2007 Best of Knoxville Readers Poll

Quit yer bickerin', because the results are in! Best of the Best: Unsung Hero Best of the Best: Best Store Best of the Best: Restaurant Best of the Best: Best Band Best Pit Stop Best Place to Quit Bei

Mast General Store



Disc Exchange


Natural Alternatives


Oriental Supermart

The Fresh Market





The Rush

River Sports


Menâ’s Wearhouse


Planet Xchange

Planet XChange

Off Broadway




Natural Alternatives

Saint Tattoo




Fisher Tire

Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson





Italian Market and Grill

Tomato Head



Marble Slab



Tomato Head

Ye Olde Steakhouse


Tomato Head








Stir Fry Café

King Tutâ’s


Señor Taco



Bennett Galleries

Actorsâ’ Co-op

Circle Modern Dance

Regal Downtown West


Donald Brown

Jenna and the Joneses

Dishwater Blonde

Blue Cats

Cotton Eyed Joeâ’s

Baker Peters

Corner Lounge


Mouseâ’s Ear

Downtown Grill & Brewery


Blue Cats


Union Jackâ’s

WUTK-90.3 FM



Robin Wilhoit

Jack Neely

Feature Story

We Knoxvillians tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch. We'll argue for hours on end about any scrap of controversy that drifts our way, be it in the realm of high-minded philosophy or of petty, trivial crap. Who cares, so long as it facilitates an opportunity to speak our mind.

So it was hardly surprising when, when we opened the floodgates for this year's Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville Readers Poll, the ballots arrived in hoards, clogging our mailboxes and our hard-drives, each spilling over with your votes for who deserves to win what and why. In the spirit of democracy, we dutifully tallied the ballots up until we'd assembled a comprehensive list of winners and runners-up, as decided by we, the people, of Knoxville, Tenn.

What you decide to do with the list, of course, is up to you. We recommend cutting it out and storing it in a convenient place, a glove box or the back pocket of your jeans, so you can whip it out and shake it in your opponents' face the next time you get into an catfight over what restaurant has the best wine list, or where's the best place to get a tattoo, or whatever.

Oh, and be sure to make a cameo at the Best of Knoxville Party at World Grotto this Friday night, April 27, between 7 and 9 p.m. Featuring music from Christabel & the Jons and appetizers from a handful of our favorite restaurants, it's the pinnacle of all things, uh, pinnacle-esque. See you there!

Bruce Pearl

The UT basketball coach who painted his chest orange to cheer on the Lady Vols and led his own Vol men's squad to the Sweet 16 got the most votes, meaning the voters didn't understand the unsung concept very well.

There are a bunch of things Coach Pearl isn't as well recognized for, however, including: ⢠Service, not just as a promoter for Tennessee basketball but to the entire university. When giving speeches around the region he will talk just as much about the success of the university and its other athletic programs like softball and volleyball that may not receive as much attention as the bigger sports. ⢠Hosting basketball camps for disadvantaged youths in Memphis. ⢠Involvement in community events such as Relay for Life, Boys & Girls Clubs and Knoxville's Dream Team for the 2007 AAU Junior Olympics this summer. ⢠Emphasis on academics within the basketball program. The team's fall 2006 grade point average was one of its best ever. ⢠Giving back to the university, by establishing a $100,000 scholarship in the name of team leader Dane Bradshaw.

Among the other top vote-getters was Benny Smith, the general manager of WUTK, who isn't overly sung despite his achievements in promoting music and radio. Smith, who was once Metro Pulse's own marketing guru, has taken WUTK to the top rank in listenership and appreciation in the Knoxville market since he took its reins in 2004. He is involved in fund-raising more than DJing nowadays for the non-profit, UT-affiliated station, since the university cut off funding for the station last October. A 1987 UT grad, he's been involved in music promotion with his own No Cheese Music company and AC Entertainment over the years, and he works with EarthFest and Brewer's Jam in coming up with performers to entertain their crowds each year. A Greeneville native, Smith lives up in Norwood now, and he's a good'un.

Other runners-up included Mayors Bill Haslam and Mike Ragsdale, who were obviously sung strongly enough to win elections.

Runners-up: Benny Smith, Mayor Bill Haslam, and Mayor Mike Ragsdale


When you see a gift wrapped in indigo tissue paper and stuffed into a chartreuse-green bag, what comes immediately to mind?

(a) It must be from Bliss. (b) Hurrah! (c) Best. Gift. Ever. (d) All of the above.

The answer, of course, is (d). Indeed, Bliss is the epicenter of thoughtful gift-giving in Knoxville, no matter whom it is you're shopping for. From fluffy robes to handcrafted jewelry, stylish wine racks to miniature ninja figurines, there is, quite literally, something for everyone. And its convenient location on Market Square makes it an ideal pit-stop on the way to any gift-giving occasion, be it office party or birthday dinner, girl's night on the town or hot date. With Bliss on your side, you'll never show up empty-handed again.

Runners-up: Disc Exchange, Earth to Old City, and Natural Alternatives

Tomato Head

We worry we might ruin Tomato Head by calling it a Knoxville institution. It started out, 17 years ago, as an insolent challenge to the status quo. In 1990, Republicans were skeptical of this avant-garde hipster joint in a rundown building on an apparently dying Market Square. It seemed at times to be overrun with shaven-headed Bolsheviki, bepierced vegetarians, punk Unitarians, and journalists. But now mayors and CEOs take guests there, and it's on a very short list of Knoxville restaurants likely to be mentioned prominently in travel guides. It succeeds not only as a venue for an inspired combination of crypto-Italian and Southwestern dishes, international soups, and fresh salads, but as a place to be . It could have thrived in a ghettoâ"but Tomato Head doesn't seem to mind that in the last few years it has become central to a reborn Market Square, and is holding its own against the competition of several newer restaurants trying to duplicate Tomato Head's success. Today you're likely to see almost anybody at Tomato Headâ"TV and radio personalities, big-shot lawyers, letter-press printers, rock musicians, furniture makers, even the occasional Republican. But don't call it an institution. Call it a successful nonconformist.

Tomato Head also won Best Lunch Spot, Best Salads and Best Pizza.

Runners-up: Nama, Pasta Trio, and Regas

Dishwater Blonde

It must be said: Dishwater Blonde frontman Davis Mitchell is the flat-out funkiest white boy in the history of Knoxville's music scene. Taking the stage in suits that would shame the most sartorially sensitive soulmeisters of any generation, Mitchell captivates an audience with sweet falsetto funk and bitchin' neo-Hendrixian guitar like no one you've heard since the last time the Purple One himself took over Thompson-Boling Arena. But Mitchell isn't the only reason why Dishwater Blonde is Knoxville's best. There's also co-vocalist Nakia, she of the herculean pipes, and freaky-fro'ed stunt guitarist Cozmo Hollawayâ and oh, the songs. Unlike so many groove-oriented outfits, Dishwater Blonde put its own impeccable grooves in the service of great tunes, riffs and melodies that stick in your head long after the booty-shaking ends. In our hearts, at least, Dishwater Blonde is platinum.

Diswater Blonde also won Best Rock Band.

Runners-up: Garage Deluxe, Robinella, and Scott Miller and the Commonwealth

Smoky Mountain Chevron & Greek Deli

Most of us look forward to fueling up about as much as we look forward to gagging ourselves with a spoon. Between the steep price of gas, the noxious fumes and the grim-faced gas station attendants, it's an unpleasant experience at bestâ"that is, unless you're filling up at the Chevron on Chapman Highway, just past the Henley Street Bridge. At first glance, it's nothing much to look at; the pumps are kind of rickety, and the store is only about half the size of one of those deluxe coffee stations you see in fancy new filling stations, you know, the ones with 15 pots of coffee brewing at the same time and 50 different flavors of creamer on tap. But this Chevron has something else going for it: personality. Not to mention delicious food. The deli here boasts a selection of authentic Greek fareâ"including, in our humble opinion, the best hummus in townâ"and they'll serve it up in about the time it takes you to fill up your tank. Give it a try, and you might even find yourself looking for excuses to run low on gas in the future. ( Leslie Wylie )


It's just unbelievably addictive fried chicken, and you can find it at the adorably pink shack on Magnolia, which used to be a Taco Bell around the turn of the millennium, before Gwen and Charles Chandler got their hands on it.

OK, we probably shouldn't say anything, but we have it on very good authority that Chandler's signature fried chicken can even make a dedicated vegetarian question his personal philosophies. We saw him a few weeks back; perhaps it was a Sunday morning, the perfect time to try to hide from his hipster friends by hanging with the church-going crowds. He went through the line and orderedâ" for shame! â"two fried chicken breasts, and filled the rest of his trap with soul food vittles. â“Dude, I'm not saying that I'm gonna eat meat every day,â” he whispered, â“but look at it!â” The grease glistened off of his fingers, as he tore into the chicken, gnawing straight to the bone. Nothing was wasted. ( Kevin Crowe)

La Flor

Much of the Mexican foods suddenly available in Knoxville are unfamiliar to us, too spicy, maybe,   or involving parts of animals we didn't know were edible. But one exception can cause unexpected nostalgia. Remember when breakfast and dessert pastries weren't always so damn sweet? Maybe you don't, but there was a time in a pre-bearclaw, pre-Krispy Kreme, pre-plastic-wrap era when a pastry could be a subtle thing, something that didn't necessarily have sticky gunk all over it. La Flor, in Bearden, takes some of us back. Their pastries are more akin to English scones or tea biscuits. Nothing rapturous, just a simple pleasure you'd forgotten about.

The attendants don't necessarily speak English, but they don't necessarily need to. Everything's good, and nothing's very expensive. The deal is, you just grab a tray and a pair of tongs. There are shelves with 20-30 varieties of fresh-baked pastries all around. Take your pick. The pastries at La Flor are works of art, interesting to look at. You almost hate to bite them, but in the end, you do. ( Jack Neely )

White Lightnin' Burlesque Troupe

Whether they're pillow-fighting or paying homage to Dolly Parton, reinterpreting â“Springtime for Hitlerâ” or engaging in a â“duel of the fringe,â” the White Lightnin' Burlesque Troupe is bringing sexy back to Knoxville. They've come a long way in the past year (did we mention the troupe also won Most Likely to Succeed?), evolving from a champagne-fueled experiment into one of the city's most in-demand acts. With an open mind, theirs is a performance that anyone can enjoy; it's equal parts titillating and empowering, provocative and laugh-out-loud hysterical. The women take themselves just seriously enough to turn in a good-quality act, but not so much that they don't see the humor in what they're doing. And most of all, their confidence shines through brighter than a hot-pink thong beneath a clingy, white dress. To Knoxville's own â“sisterhood of the traveling fringy panties,â” we salute you. (Leslie Wylie )

That Statue of Liberty on Tazewell Pike

Yeah, we hate to say it, but the porcelain deer is just lame, a chump's excuse for lawn decoration. Hell, you might be better off beautifying your garden with gnomes. You make us sick, porcelain-deer-people. Go on, get out of the garden section of our favorite home and garden retailers. If that's what you think passes as kitsch these days, just get another pink flamingo and forget about it.

If you're looking for a real lawn, a man's lawn, head down Tazewell Pike on your next day off. Keep going once the road takes a 90-degree right-hand turn. You can't miss it; it's a little pond, complete with a miniature version of Liberty Island. Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! Honk if you love liberty. ( Kevin Crowe )

Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

  Nobody can describe dead folks nearly as well as Cormac McCarthy, who used his hometown as a setting for some of his earliest novels, but hasn't returned since Suttree . When he finally returned, he depicted Knoxville as a dead, nameless city. It was surely part of what earned him the Pulitzer after all these years. ( Jack Neely )

Tell him The Road was Oprah's book pick, and that she was going to interview him on her show. He will die quickly and painlessly of flabbergastic apoplexy. ( Jack Neely )

Hardin Valley

Soapbox time: The Hardin Valley community in West Knox is just about the closest thing to a rural panacea we have left in urbanized, development-happy Knox County. True, it's not as pristine as it once was, with a handful of high-end subdivisions coming in over the last 10 or 15 years, and a brand-new high school on the way. But even so, it's still a community rich with meadows and forests and wildlife, fresh air and green grass and wide-open spaces. The Department of Transportation claims they're going to run an interstate bypass through it all sometime in the coming yearsâ"the so-called Orange Routeâ"but we hope it's something they'll reconsider. New roads are easy to come by, after all; not so with places like the Valley. ( Mike Gibson )

Sidestreet Tavern & EdisonPark

This is kind of a toughy, but the honor goes to the Sidestreet Tavern on Homberg Drive for one simple reason. It has a couch, a loveseat and a coffee (read beer) table right in front of a pair of television sets, with the remote out there handy and the cable hooked up. Even though you have to share the room, an airy upstairs loft, with a foosball table and a wretchedly warped shuffleboard, and the management lets people smoke in there, it's comfy, and the lounging angles are down low, below the smoke haze. (Tip: After a suds or three, it's easier to roll out onto your knees and push yourself up to your feet, rather than trying to stand straight up from the depths of the cushions. Don't worry; you won't attract attention in there.)

The Sidestreet is easy to find. It's housed in that sprawling structure at the north end of Homberg next to the old A.M.E. church parking lot. The place was built for one high-end restaurant, housed another of those or maybe two, then was a nightclub. All of them failed, you remember. This place, with its neighborhood bar feel and fair beer selection, has a chance. Heart of Bearden, shore 'nuff.

Another spot for afternoon TV delights is the bar at EdisonPark, the slick full-service restaurant on Campbell Station Road south of Kingston Pike in Farragut. Yes, fey Farragut.

No couches, but the barstools are supportive, the barkeeps (and all the help) have friendly, accommodating natures, and they'll flip either of the two widescreen sets to your choice and adjust the volume without a single sneering snort in your direction. The beer selection is much better than almost anywhere around town. Stella Artois on tap for the frothing Farragutians, Miller High Life for the hoi polloi, and about 20 other imports, domestics and crafties on draft. Has cocktails, too, but who needs them when the Braves and Mets are dueling behind glass or Tiger's lining up a 40-footer? It doesn't get busy until after 5. Stay for dinner, too. It's well worth it, but have plenty in your wallet before you do. Steaks and chops are great, but be sure to eat plenty of potatoes to soak up the excess brew.

There are no other runners-up, just plenty of sidlers-up-to-the-bar-rail and stare-at-the-magic-lantern-places. Pick your own. ( Barry Henderson )

Knoxville Botanical Gardens

(formerly Howell Nurseries)

This 44-acre Eden in the middle of East Knoxville has the makings of a botanical Shangri-La, with the Howells' fanciful old stone house and stone walls and greenhouses and an unusual diversity of trees and shrubs, once used as demo models for the Howells' business, that you probably don't have in your own yard. Much of it's accessible from Wimpole Street, which is a mysterious region even to some East Knoxvillians. If some people have their way, it may get less mysterious in the near future; the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum's board of directors is planning regular events for the spot, amphitheater drama, perhaps, or even municipal festivals. ( Jack Neely )


I think I've bought the entire wardrobe of a very generous dead guy. He must have looked exactly like me, because every time I go into Amvets I find something that I didn't know I needed. And, what's even more surprising, it always seems to fit, no matter what I take into the dressing room.

The store, located at 4105 Holston Drive, just off Martin Luther King, boasts a heavily stocked shelf of strange (circa 1970s) appliances, just about every romance novel that Fabio has deemed worthy of his likeness (each kinkier than the last), and a toy bin that never fails to impress, with offerings of vintage G.I. Joes and Star Wars garb. If you're lucky, you'll be able to geek out before I do. The Darth Vader helmet is in my office, scaring women away. ( Kevin Crowe )

Mirage on Gay Street

Sitting on a pillow fit for a Sultan's ass, puffing on a hookah loaded with green-apple scented tobacco and watching a curvaceous belly dancer flail around me as I sipped from a tiny cup of Arabic coffee strong enough to rouse the Pharoahs themselves from their eternal slumber, I scarcely remembered that the Gay Street sidewalk was less than 75 feet away. Such was my first trip to Mirage, the exotically-appointed new Arabic-themed restaurant in downtown Knoxville. The menu is small, but the food is deliciousâ"don't leave without trying the feta or the lamb shish-kebabs. But atmosphere is what really sets Mirage apart from any other restaurant or lounge or tea room or what-have-you in the city; the pillows and the hookas and the dancers and the music, and even the Arabic-news broadcasts and old Egyptian movies usually playing on the TVs.

More than just a good restaurant, Mirage offers a transportive dining experience. ( Mike Gibson )

New Business Mast General Store Natural Alternatives Salon Visage, Market Square Sidestreet Tavern

Gift Shop Bliss Earth to Old City Green Earth Emporium Hallmark

Jewelry Store Markmanâ’s Bliss Jared Pardonâ’s

CD/Record Disc Exchange Catâ’s Lost & Found McKay

Best Bookstore McKay's It says something that, when asked for their favorite bookstore, Knoxville picks a used-book store. For sheer number of titles, probably no new bookstore will ever beat McKay's. Some love their newish building, on the backside of Bearden Hill overlooking Papermill Road. Brightly lit, with a long wraparound mezzanine level, it resembles a high-school gym from the '30s. Some don't love it, and go there in spite of the architecture. If you're thinking of a book, any book, not to mention music on tape and CD, don't ever bet it's not in there somewhere. A warning: Chances are you'll get distracted by other fascinating books you didn't expect, so allow for a few hours. You'll get lost in a jungle of ideas. Runners-up: Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Carpe Librum

Hair Salon Natural Alternatives Belleza Lox Salon Visage

Grocery Kroger Earth Fare Fresh Market Food City

Ethnic Food Oriental Supermart Earth Fare Fresh Market Holy Land

Best Health/Gourmet Food Store The Fresh Market If youâ’ve ever been to the Fresh Market, itâ’s likely you have at least one overpriced, tantalizing favorite. Maybe itâ’s the chocolate-covered cherries, the vast beer selection, the chai tea, the trail mix, or the surprisingly delicious turkey meatloaf. Yes, the Fresh Market is addictive. It could be the soft lighting, so different from most grocery stores, the pleasant background music, or the free little samples of coffee available upon entry, but though it causes damage to our bank accounts, we keep going back for more. After all, a proper grocery experience should be as mentally soothing as it is efficient, and the Fresh Market understands that. Weâ’ll keep going as long as it keeps serving up a hearty selection of healthy and organic food. Runners-up: Earth Fare, Gourmetâ’s Market, and Natureâ’s Pantry

Caterer Rothchildâ’s Big Fattyâ’s Buddyâ’s Southern Graces

Best Liquor Store Toddyâ’s From out of nowhere, almost literally, Toddyâ’s emerged in its new, expanded location just down the pike from the old one to take top honors in this venerated category. The move from the cramped yaller frame box beneath the Back Door Tavern at 4951Kingson Pike to the spiffy glass-front outlet at 4821 K.P. was of great significance. No longer do you trip over boxes in the clogged aisles. It has wide thoroughfares and shopping buggies (carts to yâ’all interlopers) and lighting that actually lets you read the labels and all. John Cook, whose family has owned the store since 1961, says the floor space and inventory has been tripled since the move last fall, and the selection of wines has been quadrupled. Toddyâ’s got its name from Johnâ’s daddy, Ted Cookâ’s 1940s basketball (UT and the Minneapolis Lakers) nickname: â“Joe Toddy, all legs and no body.â” Being straight across from Krogerâ’s Knox Plaza grocery has improved business, Cook says. The one downside to the move, he says, is that the shop no longer sells as many miniatures of Jaegermeister as it did when it was downstairs from a bar that serves only beer. The bar, also known as Toddyâ’s, is still flourishing at the old location. Itâ’s under different ownership. Runners-up: Asheâ’s, Bobâ’s, and McScrooges

Best Garden Store Mayoâ’s Easily one of the oldest businesses in Knoxville, Mayoâ’s was founded as a seed store near Market Square back in Knoxvilleâ’s wild years, more than a century ago. Its longevity is no matter of mere luck. If you need a mower fixed, or seeds for petunias, or some lawn furniture, or, later on, a Christmas tree, Mayoâ’s can fix you up. Mayoâ’s knows its business, but visiting the place is a homey sort of experience, sort of like visiting a favorite auntâ’s. In Mayoâ’s oldest store, in Bearden, the wooden floors creak, and the place smells, as it should, of fresh dirt. Be forewarned: If youâ’re not a gardener when you walk into the place, you might find yourself mutating into one as you walk out. Runners-up: Loweâ’s, Popeâ’s, and Stanleyâ’s

Florist Crouch Abloom Petreeâ’s The Flower Market

Fitness The Rush Court South Fort Sanders Health and Fitness YMCA

Outdoor Sports Store River Sports Blue Ridge Dickâ’s Earth Traverse

Furniture Bradenâ’s Bliss Fowlerâ’s Nouveau Classics

Menâ’s Dress Clothing Menâ’s Wearhouse Dillardâ’s Jos. A. Bank MS McClellan

Womenâ’s Dress Clothing Dillardâ’s Ann Taylor Belk Classy Lady Casual/Hip Clothing Planet Xchange American Eagle Outfitters Obligato Old Navy

Thrift/Secondhand Clothing Planet XChange Goodwill Repeat Boutique Reruns

Shoe Store Off Broadway Beckyâ’s Dillardâ’s Donnamite

Best Dry Cleaners Prestige Take this silver-satin New Yearâ’s Eve dress, wine-stained and rumpled, with a tear in the sleeve and two armpits that smell like a disco inferno of cigarette smoke and BO. Can it be salvaged? Some dry cleaners might say, with a look of sheer disgust in their eyes, no way. Nope. Sorry. No can do. If youâ’re going to dance the dance, youâ’ve got to pay the piper. But not Prestige Cleaners. Thatâ’s because Prestige knows that accidents happen. Be it a bottle of champagne that unexpectedly erupted in the direction of your favorite silver-satin dress or a tumble on the dance floor that ended in a loud, ripping sound, Prestige has you covered. Theyâ’re experts in the art of cleaning up and repairing even your most nightmarish wardrobe disasters, and theyâ’ll do it with a smile on their face. So itâ’s hardly surprising that, once again, the company has been awarded the Best Dry Cleaners award. Congrats! Runners-up: Executive Cleaners, Real Cleaners, and US Cleaners

Eyewear Luttrellâ’s Clancyâ’s Dr. Bizerâ’s Lenscrafters

Day Spa Belleza Natural Alternatives Salon Visage

Licensed Therapeutic Massage Natural Alternatives Belleza Gypsy Hands Spa Visage

Tattoo Saint Tattoo Body Graffix Tye Dye Tattoo Vivid Tattoo

Tanning Fusion A Place in the Sun Raleyâ’s Tanfastic

Travel Agency AAA STA World Travel World Ventures

Auto Dealer Harperâ’s CarMax Grayson Toyota of Knoxville

Auto Service Fisher Tire Sears Harper Pep Boys

Best Motorcycle Dealer Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson When you walk through the doors of Maryvilleâ’s Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson (SMHD), youâ’ll see the grizzled, road-warrior-type of bikers that youâ’ve seen on the TV. Youâ’ll also see the stuffed-T-shirt dentist who, after an intense mid-life crisis, has decided to grow a ponytail and ride a hog. Everyoneâ’s welcome these days, as the ass-kicking pathos of Hellâ’s Angels seems to be a thing of the past. Bikers are still the toughest hombres on the road, mind you; theyâ’re simply more ecumenical when it comes to filling out their ranks. And when youâ’re not tearing down the interstate in your new FXD DynaTM Super Glide, be sure to come back to SMHD to check out The Shed, which is becoming one of Maryvilleâ’s most talked-about live music venues. Mic Harrison & the High Score will join The Dirty Guvâ’nahs on April 28, at 7 p.m. Just donâ’t wear that shirt that says: If you can read this, the bitch fell off. That still deserves a beating. Runners-up: Alcoa Good Times, Destination Motorsports, and Knoxville Harley Davidson

Bike Shop Greenleeâ’s Bike Zoo Cedar Bluff Cycles Harperâ’s

Pet Supply Store PetSmart Agrifeed Pet Supply Plus Super Pets

New Restaurant Tai Abueloâ’s La Costa Trio

Best Breakfast IHOP (the restaurant formerly known as International House of Pancakes ) Yeah, we know itâ’s a chain, with outlets west on Kingston Pike and Lovell Road, north on Clinton Highway and Merchants Center Boulevard and a new one going up on Chapman Highway at Gov. John Sevier. But so were the other three top vote-gettersâ"chains, chains, chainsâ. Itâ’s open all night, and itâ’s way better than Waffle House for everything but waffles. A lot of people donâ’t know this, but IHOP is also open in the daytime! Yep, 24 hours. It has the biggest and best ham and cheese omelet available around the clock, and its newest menu includes a yummy spinach, mushroom, onion and Swiss omelet for the veggie-minded who are also able to rattle that off when ordering at 4 a.m. There are burgers and main dishes, too, but it won out for breakfast for a reasonâ"its around-the-clock hangover staver-off-ers. (The SoKno version, in what one blabber refers to as the fomenting retail build-up of â“Chicken Creek,â” is scheduled to open June 20. Hail IHOPâ burp.) Runners-up: Cracker Barrel, Mimiâ’s, and Waffle House

Best Brunch Italian Market and Grill Offhand, we canâ’t think of anything more satisfyingly decadent than a good Sunday brunch (at least nothing that doesnâ’t involve lying down), stuffing our faces with crepes and creams and breakfast favorites and pasta and some prime roast beef, then maybe topping it all off with something sinfully rich for dessert. And for years, Knoxvilleâ’s own Italian Market and Grill has been among our favorite brunch spots, usually vying neck-and-neck in the best-of brunch category with Copper Cellar, another homegrown favorite. The Market takes the brunch title again this year, with a Sunday spread so bountiful and mouth-watering that it has to be seen to be truly believed. Should you choose to partake of the Market brunch, we advise that you come early, bring your appetite, and by all means donâ’t make any big plans for Sunday dinner. Runners-up: Copper Cellar, Sunspot, and Tomato Head

Lunch Spot Tomato Head Lunchbox Panera Sunspot

Coffeehouse Starbucks Downtown Grind Golden Roast Old City Java

Bakery Magpies Hoganâ’s Panera V. G.â’s Bakery

Ice Cream/Smoothie Marble Slab Baskin Robbins Brusterâ’s Smoothie King

Sports Bar Baileyâ’s Buffalo Wild Wings Rookieâ’s Roosterâ’s

Deli Nixonâ’s Lennyâ’s Sam and Andyâ’s Subway

Salads Tomato Head Oâ’Charleyâ’s Ruby Tuesday Tossed

Steak Ye Olde Steakhouse Chop House EdisonPark Texas Roadhouse

Wings Hooterâ’s Buffalo Wild Wings Roosterâ’s Quaker Steak & Lube

Pizza Tomato Head Mellow Mushroom Papa Johnâ’s Pizza Hut

Hamburger Littonâ’s Copper Cellar Hardeeâ’s Ruby Tuesday

Barbecue Buddyâ’s Calhounâ’s Famous Daveâ’s M&M

Seafood Chesapeakeâ’s Bonefish Red Lobster Shrimp Dock

Sushi Nama Tai Tomo Wasabi

Desserts Littonâ’s Magpies Melting Pot

Vegetarian Sunspot Green Hills Grille Sitar Tomato Head

Italian Naples Altrudaâ’s Bravo Olive Garden

Best Asian Restaurant Stir Fry Café Frequently, the American palate craves the spicy complexity of a good Asian meal. Stir Fry has an unconventional way of satisfying that craving. Start the meal with one of its crispy spring rolls, dipped in a sweet and sour sauce. Then, move on to a cup of Wonton soup, complete with the best crispy noodles this side of the sphere. For the main course, the nutty Panang is delicious, or the Hot Sea, a combination of mussels, shrimp, and scallops in a piquant sauce. If you still have room, finish it all off with a serving of banana tempura. One word of advice: The green curry is almost too spicy for human consumption. Think you can do it? OK, but donâ’t say we didnâ’t warn you. Now the restaurant also offers sushi, giving you just one more reason to experience the electric flavors Stir Fry produces. And, at the Turkey Creek location, thereâ’s often live music in the evenings. Runners-up: PF Chang, Taste of Thai, Wasabi

Middle Eastern King Tutâ’s Ali Babaâ’s Mirage Falafel Hut

Indian Sitar Kashmir

Best Mexican Señor Taco A wimpier Mexican restaurant wouldnâ’t have the cojones to list â“beef tongueâ” on its menu, much less promote it as a hangover cure. But such is the charm of Señor Taco, the most shamelessly authentic south-of-the-border eatery in town, and the winner of this yearâ’s â“Best Mexicanâ” award. Between burritos the size of a bodybuilderâ’s bicep, a salsa bar thatâ’ll have you breathing fire, and margaritas thatâ’ll drink you and your brother under the table, pansy appetites and low-tolerance landlubbers need not apply. Indeed, if Señor Taco was in a bar fight against any or, heck, all of its local Mexican restaurant counterparts, weâ’d put our money down on the real deal and hide out in a bathroom stall until it was all over. So when it comes to beating down your own cravings, donâ’t waste your time on watered-down imitations. Skip straight to the punch: Señor Taco. Runners-up: Cancun, El Charro, and Monterrey

Beer Selection Barleyâ’s Downtown Grill & Brewery Preservation Pub Union Jackâ’s

Museum KMA East Tennessee History Center McClung Museum of Appalachia

Place to Buy Art Bennett Galleries Bliss Grotto Hanson

Best Local Acting Troupe Actorsâ’ Co-op We said that the Actorsâ’ Co-op was going back to its edgy roots last season, and it didnâ’t disappoint any of us with performances of the transgender rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the overtly sexual Unidentified Human Remains and the Nature of True Love and the beery fantasia set in Ireland, The Weir. Itâ’s still going strong, with a production of Landscape with Stick Figures (read the review here ). Sure these actors can push the limits, we all knew that, but as much fun as it is to watch Bible Belt-bred, countrified folk retching at the thought of gay themes or artistic nudes on Knoxvilleâ’s most beloved stage, we should remember just how talented this group of thespians truly is. Whether the roles call for speaking in dialect or spitting out enough fire and brimstone to fill out a Puritanical sermon, itâ’s all artistically motivated, an exploration of the human condition, which includes both the sublime and the sordid. We also hear that they do a mean Shakespeare. Runners-up: Clarence Brown, Oak Ridge Playhouse, and Tennessee Stage Company

Local Dance Company Circle Modern Dance Childrenâ’s Dance Ensemble Gypsy Hands Knoxville Jazz Company

Movie Theater Regal Downtown West Regal Pinnacle 18 Tennessee Theatre Carmike 10

Local Bluegrass Band Robinella Medfordâ’s Black Record Collection The Bearded Wild Blue Yonder

Local Jazz Band Donald Brown Christabel & the Jons Knoxville Jazz Orchestra Sara Schwabe

Best Local Blues Band Jenna and the Joneses Though Jenna and the Joneses were winners in the Blues category, the members continue to insist that they are â“a jam band at heart.â” And, thereâ’s definitely some jamming involved when they play. Many of their songs are long-winded, composed of a keyboard and bass winding out a string of complicated measures. But, thereâ’s the other side, too. That side is more concise, where Jennaâ’s voice punches out traditional blues lyrics and the drums carry everything forward, quickly and vigorously. The bandâ’s website says: â“One thing is for sure; you will enjoy it as much as they enjoy bringing it to you,â” and since you voted them first, again, that must be true. Runners-up: Cornbread Blues Band, Christabel & the Jons, and Hector Qirko

Local Rock Band Dishwater Blonde Garage Deluxe Grandpaâ’s Stash Jag Star

Rock Club Blue Cats Barleyâ’s Corner Lounge Pilot Light

Country/Western Club Cotton Eyed Joeâ’s Coyote Joeâ’s Electric Cowboy Judyâ’s

Jazz/Blues Club Baker Peters 4620 Brackinâ’s Sassy Annâ’s

Best Dive Corner Lounge Dive? Come on, Knoxville. You call this a dive? Any place that actually takes the time to draw shamrocks onto the foam of every pint of Guinness on St. Pattyâ’s is definitely not a dive in our books. Itâ’s a piece of Knoxvilleâ’s nightlife history, if you care about such things, going all the way back to its days as the Dutch Diner in the 1930s. In the â’70s, Con Hunley had a regular Thursday night gig, playing his heartthrob ballads before he was a star in Nashville. It might have become a faint memory when it closed its doors in 2004. Enter Ed Corts and family, who have jury-rigged the sound system into one of Knoxvilleâ’s best. Weâ’ve seen all of our favorites play the Corner in recent years, from the Tim Lee Band to Speedshifter. And Don Coffey, Jr. probably shouldâ’ve received more votes for unsung hero of the year, because his annual Hottfest is the purest celebration of Knoxvilleâ’s weird and wonderful music scene. Put it this way: If you donâ’t play the Corner, youâ’ll never make it in this town. Runners-up: Pilot Light, Toddyâ’s, and Union Jackâ’s

Gay Club Carousel Club XYZ Kurtâ’s Rainbow Room

Strip Club Mouseâ’s Ear Emerald Club Last Chance Thâ’ Katch

Brewery/Pub Downtown Grill & Brewery Barleyâ’s Calhounâ’s New Knoxville

Best Wine List Oodles The name â“Oodlesâ” wasnâ’t conceived to describe the expansive wine selection, but it should have been. One of the underappreciated gems of Market Square, Oodles with its Uncorked wine bar is hands down the best place in Knoxville to lounge comfortably with a plate of cheese and hummus, sipping a Chardonnay or a Riesling or a Muscat, or even a flagon of ale or a snifter of brandy, if thatâ’s what pleases your palate. And as if it werenâ’t enough that Oodles has over 60 selections on its impressive wine list, every selection is available by the glass, should that entire bottle of Sangiovese be a little out of your price range. And if a little vino whets your appetite, Oodles has a fine food menu, also; we recommend visiting one night when lamb chops are listed among the nightly specials. Runners-up: EdisonPark, Flemingâ’s, and Naples

Live Music Venue Blue Cats Barleyâ’s Bijou Tennessee Theatre

Place to Play Pool Barleyâ’s Baileyâ’s Downtown Grill & Brewery Longbranch

Jukebox Union Jackâ’s Longbranch Preservation Pub Urban Bar

Best Radio Station WUTK-90.3 FM Another successful radio rehab project undertaken a couple of years back by 2007 Unsung Alter-Hero Benny Smith, WUTK has returned to the ranks of truly great college radio stations under station manager Smithâ’s guiding hand and savvy but innovative programming instincts. On what other local station can you hear Nine Inch Nails, Scott Miller, brand-new Dinosaur Jr. and the Arctic Monkeys, all within the space of a half-hour? We donâ’t know, either. And WUTKâ’s specialty programs are top-notch, with showcases for hip hop and jazz and metal and old-school funk, plus everyoneâ’s favorite Funhouse radio show with Derek and Rob, live from Barleyâ’s in the Old City on Friday nights. All this, and plenty of local music, too. WUTK has to rank among our most deserving category winners. Runners-up: WDVX, WFIV, and WIVK

Radio Personality Gunner Derek & Rob Hallerin Hilton Hill Mark, Kim & Frank


TV Personality Robin Wilhoit Abby Ham Ben Senger Russell Bivens

Local Writer Jack Neely Don Williams Leslie Wylie Sam Venable


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