We had to double-check this one. It’s the first year in the history of our Best Knoxvillian poll in which neither the winner nor the top runners-up are connected to University of Tennessee athletics.
Madeline Rogero may be getting tired of introductions as Knoxville’s first female mayor, but after making it through her first year and a half without raising taxes—that’s turned out to be too big a challenge for many Republicans—she seems to have allayed right-thinking Americans’ suspicions that she’s a crafty Bolshevik agent. But she also offers hope that the city, at least, isn’t necessarily joining Tennessee’s stampede to the far right. Green, pro-downtown, and committed to equal opportunity, she puts a friendly face on the once-frightening prospect of progressive administration. (Jack Neely)
Runners Up: Tim Burchett, Bill Haslam, Love Kitchen Sisters Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner
McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies, and More
McKay may very well be the primary cause of extra-long weekday lunch hours among the city’s workers. Because if you want to browse McKay’s shelves for primo books, DVDs, games, or CDs on the weekend, you will face stiff competition from the hundreds of other deal-seekers crowding the aisles. Resolutely bucking the whole physical-media-is-dead trend, McKay is a retailing powerhouse that has proven our cultural prognosticators wrong. Lots of people still like buying stuff they can hold in their hands, and they especially appreciate a good deal—which is McKay’s stock in trade. See also: Best Bookstore in the Goods & Services section. (Coury Turczyn)
Runners Up: Bliss, Disc Exchange, Three Rivers Market
At the 23-year-old Tomato Head, which has won this category more times than any other restaurant, only the freshest ingredients and superb flavors go into its pizza, vegetarian, and other specialties and one-of-a-kind sandwiches. All of this—and its divine desserts—are served up in an atmosphere that combines a laid-back vibe with excellent service. This Best of Knoxville sweetheart also opens its doors to monthly exhibits by local artists and gives back to numerous area and global causes. In addition to keeping the Market Square location running like a well-olive-oiled machine, Tomato Head’s owners Mahasti Vafaie and Scott Partin now have a second location at The Gallery on Kingston Pike. Did we mention that with the exception of a couple of those desserts, most of the menu is good for you? Or would that be like gilding the tomato? See also: Best Pizza, Best Veggie-Friendly in the Food section. (Tracy Haun Jones)
Runners Up: Aubrey’s, Bistro at the Bijou, Downtown Grill & Brewery
It’s so hard to compete with Pres Pub that some of their old rivals may complain that it’s unfair: to have three levels, including a smoking bar, a non-smoking bar, and a roof deck complete with a Caribbean-style outdoor bar and garden of sorts. And sometimes two live musical acts—and almost always interesting bands, often from far away—playing at the same time. Plus a long patio right on Market Square, the most interesting place to watch people in a multi-county region. You can listen to music, or not; smoke, or not; drink something swanky, or a cheap PBR in a pint can. For beer drinkers, the Preservation Pub is like some wonderland in a beautiful dream. Tourists walk into the place and just start taking pictures. And in recent years, they also serve good food (pizzas, sandwiches, etc.) at good prices. (J.N.)
Runners Up: Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, Boyd’s Jig & Reel, Downtown Grill & Brewery
The Dirty Guv’nahs
Southern groove/jam/roots rockers the Dirty Guv’nahs extend their unprecedented winning streak in this category to six—six!—years. The Guv’nahs’ impressive run is testament to their widespread appeal (college students and their parents, grizzled rock fans and indie kids), their energetic live shows (they sell out the city’s biggest theaters), and the strength of their latest album, Somewhere Beneath these Southern Skies, released in 2012. Youth is the band’s most accomplished statement yet, a collection of songs that highlight the Guv’nahs’ love of the Rolling Stones, the Faces, and the Band but also reveal them as first-rate songwriters and players. Their sound might be rooted in the past, but these guys have an eye on the future. See also: Best Rock Band in the Arts & Entertainment section, and Best Local Kickstarter/Indiegogo Project in Online Knoxville. (Matthew Everett)
Runners Up: Black Cadillacs, Black Lillies, Southern Drawl Band
CORRECTED: We listed the wrong title for The Dirty Guv’nahs' latest CD, which is actually 'Somewhere Beneath these Southern Skies.'