goes into an Eminence Coconut Mango Facial, but you'll love every minute of it. Earthsavers soothes and corrects all dermal maladies with its mineral-rich facials, each packed with nutrients like Vitamin A, B, and C, seaweed, mango and coconut. The licensed staff is equipped to take on acne, wrinkles, dry skin or skin imperfections caused by a stressful day with assorted facials, including the Earthsavers Cleansing Facial and the Dermaware Corrective Peel.

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

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

Best Chiropractor

1. Dr. Mike Lechleiter (1529 Jackson Ave., 566-1833) " Dr. Lechleiter considers his chiropractic clinic to be a family practice, working with all ages. Besides employing his chiropractic skills for manipulating, adjusting and correcting musculoskeletal disorders, Lechleiter also uses low-force techniques and energy work, combining aspects from a number of different disciplines.

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

3. Dr. Sylvi Beaumont (1138 S. Carrollton Ave., 864-1234)

Best Health Club

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (701 Poydras St., 588-1600; 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 739-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com) " Elmwood Fitness Center is so enormous, you won't be able to decide where to begin on your fitness journey. It's quite a work out in itself discovering the club's indoor and outdoor swimming pools, its countless cardio and weight-training machines, and exercise classes that happen around the clock. There are also plenty of facilities for children, like the kid-sized pools, childcare services and the endlessly entertaining Kidsports.

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

3. Jewish Community Center (5342 St. Charles Ave., 897-0143; 3747 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 887-5158; www.nojcc.org)

Best Place to Take a Yoga Class

1. Wild Lotus Yoga (4842 Perrier St., 899-0047; www.wildlotusyoga.com) " Whether you're a seasoned pro who likes doing power yoga in 100-degree heat or the kind of person who can barely touch your toes without bending your knees, Wild Lotus Yoga has a class for you. This Uptown yoga spot believes the ancient art is meant to relax the mind and strengthen the body, and it has classes that make that possible for those of all skill levels.

2. Elmwood Fitness Center (701 Poydras St., 588-1600; 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 739-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com)

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

Best Place to Take a Pilates Class

1. Elmwood Fitness Center (701 Poydras St., 588-1600; 111 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, Metairie, 832-1600; 200 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 739-1600; www.elmwoodfitness.com) " In its busy schedule of over 100 group exercise classes every week, Elmwood Fitness Center manages to fit in the readers' pick for the best Pilates class in town. This huge fitness club offers a class for all levels, as well as more advanced classes for the freakishly flexible.

2. Romney Pilates (3701 Magazine St., 895-1167; www.romneypilates.com)

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

Best Barbershop

1. Aidan Gill for Men (550 Fulton St., 566-4903; 2026 Magazine St., 587-9090; www.aidangillformen.com) " Aidan Gill is reclaiming male grooming. This is not the place men carelessly come in for a cut only because the hair is getting long enough to impair vision " it's a pampering experience that hearkens back to the days of barbershops, minus the harmonizing quartet out front. The Shave at the End of the Galaxy treatment is referred to on the barbershop's Web site as 'a hot towel shave so luxurious that Irish poets fall to tears in describing it." Aidan Gill just opened another location on Fulton Street, still offering the same quality and quirkiness.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Manicure/Pedicure

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) " You can get a manicure or pedicure just about anywhere around New Orleans " in strip malls and in people's houses " but Belladonna is the reader's pick for the ultimate nail treatment. The spa offers everything from basic manicures to the more fancy 'Cinderella Pedicures," depending on your mood and budget.

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

3. Amy's Nail Salon (518 Jefferson Ave., 269-2822)

Best Hair Salon

1. Paris Parker (citywide; www.parisparker.com) " A haircut or coloring can be a difficult event. Worrying about the dreaded bad haircut or that your highlights may not come out just right can be stressful. But Paris Parker has a large team of talented hair professionals to assuage any hair-related fears. And even if your hair doesn't come out the way you like it (which doesn't happen often at this place), you can use the salon's spa services to relax " it'll grow back one day.

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

3. John Jay Beauty Salon (540 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 281-4859; 1200 S. Clearview Pkwy., Elmwood, 842-9550; 7600 St. Charles Ave., 866-2782; www.johnjaybeauty.com)

Best Day Spa

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) " Is there only one place in New Orleans to get a spa treatment? You would think so based on Belladonna Day Spa's undisputed status as Best in New Orleans every year. It's easy to see why, with its top-notch spa services and bountiful retail area. The spa has also been recognized nationally and can host bridal showers, birthday parties, mother/daughter functions and other events that lend themselves to pampering.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Massage

1. Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com) " Surprise, surprise " Belladonna claims this category once again. If you're going to spend a considerable amount of your time, money and courage getting over being unclothed in front of a complete stranger, a Belladonna massage is the way to go. It offers a whole menu of massage varieties, from options tailored for athletes to massages for those with child, all in the professional, high-quality Belladonna atmosphere.

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

3. The Spa at the Ritz-Carlton (921 Canal St., 524-1331)

Best Tanning Salon

1. Planet Beach (citywide; www.planetbeach.com) " When it's time to tan without the sun, locals pick Planet Beach as their salon of choice. With an environment made to look as much like a real beach as possible, the tanning salon also offers MysticTan " a spray-on tan " as well as massages and other spa treatments. And Planet Beach gives back to the community. It recently partnered with the Make It Right Foundation, which is dedicated to sustainable rebuilding in Katrina-ravaged areas.

2. Bask (3399 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 885-2275; www.basksalon.com)

3. Yu Ca-Tan (2401 Veterans Memorial Blvd ., Metairie, 464-6888)

Best Body Piercing/Tattoo Parlor

1. Electric Ladyland (610 Frenchman St., 947-8286; www.electricladyland.net) " Piercing and inking since 1991, Electric Ladyland is one of the most famous piercing and tattoo parlors in the city, and our readers' favorite for this year. The friendly staff at this Frenchman Street parlor maintains a clean, professional environment " there are no shared needles to be found here. But considering the location, please make sure to seek Electric Ladyland's services while in the proper mindset " you might regret getting your d.b.a. fling's name etched on your arm the next morning.

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

3. NOLA Tattoo (8120 Hampson St., 866-8471; www.nolatattoo.com)

Best Place to Buy CDs

1. Best Buy (1138 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 731-2933; 120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com) " You can't beat the prices at this national electronics and appliances chain, whose selection of CDs and rock DVDs is surprisingly extensive and varied. Plus, you can pick up a washer-dryer, a toaster and a new iPod while you're there. And the lengthy hours " 9 a.m. til 9 p.m. " can't be beat.

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

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

Best Place to Buy Local Music

1. Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com) " As the footprint (we think it's a black Chuck Taylor high-top) of the independent record store shrinks ever smaller, it's good to know that jewels like the Louisiana Music Factory remain. The store recently expanded its selection of new rock 'n' roll CDs, while maintaining a stellar selection of local rhythm and blues, swamp pop, jazz, Cajun and zydeco rarities. Take a trip upstairs for a great selection of used vinyl and a truly cool treasure trove of local 45s. Don't miss the weekly in-store gigs, including afternoon throwdowns from local artists as well as intimate shows from bigger-name headliners passing through town.

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

3. Best Buy (1138 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 731-2933; 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 (1601B Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 263-1146; 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 455-4929; www.barnesandnoble.com) " It's easy to go to Barnes and Nobles to buy one thing and end up, after hours of browsing, with too many books, CDs and movies. This two-story bookstore has every book imaginable, plus DVDs, magazines, cookbooks " seemingly everything that's ever been published. This store also gets bonus points for being one of the few places to still carry mainstream CDs " remember those? They were around before mp3s.

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

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

Best Locally Owned Bookstore

1. Maple Street Book Shop (7523 Maple St., 866-4916; www.maplestreetbookshop.com) " More than 40 years old and a favorite among the homegrown literati, Maple Street Bookstore is as New Orleans as a Walker Percy novel, or any of the other great Southern novels this shop carries. It may be the best place for finding regionally penned works, but it also carries current favorites and has an adjoining children's bookstore. It's a great place to reminisce about the days of small, locally owned bookstores before a certain chain invades a former Uptown funeral home this fall.

2. Octavia Books (513 Octavia St., 899-7323; www.octaviabooks.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. Lakeside Toyota (3701 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 833-3311; www.lakesidetoyota.com) " Besides being a full-service dealership with a large parts and service center and extra perks like service until 10 p.m., Lakeside Toyota has a large selection of pre-owned vehicles in all sizes from compacts to SUVs and pickups. There's also a good selection of makes and models besides Toyotas. In business for 17 years, it maintains a loyal customer base.

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, 833-3311; www.lakesidetoyota.com) " For the second year in a row, our readers have chosen Lakeside as the top place to purchase a new car. That's pretty impressive, especially since most people consider buying a car to be right up there with tooth extraction without anesthesia. Somehow, Lakeside Toyota makes it the enjoyable experience it should be by providing a knowledgeable sales staff, financing, a large inventory and extended service hours.

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 Financial Institution/Bank

1. Capital One (Citywide; www.capitalone.com) " Whether you do your banking from home, your office, over the phone or go old school and actually walk into a bank, Capital One tries to make it quick and cheap with free online bill paying, free checking and a variety of other services, including savings accounts, certificates of deposit and debit cards. That's probably why Gambit readers are happy to have Capital One in their wallets.

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

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

Best Wireless Phone Service

1. AT&T (www.attwireless.com) " With 71.4 million customers, Fortune 100 company AT&T is the largest provider of local and long distance telephone services, and DSL and wireless Internet service in the United States. It recently offered the newest version of the iPhone " the 3G " a faster and sleeker improvement on the rampantly popular original model.

2. Verizon (www.verizonwireless.com)

3. Sprint (www.sprint.com)

Best Place to Buy Home Electronics

1. Best Buy (1138 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 731-2933; 120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com) " Best Buy stores continue to open up in the metro area to offer all the latest in home electronics technology with low prices, all under one roof. So when you're ready to get rid of that old 19-inch television you've been using since college, this business might be able to hook you up.

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

3. A-1 Appliance and Electronics (Citywide; www. a-1applianceandelectronics.com)

Best Place to Buy a Mattress

1. Bedding Plus (Citywide; www.bpmattress.com) " Talk about your specialists. Bedding Plus sells mattresses, futons, daybeds and pillows exclusively. But customers know when they visit they'll be able to try out a wide range of mattresses including Sealy, Simmons, Stearns and Foster and Jameson. Choosing the right sleeping surface makes those hard days of helping the city recover a little bit easier.

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 (1138 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 731-2933; 120 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 985-643-9493; 1601 Westbank Expwy., Harvey, 364-0411; 6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com) " With cheap prices and a wide selection of digital, SLR, video and kids' cameras to choose from, it's hard to beat Best Buy. Its interactive Web site, which sorts items by brand, shipping and special offers, price and type, make the shopping experience easy and fun.

2. Lakeside Camera (3508 21st St., Metairie, 885-8660; www.lakesidecamera.com)

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

Best Bicycle Store

1. GNO Cyclery (1426 S Carrollton Ave., 861-0023; www.gnocyclery.com) " In light of the high cost of fuel, New Orleans locals are shifting gears and opting to bike more often than ever. GNO Cyclery, a New Orleans staple, has been matching locals to bikes since 1991, and it continues to provide a high quality of service in the face of new demands. The store offers a range of bikes, accessories and services for the novice to the racer and everything in between.

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

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

Best Sporting Goods Store

1. Academy Sports (800 S. Clearview Pkwy., 729-4300; 50 Westside Shopping Center, Gretna, 263-6000; 1000 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3320; www.academysports.com) " Academy leads the pack in sporting goods " from camping and hunting to sports clothing, bathing suits, shoes, team sporting goods and safety equipment " Academy's convenient locations and friendly staff make sporting fun.

2. Massey's Outfitters (509 N. Carrollton Ave., 648-0292; 3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; www.masseys.net)

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

Best Veterinary/Animal Clinic

1. Metairie Small Animal Hospital (101 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4266; www.msah.com) " Pet lovers citywide know how vital veterinary care is for our beloved nonhumans. For more than 60 years, Metairie Small Animal Hospital has been a leader in providing state-of-the-art medical care to a wide variety of species. In addition to the usual medical, grooming and boarding services, it provides its clients with a convenient pick-up and delivery service so you can arrange to have your pet picked from your home, examined and treated at the clinic, and then safely delivered back home. Now that's service.

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

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

Best Place to Board Your Pet

1. Zeus' Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718; www.zeusplace.com) " A home away from home, Zeus' Place has cleverly installed Web cams in various locations of its boarding facility for 24/7 access to your loved ones. It also has added six new family rooms and expanded its grooming area to provide the most complete boarding experience.

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

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

Best Place to Have Your Pet Groomed

1. Pet Smart (citywide; www.petsmart.com) " Pets need pampering, too, and nobody knows this better than Pet Smart. Its grooming salons provide comfortable and efficient grooming to treat a variety of hygienic needs for your pets " from basic cleansing and shedding to dry and irritated skin. The pet-store chain offers fast, affordable service to best suit the needs of today's worker-on-the-go, while also leaving enough time to sniff out a few treats from the snack bar.

2. Zeus' Place (4601 Freret St., 304-4718; www.zeusplace.com)

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

Best Hotel

1. W Hotel (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.whotels.com) " In a city known for its hospitality, W Hotel sets the tone with a sleek, sophisticated lobby aptly named the Living Room. Hip music softly seduces in the background while all walks of life radiate from every direction, each enjoying their time at the hotel before darting off to a meeting, dinner or a bit of shopping. The guest rooms are lush in a modern, minimalistic way. Known for their chic drink menu and delectable food, respectively, the Whiskey Blue and Zoe Bistro located inside the W are destination spots for locals and tourists alike.

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

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

Best Hardware Store

1. Harry's Ace Hardware (1521 Metairie Road, Metairie, 896-1550; 333 N. Carrollton Ave., 896-1540; 3535 Magazine St., 896-1500; www.acehardware.com) " The friendly staff who represents three generations of family at Harry's Ace Hardware gives confidence to even the most novice of fixer-uppers. A local institution since 1910, Harry's Ace offers a wide selection of tools, nuts and bolts and other things necessary to fix any household dilemma. Feeling up to a bit of decorating? Harry's carries decorative knobs and trim, paint and other interior design accents to make the room just perfect.

2. Clement Hardware (6000 Magazine St., 899-0711)

3. Lowe's (citywide; www.lowes.com)

Best Auto Repair Shop

1. Kehoe Tire (5000 Freret St., 897-5050) " Kehoe Tire auto repair shop has been successfully repairing automobiles in the New Orleans area for a long time and as such, has earned a large list of loyal customers who repeatedly bring their cars back to Kehoe for a variety of services and who recommend the business to all their friends.

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

3. R&S Auto Service (519 Hagan Ave., 486-1608)

Best Full-Service Gas Station

1. Uptown Shell Service Station (6001 Magazine St., 895-8200) — Nestled in the heart of Uptown on the corner of State and Magazine streets, Uptown Shell offers the convenience of several automotive services at one prime location. Fill 'er up, check the tire pressure or take a moment to scrape the dead love bugs off your windshield. The station is easy to access from any direction and chances are, it's located on the way to or from your favorite bar or restaurant.

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

3. Shell Service Station (3494 Esplanade Ave., 488-1720)

Best Place to Buy Cheap Gas

1. Sam's Club (3900 Airline Drive, Metairie, 831-2911; 455 31st St., Kenner, 467-9677; 1527 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 361-3966; 181 Northshore Blvd., Slidell, 641-1401; www.samsclub.com) " Not everything is super-sized at Sam's Club. With the cost of fuel sky-high, it pays to know where to find the cheap stuff. For the minimal cost of membership, an oasis of moderately priced gas can be yours. The one-stop-shop beauty of Sam's affords the opportunity to stock up some household items as well, further conserving gas by eliminating numerous trips to the store.

2. Discount Zone (citywide)

3. RaceTrac (1625 Lafayette St., Gretna, 227-9303; www.racetrac.com)

Best Florist

1. Villere's Florist (1107 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 833-3716; www.villeresflorist.com) " There's a way to commemorate every occasion in life and likewise, every sentiment can be expressed by a flower (or a dozen). Villere's has been a family-owned institution since 1969, and today the family of florists continues to help locals express themselves florally. Whether it is a wedding, graduation, funeral or just-because, Villere's creates stunning arrangements every time.

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

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

Best Garden Store

1. Perino's (3100 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-7888; www.perinos.com) " Perino's green gallery flourishes with flowers and plants of every variety. Its garden tool center is state-of-the-art, complete with trimmers, shovels, pots and plant food for all your planting and pruning needs. This garden hub is ideal for all green enthusiasts " from the expert grower to the novice cultivator. Elicit the help of Perino's trained staff to help your green thumb blossom.

2. The Plant Gallery (9401 Airline Hwy., 524-3716; www.theplantgallery.com)

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

Best Place to Buy Wine

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3500 Magazine St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-951-808; www.martinwine.com) " Can't afford a vacation this year? Travel the world with Martin's eclectic list of fine wines and spirits. Nothing's better than stopping by for a sandwich on your lunch break only to discover some fabulous $10 bottle of wine you've never heard of on the sale rack. Martin's also offers wine tastings and courses for the oenophile in us all.

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

3. The Wine Seller (5000 Prytania St., 899-6000; www.wine-seller.net)

Best Liquor Store

1. Martin Wine Cellar (3500 Magazine St., 899-7411; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-951-808; www.martinwine.com) " The name Martin's Wine Cellar may not aptly convey the plethora of spirits housed in its walls but locals know where to go in preparation for the next dinner party. From Martin's shelves, bottles upon bottles beckon customers. Many are familiar brands that we all know and love, but others are unfamiliar, exotic brands that we are inspired to buy and share with our friends and families.

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

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

Best New Orleans Neighborhood Grocery

1. Langenstein's (1330 Arabella St., 899-9283; www.langensteins.com) " Delectable dishes served New Orleans-style are part of what makes this neighborhood grocery so endearing. The tangy crawfish etouffe, grillades and seafood gumbo are all made from secret family recipes, packed with flavor and passed down the line. Throw in a full-service deli, bakery, seafood department and floral center, and there's hardly a need to leave the neighborhood.

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

3. Zara's Market (4838 Prytania St., 895-0581)

Best Jefferson Neighborhood Grocery

1. Dorignac's (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com) " Mix a New Orleans family with exotic foods, a butcher and a baker and you get Dorignac's " a Jefferson Parish institution since 1947. The store's rotating selection of bargain-priced wines and spirits challenges the bold to sample new brands. Dorignac's also offers a wide selection of organic foods and has an impressive cheese and dairy center.

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

3. Zuppardo's Family Supermarket (5010 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-1150)

Best Northshore Neighborhood Grocery

1. Acquistapace's (125 E 21st Ave., Covington, 985-892-3978; www.acquistapaces.com) " You may not be able to pronounce its name, but if you live on the Northshore, chances are you've made groceries there. Acquistapace's is a locally-owned and operated neighborhood grocery that readers say boasts low prices, the highest grade of fresh meat and seafood, and the largest fine wine and spirits selection in St. Tammany Parish.

2. Fresh Market (1880 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-674-4105; www.freshmarket.com)

3. Piggly Wiggly (207 Covington St., Madisonville, 985-845-7283)

Best Supermarket

1. Rouses (citywide, www.rouses.com) " Since taking over operations at several Sav-a-Center locations last year, Rouse's has impressed locals with its high-quality service and selection of meat, cheese and breads. Louisiana owned, Rouse's also carries a wide selection of ethnic and organic food, wine and spirits and gifts and flowers. It also offers weekly specials and a tasty selection of prepared foods for those on the go.

2. Winn-Dixie (citywide; www.winn-dixie.com)

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

Best Bakery

1. La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine St., 269-3777) " La Boulangerie tantalizes with lingering fragrances of warm, buttery breads " from rosemary focaccia, buttery ciabatta, hearty scones and chocolate croissants that flake away in the mouth, to freshly pressed paninis " it's the perfect place to dash in for a quick breakfast or meet a friend for lunch.

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

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

Best Place to Get a King Cake

1. Randazzo's (3515 N. Hullen St., Metairie, 456-1476; www.mannyrandazzo.com) — In New Orleans, king cakes aren't just for Mardi Gras. Randazzo's dazzles with a wide variety of king cakes for every occasion. Randazzo's offers several variations on their trademarked handmade, braided concoction.

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

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

Best Place to Get a Wedding Cake

1. Swiss Confectionery (747 St. Charles Ave., 522-7788) " If you've walked down the 700 block of St. Charles Avenue before, chances are you've been lucky enough to smell the sweet fragrance emanating from Swiss Confectionary " cinnamon and sugar and everything nice. Their renowned wedding cakes are works of art " each baked into a moist, creamy cake and frosted with precision.

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

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

Best Place to Buy Fresh Produce

1. Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; 3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) " If you can't grow your own, Whole Food's produce section is the next best thing for getting the freshest organic fruits and vegetables. It offers the largest variety of apples, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and much more. In addition, it carries a lot of exotic produce that adds an extra zest to any meal.

2. Farmers Market (1008 N. Peters St.)

3. Rouse's (citywide, www.rouses.com)

Best Jazz Fest Food

1. Crawfish Bread " It's not easy to choose just one favorite dish at Jazz Fest, but our readers pushed the doughy, cheesy, crawfish bread to the top a lot of the list. It's a pocket of crawfish, pimentos, green onions, Monterey and cheddar cheeses, basil and oregano, onion and garlic, all packed into a golden-brown, calzone-like dough. It's warm, cheesy ambrosia from the bayou.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Cochon de Lait Po-Boy

Best Direct Round-Trip Flight From New Orleans

1. New York " Jet Blue does it in three hours for around $250; Southwest will get you as far as Long Island for slightly more money. Delta, American Airlines and several others make the trip daily. Whichever carrier you choose, New York is a great destination those of us lucky enough to travel this summer " and you can do it for a reasonable amount of time and money.

2. Houston

3. Chicago

Best Real Estate Agent

1. Erin Rotolo (RE/MAX, 834-3221) — Erin Rotolo loves helping New Orleanians find their dream home. Following in her father's footsteps, Rotolo plays an active part of the real estate industry in New Orleans and also participates in various civic volunteer groups such as the Junior League. She also serves as director of the Louisiana Realtors Association. Her tireless effort has placed countless families in homes and she continues to excel despite the housing crunch.

2. Tommy Crane (Tommy Crane Inc., 899-8666; www.tommycrane.com)

3. Eleanor Farnsworth (891-1142; www.eleanorfarnsworth.com)

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