Best of Springfield®

Best of Springfield 2014



FOOD & DRINK


BEST BBQ

Smokey Bones
2660 South Dirksen Parkway, 528-6410

There’s no shortage of BBQ joints in town, but this year, our readers have hand-picked Smokey Bones fare as the very best the city has to offer. Their secret? Slow roasting the juicy meat over hickory wood in two in-house cookers. Smokey Bones has many platter options, but purists will opt for the hand-pulled pork, cooked for nine hours, seasoned and served up for your mouthwatering enjoyment. Bring a wet wipe or two.
Runners-up: Hickory River, McCormick’s

BEST BREAD AND PASTRIES
BEST DESSERTS

Incredibly Delicious
925 South Seventh Street, 528-8548

Springfield natives know there’s only one place to go for the very best in pastries, breads, cakes and other goodies – Incredibly Delicious. Good luck deciding what to eat on the spot and what to take home. Patrick and Co. hand-make baguettes and bread every morning (try the challah or pepper parmesan), and then move on to the sweet treats like their decadent tarts, cakes and cookies. Stop in for hot cappuccino, artisanal breads, European desserts, and maybe even an impromptu French lesson.
Runners-up Bread and pastries: Panera, Hy-Vee
Runners-up Desserts: Cold Stone Creamery, Café Moxo


BEST MEAL UNDER $10
BEST BREAKFAST
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
BEST RESTAURANT WHERE KIDS EAT FREE

Charlie Parker’s, 100 North Street, 241-2104

If you’re looking for one of those places where everybody knows your name, then head on over to the Quonset hut on North Street for a hot meal at one of Springfield’s favorite eateries. During busy times, you’ll have to wade through a gaggle of regular customers, but Mike and Cindy Murphy and their friendly staff are always ready to serve up a hot cup of coffee and perennial favorites like the breakfast horseshoe (egg on toast topped with meat, and gravy or cheese sauce with hash browns or fries) or tater tots loaded with bacon and cheese sauce. With affordable breakfast options and lunch specials around $7, you just can’t go wrong. Kids 3 and under eat free with a paid adult meal. Open Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Runners-up Best Meal Under $10: Chaditos, Café Moxo
Runners-up Best Breakfast: Sunrise Café, Le Peep
Runners-up Best Sunday Brunch: Mariah’s, Obed & Isaac’s
Runners-up Best Restaurant Where Kids Eat Free: Steak N Shake, Casa Real


BEST OUTDOOR DINING
BEST DOWNTOWN DINING
BEST BREWED IN ILLINOIS BEER

Obed & Isaac’s
500 South Sixth Street, 670-0627

BOS voters have spoken: Springfield’s oldest microbrewery is still its best. Obed & Isaac’s has been cranking out great beer in Abe Lincoln’s neighborhood since the Conn family repurposed the Booth-Grunendike house and Obed Lewis’ carriage house in 2011. Reader favorites include light ales like the Ditzy Blonde and seasonal brews like Blackberry Wheat or the pumpkin Jack-O-Ale. And, hey, the food is pretty great, too. Try the bacon-wrapped smoked meatloaf or fig pizza...and is there anywhere else in town that serves Poutine? It’s easy to see why Obed’s won best outdoor dining this year – their large (and dog friendly) space between the restaurant and the newly opened Wm. Van’s Coffee House features picnic tables, fire pits, an outdoor bar, bean bag toss and two bocce ball courts.
Runners-up Best Outdoor Dining: Dublin Pub, Julia’s Kitchen & Lounge
Runners-up Best Downtown Dining: Maldaner’s, Saputo’s  Runners-up Best Brewed in Illinois Beer: Rolling Meadows, Engrained


BEST BURGER
Burger Bar, 2765 South Sixth Street, 528-9030

Whether you pick a house specialty or build your own, you can’t go wrong at the Burger Bar, Doug and Karen Kent’s inviting burger joint on South Sixth Street. It’s a friendly and relaxing neighborhood-type spot perfect for catching a game on TV or meeting up with friends. Favorites include the Black & Bleu Burger and the Cowboy Burger – a juicy beef patty topped with BBQ and onion rings. The homemade chips are crispy, and pretzel bun upgrades offer a little something extra to the build-your-own options. Swing by on game day...the Burger Bar has great daily deals and food and drink specials on NFL Sundays.
Runners-up: Krekel’s, Arlington’s

BEST CHEF
Michael Higgins, Maldaner’s, 222 South Sixth Street, 522-4313

Michael Higgins came to town more than 30 years ago to work at Maldaner’s and in 1995 became the historic downtown restaurant’s fifth owner. While many know him for an elegant and elaborate menu (stuffed quail and pistachio-crusted wild salmon) and his dedication to local ingredients (food from local orchards and farms), he’s actually quite the mover and shaker on the local scene. He lectures at Lincoln Land, sits on the board of the Green Business Network, and is running for alderman in Springfield’s seventh ward. Higgins is always one to try a new idea both inside and outside the kitchen. He once convinced a local farmer to grow fava beans for Maldaner’s recipes. In 2012, he opened his own rooftop garden and beehives, to which he later added solar panels. This year, Higgins brought another innovation to Springfield when he imported the “parklet” street-side dining concept from his native San Francisco.
Runners-up: Jordan Coffey - American Harvest, Julia Hunter – Julia’s Kitchen & Lounge

BEST CHILI
The Chili Parlor
820 South Ninth Street

Same recipe, new name. But no matter what you call it, The Chili Parlor has been the Springfield spot for chili since Joe Rogers opened his business in 1945. After a brief hiatus and a contract dispute or two, daughter Marianne reopened the family business this summer to the delight of her many regular customers who have grown accustomed to getting their usual fix catered to their level of heat tolerance. The scale goes from mild, to medium, to medium with a touch of hot, to medium hot, to hot, all the way up to the infamous “firebrand,” which is definitely not for the faint of heart. Regular patrons know there are even more options. Ask for extra oil, no oil, light beans, no meat, or onions and cheese. And remember – in Springfield, chili is spelled with just one “l”.
Runners-up: Dew Chili Parlor, Dublin Pub

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
China Star
1899 East Sangamon Avenue, 789-0800

Head on to the north side to find what our BOS readers say is the best Chinese food around. With a long menu ranging from Thai to Cantonese, there’s no shortage of choices. In fact, China Star has more than 150 offerings like Crazy Noodle (stir-fried wild rice noodle), and Chow Gai Kew (breaded chicken in brown sauce). There’s nothing flashy about the place, but they consistently crank out crowd-pleasing plates that you can rely on like Mongolian Beef and the Hot & Sour Soup. Vegetarian options also available.
Runners-up: Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet, Hunan Chinese Restaurant

BEST FISH FRY
Carter’s Fish Market
1900 South Grand Avenue East, 525-2571

It’s a neighborhood fish fry! It might not look like much, but pull over on South Grand and stop on by the unassuming green fish stand known to the locals as Carter’s Fish Market. You’ll hear the sizzle of walleye, catfish and other lake-dwellers as cooks prepare huge to-go portions topped with extras like river fries, hush puppies or cole slaw by request. Like our readers say, at Carter’s, prices are low, helpings are big, and the taste is outta this world.
Runners-up: Firefighters’ Club, Little Flower

BEST FULL-TIME BUFFET
Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet
2309 South MacArthur Boulevard, 698-6033

The first thing most people notice at Hibachi Grill is its size. The place is huge! And that means they have plenty of room for food. There you’ll find a seemingly endless selection of Asian and American cuisine with everything from crab rangoon and sushi to chicken nuggets and mac & cheese. There’s so much food that it would be impossible to sample it all in just one sitting, but it sure is fun to try. Carry out options available. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Runners-up: Hy-Vee, Holy Land Diner

BEST GYROS
Gyros Stop
2907 South MacArthur Boulevard, 698-6463
2345 West Monroe, 546-3442
4127 Wabash, 546-8830

Springfield is full of traditions, and a new one seems to be voting Gyros Stop to our BOS. This marks the Greek eatery’s sixth time on the list, and the honor is well deserved. The classic gyro (pronounced “yee-ro”) is just $5.75 and comes loaded with tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce accompanying a huge pile of succulent and seasoned gyro meat. If you’re not a big fan of tradition, fear not – other versions like the BBQ or western gyro are sure to hit the spot, or try a gyro burger or the many Greek specialties like spanakopita (spinach pie), saganaki (Flaming Cheese), or baklava. Believe it or not, they even serve gyro horseshoes…this is Springfield, after all.
Runners-up: Yanni’s Gyros, Chi Town’s Finest on Jefferson

BEST HORSESHOE
D’Arcy’s Pint
661 West Stanford Avenue, 492-8800

Some things in Springfield are so predictable. You’ll hit all the red lights on South Grand, at least one local football team will win State, and you’ll find yourself driving to D’Arcy’s if you’re in the mood for the best horseshoe around. D’Arcy’s does horseshoes right. It’s your choice of meat or veggies spilled out atop Texas toast, loaded up with fries, and topped with a huge helping of traditional or spicy homemade cheese sauce. Feeling extra hungry? Try the supreme. That’s ground beef, tomatoes, bacon and scallions under spicy cheese sauce served with a side of hot sauce. We’re not sure exactly what makes D’Arcy’s shoes the best around, but our theory is that it has something to do with that secret cheese sauce. IT reader Tony agrees. “That cheese sauce makes me so happy,” he says. “Can I have a to-go quart-sized container of it?” Good luck, Tony. It’s worth a try!
 Runners-up: Dublin Pub, Corner Pub

BEST ICE CREAM
Cold Stone Creamery, 124 South Sixth Street, 523-6666

What’s not to love about Cold Stone? No matter if you rely on their signature creations or build your own, it’s easy to find something to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours. We’re a little embarrassed to admit how much time we spent downtown…um…”researching” for this entry. After much work (somebody had to do it) we narrowed our favorites down to three. The Peanut Butter Cup Perfection (chocolate ice cream with peanut butter, Reese’s cups and fudge), Coffee Lovers Only (coffee ice cream with almonds, Heath Bars and caramel), and The Pie Who Loved Me (cheesecake ice cream with Oreos, graham cracker pie crust and fudge). It’s like Mel Gibson said in that one movie: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our ice cream!”
Runners-up: Baskin Robbins, Krekel’s Custard

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
Gateway to India, 3115 Chatham Road, 726-6890

We know, we know, it can be hard to venture out and try new things. But trust us, Gateway is the perfect place for lovers of ethnic foods and newbies alike. The food is authentic and flavorful but not overpowering, and beginners will find a wait staff willing to answer questions along with a lunch buffet that makes sampling many dishes easy. Try Bombay’s famous street food, the aloo papri chaat or kadhaai stir-fried with vegetables. The menu is quite large, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, go with the mutter panner. The trusty staple of any Indian menu, it’s a dish with peas and cheese in tomato and onion gravy served with naan or other Indian bread. Gateway to India is closed on Monday.
Runner-up: Flavor of India

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT
BEST SUSHI

Osaka Japanese Restaurant, 1665 Wabash Avenue, 726-803
7
Osaka is like two great restaurants in one. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just up for a fun floor show, turn left upon entry and take a seat on the hibachi side, where hilarious and talented chefs will juggle utensils, toss food in the air, and amuse you as they cook up a wide array of meats, veggies and seafood. Or, if it’s sushi you’re looking for, turn right and treat yourself to some yellowtail, eel, shrimp and other selections from a la carte and combo menus. Osaka has classic rolls like spider, avocado or spicy tuna, and more options from salad and Thai sections. Another strength is an elaborate drink menu. Wine is just $3 on Wednesdays with specialty drinks and martinis listed at $4 each Thursday. Call ahead for reservations, as this trendy Springfield hotspot fills up fast.
Runners-up Best Japanese Restaurant: Kiku, Mimosa
Runners-up Best Sushi: Happy Sushi, Hunan


BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS
Dublin Pub
1975 Wabash Ave, Springfield, 793-6871

With a full menu until midnight and open doors until 1 a.m. every day, Dublin Pub is Springfield’s choice for late-night eats. And why not? They have half-price pizzas and apps from 10 p.m. until closing time, and great apps like toasted ravioli, fried pickles and sweet potato fries. One reader gives Dublin a big thumbs up for their sweet breaded bacon wings. Or, if you go for a pie, select the buffalo chicken horseshoe pizza. The game is always on, the beer is always cold and the doors are open late.
Runners-up: Star 66, Gabatoni’s

BEST MADE-IN-ILLINOIS WINE
Hill Prairie Winery
23753 Lounsberry Road, Oakford, 635-9900

To find the best locally produced wine, you have to venture a bit outside of the city, 31.1 miles northwest from the Old State Capitol, to be exact. But we promise it will be worth the trip. There you’ll find Hill Prairie Winery, the family vineyard surrounded by a lush landscape and a 100-year-old barn that together make the perfect backdrop for enjoying a fine bottle of Illinois wine while listening to local music or attending one of many annual festivals. Popular selections from the Lounsberry family include Chardonel, Vignoles, Prairie Dew, Prairie Sunshine, Crimson Moon and Autumn Spice.
Runners-up: Danenberger Family Vineyard, Walnut Street

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Xochimilco, 2941 West Iles Avenue, 546-3116
3210 Northfield Drive, 544-9206, 6901 Preston Drive, 483-1006

With three locations, a great lunch menu, awesome desserts like sopapilla and xochimi, vegetarian plates, and 13 combos, it’s no wonder that Xochimilco makes the BOS again this year. It’s fresh, tasty and authentic in a part of the country where real Mexican can be hard to find. It’s hard to pass up huevos con chorizzo and chili Colorado (beef in red chili sauce), but our choice is the tri-color burrito – a huge tortilla filled with meat and covered in red ranchero, melted cheese and green tomatillo sauce.
Runners-up: Casa Real, La Fiesta

BEST NEW RESTAURANT OPENED IN 2014
Julia’s Kitchen & Lounge, 107 West Cook Street, 670-1972

Julia Hunter hit all the right notes when she opened her new restaurant in Vinegar Hill Mall this spring. There she serves up southern charm and down-home favorites like fried green tomato BLTs, shrimp po’ boys and even grits. Her tapas menu has great choices like lobster mac & cheese, hush puppies, BBQ pork sliders, bacon-wrapped dates and sweet corn fritters. Our readers love the pulled pork horseshoe and the mac & cheese and rib-eye sandwiches.
Runners-up: Arlington’s, III Tomassos

BEST PIZZA
Gabatoni’s
300 East Laurel, 528-9629

It’s one of those hometown restaurants that you just can’t do without. Sure, the dining room is crowded and the wait staff is often sassy, but take one step inside Gabatoni’s and you feel right at home. The oven-cooked dough has a nice cornmeal undercoating and the pies come in 7, 12 and 16-inch diameters. There are plenty of standard build-your-own options along with specialties like bacon chicken alfredo and the famous EBA – everything but anchovies. The taco pizza is delicious, but use a fork…it’s piled high with meat, tomatoes, black olives, lettuce and cheese and served with sour cream and salsa.
Runners-up: Coz’s Pizza and Pub, Bernie and Betty’s Pizza

BEST PORK TENDERLOIN
Sportsman’s Lounge
229 West Mason, 492-1110

Where else? Sportsman’s Lounge is the place in town for a big, juicy tenderloin. The no-frills Mason place offers plenty of variations on this Midwest classic. Get it grilled or breaded in a salad, regular or buffalo-style as a horseshoe or try the full-size standard for about $9 (with a half portion for $7). If you’re digging in for the big boy, come hungry. The thinly sliced pork monstrosity hangs over the edges of the plate. Swipe an extra bun for $1, and enjoy!
Runners-up: D’Arcy’s Pint, Dublin Pub

BEST RESTAURANT OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Old Luxemburg Inn, 1900 South 15th Street, 528-0503

In the day of chain restaurants and franchise locations, the Old Lux stands out as a blast from the past. Most people in town have fond memories of this local haunt, which opened its doors in 1938. And all these years later, they’re still serving up great standards at a good price. There on South 15th you’ll discover great meat and seafood options. The Old Lux is one of the few places in town that still serves fried clams, and both their steak and fried chicken dinners are among the best around. Getting the lobster tail? Try it fried.
Runners-up: Arlington’s, Abe’s Hideout

BEST ROMANTIC DINING
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Bella Milano, 4525 Wabash Avenue, 547-0011

The lights are low, the music is soft and the décor is fashionable, making Bella Milano Springfield’s favorite place for a first date or an anniversary dinner. From start to finish, the food is fantastic from a simple house salad dressed up by Milano’s tasty homemade dressing, to pizzas made with original dough and sauces and then fired in a brick oven. Although you can’t go wrong with Italian staples like lasagna or baked mostaccioli, think about going for the veal and portabella ravioli or a mouthwatering meat dish like Bella Milano’s pepperloin. It’s an eight-ounce fillet rolled in cracked pepper and marinated all day long before the chef pan-sears and serves it for your enjoyment.
Runners-up Best Romantic Dining: Nick & Nino’s, American Harvest
Runners-up Best Italian Restaurant: Saputo’s, III Tomassos Italian Bistro


BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Chesapeake Seafood House
3045 Clear Lake Drive, 522-5220

Talk about a great place for a meal. Chesapeake makes its home in an 1800s mansion on five acres across from Bergen Park. And don’t let the name fool you – they have more than just seafood. You can choose from the finest cuts of meat in addition to fresh seafood from around the world. Show up for a host of early bird specials or come at dinnertime for special catches, shrimp plates and fried treats. Or go for succulent lobster tail, or crab-stuffed mushrooms (perfect with a warm bowl of baked French onion soup). The Chef’s Choice is Oysters Rockefeller…12 oysters with spinach bacon cream sauce and cheese. And be sure to request the dessert menu, where you’ll be tempted by turtle pie, death by chocolate, and other rich indulgences.
Runners-up: Carter’s Fish Market, Old Luxemburg Inn

BEST STEAK RESTAURANT
Alexander’s Steak House
620 North Bruns Lane, 793-0440

After it made the list as a runner-up last year, Alexander’s takes the top spot in the Best Steak category this year. Part of the fun at Alexander’s is the choice, because each guest can choose his or her own hand-cut slice of beef from 12 varieties in the locker before it’s laid out over the hot charcoal and cooked to order by the pros. Or, if you trust your own abilities, grab a drink and grill it yourself on the fire pit. If steak’s not your thing, choose from chicken, pork or seafood. Dinners come with a salad bar, potato choice and toast.
Runners-up: Texas Roadhouse, Nick & Nino’s

BEST SUB/SANDWHICH SHOP
Head West Sub Stop
1124 West Jefferson, 793-9101
530 East Capitol, 789-9101
3311 Robbins Drive, 726-9202
1281 Toronto Road, 585-7990
2432 Denver Drive, 744-7990
7032 Kings Mill Court, 670-0111
450 State Street, Rochester (inside Phillips 66 Station), 498-1182
136 South Oakland, Decatur, 791-6718

What a great local success story. It seems that every time BOS rolls round, Head West is on the list, and we always have to add a new location as they continue to grow. This year it’s no different, thanks to the sub shop’s new digs in Decatur. It’s a simple menu of regular and specialty subs with some standouts like the hummus (choice D) and reuben (A) along with brownies, Ben & Jerry’s, Jones Sodas and other goodies. It’s hard to find a good, healthy, fast meal that doesn’t break the bank, but Head West fits the bill. Pick 2 (a half sub, salad or soup) is still just six bucks!
Runners-up: Jimmy John’s, Penn Station

BEST THAI RESTAURANT
Magic Kitchen, 115 North Lewis Street, 525-6975
4112 North Peoria Road, 525-2230

Like many places on this year’s BOS, Magic Kitchen is all about the Springfield experience. Approach the small and remote Peoria Road location, and you may find a line of hipsters clamoring for a table. Look around, and each group will have their own random six-pack. That’s because it’s one of the city’s few remaining BYOB establishments (and remember, it’s cash only). But on to the food, which is the reason for all the buzz. Over the years, Magic Kitchen has created a loyal following not just among those who grew up attending nearby Springfield High, but with many in the capital city for their fine authentic Thai food. They serve all the regular entrees and vegetarian dishes, of course, and we recommend the garlic and white pepper pork or chicken, which comes mild, mild+, medium or hot. Hours vary by location.
Runners-up: Little Saigon, Thai Kitchen 2

BEST VEGETARIAN
Holy Land Diner
106 West Cook Street, 544-5786

If you’ve been to the State Fairgrounds Farmers Market recently, there’s a good chance you’ve bumped into Afaf Rashmawy selling a selection of Holy Land’s well-known Greek and Lebanese food. Their meat dishes are delicious, too, but for the vegetarians among us, there’s no better place in town. That’s because of the many options Rashmawy provides, from tabouli to baba ghannouge. If you like it as much of our BOS voters, there’s good news. Holy Land sells many items in bulk and offers occasional cooking classes at their Vinegar Hill location. Check Facebook for times. Holy Land has a daily lunch buffet and dinner buffets on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Runners-up: American Harvest, Noodles and Company

BEST WINE LIST
American Harvest Eatery, 3241 W. Iles, 546-8300

Executive Chef Jordan Coffey and Sous Chef Aurora Coffee are doing a lot of things right at American Harvest, and one of those things is their wine list, which BOS readers say is the area’s best for the second consecutive year. Like many aspects of American Harvest, its wine list features local selections from Danenberger Family Vineyards in New Berlin. Choose from Desagacé Rouge (with Syrah, Marquette, and Arande grapes), Aura Aria Paper Moon (a dry, soft variety), the full-bodied Desagacé Vermilion and Stilettos In the Vineyard Rendezvous (a dry rosé). Bottles are half price every Thursday, and special events like a Late Harvest Dinner on Nov. 20 and Chef Todd Jackson’s tasting dinner on Dec. 18 feature meals with drink pairings. See website for details.
Runners-up: Indigo, Nick & Nino’s

BEST WINGS
Westwoods Lodge, 2406 West Jefferson, 698-9256

It’s a shame that you don’t hear more about Westwoods. The hunting-themed bar and restaurant just off of Veterans Parkway is serving up some of the most inventive fare around. We had the tackle box, a pick three (ours was gator, frog legs and fried clams) appropriately served in…you guessed it…a tackle box. But we’re here to talk about wings. Simply put, these are hands-down the best wings we’ve sampled in town. Like most places, they serve up traditional or boneless but what sets Westwoods apart is a bevy of interesting choices. The buffalo bleu (buffalo wings drizzled with blue cheese) were amazing, and next time we plan to try Asian ginger and garlic parmesan.
Runners-up: Buffalo Wild Wings, Show Me’s

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Bars & Nightlife

BEST PLACE TO GET CHEAP DRINKS
Blue Grouch Pub, 510 W. Maple Ave., 527-8395

Truth be told, we have found cheaper drinks elsewhere – dank, smelly places with rippling indoor-outdoor carpeting, cigarette burns on Formica bars and denizens still puffing away, despite the state smoking ban, while staring solemnly downward into translucent plastic cups bearing such concoctions as Captain Morgan and Mountain Dew, with no one paying a wit’s bit of attention to “Dancing With The Stars” as the program unfolds silently on a not-very-big flatscreen television while the jukebox blares trash from a country music flash-in-the-pan who will be forgotten in five years, and good riddance. These are the places where no one knows your name, or wants to, and it is better that way, at least in a place like this. The Blue Grouch is not a place like this. The drinks are affordable and both the clientele and staff amiable. The décor is minimalist, with most everything – posters, lights, clocks – having come from a beer or liquor company. There’s live music on weekends with $1 beer specials, and certain brands of beer sell for as little as 50 cents per can on some nights. Well drinks typically go for $1.75 when the Cardinals are playing.
Runners-up: Curve Inn, Brewhaus

BEST BAR TO PLAY DARTS
Curve Inn
3219 S. Sixth Street Road, 529-5806

When it comes to darts, we’re more likely to put holes in the wall than hit the bull’s-eye, but the folks at Curve Inn don’t seem to mind. They have several well-kept electronic boards available inside and outside, with an active league and dedicated players who nonetheless know how to have fun. (A couple of team names left us chuckling: “Starving Dartists” and “We’re Sexy And We Throw It.”) Even if you can’t hit the broad side of a barn, Curve’s party-like atmosphere makes it fun to just watch, and the food is both tasty and reasonably priced.
Runners-up: Mowie’s Cue, Floyd’s Thirst Parlor

BEST BAR TO SHOOT POOL
Mowie’s Cue
1277 Toronto Road, 529-7616

Anyone else hate shooting pool in a dive bar where you’re constantly hitting the wall with your cue? That won’t happen at Mowie’s Cue, which has at least 19 pool tables by our count and still has plenty of room to play. The tables are also in pretty good shape, instead of the usual torn felt, bent cues and balls that look like they went through a rock tumbler. There’s also a well-stocked bar just a few steps away, a kitchen serving hearty pub food, live bands on the regular and a competitive league for the pool sharks.
Runners-up: Floyd’s Thirst Parlor, Starship Billiards

BEST CRAFT BEER SELECTION
BEST BEER GARDEN

Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery, 500 S. Sixth St., 670-0627

If you like beer and don’t already know about Obed & Isaac’s, you must not be from here. Obed’s features delicious brews and upscale pub fare in Springfield’s downtown, and their beer garden is a favorite gathering spot during the warmer months. Most of the beers available on tap are made next door in a dedicated brewery, but Obed’s also offers a handful of guest beers from other small brewers. Our favorites are the deliciously dark Long Nine IPA and the refreshingly light Strawberry Blonde summer seasonal. Pro tip: Obed’s offers refillable growlers of their beer for sale, so you can imbibe their sweet nectar in the comfort of your own home. If you show up on a busy night, the beer garden is a fun place to hang out while you wait for your table. It has its own sheltered bar, a fire pit, bocce ball and cornhole sets (a.k.a. beanbags) to pass the time.
Craft beer runners-up: Craft Beer Bar, Brewhaus
Beer garden runners-up: Curve Inn, Boone’s Saloon


BEST PLACE FOR A BLOODY MARY
J. P. Kelly’s
300 E Adams St., 753-7933

The Bloody Mary is pretty standard fare among bars, but J.P. Kelly’s supercharges it. Their Saturday morning Bloody Mary Bar starting at 10 a.m. is the perfect sidebar to the downtown Farmers Market, especially if you’re fighting a hangover from the night before. Instead of just the usual pickle or celery, J.P. Kelly’s offers patrons a variety of complements like fresh fruit and shrimp, plus a draft beer chaser to finish strong. Of course, even when the farmers pack it in for winter, J.P. Kelly’s still offers the proverbial hair-of-the-dog to warm you up and bring you back to life.
Runners-up: Boone’s Saloon, Julia’s Kitchen & Lounge

BEST PLACE FOR A MARGARITA
Xochimilco Mexican Restaurant, 2941 W. Iles Ave., 546-3116
3210 Northfield Dr., 544-9206
6901 Preston Dr., 483-1006

They say their recipe is really from Mexico, and who are we to argue? Xochimilco’s margaritas are everything you want in a fruit boozie: sweet, tangy, cold and quick. They’re plenty strong, too. We especially like the mango and peach flavors, and they also come as daiquiris. Watch their Facebook page for $1.99 margarita specials, which usually pop up around holidays. That’s as good an excuse to go out for dinner as any we’ve ever heard.
Runners-up: La Fiesta, Casa Real

BEST PLACE FOR A MARTINI
Osaka Japanese Restaurant
1665 Wabash Ave., 726-8037

Osaka is a perennial favorite in this category, thanks in big part to their custom selection of vodka, bourbon, rum, tequila and sake. The basic spirits are infused on site with more than 40 different flavors like cherry, mango, honey and vanilla. One of their most popular concoctions is jokingly called “Lake Springfield” for its murky, green appearance. Despite looking like algae, however, it tastes like tangy sweet fruit juice with a kick. If you need some visual appeal in your drink, try the XXX Martini, which literally glows and tastes similar to a cosmopolitan.
Runners-up: Floyd’s Thirst Parlor, Indigo

BEST VIDEO GAMBLING SPOT
Lucy’s Place, Multiple locations

Lucy’s Place has it all when it comes to the serious gambler, which is to say, not much at all. Just a couple fridges filled with soda and beer, a television playing with the volume set low, one employee and a few pub tables. Plus, of course, five video gambling machines at each of six Springfield locations, with each place typically ending up with at least $40,000 from gamblers during any given month before the state and city take their respective cuts, according to Illinois State Gaming Board records. That puts Lucy’s Place in the upper tier of moneymakers from video gambling in Springfield, which has the densest concentration of video gambling machines outside casinos in the entire state – we’re number one in something, at least. At Lucy’s Place, you don’t have to worry about talking to other people or getting distracted by the smell of food or the sight of decorations on the walls or the excitement that can grip a barroom during the seventh game of a World Series or Stanley Cup. Instead, it’s designed for people whose first priority is staring into screens while incessantly pressing “Max Bet” buttons in hopes of striking it rich.
Runners-up: Barrel Head, Butternut Hut

BEST SPORTS BAR     
Brickhouse Grill & Pub, 217 S. Fifth St., 679-1500
3136 W. Iles Ave., 546-2745

Brickhouse isn’t specifically a sports bar, but they certainly fit the bill. With plenty of TVs, reasonable beer prices and an elaborate menu, they make it easy to settle in for the big game. And unlike some places, they don’t act annoyed if you ask them to switch channels to a different game. Even if you don’t give two hoots about sports, the food is worth a visit. They manage to make pub grub gourmet without making it pretentious, like their four sliders, which come as cheeseburgers, buffalo chicken, pulled pork or chicken salad. They also offer a few vegetarian options and some healthy choices for the fitness-minded.
Runners-up: Corner Pub and Grill, The Office

BEST GAY & LESBIAN BAR
Club Station House, 306 E. Washington St., 525-0438

Here’s a surprise: gay bars are just bars in which gay folks can feel safe and accepted. In fact, Club Station House prides itself (See what we did there?) on its acceptance of everyone – gay or straight. Usually shortened to just “Station House,” this bar features a wide selection of booze, a high-energy dance floor and a friendly atmosphere.  They have weekly bingo sessions and drag shows, and they’ve even been known to turn into a sports bar if the right game is on. Put plainly, it’s a fun place to be, regardless of who you are.
Runner-up: Elixir

MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE BARTENDER
Graham Nicholson, Floyd’s Thirst Parlor
212 S. Fifth St., 622-9992

If you’ve ever sat at the long wooden bar in Floyd’s Thirst Parlor, chances are Graham Nicholson has served you a drink. He’s the epitome of a good bartender: he’s friendly, he remembers you and, to quote Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” he’s quick with a joke, even if he’s not allowed to light up your smoke. Unlike the bartender in Joel’s song, however, Graham seems happy right where he is. He says the interactions with new people have kept him satisfied with bartending for about seven years. In that time, he says he has learned something important about bartending: “You have to know what the customer wants. It’s great to know how a drink was made 100 years ago, but if that’s not what they want, what good is it?”
Runners-up: Wendy Reising, Curve Inn; Andrew Denton, American Harvest

BEST EYEWEAR
Vision Care Associates
121 North Grand Avenue West., 528-3233
2741 Prairie Crossing Dr., 528-3233

If any place is going to get you excited about eyewear, Vision Care Associates is probably it. They have an almost ridiculously large selection of frames, including several designer options and some budget-friendly ones. With well-trained, friendly employees and a welcoming, modern interior, it’s just an all around pleasant place to be. And with several doctors on staff, you won’t have to wait long for an appointment. One voter summed it up best: “They have a HUGE choice and treat you WELL!”
Runners-up: Springfield Clinic Eye Institute, Prairie Eye and LASIK Center

BEST HAIR SALON
BEST MASSAGE

BJ Grand Salon & Spa, 3055 Professional Dr., 753-8880
3300 Robbins Road, 787-7770

BJ Grand Salon & Spa is on a roll, winning both Best Hair Salon and Best Massage for the second year in a row. It’s no wonder: they have a reputation for quality work, and they offer an extensive list of services. Besides the usual hair styling, they offer specials for brides, a fancy French hair highlighting technique, massages for pregnant women and even beard trimming for the guys. Prices vary based on which stylist or massage therapist works on you, and sometimes you can get a discount for giving the new talent a chance. The hot stone massage looks especially relaxing.
Hair salon runners-up: Willow and Birch Salon, Appearances Salon and Retreat
Massage runners-up: Soak Nails, Massage & Spa, Moxie Massage


BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE
Food Fantasies, 1512 Wabash Ave., 793-8009

Looking for some healthy food you can’t seem to find anywhere? Food Fantasies probably has it. They carry fake meat and cheese, ethically sourced real meat and cheese, nutritional supplements, nut butters, herbal remedies and tons more. Our favorite is their vegan brownies, which are almost indistinguishable from their traditional fatty counterparts. Those with gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance or some other dietary restriction will likely find plenty of options like their gluten-free bread, made fresh on site. To top it off, the smart staff members really know the products they carry, which is super helpful when you inevitably get confused by the bevy of choices.
Runners-up: Hy-Vee, Old Capitol Farmers Market

BEST NAIL SALON
Soak Nail, Massage & Spa
2963 Lindbergh Blvd., 546-3821

It’s pretty impressive what people can do with fingernails these days. The folks at Soak are especially talented, with some really neat work to show for it. Some of their designs look like miniature pieces of art, with zebra stripes, flowers and other themes. One of their nail techs, Jan Le, even seems to have a following among voters. Of course, Soak offers the usual manicures, pedicures, French tips and nail repair, too. Asked what sets them apart, Frank Nguyen, one of the owners, says they simply focus on making customers happy. It shows.
Runners-up: BJ Grand Salon and Spa, Pink & White Nails and Spa

BEST YOGA/PILATES STUDIO     
Ahh Yoga, 1051 W. Wabash Ave., 725-2373

There are plenty of places to do yoga in Springfield, but Ahh Yoga is definitely one of the most welcoming and relaxed. Even for first-timers, their classes seem like family gatherings – minus the drama. They pride themselves on working with beginners, especially those who aren’t very flexible, but they have more challenging classes available for the advanced folks. They even have a visiting chiropractor available on-site a couple of days each week. Check out the “hot yoga” to sweat a bit, or get the young ones involved with a dedicated class for kids.
Runners-up: FitClub, YMCA

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Kids Stuff

BEST CHILDREN’S DANCE SCHOOL
Dance Creations Dance Studio, 600 E. Ash St., Suite 100, 529-8888

Janet Cripe at Dance Creations Dance Studio has been teaching dance for 30 years, but she still seems to love every moment of it. Cripe says her program spans kids who have just learned to walk, all the way up to 60- and 70-year-olds. Her priority is giving her students a “quality dance education,” she says, and it shows: some of her students have gone on to dance professionally in New York City, and others now teach dance themselves. Cripe also holds a yearly student performance called DCDS In Motion, which raises money for charity. “I truly have a love for the art of dance, the art of expression,” she says. “One of the most important things is for the kids to see how many different avenues the world of dance will take them on.”
Runners-up: Dance Arts Studio, Springfield Dance

BEST DAY CARE
Building Blocks Preschool, 805 S. Chatham Road, 698-8877

770 Apple Orchard Road, 528-8028
Today’s kids will face a lot when they get out into the world, so starting their education early can only help. Building Blocks Preschool uses the popular Sensory Teaching Readiness Curriculum to teach young kids how to think critically, ask questions and discover the world. Building Blocks has two locations, one of which is open until almost midnight during the week for working parents, and it really lives up to its “preschool” moniker, rather than simply being a day care. They teach kids music, sign language, Spanish, exercise and plenty more, and between the two facilities, they have upwards of 500 infants through six-year-olds to manage. That many kids running around would drive some people nuts, but Building Blocks has been at it for more than 20 years, so they must be doing something right.
Runners-up: Lincoln Land Community College Child Development Center,
Memorial Child Care


BEST LOCAL PLACE FOR FAMILY FUN
Knight’s Action Park
1700 Recreation Dr., 546-8881

It’s hard to overstate how much there is to do at Knight’s Action Park. The main attraction during the summer is the Splash Kingdom water park, which looks pretty alluring from I-72 when the temperature hits 90 degrees. If you can sneak away from work while the kids are on summer break, however, the Royal Flush and Devil Ray water slides are a blast. If water isn’t your thing, try the dry activities like go-carts, mini golf, or batting practice. The arcade is open year-round, too, so the kids can blow off some steam even when snow makes the water park less appealing.
Runners-up: Ergadoozy, Illinois State Fair

BEST TUTOR/ADVANCED ACADEMICS PROGRAM
Nelson Resource Center, 319 Chatham Road, 546-6140

Voters chose Nelson Resource Center in this category because of owner Deborah Nelson’s passion for helping kids succeed. The tutoring program helps kids in kindergarten through high school who are struggling with everything from basic reading to calculus. She also offers help with standardized test preparation, choosing a college, preparing for college and more. Nelson, who has been in business 22 years, works late into the evening tutoring kids, and she says the best part of her job is seeing the kids make progress. “It’s great to just see their frustration melt away,” she said. In the end, she says, she just hopes she can have an impact on the lives of her students.
 Runners-up: Iles School, Kumon Math and Reading Center

BEST SUMMER CAMP
Camp Widjiwagan, 71 Wienold Lane

For kids, summer camp can be a magical place. Sure, it’s fun, but for many kids, it’s their first real opportunity to establish some independence. Camp Widjiwagan, which serves the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, offers young women a chance to learn and grow. Situated on Lake Springfield, the 67-acre camp has a ropes course, hiking trails, wilderness camping, lodges, a climbing tower and more. Plus, it’s accredited by the American Camp Association, meaning it meets several standards for safety and quality of instruction. One voter said she still remembers the songs she learned at Camp Widjiwagan 15 years ago, which shows the memories kids make at camp – and the lessons they learn – stay with them for a lifetime.
Runners-up: Lincoln Land Community College - Summer College for Kids, Springfield Theatre Center – PAVE Camp

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Music & Entertainment

BEST AMERICANA/FOLK BAND
The Blue Gs

It’s no surprise that The Blue Gs win again as they continue producing some of the best bluegrass (Blue Gs… get it?) influenced music around with enough pop, rock, country and blues mixed in to file it under Americana. Recently in the studio for another full-length recording, the band’s core remains founding members Shane Bumgarner (banjo, vocals), Gary Fifer (mandolin), Jeff Cunningham (bass) and Jonathan Field (guitar, fiddle, vocals). Now with Josh Parr (fiddle, vocals) as a full-time player, this dedicated group of talented musicians practices hard and plays well, bringing audiences to their knees with fine picking and to their feet for more music wherever they entertain.
Runners-up: Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts, Tom Irwin’s Hayburners

BEST BAND: MEMBERS UNDER 21
Young Luck

Our under-21 band started way back in 2012, already with years of playing and planning for the rock ’n’ roll life under their belts and in their heads. When Zack Fedor (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Tyler Landess (lead guitar, vocals), Ryan Hendrickson (bass, vocals) and Joel Day (drums, vocals) joined forces, they discovered a kindred spirit driving the music forward through songwriting, performance and belief in what they could accomplish. Last summer they released a debut CD, Springfield City Limits, recorded at FreQuincy Records, completely written and performed by the boys in the band. They’ve not let the age factor hinder them from getting gigs, as they play several times a month at venues all around the area. Unlike many “under age” bands that focus on the all-ages (really under legal drinking age) venues, Young Luck actually appeals to all ages and goes out and plays for the masses.
Runner-up: Looming

BEST BLUES BAND/ARTIST
Black Magic Johnson

With the recently released Walk with You Baby as their third CD of all original music and nearly 20 years of live music performances to back up the sound, Black Magic Johnson deserves the recognition and our readers responded. Headed by singer, songwriter, drummer and harmonica player Reggie Britton, and ably joined by Alexis Rogers and Dan Grover on electric lead and rhythm guitars with bass duties rotating between Willy Christmon, Lawrence Baulden and other four-string champs, the band does sweet, old, homestyle blues, nothing fancy, nothing in your face, just in the pocket and “fun-tastic,” as they call what they do. Often joined by local musicians such as Frank Parker to jam the blues, BMJ gets the folks dancing and having a good time, by using the blues to forget that you got the blues.
Runner-up: Back Pack Jones

BEST CLUB DJ
DJ Mikee/Curve Inn

When you have the best beer garden, consistent good live music, terrific food and keep the booze flowing from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week, you might as well have the best DJ too. The Curve Inn, a Springfield institution since 1945, now has this award to add to their collection and they have DJ Mikee to thank for putting on the right tunes to keep the crowd rocking, drinking, dancing and visiting. No one thing puts Mikee over the top; he just does what needs to be done and does it well, in a consistent fashion, and the folks who land at the Curve Inn say he’s the best. With the beer garden area hosting live music Thursday through Saturday, but until only 10 p.m., DJ Mikee takes up the slack until closing hour at 3 a.m. running the gambit in popular music to the delight of late-night bargoers.
Runner-up: DJ EVO

BEST COUNTRY BAND
New City Road

Rolling and rocking down the country roads, here comes New City Road on the move in 2014. Original bandmates Aley Mundstock (lead vocals), Harry Lounsberry (keys, vocals) and Ryan King (guitars, banjo) joined forces with Chris Harris (bass, vocals), then Allan Harris (lead guitar, vocals) and Max Harris (drums, vocals) to became a top area band in the modern country genre. NCR mixes contemporary and classic country songs with a side of rock ’n’ roll to make a can’t-be-beat tasty music treat. From fairs to festivals, nightclubs to day gigs, the band, booked by Mikey’s Entertainment and the official house band for local radio station 101.9-FM The Wolf, is sponsored by Budweiser beer and Valvoline oil. Country is on the road again!
Runner-up: Brushville

BEST FEMALE SINGER/SONGWRITER
Elizabeth Eckert

Singing with passion from the age of 5 to an appearance in the Hollywood round of “American Idol” a few years ago, this sultry songstress of Springfield continues to entice and entertain her legions of fans. Not only does EE possess a voice of heavenly proportions, she can write a song that angels could sing. In 2011 she released Retrospect, her first collection of self-penned songs. You’ve seen her on stage in many area theater productions and heard her as co-host of the morning show on 99.7 Kiss FM. Nowadays you can catch her performing around town in acoustic shows with best buds and fellow singer-songwriters Micah Walk and Dave Littrell as Deep Hollow or with the local cover band, supergroup The Shenanigans. Wherever she goes and whatever she sings, Elizabeth puts her heart and soul into her endeavors and we are the lucky recipients of her tremendous talents.
Runners-ups: Gracia Harrison, Brooke Thomas

BEST HARDCORE BAND/ARTIST
BEST PUNK BAND/ARTIST

NIL8

Year after year NIL8 takes the cake for best band in these categories. Since coming on the scene in the mid-80s to touring nationally in the 90s, all the way to just doing a handful of shows annually in the last few years, the Williams Brothers continue to be recognized as one of the most popular acts to ever be from and remain in our city. Through the years, Jeff (guitar, songwriter, vocals, rants) and Bruce (bass), kept their peers as fans and also scored with another generation of skate-punk, funk-wired, mosh-diving folks who support and believe in the world of NIL8. They’ve worked with several musicians in the last 30-some years with Damon Soper (guitar, vocals) and Wes Selinger (drums) carrying on as the most recent NIL8-ers backing Jeff and Bruce on this lifelong adventure of a teenage band born in Mrs. Williams’ basement and now moshing toward middle age.
Runner-up: The Timmys

BEST HIP HOP BAND/ARTIST
Agent Orange

This once and always mighty rap and hip-hop artist began his career in 2003 fresh from high school, then roared out of Springfield in 2009 to take some Chicago-based folks by storm. Continuing in his career as a superb and stunning artist of word and beat, Agent Orange (not to be confused with the surf-punk band from California or the deadly chemical used extensively in the Vietnam War), also known as Zach McCoy, calls himself a battle MC and can take the stage with and from most anyone. Recent forays keep him around town and MC-ing at such events as Rock for the Cure, held a few weekends ago at Donnie’s Homespun. Springfield’s hip-hop scene seems to hang underground, but Agent O is always available to shake things up.
Runner-up: Loudmouth

BEST JAZZ GROUP/ARTIST
Jane Hartman

For many years, several years ago, Jane owned this category and that of favorite female performer in Springfield, as a shoo-in from her many dedicated and appreciative fans. For the last several years her live performances have been less frequent, but her influence has grown. As the senior music professor at Lincoln Land Community College, she shapes and prods, cajoles and molds students searching to further their abilities in music knowledge. Her presence in our community continues to enrich our appreciation of music, and especially the strains of jazz and classical, as a teacher, performer, mentor and all around nice person. She makes the sounds become music and helps many others to do the same.
Runner-up: Frank Trompeter

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE (BIG)
Prairie Capital Convention Center, 1 Convention Center Plaza, 788-8800
Our very own downtown convention center, sometimes referred to as the PC3, underwent significant building changes over the last few years. The conversion to a space more friendly to hosting live music events – especially with the construction of the outdoor BOS Plaza, coupled with a more aggressive booking plan to fit the new digs – must have struck a chord with our readers, as they responded with plenty of positive responses. General manager Brian Oaks, long a fan of concerts at The Center (yet another moniker), must be thrilled by the success of the outdoor shows made possible at the facility because of the long-sought renovations. Built in 1978, the multipurpose facility is now considered the best spot in Springfield for large live music shows. Light your lighters (or use your cell phones, please) and come listen to the music.
Runner up: Boondocks

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE (SMALL)
Boondocks
2909 West Dirksen Parkway, 679-0145

Established in 2013 in an old dance club hall, Boondocks started with a flash and continues to shine with a brilliance that must have locals wondering what they did before it was here and what they would now do without this progressive and solid hub of live music performance. Predominantly geared toward a contemporary country crowd, the warehouse-type venue on North Dirksen Parkway also hosts popular local bands, traveling rock acts and area fundraisers to supplement the up-and-comers and already-been-there bands that generally fill the weekends at Boondocks. A friendly staff, plenty of parking, a well-positioned stage and a good sound system sets the boundaries for bands to present their musical wares and for folks from all over to enjoy the sights and sounds at this popular and progressive venue.
Runner-up: The Curve Inn

BEST LIVE THEATER PRODUCTION 2014
All Shook Up - The Muni
Every year The Muni, the lovable little outdoor theater by Lake Springfield, gives townsfolk a wonderful run of well done and respectable musicals. For 2014, the favorite show to our readers was All Shook Up, a 2004 all-American musical using Elvis Presley music, with the book by Joe DiPietro based loosely on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Surely a combination for the surreal amid the real, the friendly and positive show sat well with our theater-goers. Directed by Anna Bussing with Julia Ratz assisting and filled with a talented cast including Gavin Gardner, Sophia Lanser, Katina Gude, Rich Beans, Jacob Deters, Cami Kern, Calia Cole, Jim Leach, Cory Blisset, Angelica Ikejiaku and Tamara Bivens, along with a young, able-bodied chorus, the show was a resounding success. Uh, huh, huh.
Runner-up: Shrek: the Musical at The Muni

BEST LOCAL CD OF 2014
BEST LOCAL SINGER/SONGWRITER – MALE

Micah Walk

Micah Walk has proven he can write songs people like to listen to and appreciate. Since moving to Springfield from his hometown of Girard several years ago, the singing, songwriting guitarist continues to wow and woo audiences in the capital city and beyond. For the CD of the Year, he began by going to his fans to score funding through a Kickstarter campaign that allows for pre-purchasing of a CD. That, in turn, allows an artist to afford to go make the record with the funds secured. Walk chose Grammy-nominated producer Jaimie Candiloro out in Los Angeles to help flesh out the songs and, in doing so, created a wonderfully listenable recording that readers felt exemplified the best in Springfield. Plus it has a good beat and you can dance to it, if you are so inclined. The attractive and enticing cover artwork came courtesy of local artist Felicia Olin. As the creator of the Best Local CD should, Micah handily took the singer-songwriter mantle as well.
Runner-up local CD: Brooke Thomas and the Blue Suns, Every Little Moment
Runner-up Male Local Singer/Songwriter: Hipbone Sam


BEST ROCK/POP BAND
BEST LOCAL COVER BAND

Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters

Once again, this extremely popular band out of the Jacksonville area makes it a successful two for one run, by grabbing both of the most coveted categories in the local music scene. With leader and founder J Bird at the helm, steering the ship through thick and thin, but mostly fun and frolic, while aptly aided by fellow travelers Buster, Joker, Marc, MaJeeda and Peter, who proudly call themselves a “band of misfits,” they know how to do nothing but have fun and party. And they make sure you do too, by highly encouraging “Getting your Geech on” by all audience members. Sponsored by Coors Light through Robert “Chick” Fritz Distributing, Inc., the band takes their own official CG & the SSS bus to gigs and gets the party started in there, wherever the need arises. Congratulations on a big win. So now let’s dance and drink or drink and dance and “take this moment of silence to drink,” as the Geechers like say.
Runners-up: Hipbone Sam (rock/pop band),
The Shenanigans (local cover band)

BEST LOCAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Old Capitol Blues & BBQs

Folks around here obviously like their blues and they like their BBQ too. And they really like to have both at the same place, especially if the event is a two-day festival in downtown Springfield. Despite this year’s stifling heat that was held responsible for a downturn in audience attendance, the Old Capitol Blues & BBQs, presented by your friends at Downtown Springfield, Inc., is by far our readers’ most favorite, number one, leader-of-the-pack festival, and it has been for several years. The combination of live blues music and good food, along with the family activities and the Illinois Central Blues Club’s hosting of the local part of the International Blues Challenge contest, all contribute to the excitement and fun. Plus, it sure makes downtown smell and sound good.
Runners-up: Downhome Music, Beer and Art Festival, SOHO Fest

BEST METAL BAND/ARTIST
Novocaine

Once again, as last year, this 90s-2000s rock-pop cover band received an overwhelming amount of votes in this category. As they claim on their Facebook page, they aren’t a true metal band, but they’ll take the win. Current members Albert Capati (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), William Richards (lead guitar, vocals), Ed Tinsley (bass, vocals) and Jerry Osborne (drums, vocals) work the crowd into a frenzy, metal band or not, with tunes favoring the grunge side of rock in typical venues around central Illinois. Albert’s incredible voice even allows the band to nail songs with female lead vocalists. Coming in third with an honorable mention as a truly, self-proclaimed, sounding and acting metal band, was Grim. 
Runner-up: POWERHOUSE

BEST NEW LOCAL BAND FORMED IN 2014
Lick Creek

When this self-proclaimed band of a half rock/half country blend of musicians first got together, they knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted to play, a factor that likely led to their rapid rise in the local scene. Bandmates Jeff Parrish (drums), Matthew Wedel (bass), Wesley Ingram (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Barnes (lead guitar, vocals), Lance Stone (lead vocals) and Maddie Brown (lead vocals, acoustic) list as influences everything from “Metallica to Merle.” They profess to be all about “making music and having fun,” two very good things to bring to the stage as a rockin’ country band in central Illinois. They stay very busy for a band not nearly a year old, hitting all the spots around like Boondocks, Koo-Koo’s Nest, Mowie’s Cue and others. Expect to see lots more from this young band of up-and-comers determined to make you have a good time, because they are going to for sure.
Runner-up: Off The Wall

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC BAND
Hipbone Sam

Perhaps best known for his active live show, familiar cover song selection and ever present “Let me hear ya say, yeah!” cheer, this previous winner of several “Best of” categories both in Illinois Times and that other newspaper in town, is a recognized songwriter, too. Hipbone Sam, otherwise known as Kevin Hawkins, works his own tunes into the songlist, and before you know it, folks are singing along with an original song. Besides his three CDs of self-penned material available to the public, you can catch the Best of Hipbone Sam on all AMI Rowe Jukeboxes and more than 50,000 TouchTunes Digital Jukeboxes in the U.S., Canada and U.S. military bases worldwide. With Hipbone Sam covering the lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Rick Mari picks lead guitar, Hawkeye Kane blows harmonica, Rob Ross hits the drums and Mark Riefler plays bass, as the Coor’s Light-sponsored group gigs nearly every weekend at various venues around the Midwest.
Runner-up: NIL8

BEST PLACE FOR KARAOKE
Sluggo’s
2660 W Lawrence Ave., 787-6111

They say you can’t argue with success and neither do our readers as they consistently vote Sluggo’s the place to go for karaoke. Maybe it’s the lounge within a bowling alley venue, but most likely it’s the host with the most creating just the right atmosphere for grabbing the mic, reading the lyrics and having a blast that make this place the perennial winner. In an odd twist, The Curve Inn received a large number of votes, but we could find no record of a karaoke night. Word on the street has it that, starting this week, you’ll see karaoke at the Curve on Thursdays. Hmmmm. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Runner-up: The Blue Grouch

BEST SHOPPING FOR MUSIC GEAR
The Rock Shop
1808 West Jefferson Street, 546-8980

From humble beginnings in a small room in a little house on Jefferson Street, The Rock Shop has grown into the largest music store in central Illinois with almost 7,000 square feet of retail space, housing the largest inventory of musical instruments on display in the capital city. Owner Todd Rushing brings you the top names in rock guitars, amps and other gear along with a knowledgeable staff of working musicians able to answer questions, adjust your axe, sell you strings, talk about the world of music or set you up with the best gear available anywhere. They recently expanded into school band instruments with rentals and purchases, plus offering weekly lessons on guitar, bass, drums, piano, ukulele, banjo, violin and mandolin with several of the finest teachers in the area. Musicians around here don’t bother with box store banality or impersonal online sites and head to the Rock Shop to stock up on the music gear and real music know-how.
Runner-up:  Daddy O’s Music Shack

BEST SOUND TECHNICIAN
Ric “Skippy” Major

Entertainers are only as good as what the audience hears, and the sound technician is the middle person in the equation. For the second year in a row (the only two years this category has been offered) local sound guru Ric “Skippy” Major takes home the gold. Not only is he the man behind the sound curtain at Music in the Parks, the Miller Lite State Fair beer tent stage, Lincoln Memorial Garden’s Indian Summer Festival, Washington Park’s Jack-o-Spooktacular and Carillon Festival recordings, he’s had his hand in booking music acts at some of these events as well. From a career that spans nearly 40 years of tweaking the knobs on sound boards making musicians sound good, Skippy, owner and operator at Middle Option Music, indeed is the sound technician’s sound technician. This year he took over the stage and sound for the popular Curve Inn live music shows on Thursdays. Next year expect to see him out there more often, making area bands sound the best they can.
Runner up: JR (Matthew Graves)

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: FEMALE
Hannah Siehr, Shrek, The Musical (Muni)

Since her recent graduation from Pleasant Plains High School (and even before), this rising young star on the local theater scene has been one busy actress. Including her phenomenal performance as Fiona in Shrek, The Musical last summer, the budding young starlet also portrayed the main female character in Hair: The Musical and recently completed a leading role in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, along with several other area productions to her credit. As busy as she’s been, her role as the princess/ogress to the big green guy in Shrek (sponsored by McGladrey and directed by Craig Williams II) placed her as a winner in the eyes of local theater-goers. We all look forward to many more years of stage work from this young and talented performer.
Runner-up: Anna Bussing, Little Shop of Horrors

BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: MALE
Jim Leach, Annie (STC)

Directed by Rich McCoy as a Springfield Theatre Center production, the tale of the little orphan girl charmed the hearts of Springfield theater-goers when it hit the Hoogland stage back in December of 2013, even selling out shows. Jim Leach, local talk show host on 970-AM WMAY (and former recipient of the BoS for local radio personality) played the part of the ultra-wealthy capitalist character Daddy Warbucks with gusto, and to listeners of his liberal-leaning radio show, with a shade of irony. To add extra pizzazz to the part, Leach shaved his head on air, as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The experienced actor also claims this was a “bucket list” part and worked to not reinvent the famous character, but to only add his interpretation to the relished role.
Runner-up: Patrick Russell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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People & Places


BEST APARTMENTS
Lincoln Square Apartments, 521 East Monroe, 528-5400

“It used to be Springfield’s version of ‘Melrose Place,’” recalls one former denizen who counts the years he spent at Lincoln Square as among the happiest of his 30-something life. “Three a.m. pool parties were the norm. There were several incidents of nudity. It was a fabulous place to live if you were 25 to 35. Then they brought in a bunch of families and ruined the place.” That may or may not be true, but Lincoln Square remains one of the city’s premier places to live if you hate mortgages and mowing grass. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s easy walking distance to watering holes, the Capitol, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Prairie Capital Convention Center and the downtown farmers market. Rents are a bit more than some places, sure, but it’s worth it. Options range from 750-square-foot one-bedroom units to two-story townhouses with two bedrooms and 1,100 square feet of space.
Runners-up: Lake Pointe Apartments, Chatham Hills Apartments

BEST DOCTOR
Dr. Christina Ventress, family practitioner
Family Medical Center of Chatham
101 Plummer Blvd., Chatham, 483-3487

Dr. Christina Ventress, her patients say, treats people like human beings. She has, well, that knack. You don’t feel rushed, you don’t feel like a widget. She makes men, women and children feel at ease, and finding one doctor who can fill the needs of an entire family isn’t easy these days. This is a physician you can talk to and walk away feeling like she has listened. And she’ll probably cure what ails you while she’s at it.
Runners-up: Dr. Helen Kwong, St. John’s;  Dr. Scott Morton, Springfield Clinic

BEST HISTORIC BUILDING
Dana-Thomas House
301 E. Lawrence Avenue, 782-6776

“Is there any other real choice?” one reader asked. Well, yes, there is. With such treasures as the Old State Capitol and the Lincoln Home as well as the Lincoln tomb, it’s tough to pick the best historic building in Springfield. This win is well deserved. Lots of people complain about state spending, but buying the Dana-Thomas House in 1981 for $1 million has to be one of the best things that the state of Illinois ever did. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this home built between 1902 and 1904 is an architectural tour de force. With heavy Japanese influences, it’s a 12,000-square-foot slice of Asia plopped down in the prairie and still filled with original light fixtures, windows and other goodies. It never gets old, and a visit always brings a sense of peace.
Runners-up: Lincoln Home, Lincoln’s New Salem

BEST HOTEL
Crowne Plaza
3000 S. Dirksen Parkway, 529-7777

It’s a bit of a drive to get to the Crowne Plaza from the heart of the city, but well worth the trip – and it is hard to criticize a hotel company for building a hotel just off Interstate 55. The food is consistently excellent and there is a certain lavishness to the place that makes you feel like you’re in a much larger city. It is the place to stay for folks who demand comfort, cleanliness and style.
Runners-up: Hilton, President Abraham Lincoln Springfield Hotel

BEST INSTAGRAM TO FOLLOW
217Problems, instagram.com/217problems

Sometimes in Springfield, you see something so puzzling or hilarious that you just have to share it with the world. Enter 217 Problems, which documents and aggregates funny things around town using the popular photo-sharing service Instagram. (They’re on Facebook and Twitter, too.) A typical post might be a comically naive sign, a strange license plate or someone dressed strangely, like the photo of gal at a Redbox wearing what appears to be only a bed sheet. They also recently posted a video with local celebrity Chili Bowl Mullet Man. (Guess how he got his nickname.) If you need a laugh on short notice, 217 Problems has you covered.
Runners-up: Blessed by Brenna - instagram.com/cwestlake;
Kari Bedford - instagram.com/karibedford


BEST LOCAL POLITICIAN
Cory Jobe

Kenny Rogers said it best: You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em and, by that measure, Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe is the best player in Springfield. He’s ambitious but not foolhardy, and so he decided to keep his powder dry in the upcoming municipal elections and run again for his seat on the council instead of challenging Mayor Mike Houston for the city’s top office. He’s a tireless and passionate advocate for neighborhoods, and we like his style. He isn’t always right – we’re not sure how his push for an inspector general will work out – but he’s articulate, effective and young enough to be a factor in city government for years to come.
Runners-up: Wes Barr, Richard Durbin

BEST LOCAL SPORTS TEAM
Rochester Rockets football team

This isn’t just an opinion, it’s a fact: As state champions four years running, the Rochester Rockets are not only the best in Sangamon County, they’re the best in the state. It has gotten to the point that any victory margin of less than 14 points qualifies as a close call. Even more impressive, Rochester is a public school, and so the team can’t lure star players by offering scholarships. They have to work with homegrown stock. The wise guys were saying that this year’s team may not be as talented as past squads before the team recently lost a shocker to lightly regarded MacArthur High School of Decatur. But we wouldn’t bet against the Rockets. If they’re not playing deep into November, we’ll be stunned.
Runners-up: Sacred Heart-Griffin football team; Junior Blues hockey team

BEST NONPROFIT
Animal Protective League, 1001 Taintor Road, 544-7387(PETS)

The Animal Protective League has long been Fido’s best friend. Whether you are a pit bull or a poodle or a pug, the staff and volunteers at APL will love you just the way you are, unless you’re equipped to create more pit bulls, poodles, pugs and all breeds in between. And so the APL has instituted an aggressive spay/neuter program that has fixed more than 90,000 cats and dogs since 2007, with cats and pit bulls in certain areas eligible for free spaying or neutering. It’s a common-sense approach that has made APL the go-to place for animal shelters throughout central Illinois that send dogs and cats to Springfield to get fixed. It’s also a great place to adopt a cat or dog, and there never seems to be a shortage, which has prompted APL to make plans for a mobile adoption facility enclosed in a 30-foot trailer that would travel to community events and wherever else prospective owners might be.
Runners-up: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region,
Central Illinois Foodbank


BEST MUSEUM
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
112 N. Sixth Street, 557-4588

Ten years after it opened, the ALPLM remains a must-see for out-of-towners and natives alike. Even if you’ve already seen the permanent exhibits, there have been temporary ones such as an exhibition of photographs by Annie Leibovitz that is spectacularly beautiful. The facility draws such scholars as Doris Kearns Goodwin and Harold Holzer and such celebrities as Daniel Day-Lewis, who toured the facility to prepare for his performance in the 2012 movie Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg. But let’s be honest. There is reason to be concerned about this museum that deserves love that it hasn’t gotten from the state, which has been skimping on funding for years while the number of historians and preservationists at the museum has dwindled. More than four million visitors since opening day is something to celebrate, sure, but lawmakers need to start proving they care about the nation’s best-ever president by doing a better job of funding and running the place.
Runners-up: Illinois State Museum, Dana-Thomas House

BEST PHOTOGRAPHER
Terry Farmer, Terry Farmer Photography,
4133 Old Jacksonville Road, 698-6000

When it comes to photography, Terry Farmer and Springfield are nearly as synonymous as Abraham Lincoln and Mathew Brady. He’s been in business since 1990, eventually moving from a small downtown location to a beautiful new building west of town. Farmer is perhaps best known for portrait photography, but his company also offers aerial photography as well as restoration work on vintage prints that have seen better days. With photography projects that have benefited such charities as the Animal Protective League, the American Red Cross and Ronald McDonald House, Farmer’s company has also shown a dedication to the community that all businesses should emulate.
Runners-up: Kari Bedford Photography, Grace Tierney Photography

BEST RADIO PERSONALITY
Dave and Dina, WLFZ

Election Day is just one week off. Ebola, or fears of it, threaten to topple Western civilization as we know it. The Bears and Rams both lost on Sunday. And Dave and Dina are talking about Dina’s trip to St. Louis yesterday with the hubby and kids that ended – get this – with the entire family locked out of their car in a relative’s driveway! It took practically forever to get home, Dina says, after one of the kids locked the empty car with the keys on the front seat. A nice man from AAA came out and got the car door open, after setting off the car alarm (ha!), but the children ended up with an extra hour of play time. After this, some music and commercials, then some talk about the unseasonably warm weather, then some more music and commercials, then Dave and Dina discuss the phenomenon of backburner relationships, the at-arms-length friendships people keep with members of the opposite sex just in case their current relationship doesn’t work out. Then some more music and commercials. And so the morning goes, with Dina Michaels and Dave Daniels, just two regular folk who get your day off to a fresh, happy start by talking about a mix of subjects. It’s always upbeat and informative.
Runners-up: Lynch and Liz, WYMG; Jim Leach, WMAY

BEST REASON TO GO DOWNTOWN
Old Capitol Farmers Market

Sunshine. Streets turned into pedestrian thoroughfares lined with tables and bins overflowing with squash, green beans, bread, cheese and other bounty of the land and artisanal shops where production is small and quality through the roof. Everyone, it seems, is smiling. Saunter is the operative word as you stop and chat with sellers and run into friends you didn’t expect to see. Downtown Springfield, Inc., does many good things, but putting on the farmers market held from May through October stands out as one of the organization’s best good deeds. Whether you’re in search of poultry, garlic, pecans or eggs, the farmers market is the place to get it six months out of each year, and we can’t wait for it to open again next spring.
Runners-up: Obed and Isaac’s, Hoogland Center For The Arts

BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Concordia Village, 4101 W. Iles Ave., 793-9429

Concordia Village certainly doesn’t look like a retirement community. It looks a lot more like condos that just happen to house retired folks. The best compliment one could give a retirement community is that it looks like the residents actually want to be there, and that seems true of Concordia. They have spaces for people who can live independently, as well as those who need quite a bit more help. The highlight, however, is their robust schedule of activities to keep residents sharp and engaged. They have everything from bingo to church services to video games to classes. Lest you worry about your elderly loved ones, Concordia has a five-star rating from the federal government. One voter summed it up nicely: “Wow.”
Runners-up: Lewis Memorial Christian Village, The Villas Senior Care Community

BEST TV ANCHOR/REPORTER
Joe Crain, WICS-TV

Morning weatherman Joe Crain has long been a local favorite, but he went viral last year after morning host Natalie Sparacio sent him off the set, laughing hysterically and unable to deliver the forecast for folks who were awake at 6:30 a.m., by timely uttering the word “uterus.” This is Crain’s charm. He consistently wins praise from readers who love his professionalism, but he also comes off as a regular person whom just about everyone can relate to, and so any missteps – and there are very few – are happily forgiven, because this is a guy who makes your mornings brighter. And, after all, what’s a uterus between friends?
Runners-up: Liz Foster, WICS-TV; Ric Kearbey, WICS-TV

BIGGEST SCANDAL
Jeffrey Parsons

This man is epic. Even after moving to Texas, he still commands attention every time he slithers into Springfield for yet another court appearance so that yet another judge can give him yet another wrist tap. This fall, a judge decreed that he should pay $5,155 per month to make good on a $12.3 million judgment in favor of ex-employees who won their case alleging that he’d cheated them out of wages. Whoa, Parsons, who earns his living by buying and selling precious metals, must really be quaking in his wingtips! Just who would do business with Parsons these days, now that he’s become infamous for bouncing checks, not paying vendors and skipping out on leases, is somewhat a mystery, but his “popularity” among IT readers is undeniable. Edged out by spending for State Capitol doors last year after he took the biggest-scandal crown in 2012, Parsons is again on top when it comes to the biggest scandal in Springfield. And it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it.
Runners-up: The idiot state senator who complained about loud music at Marly’s (that would be Sen. Antonio “I Need My Beauty Rest” Munoz, D-Chicago), anti-violence grants for Chicago that have triggered criminal investigations

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 Food & Drink  •  Bars & Nightlife  •  Kids Stuff

Shopping Local

BEST AUTO REPAIR
Wilkerson’s Service Center
2840 Stevenson Dr, 529-0292

“My choice for the last three decades,” states one loyal voter, who has been with Wilkerson’s almost since its founding in 1982. Trustworthy, efficient car repair is hard to come by and Wilkerson’s gets high marks in all areas, singled out by other readers as “honest,” and offering “fair prices, excellent quality and personal service.” Wilkerson’s has locations in Rochester and Chatham and is also noted for its competitively priced selection of tires.
Runners-up: Floyd Imports, Zara Collision

BEST NEW CAR DEALER and
BEST PRE-OWNED CAR DEALER

Green Hyundai, 1200 S. Dirksen Pkwy., 525-1370

Wide selection and excellent service (of both the customer and automotive varieties) are the keys to the huge popularity of Green Hyundai, which took top honors in both the new and pre-owned car categories this year. One reader commented that they “could not ask for a quicker, more efficient car dealership” while salespeople Richard Bailey, Justin List and John McCarthy III were each singled out for special praise by voters.
Runners-up (new): Isringhausen Imports, Landmark Ford
Runners-up (pre-owned): Bob Ridings, Isringhausen Imports


BEST AUTO SALESPERSON
Walter Skube, Landmark Ford
2401 Prairie Crossing Drive, 725-0642

Walt Skube originally started at Landmark Ford back in ’86, left for a while and came back in 2006. Since then he has cultivated a loyal base of customers who put him at the top of this category.  “All my customers are my family,” he says. “My customers come first each and every time.” The feeling seems to be mutual, as our voters made comments calling Walt “a great guy” who “always gives you a great deal.”
Runners-up: Mylas Copeland - Green Toyota,
Ed Selinger - Honda of Illinois


BEST BANK
United Community Bank
301 N. Main St. Chatham, 483-2491
Various locations

Locally owned and operated, UCB maintains its primacy this year. This is no doubt due to the personal relationships the institution maintains with its fiercely loyal customer base. Its voters describe the staff as “down-home people” and crowed about “great customer service.” Founded in 1907, United Community Bank has assets of approximately $1.5 billion and operates in nine Illinois counties (and one in Missouri). UCB prides itself on the fact that it remains beholden only to its customers rather than any out-of-state entity.
Runners-up: Bank of Springfield, Marine Bank

BEST BIKE SHOP
Ace Bike Shop
2500 S. MacArthur Blvd., 523-0188

With almost half a century in business, Ace Bike Shop is known to Springfield cyclists for reliably excellent sales and service. Our voters gave the Ace staff high marks for knowledge, friendliness and workmanship, with several mentioning the shop’s reasonable prices. Ace’s dedication goes beyond finding the right bikae for each rider. It is just as important to maximize the quality of its customers’ post-purchase biking experience.
Runners-up: R&M Cyclery, Bike Tek

BEST CATERER
Nelson’s, 3005 Great Northern Rd., 787-9443

When it comes to catered events, the popularity of Nelson’s would be hard to underestimate as they hold onto top honors here once again. Whether or not this is due to their continuing deployment of the unique “Port-a-Pit” cooker is anyone’s guess, but voter comments indicate that a sterling record of punctuality and “FANTASTIC food, FABULOUS people!” (caps and punctuation retained from original) certainly can’t have hurt.
Runners-up: Hamilton’s, 5 Flavors

BEST CREDIT UNION
Heartland Credit Union, Various locations, 726-8877

Once again, Heartland Credit Union claims the crown in this category. Founded in 1946, Heartland inspires great loyalty in its customers, as evidenced by the voter who commented that they continue to bank there despite having moved 250 miles away. Another voter expressed gratitude for Heartland’s handling of their son’s first bank loan, helping to get the youngster’s financial future off on the right foot.
Runners-up: CEFCU, Illinois Educators

BEST EVENT VENUE
Erin’s Pavilion
4965 S. Second St., 585-2941

Erin’s Pavilion takes top honors in this category once more. Under the auspices of the Park District, it is one of the most progressively accoutered structures in the area (the building is LEED certified as green and was built expressly to serve the needs of the disabled) and the Southwind Park location makes it among the most aesthetically pleasing as well. It’s an understandably popular spot for all kinds of social occasions, from weddings to galas to banquets.
Runners-up: Boondocks, Firefighters Lake Club

BEST GARDEN CENTER
AppleBarn
2290 E. Walnut, Chatham, 483-6236

AppleBarn in Chatham earned praise from our readers for their friendly and knowledgeable staff as well as their delicious apple cider slushies. In addition to freshly picked fruits and vegetables in season (and Christmas trees and items in the winter) AppleBarn is popular for its snacks and pastries (including freshly made fudge and apple pie) and also acts as a nursery, selling flowers, plants and gardening supplies.
Runners-up: Farmers Market, Buckley’s

BEST WINERY
Hill Prairie Winery
23753 Lounsberry Rd., Oakford, 635-9900

Hill Prairie Winery has become renowned for its free Sunday concerts as well as the idyllic country surroundings, which is not to imply that the wine itself is an afterthought. Far from it. Our readers gave particularly high marks to their peach sangria and it should be noted that all of the Hill Prairie wines entered in the 2010 Illinois commercial wine competition walked away with medals. The message: Come for the music and atmosphere, stay for the delicious wine.
Runners-up: Danenberger Family Vineyards, Walnut Street Winery

BEST JEWELRY STORE
Denney Jewelers
2901 Wabash Ave., 787-0500

The hands-down winner in this category, Denney Jewelers scored high marks with our voters. “The best place to go,” said one reader. “Ask for Bruce!” Others spoke of the stellar service, wide array of choices, and the fact that the store is gay-friendly. “They go the extra mile on everything,” one voter said. 
Runners-up: Giganti & Giganti, AB Lauer Jewelers

BEST MEAT MARKET
Humphrey’s Market, 1820 S. 15th St., 544-7445

What can you say about a store founded in 1932 and still residing in its original location in 2014? Humphrey’s is the epitome of the old-school meat market. As one voter put it, there’s “nothing like a good, old-fashioned butcher to answer questions,” and Humphrey’s prides itself on friendly and knowledgeable customer service as well as an effortlessly nostalgic atmosphere, not to mention what one reader describes as “wonderful sales and everyday prices.”
Runners-up: Country Market, Turasky’s

BEST PET BOARDING
Dal Acres West
2508 W. Jefferson, 793-3647

Pets are nothing less than family members to the people who love them and the choice of who to trust with their care can be agonizing. Trust is foremost when deciding where to board those four-legged friends, and Dal Acres West certainly seems to have earned the trust of our voters.  Described as “treating each pet as if it was their own” and singled out for praise of the cleanliness of the facility, the quality of individual attention and reasonable prices. One reader seemed to say it all: “My puppy is always happy to go and happy to see me when I get back.”
Runners-up: Kinner Kennels, Laketown Animal Clinic

BEST REALTOR
Jami Winchester, The Real Estate Group
3701 Wabash Ave., 306-1000

“Jami is the epitome of professionalism,” said one voter of 17-year real estate veteran Jami Winchester, who takes home first place honors for the second year in a row. Other voters noted Jami’s honesty and people skills. In the words of another reader, “Jami rocks!”
Runners-up: Kyle Killebrew - Real Estate Group, Jim Fulgenzi and Co.

BEST SEAFOOD MARKET
Robert’s Seafood Market, 1615 Jefferson, 546-3089

For more than a century, Robert’s has been supplying fish, shrimp, crab, lobster and other aquatic delight to the landlocked seafood lovers of Springfield. The family-owned favorite came in for voluminous praise from our voters for its well-informed, helpful staff, large selection and home delivery service. Robert’s makes a point of dealing with ethical vendors, all the better to make the world a better place for future generations of seafood connoisseurs.
Runners-up: Carter’s, Hy-Vee

BEST SHOPPING FOR WOMEN’S FASHION
Bella
2805 W White Oaks Dr., 726-6500

One voter described Bella as “the only place to get decent clothing in a 100-mile radius of Springfield,” and while this evaluation may or may not qualify as hyperbole, it certainly captures the enthusiasm that put Bella over the top in this category. A locally owned store, Bella describes itself on its website as the place to go for the “latest trends in fashions, formals, accessories and jewelry.” Another reader felt only one word was needed to describe Bella’s offerings: “Adorable!”
Runners-up: Apricot Lane, Goodwill

BEST SOUVENIR/TOURIST STORE
Del’s Popcorn, 213 S 6th St., 544-0037

Del’s Popcorn got its start in Decatur 80 years ago, and opened its first location in Springfield in 1980. Known for the quality and variety of its flavored corn, Del’s is hugely popular among our voters. Comments included, but were not limited to, “love love love this place,” “great popcorn and lots of things to choose from,” “always buy flavored popcorn from them,” and the blunt “I like the flavored popcorn there.” However, one reader comment may have summed it up best: “Yum.”
Runners-up: Penny Lane Gifts, Lincoln Presidential Museum gift shop/Lincoln’s Home Sstore

BEST THRIFT STORE
Goodwill, Various locations, 789-0400

Land of Lincoln Goodwill is part of nonprofit network Goodwill International, which has 164 affiliates and somewhere near 25,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. and Canada. The name Goodwill is synonymous with quality resale clothing and other household items and the three locations in Springfield are always abuzz with bargain seekers on the lookout for that once-in-a-lifetime deal.
Runners-up: Remarkable Resale, Habitat for Humanity’s Restore

BEST VETERINARIAN
Dr. Franklin Coble, DVM, Coble Animal Hospital
2828 S MacArthur Blvd., 789-4200

Coble Animal Hospital received high marks from many of our readers, and Dr. Coble himself was the clear winner in this category.  Dr. Coble grew up watching his father – veterinarian and Coble Animal Hospital founder J. Porter Coble – care for animals and the younger Coble has been on the hospital staff for 44 years, plenty of time for him to amass the skills and goodwill to keep his human customers happy and his furry patients healthy.
Runners-up: Dr. J. Christopher Curry, Laketown Animal Hospital, Chatham Veterinary Clinic

BEST WEDDING CAKES
Incredibly Delicious, 925 S. 7th St., 528-8548

“No one else can match” the wedding cakes of Incredibly Delicious, according to the words of one of many enthusiastic voters who helped the shop earn this title for another year. Melanie Dineen once again received specific reader praise as well for her “wonderful” cake designs. The family-owned and operated Incredibly Delicious (motto: “The name says it all”) will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015 and remains a favorite spot for lunch and specialty pastries.
Runners-up: Specialty Cakes, Sugar Jar

BEST WEDDING ENTERTAINMENT
The Shenanigans
http://www.shenanigansentertainment.com/

An earthy phrase like “talent coming out their ears” could be a little off-putting if taken literally but we’re going to assume it was made in the spirit of a compliment, as it came to us through a voter comment in favor of The Shenanigans, the dynamic and popular six-piece cover band, specializing in an eclectic mix of styles from the past half-century.
Runners-up: Hipbone Sam, Schroeder’s DJ Service

BEST PET GROOMER
Bow Wow Barbershop
441 North Dirksen Parkway, 528-9540

Sure, your dog has proper medical care and somewhere safe to stay when you have to leave town, but how does Fido look? While an unkempt pup isn’t the worst faux pas on the books, sometimes it’s best to leave the grooming to the professionals. At Bow Wow Barbershop your pet can receive bathing, nail clipping, ear care and flea care or even “full spa treatment.” Our voters mentioned the staff’s friendliness and reasonable fees, singling out Heather for special praise and mentioning the “fun pictures” of the animals once they’ve been gussied up.
Runners-up: Bubbles of Fun, Suds & Pups

BEST GYM OR FITNESS CENTER
FitClub, 2811 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-1111
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250
3631 S. Sixth Street Road, 787-8348

FitClub is a perennial favorite in this category, and it’s no wonder why. They have three locations spread across town, and they have tons of classes, training and equipment. Over the past few years, FitClub has been intently focused on their clients’ overall fitness, offering several different intensities of training for people with different needs – everything from cardiac rehabilitation to the popular CrossFit program. And don’t forget about the swimming pools available at their South and West facilities. Whether you work out best alone, with a personal trainer or in a group, FitClub can accommodate you.
Runners-up: YMCA, Planet Fitness

BEST PLACE TO FURNISH YOUR HOME
Barney’s Furniture
2410 South Grand Ave. E., 789-1926

Barney’s first opened on East Washington back in 1939 and moved to its current home on South Grand a whopping 40 years ago. In a home furnishing landscape dominated by chains, Barney’s has remain owned and operated by the Seidman family for three generations. One voter described themselves as having shopped there for “25 years plus,” praising their excellent service and welcoming atmosphere.
Runners-up: Fleamarket to Fabulous, Magnolia Lane

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