Best of Springfield®

Food & Drinks

Best of Springfield 2017

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BEST BAKERY/SWEET SHOP
BEST WEDDING CAKES
BEST FARMERS MARKET VENDOR

Incredibly Delicious

925 S Seventh Street, 528-8548

We heard you, Springfield – Let Them Eat Cake! Springfield has embraced Incredibly Delicious not just for its sweet offerings, but for its savory ones too. Located in the historic Weber House, it proudly describes itself as a French Bakery and Café. Whether you’re in the mood for cakes, pastries or bread, Incredibly Delicious has you covered. Not able to get to their brick and mortar location? Not a problem, as they are clearly the star of the Downtown Farmers Market. For those looking for something more substantial, Incredibly Delicious has a rotating list of breakfast and lunch specials. Planning the perfect wedding and confused about what cake to order? Then try their Wedding Cake tastings every fourth Saturday 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Finalists: Best Bakery/Sweet Shop: Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet; Cocoa Blue Chocolates; Charlotte’s Cakes; Fields of Sweets
Finalists: Best Wedding Cakes: Specialty Cakes; Charlotte’s Cakes; Hy-Vee; Sue Bull Cakes
Finalists: Best Farmers Market Vendor: Cooper’s StrEATside Bistro; Suttil’s Gardens; Custom Cup; Spartan Valley Olive Oil
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BEST BBQ
Twyford BBQ

2562 Twyford Road, Jacksonville
Food truck locations vary, call 370-2274

In what was a fairly tight contest this year, Twyford BBQ earned top honors. With 10 Grand Championships, 5 Reserve Grand Championships, and dozens of other honors, it’s no surprise. But if you want some of this award-winning BBQ, you’ll have to cater in or, better yet, hit their food truck. If you’re not sure where to find them, Twyford BBQ’s webpage has a convenient schedule for the food truck. From traditional offerings like a full rack of ribs to their own twist on the horseshoe, Twyford BBQ really does serve up championship quality “Q.” Here at Illinois Times, we’re particularly enamored with the Burnt End Sandwich paired with Southern Green Beans (seasoned with bacon) or their Sweet Vinegar Cole Saw.

Finalists: McCormick’s Smokehouse; Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill; Hickory River Smokehouse; Gilly’s BBQ
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BEST BEER GARDEN
BEST BEER SELECTION
BEST OUTDOOR DINING
BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery

500 South Sixth Street, 670-0627

Obed and Isaac’s features an impressive craft beer menu and takes great pride in the beers that are brewed on site. And what better place to sip some of those brews than the great beer garden including two bocce courts, four bags game sets and fire pits for when the weather turns chilly. We can see why it’s a great first date destination. There’s also ample seating outside for an intimate outdoors dining experience while enjoying great food. The menu has a great deal of “snacks” – including the Bavarian pretzel rolls and the goat cheese stuffed dates – both of which are perfect for sharing on a first date.

Finalists: Best Beer Garden:Curve Inn; Crow’s Mill Pub; Boone’s Saloon; Weebles Bar & Grill
Finalists: Best Beer Selection:Craft Beer Bar; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Engrained Brewing Company; Hand of Fate Brewing Company
Finalists: Best Outdoor Dining: Papa Frank’s; Pao Bistro; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge; Engrained Brewing Company
Finalists: Best Place for a First Date: Washington Park; Bella Milano; Indigo; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
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BEST STEAK
Alexander’s Steak House

620 North Bruns Lane, 793-0440

Alexander’s tag phrase is “Pick it. Grill it. Enjoy It.” and it differentiates itself from its competitors by offering “Eatertainment.” What’s that? Diners get to participate in their meal preparation as much, or as little, as they want – from picking out the actual steak from a glass case to tossing it on the grill themselves. For those not into doing their own cooking, trained staff cook to order for a nominal price. But it’s really the steaks, hand cut by in-house butchers, which gave Alexander’s the nod for Best Steak this year. Combine those steaks with unlimited trips to the salad bar and some buttered and toasted Texas toast, and you’ve got yourself a winning meal.

Finalists: Texas Roadhouse; Old Luxemburg Inn; Longhorn Steakhouse; Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse
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BEST BREAKFAST

Food & Drinks
Photo BY CAROL WEEMS
Charlie Parkers

Charlie Parker’s Diner

100 North Street, 241-2104

Winning in a landslide not seen since Ronald Reagan’s shellacking of Walter Mondale, Charlie Parker’s dominated this category. The restaurant having recently changed hands, it’s clear that nothing else has changed at what’s become a Springfield classic. Perhaps that’s why it was named by the State Office of Tourism as an “Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destination.” Readers love that it’s open every day of the year other than Thanksgiving and Christmas. We love the 16-inch “Famous Giant Pancake” and so did Guy Fieri when he featured Charlie Parker’s in Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” But what keeps Springfield coming back is a quality breakfast, with generous portions, at a reasonable price. It’s a recipe that’s hard to beat.

Finalists: Le Peep; DJ’s Café; Hamburger Dan’s Sunrise Café; Boone’s Saloon
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BEST WINERY
Danenberger Family Vineyards

12341 Irish Road, New Berlin, 488-6321

Danenberger Family Vineyards is the destination winery in Springfield. Of course, proprietor and master winemaker Susan Danenberger’s wines are the star of the show – many of which have a subtlety one would expect to find in Napa or in Burgundy area of France. This isn’t your parents’ Illinois wine. Then there are the facilities, which started out as the family farmhouse from back in the day. DFV seems to be continually upgrading and expanding – including adding a music venue for events like the weekly “Wine Rocks” concerts. We’re particular fans of the gazebo – a perfect place for friends to relax by a fire while experiencing a full-course wine pairing dinner.

Finalists: Hill Prairie Winery; Sheedy Shores Winery; Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants; Walnut Street Winery
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BEST CHEAP DRINK
BEST DIVE BAR

Curve Inn

3219 S. Sixth Street, 529-5806

Cheap Drinks and Dive Bars kind of go together. So it’s fitting that the Curve Inn won both categories, especially because in the distant past the Curve had a scandalous reputation as a den of prostitution and illegal gambling. But that’s ancient history, and Springfield now flocks to the Curve for deals like Monday’s $4 pitchers of beer and the extensive variety of beer on tap and in bottles. Food deals like Monday’s 25-cent wings and Tuesday’s $1.25 burgers help keep some cash in the pocketbook. The Curve also has an eclectic line-up of live music that includes periodic “Open Mic” nights for wannabe rock stars.

Finalists: Best Cheap Drink: The Blue Grouch Pub; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Buckhart Tavern; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
Finalists: Best Dive Bar: Bob’s Butternut Hut; The Blue Grouch Pub; George Ranks; Sunset Inn
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BEST CHILI
Dew Chilli Parlor

1216 South Fifth Street, 679-1910

In what was a very close race, Dew Chilli Parlor (two “L’s” please) squeaked out a win. With a recent change in ownership, there’s talk of expansion, but also a commitment to keeping the quality offerings that earned it top honors. And that’s important, because by resolution from the Statehouse, Springfield has been the “Chilli Capital of the Civilized World” since 1993. The Dew’s chilli offers a rich depth of flavor that pairs well with the subtle hues of the secret spice mix. It’s served in only one heat, but shakers of cayenne allow the diner to amp up the spice. Don’t forget to drizzle in some of the vinegar from the small decanters – regulars swear that the touch of acid helps cut through the fat.

Finalists: The Chili Parlor; Cook’s Spice Rack and Chili; Steak ’n Shake; The Dublin Pub
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BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
China Star

1899 E. Sangamon Avenue, 789-0800

Springfield has spoken and it declares China Star the best Chinese food in town this year. China Star has an extensive menu, covering all the bases when it comes to Chinese food. Whether you fancy Sweet and Sour Chicken or something with a little spice such as General Tso’s Chicken, China Star has something for you. Be sure to come hungry because the portions are large. No matter what you choose it is bound to be delicious. You can’t go wrong at China Star.

Finalists: Hunan Chinese Restaurant; Hy-Vee; Sunny China House; China River
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click to enlarge Food & Drinks
Photo By BlAKE DETHERAGE
Osaka

BEST COCKTAIL MENU
Osaka Japanese Restaurant

1665 Wabash Avenue, 726-8037


Although drink specials like Monday’s $4 martinis, Tuesday’s $2 well drinks, Wednesday’s $3 wine by the glass, and Thursday’s $4 specialty drinks and martinis help, it’s really the extensive list of specialty drinks that vaulted Osaka to the top of this category. As you’d expect, there’s traditional hot and cold sake. There’s also house-made “infused” liquors like coconut vodka, apple cider bourbon and mango rum. But Springfield is most impressed with Osaka’s exhaustive list of specialty cocktails like the Lake Springfield (melon-flavored midori liquor, shaken with pineapple juice) and the Tokyo Punch (Crown Royal, Malibu, peach nectar, pineapple juice, topped with a splash of Red Bull and served on the rocks). Osaka is proof that bartenders can be just as creative as chefs – something that Springfield appreciates.

Finalists: Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; American Harvest; Always After Five; Indigo
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BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Grab-A-Java

1702 South Sixth St., 523-5282

For 20 years, Grab-A-Java has been helping Springfield get going in the morning. Readers like the efficiency of the drive-through but are even happier that speed doesn’t come at the cost of quality. Grab-A-Java certainly has the coffee bean covered – from Cappuccinos, Lattes and Mochas to Breve, Café Au Lait and Café Americano. But there’s so much more than coffee – like smoothies, chai, hot chocolate and teas. And, to pair with the drinks, there’s a wide assortment of freshly baked goods for those that left home having skipped that “most important meal of the day.” And for those who are really hungry, don’t forget that there’s also Chicken Pot Pie on the menu.

Finalists: Wm. Van’s Coffee House; Bunn Gourmet; Custom Cup Coffee; Free Press Coffee House
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BEST DONUTS
Mel-O-Cream

217 E. Laurel Street, 544-4644
1953 W. Monroe Street, 546-4651
525 E. North Grand Avenue, 528-2303
3010 S. Sixth Street, 529-7708

Everyone loves donuts, but our readers overwhelmingly like Mel-O-Cream’s better than anyone else this year. We understand why – Mel-O-Cream’s been doing it since 1932. Whether customers stop by and pick up a box of mixed donuts for the office (what better way to ingratiate yourself with fellow workers) or stick around with the regulars to dunk a donut in a cup of hot coffee, they know that they’re getting a fresh donut made right here in Springfield. Make sure to get there early or some of the more popular items may be sold out. We’re big fans of the glazed donuts, but others rave about the chocolate-covered variety.

Finalists: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts; Dunkin’ Donuts; Casey’s General Store; Hy-Vee
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BEST FOOD TRUCK
Cooper’s StrEATside

Locations Vary, call 415-3852

Although there’s been some controversy in the Capital City lately about food trucks, there’s been none over Cooper’s StrEatside’s win in this category. Their motto is “Fresh Cuisine You Can’t Pass Up” – something that Cooper’s has certainly lived up to. Locations vary, but its webpage has a list of where and when they’ll be offering local food where “heart meets taste.” Cooper’s menu changes frequently, depending on what local ingredients are available. And of the exhaustive list of items on the menu, typically only a handful are available on any given day. So our readers know they are getting quality dishes created with fresh and local ingredients. Popular dishes include the fresh cut fries (available with fresh minced garlic) and the breakfast taco. Stay tuned, as Cooper’s is constantly adding new creations to the mix.

Finalists: Twyford BBQ; Chadito’s Mexican American Grill; AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill; Hy-Vee
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Food & Drinks
Photo By BLAKE DETHERAGE
Cooper's Hawk

BEST FINE DINING
BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE PAYS (new category)

BEST PLACE FOR A ROMANTIC DINNER (new category)

BEST WINE SELECTION
BY THE GLASS
BEST PLACE FOR A GIRLS NIGHT OUT (new category)

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

2501 Wabash Avenue, 321-9100

Springfield is clearly a fan of Cooper’s Hawk and we agree. Cooper’s Hawk Winery produces about 600,000 gallons of wine every year. There is something for everyone’s taste and every wine can be ordered by the glass. Cooper’s has great ambiance for a romantic dinner with its softened lighting and subtle décor. The food at Cooper’s Hawk is what makes it stand out. Menu items have been carefully selected and paired with wines to make the best fine dining experience possible. Even better, the menu items are made from scratch with peak of season ingredients. Good food comes at a price, which is why Springfield has also declared Cooper’s Hawk the winner of the best restaurant when someone else pays. You definitely get what you pay for, and it is hard to put a price on good food. Last but not least, Cooper’s Hawk takes the prize for best place for a girls night out. What better way to spend a girls night than with great friends, drinking great wine, and eating fabulous food.

Finalists: Best Fine Dining: Bella Milano; American Harvest; Maldaner’s; Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse
Finalists: Best Restaurant when Someone Else Pays: Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse; Bella Milano; Maldaner’s; American Harvest
Finalists: Best Place for a Romantic Dinner: Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse; Bella Milano; Indigo; American Harvest
Finalists: Best Wine Selection by the Glass:
It’s All about Wine; The Corkscrew; Indigo; Bella Milano
Finalists: Best Place for a Girls Night Out: Danenberger Family Vineyards; Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Maddy’s Tavern (Divernon)
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BEST GYROS
Gyros Stop

2907 South MacArthur Blvd, 698-6463
2345 West Monroe, 546-3442
4127 Wabash, 546-8830

What started out as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean street food has carved out a popular niche in America’s food scene. What’s not to like – a piece of grilled pita wrapped around hunks of gyro meat, fresh vegetables (tomatoes and fresh onions) and a dollop of sweet and tangy tzatziki sauce. At Gyros Stop they’ve topped this category thanks to the mating of their flavorful and juicy meat with their homemade tzatziki. Portions are very generous for the price. Don’t forget to start your meal with some Saganaki (flaming Greek cheese served with pita chips) or some Falafel (deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas served with pita and hummus). And make sure to save some room for the Baklava.

Finalists: Yanni’s Gyros; Zach’s Wraps
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BEST HANGOVER FOOD
BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS

Steak ’n Shake

3184 South Dirksen Parkway, 529-5823
1580 Wabash Avenue, 787-0392
4211 Conestoga Drive, 698-9439

Whether you are looking for a late-night bite or something to cure your hangover, Steak ’n Shake is where it’s at. There is nothing like a good burger and fries to round out a late night out on the town or for that hangover the next day. If you haven’t tried it before, on your next visit order your fries “well done” and they will come out extra crispy. You won’t want them any other way after that. If you are feeling extra ambitious, spring for a milkshake too, you won’t regret it. Steak ’n Shake also has great breakfast options to fix that hangover as well. You can get anything from breakfast bowls to pancakes or, for the extra adventurous, they even have a breakfast milkshake with cereal mixed in. Who can beat that?

Finalists: Best Hangover Food: D’Arcy’s Pint; Charlie Parker’s Diner; Hamburger Dan’s Sunrise Café; Taco Bell
Finalists: Best Late-Night Eats: Taco Bell; Dublin Pub; La Bamba; Stop And Roll
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BEST HORSESHOE
D’Arcy’s Pint

661 West Stanford Avenue, 492-8800

D’Arcy’s takes the cake this year when it comes to the famous Horseshoe. Nobody does a Horseshoe as well as D’Arcy’s. Sometimes there may be a bit of a wait, but good food is well worth it. D’Arcy’s piles its Horseshoes high with French fries and smothers them in delicious cheese sauce. You can get your Horseshoe any way you like it. Whether you like a traditional Ham Horseshoe or you are feeling adventurous and the Buffalo Chicken Horseshoe catches your eye, D’Arcy’s has your back. If you aren’t quite up to the challenge of tackling the full size Horseshoe, D’Arcy’s also has a Ponyshoe which is about half the size. Either way you will leave full.

Finalists: The Dublin Pub; Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill; Top Cats Chill & Grill; Keefner’s Sandwiches, Suds & Stories
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Food & Drinks
Photo By BLAKE DETHERAGE
Cold Stone

BEST ICE CREAM/FROYO
Cold Stone Creamery

124 South Sixth St., 523-6666

Although everyone screams for ice cream, Springfield screamed the loudest for Cold Stone Creamery this year. Cold Stone’s ice cream is made on premises from fresh ingredients. But the best part is that Cold Stone then takes that fresh ice cream and mixes it with two spades on a frozen granite stone with any combination of candy, cakes, fruits or nuts. The sky is the limit. If you’re the indecisive type, opt for one of their time-tested standard “Signature Creations” like the Birthday Cake Remix or the Oreo Overload. Or opt for a traditional sundae or a warm cookie or brownie topped with your preferred flavor and a variety of toppings. For those with allergies there are gluten-free and lactose-free varieties.

Finalists: Baskin Robbins; Cherry Berry; Dairy Queen; Scoop Du Jour Ice Cream Parlor
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BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Bella Milano

4525 Wabash Avenue, 547-0011

In what was a very competitive category, Bella Milano emerged as the victor. Readers love the wood-fired pizza, the large variety of pastas and Bella’s take on the classics. We’re particularly fond of the crispy prosciutto (rather than bacon crumbles) that garnishes Bella’s house salad – especially when paired with its cheese medley and freakishly good Italian dressing. There’s also a substantial number of gluten-free offerings for those so afflicted. Make sure to start with some toasted ravioli – crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside and perfect for dunking in Bella’s house-made marinara. Need to feed the family? Ask about Bella’s take-out Family Feast.

Finalists: Saputo’s; Mangia Pasta Steak & Seafood; Olive Garden; Papa Frank’s
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BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
BEST NACHOS

Xochimilco

2941 West Iles Avenue, 546-3116
3210 Northfield Drive, 544-9206

Xochimilco earns top honors as Best Mexican Restaurant and in the new category Best Nachos. It’s been a part of Springfield’s Mexican culinary scene for quite some time, ultimately expanding to three locations. The quality of salsa and chips can make or break a Mexican restaurant. Xochimilco’s taste like they are made on premises and hit all of the correct flavor notes. Perhaps that’s why their nachos are the best – not soggy and loaded with a mountain of toppings. With many similarities between Springfield’s Mexican restaurants, it’s consistency and attention to the little things that make a difference. Xochimilco clearly has that figured out.

Finalists: Best Mexican Restaurant: Casa Real; AZ-T-CA; Taqueria Moroleon; Los Rancheros
Finalists: Nachos: Casa Real; Brickhouse Grill & Pub; Chadito’s Mexican American Grill; La Bamba
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BEST NEW RESTAURANT (LAST 12 MONTHS)
BEST NEW BUSINESS DOWNTOWN (LAST 12 MONTHS)

Tacology 101

219 South Fifth Street, 679-6448

The downtown dining scene has been active this last year, but Springfield is most excited about the recent opening of Tacology 101. With a hip vibe thanks to the black exterior and stylized skull logo, Tacology exudes a fun cockiness best encapsulated by its claim of offering a “new class of tacos.” Springfield agrees. Tacology has a tight and focused menu. There are tacos (“majors”), chips with a variety of dippings (“minors”), sides (“electives”), one salad and a dessert. Kudos to Tacology for having enough passion to focus on doing a few things right. House-made corn tortillas are nice compliments to very flavorful meats. The bottom line is that these are some seriously good tacos.

Finalists: Best New Restaurant: Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge; Blue Margaritas Mexican Bar & Grill; Long Nine Junction; Cooper’s AlleySide
Finalists: Best New Business Downtown: Hair of the Dog Bar/bershop; Springfield Vintage; Long Nine Junction; Milk & Honey Fresh Market
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Food & Drinks
Photo By BLAKE DETHERAGE
American Harvest

MOST INNOVATIVE MENU
American Harvest Eatery

3241 West Iles Avenue, 546-8300

In a new category for us this year, American Harvest gets recognized for its innovative and eclectic menu. That’s quite an accomplishment, given its mission to be “True to the Season and True to the Region.” As a result, although menus are constantly changing, this chef-driven restaurant always manages to surprise. Where else in Springfield can you find braised oxtail, duck meatballs, or beets combined with burrata? For those who want to sample it all, there’s the Chef’s Tasting Menu that takes diners through a well-thought-out tour of the menu. But what our readers really appreciate is how American Harvest takes familiar food and transforms it in simple, yet unique, ways.

Finalists: Tacology 101; Cooper’s StrEATside; Long Nine Junction; JoJo’s Street Quisine
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BEST NEW BAR (LAST 12 MONTHS)
Crows Mill Pub

1220 Toronto Road, 679-7477

Despite being seriously damaged in a fire last year, Crows Mill Pub has rebounded to be named Springfield’s Best New Bar. With lots of live music and a rotating list of attractive drink specials, we’re not surprised by the accolade. Improvements after the fire include a remodeled beer garden with an outside bar, large stage and projection screen for watching sports. Given its proximity to UIS and Lincoln Land, the crowd can skew toward the younger side, but Lake residents can be seen stopping by for a drink or two.

Finalists: The Alibi; Hair of the Dog
Bar/bershop; The Neighbors Beercade;
411 Bar and Grill
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BEST DEEP DISH PIZZA
Nancy’s Chicago Pizza

2301 W. Monroe Street, 679-0456

Nancy’s claims to be the original inventor of deep dish (or in this case, stuffed) pizza. Our readers likely don’t care. But they do care that Nancy’s serves up Springfield’s best version of this classic – even if it takes 30-plus minutes to fully cook. (Tip – order ahead and avoid the wait.) Nancy’s version somehow doesn’t feel too heavy and has a well-balanced ratio of cheese to meat to crust. Plus, unlike so many of its peers, it’s adequately sauced – although we’d like to know what spice gives it that special zing. For those who think eating pizza with a knife and fork is borderline criminal behavior, Nancy’s deep dish has enough structure that it can be consumed with the hands.

Finalists: Pie’s the Limit; Razzos Family Pizzeria; Godfather’s Pizza; Pizza Hut
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BEST THIN CRUST PIZZA
Gabatoni’s

300 East Laurel, 528-9629

Everyone has their favorite pizza, but Springfield’s consensus on the best thin crust pizza goes to Gabatoni’s. From the pictures on the wall of dogs playing poker to the fact that it always seems crowded, Gabatoni’s has character – after all, it’s been serving up pizza for over 60 years. But character won’t get you far if you can’t deliver good pizza. And Gabatoni’s has that down. Don’t be afraid to order the cracker thin crust “well done” – they won’t burn it and it comes with a nice bite. Not sure where to start? Go with the EBA (everything but anchovies) and order a size larger than you think because Gabatoni’s tastes pretty good at breakfast too.

Finalists: Pie’s the Limit; Monical’s Pizza; Antonio’s Pizza; Nancy’s Chicago Pizza
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BEST PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH
Café Moxo

411 East Adams Street, 788-8084

At first blush, Café Moxo appears to be yet another downtown coffee bar. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Although offering the standard espressos, coffees, teas and pastries, Moxo has established a devoted following for its lunch fare. With quick service and ample seating, Moxo is well-suited for a business lunch. Moxo’s focus is on sandwiches (seven different types of bread), including a nice selection of grilled sandwiches. There’s also a daily soup and multiple salad options for those wanting something lighter. We’ve heard of at least one downtown worker who dines here three to four times a week. For those not in a hurry to get back to work, there’s even a small seating area for additional post-lunch discussions.

Finalists: Bella Milano; Maldaner’s; American Harvest; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
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BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Chesapeake Seafood House

3045 East Clear Lake Avenue, 522-5220

Located far from either coast, central Illinois isn’t known for its seafood. But, since 1983, Chesapeake Seafood has been there to satisfy Springfield’s need for quality seafood. Headquartered in an 1850s mansion, Chesapeake’s menu is just as classic. They’ve got shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller, broiled lobster and fried cod. For those not into seafood, there’s a substantial number of chops and pastas available. Maybe our readers recognized Chesapeake as best in this category because it serves time-tested recipes, using quality ingredients, that Springfield counts on as being the same year after year. Whatever your favorite dish, you can count on Chesapeake to make sure it’s not taken away. We like that kind of consistency.

Finalists: Red Lobster; Carter’s Fish Market; Old Luxemburg Inn; Indigo
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Food & Drinks
Photo By CAROL WEEMS
Head West

BEST SUB/SANDWICH SHOP
Head West Sub Shop

1124 West Jefferson, 793-9101
3311 Robbins Road, 726-9202
2432 Denver Road, 744-7990
1281 Toronto Road, 585-7990
530 East Capitol Ave., 789-9101
7032 Kings Mill Court, Chatham, 670-0111
450 State St., Rochester, 498-1182

Head West serves some huge, delicious and fresh sandwiches – all cradled by its special sweet bread made fresh on premises. There’s even vegetarian and vegan offerings for those so inclined. In addition to the classic subs, Head West has a number of specialty sandwiches (like the meatball sandwich), salads and soups. In most cases, we prefer our selections toasted and with the sweet bread – except for the Reuben! Readers also liked an extra drizzle or two of Head West’s yummy Italian dressing. Sub sandwiches all come with it, together with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and salt/pepper. With so many locations, you’re never far away from Springfield’s best sub sandwich.

Finalists: Monty’s Submarines; Jimmy John’s Sandwiches; Penn Station East Coast Subs; Firehouse Subs
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BEST SUSHI
Happy Sushi

846 South Grand Avenue, 528-9799

Offering great sushi and service, Happy Sushi has made Springfield quite happy this year despite random and periodic closures. With no more than four tables, this little place dishes out Springfield’s best sushi. If you’re lucky, Hiro (the owner) will even give you some decorative chopsticks to take home. Smile and act friendly and he’s even likely to gift you an amuse bouche. In fact, visit more than a few times and he’s likely to remember you. Dishes are authentic and the presentation beautiful. Happy Sushi is true testament that quality food served with an infectious attitude is enough to win over Springfield.

Finalists: Osaka Japanese Restaurant; Mimosa; Stop and Roll; Hy-Vee Market Grille
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BEST TACOS
Taco Gringo

975 Clocktower Drive, 546-9494
125 S. Grand Avenue East, 670-2905
1851 N. Grand Avenue East, 525-2666

Taco Gringo is a family-owned franchise that’s been serving a blend of Mexican and American standards for over 40 years. Its simple combination of fresh ingredients served quickly in a casual environment has earned it the honor of Springfield’s best tacos. This isn’t a hip taqueria. It’s simple, uncomplicated and unfussy. Tacos come with a crispy corn shell or a soft flour tortilla and a choice of mild, medium or hot sauce. Ground beef and chicken are your only options. Standard tacos come with cheese and lettuce, while the deluxe option adds sour cream, onion and tomato. Prices are more than reasonable for the size and quality. Try the taco burger if you’re in the mood for something different.

Finalists: Tacology 101; AZ-T-CA; Chadito’s Mexican American Grill; Taqueria Moroleon
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Food & Drinks
Photo By BRIAN BOWLES
JP Kelly's

BEST BLOODY MARY
JP Kelly’s Pub

300 East Adams Street, 753-7933

The Bloody Mary – equal parts restoration, contentment and celebration. And Springfield voted JP Kelly’s Pub as the best version of this classic cocktail. Stop by on a Saturday morning (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) after visiting the Farmers Market to find out why. JP Kelly’s Bloody Mary bar allows customers to create their own custom concoction. Select your garnishes from a preprinted form, hand it to the bartender and sit back and wait to be wowed. The larger your group the more fun. Available items include shrimp, horseradish, kosher pickle, Brussels sprouts, okra, jalapeno cheese, and pickled asparagus. Feeling decadent? Order every garnish (called “the Works”) and a beer chaser.

Finalists: Boone’s Saloon; Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery; Locals Restaurant; No Agenda at 321
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BEST THAI RESTAURANT
Magic Kitchen

115 North Lewis Street, 525-6975
4112 North Peoria Road, 525-2230

Magic Kitchen is the kind of place where one “over orders.” Sometimes it can’t be helped – there are just too many choices and it all looks good. With reasonable pricing, that kind of attitude won’t hit the wallet too hard. Dishes like the lemon grass soup come in bowls as enormous as the flavor. Popular dishes include the spring rolls, three-flavor fish, stir-fried chili paste (with choice of beef, pork or chicken) and a variety of curry selections. Come with friends, as the more dishes you can sample the better the meal. Spice levels can be customized so don’t worry if you think Thai food is too hot for you.

Finalists: Little Saigon; Thai Kitchen; Taste of Thai; Mekong Cafe
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BEST BURGER
Krekel’s Custard and Hamburgers

2121 North Grand Avenue, 525-4952

In another landslide only slightly less impressive than Charlie Parker’s, Krekel’s Custard and Hamburgers smashed its competition for Springfield’s Best Burger. They’ve been serving their classic “Krekel Burger” since 1949. With its handmade shakes (16 flavors) and retro décor, Krekel’s is a blast from the past. And that’s a good thing – especially when it involves taking a hunk of fresh (never frozen) ground beef, placing it on a sizzling hot griddle, and then smashing it until paper thin and crispy around the edges. Readers miss seeing the 1970s Cadillac Rooster Car (with rooster head on the roof) but are happy that Krekel’s otherwise hasn’t departed from a model that’s made it a central Illinois tradition.

Finalists: Five Guy’s Burgers & Fries; Red Robin Gourmet Burgers; Engrained Brewing Company; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
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BEST WINGS
BEST PLACE FOR A GUYS NIGHT OUT

Buffalo Wild Wings

4420 Wabash Avenue, 546-9453
2808 North Dirksen Parkway, 670-0048

What’s not to love about a place with the tag line “Wings. Beer. Sports.”? No wonder Springfield voted it tops in the Guys Night Out and Wings categories. Wings come traditional style or boneless, and are hand spun in one of BWW’s signature 16 sauces or five dry rubs. If you can’t find a sauce or spice that you like here, then you’re too picky. If you pick one of the spicier combinations, fear not, as diners can quench the flames with an exhaustive list of beers on tap that range from Bud Light to Elysian Dust IPA that comes in at a whopping 8.2 alcohol percentage. BWW might have more TVs than Best Buy, so if the game you want to watch is on the tube you can watch it here with friends.

Finalists: Best Wings: Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill; Coz’s Pizza and Pub; Wings Etc. Grill & Pub; Show Me’s
Finalists: Best Place for a Guys Night Out: Curve Inn; Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Piper Glen Golf Club; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
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BEST KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
Texas Roadhouse

2540 W. Iles Avenue, 698-5700

What makes Texas Roadhouse the winner in this new category of Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant? It has to start with quality beef cooked as ordered with generous helpings of sides. Check. Call ahead seating so kids don’t get fussy waiting for a table. Check. Specials like kids under 12 getting sundaes free and free kids meals upon presentation of first day of school pictures. Check. Periodic bounce houses and face painting – yep, Texas Roadhouse does it, as well as special “Kids Nights” with distractions like balloon artists and a special “Kid’s Corner.” Couple this with a child-friendly menu at reasonable prices, and we understand why Texas Roadhouse wins this category.

Finalists: Steak ’n Shake; Charlie Parker’s Diner; Engrained Brewing Company; Fox Run Restaurant & Lounge
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