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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004 06:05 pm

Best of Springfield 2004

People, Entertainment, Food, Services, & Recreation

Photo by Susan Rich

QUICKIE HISTORY In the mid-1980s, Illinois Times asked readers to pick their favorite restaurants and entertainment venues for an annual special section we called "Food & Fun." In the late '80s, we expanded the number of categories celebrating the capital city, and the "Best of Springfield" was born.

BY THE NUMBERS This year, we received nearly 1,100 ballots and counted more than 1,000. That was almost twice the number we received and tabulated a year ago. More than 550 of the ballots this year were cast online at www.illinoistimes.com. We disqualified nearly 100 ballots because they lacked contact information, didn't have the required minimum of 10 answers, or arrived after our Aug. 13 deadline. Of the 87 ballot categories, the most popular was Best Pizza. We counted 524 votes in this category. Best Sub Shop was next with 477 votes.

YOU BIG SILLIES Top vote recipients for Best Springfieldian included Vachel Lindsay (a dead poet) and Homer Simpson (a cartoon character). Homer and Vachel tied for third place. Because we made a point of excluding Honest Abe from this category (we said, "not Abe Lincoln"), many of you decided to vote for Mary Todd Lincoln. A local radio personality received the most votes in the Best Chinese Restaurant category, the result of a joke promulgated by one of his colleagues. We didn't think it was funny, so we shipped the personality to a small radio station in a small state, where he entertains hoosiers. His colleague is next.

NO HANGING CHAD In almost every category, the winner is the top recipient of your votes. In a few -- specifically Best Cubs Fan and Best Cardinals Fan -- we received almost as many different answers, including joke votes, as the number of ballots cast, so we picked the winner. Go Sox!

THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS This year's "Best of Springfield" is written by Illinois Times writers Tom Irwin, Dusty Rhodes, and Todd Spivak, as well as regular contributors Job Conger, Phil Funkenbusch, Tom Teague, and Penny Zimmerman-Wills. Nick Steinkamp and Susan Rich designed the newspaper. Elisa Crye and Megan McGhee helped tabulate ballots. Bosco is our cover dog.

THE COURT OF APPEALS All results are final. If you're unhappy, you can write a letter, call your alderman, or go to the Best Local Watering Hole and drown your sorrows. But keep hope alive: You don't have to wait four years to elect someone new. We start taking votes again in July 2005.

People & Places

Best Springfieldian: Carolyn Oxtoby

Best city or county politician: Tim Davlin

Best state politician: Larry Bomke

Best hair on NewsChannel 20: Sunrise Today

Best hotel: Crowne Plaza

Best broadcast journalist: Kavitha Cardoza

Best print journalist: Bernie Schoenburg

Best schoolteacher: Anne Weller

Best neighborhood: Washington Park

Best neighborhood association: Enos Park Neighborhood Association

Best photojournalist: T.J. Salsman

Best place for a wedding reception: The Inn at 835

Best place to meet singles: Chantilly Lace

Best place to people-watch: Old State Capitol Plaza

Best place to take visitors: Lincoln Home and Tomb

Best reason to pick up the State Journal-Register: Chris Britt

Best new statues: The Lincoln family

Best public-spirited landlord: Steve Myers

Best tree: The elm on South State Street

Arts & Entertainment

Best actor: Gus Gordon

Best actress: Cynda Wrightsman

Best artist: John Erickson

Best gospel group: The Fantastic Jones Family

Best band: F5

Best singer: Rod Grant

Best solo musician: Tom Irwin

Best theater production: Big River

Best museum: Illinois State Museum

Best place to dance: Chantilly Lace

Best place for live music: Underground City Tavern

Best place to see a movie: ShowPlace 12 West

Food & Drink

Best bakery: Panera Bread

Best barbecue: Corky's Ribs and BBQ

Best beer selection: Brewhaus

Best breakfast: Charlie Parker's

Best buffet: Buffet City

Best burgers: Steak 'n Shake

Best chili: Joe Rogers' Original Recipe Chili Parlor

Best Chinese restaurant: Hunan Chinese Restaurant

Best coffeehouse: Trout Lily Café

Best desserts: Incredibly Delicious

Best diner: D & J Cafe

Best fish shack: Carter's Fish Market

Best frozen desserts: Baskin-Robbins

Best happy hour: Alexander's Steakhouse

Best horseshoes: D'Arcy's Pint

Best hot dogs: Wienerdog

Best Italian restaurant: Saputo's

Best late-night munchies: El Presidente Burritos

Best martini selection: 11 West

Best Mexican restaurant: Xochimilco Mexican Food

Best new restaurant: Mariah's

Best pizza: Vic's Pizza

Best place to eat healthy: Bentoh's

Best shakes: Steak 'n Shake

Best sports bar: Sammy's Sports Bar

Best sub shop: Head West

Goods & Services

Best auto mechanic: Dave Floyd and Eric Floyd

Best bartender: Mike Parkes

Best store for new books: Barnes & Noble

Best store for used books: Prairie Archives

Best fitness instructor: Teresa Meyer-DeStasio

Best florist: Fifth Street Florist

Best hair stylist: Velma Chiaro

Best massage therapist: Mary C. Atkins

Best nail technician: The staff of TC Nail Salon

Best nursery/greenhouse: Green View Nursery

Best personal trainer: Chip Wagner

Best place to buy a hammer and a hotdog: Ace Hardware

Best place to buy antiques: Springfield Antique Mall

Best store for new video games: Best Buy

Best store for used video games: Game XChange

Best store for used CDs or vinyl: Recycled Records

Best thrift store: Goodwill Industries

Best waiter or waitress: Carlos Patino

Best wine selection: Corkscrew Wine Emporium

Best place to get your lawnmower fixed: JD's Lawnmower and Small Engine Repair

Sports & Recreation

Best bingo hall: Caritas Hall

Best bowling alley: Strike N Spare West

Best fishing spot: Sanchris Lake

Best golf course: The Rail Golf Club

Best athlete: Andre Iguodala

Best Cardinals fan: Rod Blagojevich

Best Cubs fan: Rod Blagojevich

Best coach: Ken Leonard

Best picnic spot: Washington Park

Best place to hike: Lincoln Memorial Garden

Best place to shoot pool: Break Time

Best public park: Washington Park

Best tennis courts: Washington Park

Best weekend-getaway destination: St. Louis

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