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Best of the Best:

    Time to ’fess up here; this is a composite answer, representative of the fact that almost all of the merchants on rejuvenated Market Square received individual votes for the city’s best unsung hero. In fairness, there’s no way we could choose just one. Among the many Square-ers receiving multiple votes were both Scott and Bernadette West of Earth to Old City and the Preservation Pub; Scott Schimmel of Bliss; Susie Dew of World Grotto; and Mahasti Vafaie of Tomato Head. The city owes all of these latter-day urban pioneers a debt of gratitude for their risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit in helping turn downtown Knoxville into a vibrant place once again.     Oh, and a side note to all you idio…good people who voted for Bruce Pearl in this category: While our beloved new University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach was certainly heroic in his efforts to turn around the struggling men’s basketball program, he is hardly what we would call unsung, especially not in these parts. Read the category, and think before you vote, people! (M.G.)

Best of the Best:

Best of the Best:

Best of the Best:

    The appetite is the outlaw of all human desires. And when the appetite fills out a Best of Knoxville ballot, it neither knows nor cares whether or not the restaurant it’s voting for has already won Best Restaurant 50-zillion times before. The appetite is not diplomatic. It doesn’t vote for the underdog, and it doesn’t give a flip about allowing other restaurants a chance to win—just to be nice. It votes for what it believes to be true, and in this case, truth is personified by mile-high Kepner Melts and pastel-hued No. #12 pizzas, slick-leaved Spinach Salads and fluffy wedges of Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. Tomato Head on Market Square has a monopoly on Best Restaurant in Knoxville, and there’s a menu-full of reasons why. Just ask your appetite: It knows them all by heart. ( L.W. ) Runners up: Nama, Litton’s Market & Restaurant, Pasta Trio

Goods & Services

New Business

Carpe Librum Bliss Home

Best Merchandizing Idea We Wish We’d Thought Of

Best Outdoor Store One-two Punch

Best Hair Salon

Best Tattoo/Piercing Parlor

Best Metaphor

Best Impossible-to-Categorize Block

Best Pet Store

Best Daytrip Historic Downtown Clinton     If you drive a mere 20 minutes north of Knoxville proper, you’ll stumble into an oft-overlooked historical district. Not only is the drive beautiful, the quaint, old-timey downtown area is like stepping into the past. But, in spite the feeling of entering a time warp, the shopping is decidedly modern. There’s a hardware store for the manly men, florists for the ladies and effete guys, hair salons for metrosexual Clinton scenesters, and a comic book store for the geek in all of us. All of this is in addition to a beautiful theater, ice cream parlor, a tearoom and some of the best antique stores in East Tennessee. And don’t forget to look in at Hammer’s Dry Goods with its sundry products out on the highway by the post office. ( K.C. )

Arts & Entertainment

Best Place to Buy Foreign Films

Best Place to Hear the Jukebox Play the Same Song Every Night Urban Bar

Best Guitarists’ Hair

Best Rock Club/Live Music Venue

Best Midget Wrestling

Cheapest Way to Woo Your Drunken Date

Best All-American Bathroom

Food & Drink

Best Coffee House

Best Quickie Breakfast Downtown

Best Sports Bar/Place to Shoot Pool

Best BLT

Best Rock’n’roll Barbecue

Best Restaurant Development

Best Sushi

Best Gas Station Greek

Best Place to Have a Lovely Day

Media

Second Best Newspaper Hellbender Press     Try as we might to wear as many hats as we can—newsy ones, artsy ones, sporty ones, literary ones and historical ones—Metro Pulse occasionally runs out of heads to put them on. So we admire a paper like the free, bi-monthly Hellbender Press , which has the gumption to pick a singular hat and wear it to the best of its ability. In this case, it’s a nice green fedora. Hellbender ’s coverage of environmental issues in the East Tennessee area is second to none, and considering the plethora of earth-, air- and water-threatening issues our neck of the woods has to contend with, that’s no small compliment. We salute you, Hellbender . Keep up the good fight. ( L.W. )

It’s BOK Time, and It’s a Ramapaloozarino, or Something Like That

    Oh, goshalmightydern, we’ve done it again. We’ve tallied up the votes for those Knoxville features you think are the best of the year in the categories on our ballot. Thirteen may be an unlucky number to some of our superstitious brethren and sistren, but it’s got a positive cast this week, as we celebrate our 13th-annual Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville reader poll results.     We broke mirrors of delusion. We stepped on cracks in ballot-stuffers’ techniques. Luck had little to do with it. And here we are. You did the thinking, we did the numbers, and we tossed in a few of our own unscientific picks. Now where are we? We’re in Diverse City! The one happy conclusion any casual observer of the Knoxville landscape over those years can easily reach is that the options for shopping, for dining, for entertainment and for personal services have gotten way broader since we started surveying. There are lots more local retail specialty shops, scads more restaurants offering much more varieties of fare, and who knows how many more musicians, artists, actors and assorted venues for showing off their skills. Want a tattoo, a tan, a new ’do, or a rubdown? We’ve got choices in spades.     Many of the winners this year, as in any year, are repeaters. They have instilled confidence among MP readers in their value to the Knoxville community, but quite a few of them weren’t even around 13 years ago, and their recognition has been earned amid stiffening competition from both old and new institutions that have arisen from the bare earth like a blanket of kudzu across the cityscape. Who says all growth is bad? We like a lot of this new stuff, and so do you.

Categories: •  Best of the Best Goods & Services •  Arts & Entertainment  Food & Drink

Best of the Best: Unsung Hero of the Year Market Square Merchants

    Time to ’fess up here; this is a composite answer, representative of the fact that almost all of the merchants on rejuvenated Market Square received individual votes for the city’s best unsung hero. In fairness, there’s no way we could choose just one. Among the many Square-ers receiving multiple votes were both Scott and Bernadette West of Earth to Old City and the Preservation Pub; Scott Schimmel of Bliss; Susie Dew of World Grotto; and Mahasti Vafaie of Tomato Head. The city owes all of these latter-day urban pioneers a debt of gratitude for their risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit in helping turn downtown Knoxville into a vibrant place once again.     Oh, and a side note to all you idio…good people who voted for Bruce Pearl in this category: While our beloved new University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach was certainly heroic in his efforts to turn around the struggling men’s basketball program, he is hardly what we would call unsung, especially not in these parts. Read the category, and think before you vote, people! (M.G.)

Best of the Best: Local Group/Musician Robinella     She won our hearts long ago with her and husband Cruz Contreras’ first musical act, an old-time stringband called the Stringbeans. They’ve come a long way since those days, infusing their unique music with tinges of bluegrass, swing, blues and jazz. But they’re still humble as homemade cherry pie—you’re liable to catch Robin working the merch table for friends like former bandmate Jay Clark. And, joined by some stellar new musicians as well as fiddle virtuoso Billy Contreras, the group still plays its regular Sunday night gig at Barley’s. With the release of their latest album, Solace For the Lonely , and their bouncing new baby boy Cash tagging along everywhere they go, the Conterases have their hands full. But they always make time to pick up their instruments and get our hearts thumpin’, our feet two-steppin’. So it’s no shocker that Robinella takes the cake for this year’s Best of the Best Music Act. ( M.K.) Runners up: Dishwater Blonde, Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, Verona

Best of the Best: Local Store Earth to Old City     The surest proof that the importance of naming a business is overrated is the successful boutique known as Earth to Old City. Even when they were actually located in the Old City, some questioned the linear sense of naming a business “Earth to Old City”; now that they’re several blocks away on Market Square, with other stores in Farragut and Gatlinburg, it’s where we go when we need some African curios, Japanese dinnerware, smartass toys, or bee’s wax lip balm. They also carry soaps and candles and greeting cards and posters and jewelry and some clothes and CDs and books. That sort of thing. And they’ll frame your pictures for you, too. No wonder they struggled with what to call it. But the place is packed at Christmastime and some weekends. What works, works. (J.N.) Runners up: Bliss, Disc Exchange, McKay Used Books & CDs

Best of the Best: Local Restaurant Tomato Head

Goods & Services New Business World Grotto Carpe Librum Bliss Home

Gift Shop Earth to Old City Bliss Green Earth Hallmark

Jewelry Store Markman’s Jared Bliss Kimball’s

Bookstore McKay Used Books & CDs Barnes and Noble Borders Carpe Librum

CD/Record Store Disc Exchange Cat’s McKay Best Buy

Liquor Store Bob’s Package Store Ashe’s McScrooge’s Toddy’s

Grocery Store Kroger Fresh Market Bi-Lo Earth Fare

Ethnic Food Store Oriental Food Mart Fresh Market Asian Market Earthfare

Health Food Store Nature’s Pantry Earthfare Three Rivers Market Fresh Market

Gourmet Food Store Fresh Market Gourmet’s Market Earthfare 3 Rivers

Most Earth-Friendly Consumer Decision Three Rivers Market     We all like to belong. And while those plastic keychain cards at the big grocery stores guarantee you some sweet discounts, being an “owner” at Three Rivers Market food co-operative gets you involved in the decision-making process. You can vote on board decisions, receive newsletters—all sorts of fun stuff you did when you formed that bracelet-weaving club in fourth grade. But all jokes aside, food co-operatives are essential if you’ve a mind for conscientious shopping. Three Rivers stocks as much as possible with local products, from green beans to coffee to honey to tofu made on The Farm in Summertown, Tenn. That reduces transportation of products and increases freshness. Plus, they’ve got all the natural foods you could need, from bulk bins of grains, pastas, granolas, spices, teas and oils, to earth-friendly packaged brands for the junk-food junkie tryin’ to phase out a Cheeto addiction (try the Kashi TLC crackers and you’ll never eat a Ritz again). And the fancy beer selection is hands-down the best in North Knoxville. (But they’ve got PBR, too.) The No. 1 perk of Three Rivers Market, though, is the warm fuzzy feeling you get walking out the door (’cuz you’re in the club, yeah!) ( M.K. )

Caterer Rothchild Buddy’s BBQ Southern Graces Big Fatty’s

Garden Supply/Nursery Mayo Garden Center Stanley’s Greenhouse Pope’s Lowe’s

Florist Crouch Petree Flower Market Fountain City Florist

Fitness Club The Rush CourtSouth YMCA St. Mary’s

Outdoor Sports Store Dick’s Sporting Goods RiverSports Blue Ridge Earth Traverse

Best Place to Show Your War Face Coal Creek Armory     If you’ve never held a sweet, smoking handgun after shooting the hell out of a target from 25 yards, then you haven’t truly lived. While we here at the alternative newsweekly don’t advocate shooting guns in the wild, at least not without a permit or within earshot, a few of us have been known to take out a bit of aggression in the safe confines of the Coal Creek Armory. When you’re looking for something with a little more power than your Remington Fieldmaster—or if you’ve just grown bored with your Desert Eagle in .357 caliber—you can pick up a custom-built Browning BT-99, Grade 1, starting at just $900. Then you’ll be ready to bring the pain, without actually hurting anyone.     Without Coal Creek Armory, we’d never have had the opportunity to meet the delightfully enthusiastic gunslinger Greg “Lumpy” Lambert, whose political aspirations have captured our hearts and our funny bones—far-right-wing talking points aside. Lumpy once told us that nothing puts a smile on his face like firing a Thompson sub-machine gun. Puppies put smiles on our faces, but we’re sissies. ( K.C. )

Furniture Store Braden’s Wholesale Furniture Bliss Home Rooms to Go Bookers

Men’s Dress Clothing Store Men’s Wearhouse Express Dillard’s Belk

Women’s Dress Clothing Store Belk Dillard’s Classy Lady Ann Taylor

Casual/Hip Clothing Store Planet Xchange Old Navy Obligato American Eagle

Best Merchandizing Idea We Wish We’d Thought Of The “Knoxville Girl” T-Shirt     The brainchild of its manufacturers, Yee-Haw Industries letterpress shop on Gay Street, these shirts in various sizes, colors, and styles have been flying off shelves all over town. Yee-Haw will just tell us that they’ve sold in the thousands since they introduced them late last year.     We’re impressed with their popularity, considering that in the ancient ballad, which became a bluegrass standard lately interpreted by rockers like Nike Cave and Elvis Costello, the “Knoxville Girl” is a victim of a grisly and apparently senseless murder. We’d like to think of the T-shirt’s popularity as her revenge. You go, girl. (J.N.)

Thrift/Secondhand Clothing Planet Xchange Goodwill ReRuns AmVets

Shoe Store Off Broadway Becky’s Donnamite Dillard’s

Dry Cleaners Prestige Cleaners Farragut Cleaners Executive Cleaners US Cleaners

Best Outdoor Store One-two Punch Earth Traverse Outfitters, River Sports     If you’re looking for a tough pair of Vasques and a Thermarest, or a tent that won’t leak in an East Tennessee monsoon, take a trip down Sutherland Avenue for what’s become a Mecca for Knoxville outdoorsmen and women. With Earth Traverse Outfitters and River Sports positioned across the street from each other, you’re guaranteed to find just what you need for tackling whatever Mother Nature might throw at you. You’ll find staff members knowledgeable of the area as well as kayaks, canoes and bikes, packs, sleeping bags, clothing, etc. It’s the time of year when the Smokies give us the best in outdoor adventure opportunities, so look to Sutherland to find whatever you need. ( C.M. )

Eyewear Store Luttrell’s Lens Crafters Dr. Bizer Clancy

Day Spa Spa Visage Belleza Natural Alternatives Bella Spazio

Best Hair Salon Salon Visage     There’s a certain ebb and flow to trendy hairstyling. In the ’50s, ponytails were swinging. In the ’70s, Marcia Brady-style tresses grooved superior. The ’80s were defined by the big bang tease, and the ’90s were personified by a shag-era Jennifer Aniston. But the turn of the century changed everything. Today’s hairstylists confine themselves not to one trend or color palate, but swing their scissors wildly in the no-man’s land of un-chartered possibility. Cutting hair has evolved into an art form, not unlike sculpting, with hair artists who fancy themselves abstract expressionists and your hair their empty canvas. And whether you’re in the market for a piece-y Picasso or a funky Pollock, an asymmetrical Dali or minimalist Andre, you’ll find a stylist who can create the masterpiece of your wildest dreams at Salon Visage, in Downtown West. According to your votes, it’s the MOMA of Knoxville hair salons, and you could be its next work of art. ( L.W. ) Runners up: Ross the Boss, Belleza, Natural Alternatives

Licensed Therapeutic Massage Spa Visage Belleza Gypsy Hands Downtown Massage

Best Tattoo/Piercing Parlor Saint Tattoo     What possessed me to get a tattoo in the first place, since I’m needle-phobic, I cannot explain. All I know is that when I finally came to after passing out mid-procedure, the face I beheld was like that of an angel, illuminated by a strange, ethereal glow. It was my tattoo artist, of course, but at that half-conscious moment he seemed to me so much more: my body-art salvation, some saint who’d descended upon earth to save my lower back from its wimpy, bland monotony. His gentle reminders to breathe were music to my ears, as sweet and comforting as anything I’d ever read in a hymnal. “Am I in heaven?” I wondered, as he fetched me a cup of water. “No,” boomed a voice from above, accompanied by a clap of thunder. “But you are in Saint Tattoo.” It’s up on Broadway. ( L.W. ) Runners up: Tye Dye Tattoo, Mythical Markings, Wicked Ink

Tanning Salon Raley’s A Place in the Sun Stop N Go Northshore Sun

Travel Agency AAA Travel World Travel Student Travel Agency

Best Metaphor Three Rivers Rambler     There’s no question which rail car of Three Rivers Rambler has the most fun. Trailing behind a long line of pre-1950s-era passenger coaches with names like Trustworthy, Intrepid, Resourceful, and Forthright, there follows the caboose called Desire. Where the more responsible cars steam ahead with conviction, the train’s fire-engine red postscript seems merely to be tagging along for the ride, a leisurely jaunt along the Tennessee River that leaves from Volunteer Landing at various departure times throughout the weekend. In the upcoming year, Metro Pulse advises that the city look to Three Rivers Rambler as an ideological compass, a reminder that industriousness goes hand in hand with passion. ( L.W. )

Auto Dealer Harper Dealership Ted Russell Grayson Toyota of Knoxville

Auto Service Center Fisher Tire Auto Zone Pep Boys Harper

Best Impossible-to-Categorize Block The 1200 Block of North Central     Maybe it’s the karma left from the days half a century ago, when thirsty millworkers would convene here in Happy Holler (where, as the adage went, you can get anything you want for half a dollar). The gentrification of nearby Old North and Fourth and Gill has had unpredicted consequences to the block, which is now home to a unique business district that includes the Taoist Tai Chi Center, the cross-dresser’s venue known as the XYZ Club, and the Time Warp Tea Room, the combination vintage-motorcycle and pinball museum, Victorian-saloon recreation, and folk-music coffee shop. And, if we’ll permit crossing a side street, the Original Freezo, where you can walk up to the window and order some tamales and chili, cornbread and pintos, or a chocolate sundae? In fact, in the space of one block, you can fetch two different versions of the tamale-and-chili dish known as the Full House. Where else in the world? ( J.N. )

Motorcycle Dealer (TIE) Knoxville Harley-Davidson Smokey Mountain Harley Destination

Best Pet Store Agri Feed & Pet Supply Co.     OK, so it doesn’t sound like it specializes in pet stuff, but the cross-service business in the 5700 block of Middlebrook Pike has a strong selection of pet products and a staff of helpful retail employees to get you what you’re looking for. The pet section is well laid out and complete. And a big plus, the store’s prices are very attractive, compared with those at the pet supermarkets or the littler pet stores. A spike-studded dog collar in basic black, for example, went for about two-thirds the charge other stores were getting for the same thing back at Christmastime. Don’t ask. ( B.H. )

Bike Shop Greenlee’s Bike Zoo Harper Earth Traverse

Best Daytrip Historic Downtown Clinton     If you drive a mere 20 minutes north of Knoxville proper, you’ll stumble into an oft-overlooked historical district. Not only is the drive beautiful, the quaint, old-timey downtown area is like stepping into the past. But, in spite the feeling of entering a time warp, the shopping is decidedly modern. There’s a hardware store for the manly men, florists for the ladies and effete guys, hair salons for metrosexual Clinton scenesters, and a comic book store for the geek in all of us. All of this is in addition to a beautiful theater, ice cream parlor, a tearoom and some of the best antique stores in East Tennessee. And don’t forget to look in at Hammer’s Dry Goods with its sundry products out on the highway by the post office. ( K.C. )

Arts & Entertainment Museum Knoxville Museum of Art McClung Museum East TN History Center Museum of Appalachia

Best Bathroom Graffiti Pilot Light You’ll find it in both Pilot Light bathrooms: I Cheated Divorce by Fisting a Crow . We have it on good authority that this sliver of verse was actually written by Jack Gilbert, author of The Great Fires and Refusing Heaven , while he was in Knoxville during the spring of 2004. We also know how rumors get started. ( K.C. )

Place to Buy Art Bennett Gallery Bliss Hanson Gallery World Grotto

Best Place to Buy Foreign Films Disc Exchange West/Border’s Books and Music (Tie)     I suffer from a paralyzing and woefully wallet-deflating addiction: I’m a sucker for a subtitle, a compulsive consumer of foreign films. And renting them for a night just isn’t good enough; I have to own them, the special DVD deluxe versions with director’s interviews and commentary and long, pedantic essays by snooty film critics. Kurosawa, Bergman, and lots of directors whose names I can’t even spell are all well represented in my DVD collection. And the only two places I can reliably cop a Fellini fix are at the Disc Exchange outpost on Kingston Pike, and at Borders Books and Music over next to West Town Mall. Borders has a particularly expansive foreign film selection in its vast DVD section, and the Disc Exchange, to its credit, goes out of its way to offer movies from the exclusive Criterion Collection. If you’re looking for a copy of Big Momma’s House VII, maybe you’d best stick to Wal-Mart. But if you’ve got a hard-on for Herzog, try Borders or the D.E. West. ( M.G. )

Local Theater Group Actor’s Co-op Clarence Brown Tennessee Stage Company

Local Dance Company Circle Modern Dance Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble Appalachian Ballet Gypsy Hands

Movie Theater Pinnacle 18 Downtown West Wynnsong

Best Place to Hear the Jukebox Play the Same Song Every Night Urban Bar     Seasoned drunks will often seek out a good jukebox, something to play in the background as they drink away the bad and celebrate the good, because it’s always appropriate to be thoroughly sloshed when your favorite song plays. “This song rocks,” you’ll yell. Then, when your more-sober buddies don’t respond immediately, you’ll yell again, as if they didn’t hear you: “This song rocks! I love this song!”     We all have our favorite songs that remind us of something—usually sex—that’s important to us. Over in the Old City, at the Urban Bar, the jukebox has a generous selection of jazz, country, classic rock and alternative faux-punk, enough to make your wanton red-eyes sparkle with delight. Its selection is not quite as varied as Preservation Pub’s jukebox, which has the best country/western selections this side of the Mason-Dixon. But what’s odd about Urban is the clockworky musical cycle. Every hour, or so it seems, a random wino will drop a few coins into the jukebox and ignite “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey’s emotionally hokey—but freaking awesome—power ballad. Depending on the time of night, the bar’s apt to stage an impromptu rendition, and even the nerdiest patrons will scream, “Just a city boy / born and raised in South Detroit / took a midnight train / going an-y-where!” ( K.C. )

Local Bluegrass Band Robinella Wild Blue Yonder Roddy Branch Everybodyfields

Local Jazz Band Donald Brown Sara Schwabe & Her Yankee Jass Band KJO Mitch Rutman

Local Blues Band Jenna & the Jonses Hector Qirko Jobe Blues Band Blue Mother Tupelo

Best Guitarists’ Hair Cozmo Holloway, The Spades/Dishwater Blonde If you’ve ever been to a Spades or Dishwater Blonde show, you’re bound to remember him; he’s that crazy lead guitarist with the explosive ’do. ’Mo’s ’fro is truly a sight to behold—wild, frenzied and out-of-control, which is actually a pretty good description of his playing, too. Holloway is a throwback guitar hero, a guy who can flat-out shred, and look hella cool doing so. ( M.G. )

Local Rock Band Dishwater Blonde Garage Deluxe 10 Years Scott Miller & the Commonwealth

Best Rock Club/Live Music Venue Blue Cats     Every town needs a mid-size music venue with some big-time soul, and here in Knoxville, those shoes are filled by Blue Cats. We are truly obliged to this year’s Best Rock Club/Live Music Venue winner for bringing the shows that rocked us this year: Black Keys, Son Volt, The Features, Mike Doughty, and Matt Pond PA, to name just a few. While bands like these make the music geeks happy, the coolest thing about Blue Cats is the diversity; one night there’s a screamin’ metal band, the next night’s a Goth ball, and the next is hip hop. Congrats, Blue Cats. Keep rockin’. (M.K.) Best Rock Club Runners up: Pilot Light, Corner Lounge, Barley’s Best Live Music Venue Runners up: Tennessee Theatre, Barley’s, World Grotto

Country/Western Club Cotton Eyed Joe Electric Cowboy Corner Lounge Judy’s

Jazz Club 4620 Baker Peters Sassy Ann’s

Best Midget Wrestling The Electric Cowboy     This past February, the theater of the absurd reached new heights. Even Beckett couldn’t have foreseen this kind of zany rigmarole. Bloody, hard-core midget wrestling. ’Nuff said.     The Electric Cowboy, a fairly new nightclub in town, has already held two showcases of little-people ferocity. It may seem silly and degrading on the surface. But, if you can look beyond the fact that it’s midgets beating the hell out of each other, you’ll discover a universal truth: Life’s just a constant string of absurdities and non sequiturs. So, might as well turn the old brain off and watch a good fight. Don’t forget to kill a few of the more rational brain cells with a healthy dose of Budweiser. Then you can contemplate the meaning of it all, without political correctness and modesty mucking up your higher cognitive functions.     Go back to the sideshow era, before the talking pictures ruined the commercial appeal of American absurdity. The good folks over at Electric Cowboy don’t know when midget wrestling will come back. But, trust us, it’s coming back. Remember, no performers are ever harmed. Right? ( K.C. )

Gay Club The Carousel II XYZ Rainbow Club West

Dive Toddy’s Backdoor Tavern Corner Lounge Opal’s Toots

Cheapest Way to Woo Your Drunken Date Taylor the Rose Guy     This title somewhat cheapens Taylor’s role in downtown life, but hey, I call ’em like I see ’em. Taylor, whose last name remains unknown, is the elusive yet omnipresent “Rose Guy” who lurks downtown and Old City bars, bearing an armful of rainbow-hued, thorn-free roses for only a dollar apiece. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal when you’re on the patio at the Pub, with a gaggle of girlfriends, and you want to make a grand gesture of your affection for them. Or if you’re on a date at Pasta Trio, Taylor arrives in the knick of time when you accidentally swat your honey’s hand when he/she reaches for another piece of that heavenly, calorie-swaddled bread. A rose says, “Of course I don’t think you’re fat! I’m only concerned about your arteries because they lead to your heart, my honeybun,” and immediately, you’re back in good graces. Funny, though, how the rose always ends up tossed in the backseat of the car or squashed between sofa cushions—a deflated, but still sweet-smelling reminder of a night out in Knoxville. ( M.K. )

Strip Club Mouse’s Ear West Last Chance Th’ Katch Emerald Club

Brewery/Pub Downtown Grill & Brewery Barley’s Preservation Pub New Knoxville Brewery

Jukebox Preservation Pub Union Jack’s Longbranch Urban Bar

Best All-American Bathroom Turkey Creek Super Target     You can walk into some new-age, mega-fancy toilettes these days, such as the chic facilities found at Sapphire or The Tennessee Plaza. These total-package, money-is-not-a-problem, artistically crafted bathrooms have all of the hi-tech gizmos and bourgeoisie abracadabra enjoyed by patrons who can actually afford martinis, and sophistication. The toilets flush themselves, soap flies out of the dispensers automatically, and every sink magically lets out warm, clear, clean jets of water. You don’t have to touch a thing. These places are, without a doubt, bathroom Valhallas, the be-all and end-all of intestinal jitters, a Rolls Royce for fetid relief.     But where’s the old-fashioned, do-it-yourself, American spirit? I remember, back in the good old days, when we had to apply soap manually. I remember when toilets were large, porcelain white and powerful, capable of sucking down half a roll of toilet paper, scraps from an unwanted dinner and a handful of pocket change. And this was done with a friendly “baw-woosh!” which is toilet-speak for “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” The Super Target in Turkey Creek shares this oft-forgotten notion of the American spirit, with industrial strength fixtures, the kind of no-nonsense, get-in-get-out handiwork that helped make this country great. It’s like a museum, causing us to take a moment to reflect on the days when men were really men and bathrooms were really bathrooms. ( K.C. )

Food & Drink New Restaurant Big Fatty’s Mimi’s Cafe Peerless Wok Hay

Best Coffee House Old City Java     There is only a scant handful of pleasant, locally-owned coffee shops in Knoxville—the kind of place you can go get a rich cup-a-joe, a homemade sandwich with Lay’s potato chips, and not a smidge of pretension. While many people forgo these charming nooks for the kelly-green caffeine-nation of Starbucks, one bite of Old City Java’s “Really Freakin’ Good Panini,” oozing with turkey, cheese, and a side of ranch, will convert anyone who previously shelled out five bucks for a latte. Java’s also got killer homemade bagels and goodies, like “Politically Incorrect French Brownies” and vegan carrot bars. We’re not sayin’ there’s anything wrong with Starbucks, which handily won third place in our polls, thanks to their luscious caramel macchiatos, but we’re glad to see Knoxville still goes for the little guys, too. Runner-up Golden Roast, a UT campus favorite, has great coffee that the staff roasts themselves, and is an optimum spot to hit the books. Fourth place winner Panera may be a chain, but we’re addicted to its bagels and hazelnut brew. And the staff honorable mention goes to Timewarp Tearoom; one part museum, one part coffee shop, the curious business on Central Avenue is worth poking your head into. Of course, there’s only one winner, and the now-Wi-Fi connected Java tips the scales with its balls-to-the-wall, all-ages rawk shows. ( M.K. ) Runners up: Golden Roast, Starbucks, Panera Bread

Breakfast Cracker Barrel IHOP Waffle House Shoney’s

Best Quickie Breakfast Downtown Higher Grounds     There are a handful of eateries that serve a pretty good First Meal in the vicinity of downtown—Yesterdays Café, Market Square Kitchen, and Pete’s spring to mind, and all are more than worthy of your breakfast dollar. But if you’re on that mad morning dash for the office chair, trying to meet the seat before the boss makes his morning rounds, there’s no place better to grab-it-and-go than Higher Grounds coffee shop on the first floor of Gay Street’s Centre Square building (the one next to the guy in the sinking rowboat). With gourmet coffee, pastries, croissants, eggs, and a chicken biscuit that’s to-die-for, Higher Grounds offers a breakfast that’s as tasty as it is quick. You’ll never be late (or go hungry) again. ( M.G. )

Brunch Italian Market & Grill Sunspot Tomato Head Copper Cellar

Most Shameless Promoter Scott West     Besides the growing legend of West’s shill-ability to hype anything downtowny, including his own Market Square institutions, he has outdone himself. Last year and this, he has prefaced his email club-entertainment schedules with a plea to vote for Bernadette West, his talented, hard-charging entrepreneur of a wife, as MP Unsung Hero of the Year. OK, she may deserve the recognition, but great Scot, Scott! ( B.H. )

Lunch Spot Tomato Head Sunspot Panera Pete’s

Bakery Magpies Panera Hogan’s Rita’s

Ice Cream/Smoothie Shop Marble Slab Bruster’s Smoothie King Baskin Robbins Best Sports Bar/Place to Shoot Pool Bailey’s The cavernous favorite of the Cedar Bluff crowd (and many migrating barflies from across the city and a couple of other counties), takes both titles with relative ease. It’s got so many pool tables the green felt is measured there in acres, and one cannot look up from one’s amber, fizzy sensation of the evening without looking straight into one of Bailey’s multitude of cyclopean TV screens, each with another real-time sportscast lighting up the wallspace. It also has the only laminated-maple table-top shuffleboard in service anywhere close to home. No contest. ( B.H. ) Best Sports Bar Runners up: Rookie’s, Rooster’s, Buffalo Wild Wings Best Place to Play Pool Runners up: Barley’s, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Longbranch

Deli Nixon’s Deli Lenny’s Vic & Bill’s Subway

Best BLT Pete’s on Union Ave. The meal comprises the three basic food groups: meat, vegetables and bread. Pete puts them together better than most anyone. The secret to his BLT dominance is the bread. It’s a couple of slices of the ordinarily insipid Texas toast, but they’re slathered with butter and toasted on the grill, then topped with piles of bacon done to a perfect crisp and slices of vine-ripened tomato buried in fresh, shredded lettuce. Add mayo and mmmM. (B.H.)

Salads Ruby Tuesday Tomato Head O’Charley’s Field of Greens

Steak Ye Olde Steakhouse Butcher Shop Chop House Outback Steakhouse

Wings Buffalo Wild Wings Hooter’s Quaker Steak Spicy’s

Pizza Tomato Head Mellow Mushroom Barley’s Papa John’s

Hamburger Litton’s Market & Restaurant Hardee’s Ruby Tuesday Backyard Burger

Barbecue Buddy’s BBQ Calhoun’s Famous Dave’s F.A.T.S. BBQ

Best Rock’n’roll Barbecue Sweet P’s     Chris Ford knows his barbecue. During the years he spent on the road with his former band, Gran Torino (may its funkiness rest in peace), the musicians made sport of scouting out the most authentic barbecue joints in whatever town they happened to be passing through. The tastiest rocks they turned over tended to be dingy, old-school, hole-in-the-wall barbecue joints in Mississippi and Alabama, and although the tour bus is now defunct, Ford’s taste buds will never forget.     When the band split, he decided to open a West Knoxville catering kitchen called Sweet P’s that would keep those memories alive forever. He describes his cuisine as “the shabby-chic of southern eats,” as it combines the clog-your-arteries classics he loves with the healthier, more P.C. fare, salads and such, that he also loves. For a recent MP staff luncheon, he even took a stab at barbecued tempeh and tofu for the vegetarians among us. How rock’n’roll is that? Visit Sweet P’s Website www.sweetpbbq.com . ( L.W. )

Seafood Chesapeake’s Red Lobster Bonefish Bayou Bay

Desserts Litton’s Market & Restaurant Magpies Melting Pot Tomato Head

Italian Restaurant Naples Savelli’s Olive Garden Bravo

Vegetarian Menu Sunspot Tomato Head Sitar Green Hills Grille

Best Restaurant Development The Tacqueria Explosion     Suddenly they’re almost everywhere, Chapman Highway, Broadway, Sutherland Avenue, Whittle Springs Road. Inexpensive restaurants run by and, mostly for, Mexican immigrants, with Spanish-language menus and better food than we’re used to. Some Knoxvillians may have to weigh their anti-immigrant superpatriotism against the fact that Knoxville in 2006 has a much greater variety of Mexican food than the city has ever enjoyed. It’s an INS secret that you can tell an undocumented burrito by the fact that it’s usually better than the alternative. ( J.N. )

Best Sushi Nama     Who would have laid odds, 20 years ago, that several establishments would compete for Knoxville’s appetite for raw fish and rice? And that one located on Gay Street would have a regular line to get in and valet parking? In its two years in business, Nama has become the standard for upscale sushi, as well as our favorite after-work sake pub.     One warning to Knoxville epicureans: If you go to Nama and order a Rooster, expecting a white-bun chicken sandwich with mayonnaise and cheese, don’t be disappointed if it turns out to be a combination of avocado, eel, crab, and squash. Nama’s own Rooster is delicious. Also, the Godzilla and Secret Garden are treats for that special occasion, like the Emperor’s birthday. Laissez Banzai Roulez! ( J.N. ) Runners up: Wasabi, Tomo, Ginza Japan, Miyabi

Asian Restaurant Stir Fry Cafe PF Chang Wasabi Nama

Best Gas Station Greek Smoky Mountain Deli @ The Chevron Sure, it may have been the only horse in the race, but who’s counting? Smoky Mountain Deli refuels your engine, not to be confused with your car’s, with a full menu of Greek specialties that includes but is not limited to gyro sandwiches, “spankin’” spanakopita, salads, tzatziki, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and, of course, baklava. Don’t let the orange UT flags or the generic name throw you off; the Deli’s owners, a pit crew of cheeky, adorable Greek women, are just playing along. They know what’s really going on, and they know who’s got the best hummus recipe in town. And after you belly up to that gas station counter, you will, too. Just south of the Henley Bridge on Chapman Highway. ( L.W. )

Mexican Restaurant El Charro Pelancho’s Cancun Senor Taco

Indian Restaurant Sitar Kashmir

Wine List EdisonPark Oodles/Uncorked Orangery Naples

Best Place to Have a Lovely Day Market Square Kitchen     Nestled on the southwest corner of Market Square sits an old-fashioned cafeteria, known to the regulars simply as “The Soup Kitchen.” Others, including the current owners, call it the “Market Square Kitchen,” but the soup’s what keeps people coming back, day after day. The trick to this restaurant is finding the perfect sandwich to complement your choice of soup. The grilled cheese works well with tomato basil. And the Kansas City Roast Beef works with everything, because it’s…well, it’s delicious. Besides the food, there’s a friendly atmosphere. This restaurant could be in Maybury—it has that same country, slightly relaxed charm. When you pay the cashier, he’ll always tell you to “have a lovely day.” Yes, we will have lovely days. Thank goodness he never says something trite, like “Y’all come back now, ya’hear?” Thanks. ( K.C. )

Beer Selection Barley’s Downtown Grill & Brewery Union Jack’s Preservation Pub

Media Local Radio Station (TIE) WUTK WIVK WDVX 94.3 Star 102.1

Local Radio Personality Gunner Mark/Kim/Frank Hallerin Hilton Hill Derek & Rob, The Funhouse

Local TV Station WBIR WATE WVLT WKOP

Local TV Personality Robin Wilhoit Bill Williams Beth Haynes Russell Biven

Second Best Newspaper Hellbender Press     Try as we might to wear as many hats as we can—newsy ones, artsy ones, sporty ones, literary ones and historical ones—Metro Pulse occasionally runs out of heads to put them on. So we admire a paper like the free, bi-monthly Hellbender Press , which has the gumption to pick a singular hat and wear it to the best of its ability. In this case, it’s a nice green fedora. Hellbender ’s coverage of environmental issues in the East Tennessee area is second to none, and considering the plethora of earth-, air- and water-threatening issues our neck of the woods has to contend with, that’s no small compliment. We salute you, Hellbender . Keep up the good fight. ( L.W. )

Local Writer Jack Neely Sam Venable