• BEST KNOXVILLIAN
    • Bruce Pearl
    • It’s the wins—77 of them in just three years, and a school-record 31 in the 2007-2008 season—that have earned Bruce Pearl most of his accolades. But he’s endeared himself to Knoxville fans, and even some non-fans, with an outsized personality and a decidedly type-A school spirit. When he appeared at a Lady Vols game without a shirt on, his chest and face painted orange, that was nearly as big a deal as, say, winning the school’s first regular-season SEC title in more than 40 years. In 2005, when he first broke out the Ray Mears-inspired orange blazer he wears for games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the jacket got about as much coverage as the team’s number-two seed in the NCAA tournament that same year. But even Pearl’s giant off-the-court personality might soon be eclipsed by his on-the-court accomplishments. In three seasons, he’s already won more games than his predecessor did in four years. He led the team to a wrenching and dramatic win over number-one ranked rival Memphis, at Memphis, to secure UT’s first spot at the top of the polls (however briefly). Before his arrival, UT had been to exactly one Sweet Sixteen round of the national tournament; Pearl’s taken them to two already. The mild sense of disappointment that followed the team’s ouster in March says something about the expectations Pearl has set.
    • Appreciate him as long as it lasts. Rumors have circulated each of the last two years that other schools would try to lure him away, and some fans fear that his $1.3 million salary won’t be enough to keep him long. Just try not to think about the fact that he announced his intention to stay at UT on April Fool’s Day. (Matthew Everett)
    • Runners Up:
    • Frank Gambuzza, Bill Haslam, Benny Smith, Pat Summitt
    • BEST STORE
    • Bliss
    • Want to experience a taste of nirvana right here, right now? Forget the austerities of yoga and meditation. Get out your wallet and go shopping at Bliss instead. You can fill your earthly abode with approachable urban furnishings and hand-crafted accessories that create an atmosphere of low-key sophistication and warm, contemporary comfort. You can transcend this mundane plane with hip housewares that make chores less of a bore. You can know the ecstasy that comes with discovering just the right accessories, bedecking your mortal coil with hand-selected, one-of-a-kind artisan jewelry, purses, and hair accoutrements (plus—for men—wallets, cuff links, and flasks). And you can work the ever-present now with clothes from top-drawer (yet affordable) designers like Soda Blu, Sugarlips, It Jeans, Kensie, and Nick & Mo. Take a tip from lifestyle gurus/owners Lisa Sorensen and Scott Schimmel: All the world may be an illusion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel good while you’re here. (Hillari Dowdle)
    • Runners Up:
    • Abode, Disc Exchange, Mast General Store, McKay Used Books & CDs
    • BEST RESTAURANT
    • Nama Sushi Bar
    • Nama is not known for serving reverent reproductions of traditional Japanese sushi, your simple nigiri or maki equipped with the standard 1-2-3 complement of fish and rice and nori. No, the real reason why people line the 100 block of Gay Street waiting to get in is because Nama specializes in balls-out Western sushi—the kind with panko shrimp, coconut milk, tempura sweet potato, fantasy sauce, cream cheese, and pineapple salsa. These unashamedly American rolls appear on the menu with names like Ocean Commotion, Bahama Mama, Pizza, Maui Wowie, and Orange. And why not? Three years ago, owner Gregg White sensed there was an appetite for such fare waiting unfulfilled in the Knoxville restaurant market. And he has satisfied it brilliantly with master sushi chef J Cooney’s precisely balanced creations that thrill the palate by stopping just short of going over the top. (Coury Turczyn)
    • Runners Up:
    • Amerigo, Pasta Trio, Sunspot, Tomato Head
    • BEST BAR
    • Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
    • The problem with a lot of bars, even great bars, is that they only work under a highly specific set of circumstances. The filthy, smoky bar with the amazing jukebox—while ideal for a blurry Friday night—will inevitably leave you asking, “What am I doing with my life?” if you find yourself stumbling in on a clear-headed Sunday afternoon. Not so for Barley’s. This Old City hotspot is wholesome enough to take Mom or your boss for a top-of-the-line New York-style pizza lunch (Barley’s also won for Best Pizza). But it’s also rough-hewn and barry enough to be a great place to unabashedly throw a couple back, if you can figure out what to get. With more than 40 beers on tap, including a healthy selection of imports and microbrews, it’s not always easy to decide. And, yes, Barley’s won for Best Beer Selection. (Charles Maldonado)
    • Runners Up:
    • Downtown Grill & Brewery, Preservation Pub, Sapphire, Urban Bar
    • BEST BAND
    • Dirty Guv’nahs
    • Knoxville’s Dirty Guv’nahs give Southern rock a much-needed kick in the trou with their melding of Delta blues and British Invasion rave-ups to the expected rural white-boy schtick that stands pat in the repertoire of most neo/retro outfits of the genre. That, and they rawk out like the devil’s coming home tomorrow when they strap it on live, aided in no small part by frontman James Trimble’s molten low-end blooz wailings and unhinged stage presence. There were plenty of contenders for the title this year, but we think our readers did a bang-up job in rating the Guv’nahs Knoxville’s finest. (Mike Gibson)
    • Runners Up:
    • Copper, Dishwater Blonde, Robinella, Vertigo