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Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 12:01 am

BEST LOCAL FOOD

BEST BAKERY
BEST WEDDING CAKES

Incredibly Delicious
925 South Seventh St., 528-8548

You no longer have to go to St. Louis or Chicago for good pastries and bread, and this year’s winner, Incredibly Delicious, is one of the main reasons why. The “all butter” handmade croissants (available in plain, raspberry, chocolate and almond cream) are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the tarts shouldn’t be missed. There’s much more to Incredibly Delicious, including its ever-rotating list of daily lunch specials. But, if you ask us, it’s the variety of homemade bread that keeps people coming back. While Incredibly Delicious is a great place to get your daily bread, it’s also tops for special occasions, not the least of which is weddings. You’re guaranteed a cake that tastes every bit as good as it looks.
Runners-up Best Wedding Cakes: Specialty Cakes, Batter Matters Bakery and Cafe
Runners-up Best Bakery: Hy-Vee, Specialty Cakes


BEST THAI RESTAURANT
Magic Kitchen
115 North Lewis St., 525-6975
4112 North Peoria Road, 525-2230

Yet again, Magic Kitchen earns top honors as Springfield’s best Thai Restaurant. Although some like Magic Kitchen due to its BYOB policy at the Peoria Road location, it’s really the food that elevates Magic Kitchen to the top. Of course there are your classics like Pad Thai and a variety of Thai Currys. But don’t miss some of the other, lesser known, dishes like Thai noodle soup and Tua Nawk Si Kai (bean sprouts, green onions, tofu and egg served with a spicy sauce.) We like that you can custom order your level of spice for most of Magic Kitchen’s dishes. On busy nights, we also like the tailgate feel at the Peoria Road location as diners wait their turn for Springfield’s best Thai food.
Runners-up: Little Saigon, Taste of Thai

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Osaka Japanese Restaurant
1665 Wabash Ave., 726-8037

Osaka has once again earned the top honors for Best Japanese Restaurant in Springfield. Perhaps it’s the hibachi table, where you might find yourself having a fried bit of goodness launched by the chef into your mouth like a trained seal. Or perhaps it’s the more traditional and restrained Japanese dishes and sushi. Maybe it’s the exhaustive list of exotic drinks guaranteed to help transport you to the Far East. Whatever it is, Osaka’s got it figured out and we hope they continue to please our collective palates.
Runners-up: Happy Sushi, Kiku

BEST DOWNTOWN DINING
BEST OUTDOOR DINING

Obed and Isaac’s
500 South Sixth St., 670-0627

Court and Karen Conn’s success has been recognized by Illinois Times readers, who voted Obed and Isaac’s as Springfield’s best downtown and outdoor dining. And it’s well deserved – who else has an enclosed dog run where man’s best friend can cavort while its owner plays bocce ball and wets the proverbial whistle with craft beer brewed on premises. Need something more substantial? There’s a full menu offering tasty morsels like Scotch egg appetizers, a beer and whiskey burger and Cajun shrimp and Andouille sausage. Enjoy all this in turn-of-the-century buildings repurposed to a new life and saved from the wrecking ball.
Runners-up Best Downtown Dining: Julia’s Kitchen and Lounge, Maldaner’s
Runners-up Best Outdoor Dining: Julia’s Kitchen and Lounge, Fire and Ale


BEST BREAKFAST
BEST RESTAURANT WHERE KIDS EAT FREE

Charlie Parker’s Diner
700 West North St., 241-2104

Springfield’s own Charlie Parker’s Diner and Chef Mike Murphy have just won the national Thomas® Hometown Breakfast Battle and the $25,000 that goes with it for the Charlie Parker’s Breakfast Horseshoe on a Thomas® English Muffin. Charlie Parker’s wins again this year for Springfield’s Best Breakfast. Mike and Cindy Murphy, the fifth owners of Charlie Parker’s, have just about perfected the diner breakfast while keeping costs reasonable. Although Springfield might wish the old Quonset hut offered more seating, the ambience is just right. Plus, kids 3 and under eat free with an adult.
Runners-up Best Breakfast: Sunrise Café, D & J’s Café
Runners-up Best Restaurant Where Kids Eat Free: Steak ’n Shake, Dublin Pub


BEST BBQ
McCormick’s Smokehouse
2930 Plaza Drive, 793-1183

Although it started out as a downtown deli in 1994, McCormick’s Smokehouse shifted emphasis to BBQ in 2007. And Springfield is happy for that fact, awarding McCormick’s with a “best of” in this competitive category. One might think that a smoker wouldn’t fit in over at the Gables, but McCormick’s fully functional drive-through is testament to the fact that if you make good BBQ, they will come. And come they do, not just for the pulled pork, chicken, ribs or brisket, but also for McCormick’s deli sandwiches and more traditional fare.
Runners-up: Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, Hickory River Smokehouse

BEST CHILI
The Chili Parlor
820 South Ninth St., 523-4989

There are as many versions of chili in Springfield as there are ways to spell it. And Springfield says the very best purveyor is the Chili Parlor (where there’s just one “1” in chili). Using a menu that goes back over 50 years, Marianne Rogers leads a team turning out chili that’s inspired the Food Network and Travel Channel to make pilgrimages to Springfield. If you’re not brave enough to face a bowl of firebrand (eat it all, and you get your name memorialized on the wall), you can order yours customized to meet your own heat, oil and bean standards.
Runners-up: Dew Chilli, Dublin Pub

BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Grab-A-Java
1702 South Sixth St., 523-5282

Springfield likes its coffee, and Grab-A-Java is devoted to helping its citizens get going in the morning. Its dedication to the craft of brewing the perfect cup earned it a “best of” award for 2015 – not just for its many varieties, but also because of the ease its drive-through offers. You’re virtually guaranteed to find your preferred brew (or Chai, tea, smoothie or freeze) here. Need something more? Make sure to pick up some freshly baked scones, muffins or cookies – reportedly almost as good as the coffee.
Runners-up: Starbucks, Wm. Van’s Coffee House

BEST FROZEN DESSERTS
Cold Stone Creamery
124 South Sixth St., 523-6666

Who doesn’t love frozen desserts? Especially when it comes from Cold Stone? Cold Stone ice cream is churned on premises every day. For that reason and for many more, Cold Stone is the place to go, according to BoS voters. Whether you feel like a scoop of ice cream with delicious toppings mixed in or the ever popular waffle cones, sundaes, smoothies or milkshakes, Cold Stone has it all. Have a special occasion coming up? They can do an ice cream cake for you. There really is something for everyone – including those who require gluten-free or lactose-free dishes.
Runners-up: Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, CherryBerry

BEST FISH FRY EVENT
Firefighters Postal Lake Club
940 West Lake Shore Drive, 529-0755

Catholics looking for Lenten Friday night eats have many options in Springfield, but the most popular in 2015 was the Firefighters’ fish fry. This is one big operation, but the food doesn’t suffer for it. Not into seafood? They’ve got you covered with plenty of other options. But if you’re into fish, this is the place to be. You’re almost guaranteed to know a handful of patrons, most of whom sit at one of the many communal tables. Thanks to the high demand, you’re always getting fish right out of the fryer. The meal is priced right and, thanks to the equally reasonably priced adult beverages, one can take the whole family out without breaking the bank.
Runners-up: Little Flower Parish, Chatham American Legion

BEST GYROS
Gyros Stop
2907 South MacArthur Blvd., 698-6463
2345 West Monroe St., 546-3442
4127 Wabash Ave., 546-8830

For the seventh year in a row you voted Gyros Stop Springfield’s go to destination for gyros. But there’s plenty more than gyros here, like the classic Greek souvlaki (shish-ka-bob), falafel and yes, even burgers and horsehoes. For something a bit lighter, opt for one of their many salads. No matter what you get, make sure to ask for a side tzatziki, a Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce. Gyros Stop has about perfected the dish.
Runners-up: Yanni’s Gyros, Chi-Town

BEST HORSESHOE
BEST PORK TENDERLOIN
BEST WAIT STAFF

D’Arcy’s Pint
661 West Stanford Ave., 492-8800

Based on the lines in front of D’Arcy’s on most weekend nights, it’s not surprising that it was voted the best Horseshoe, Pork Tenderloin and Wait Staff. Good food and good service seem to be a rarity today, but D’Arcy’s is bucking the trend. Ask your friends where they’d take an out-of-town visitor to for their first horseshoe, and D’Arcy’s is almost always the first name that you hear. But the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (available grilled if you’re feeling healthy) also has Springfield excited – generously sized and well seasoned, this is pub food at its best. And everything tastes better when served by a well-trained and pleasant staff – something that D’Arcy’s has just about perfected. And for all these reasons, Springfield’s given D’Arcy’s the culinary equivalent of the Triple Crown.
Runners-up Best Horseshoe: Dublin Pub, Ritz’s Little Fryer
Runners-up Best Pork Tenderloin: Sportsman’s Lounge, Abe’s Hideout
Runners-up Best Wait Staff: American Harvest Eatery, Engrained Brewing Co.


BEST SUB/SANDWICH SHOP
Head West Sub Shop
1124 West Jefferson St., 793-9101
3311 Robbins Road, 726-9202
2432 Denver Road, 744-7990
1281 Toronto Road, 585-7990
530 East Capitol Ave., 789-9101
7032 Kings Mill Court, Chatham, 670-0111
450 State St., Rochester, 498-1182

With rumors of even more stores to come, Head West has built what can only be called an empire. There’s lots of competition for sub and sandwich shops in Springfield, but Head West is always at the top of the list. Voters like the slightly sweet bread that holds together the generously sized sandwiches, as well as the reasonable prices. The verdict is out on whether to toast the bread or not, but Springfield’s certain that Head West is tops in this category. Head West serves up a great product in a “chill” environment. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra Italian dressing.
Runners-up: Monty’s Subs, Penn Station East Coast Subs

BEST HAMBURGER
Krekel’s
2121 North Grand Ave., 525-4952

You can’t miss Krekel’s – just look for the rooster. But it’s burgers that are Krekel’s claim to fame – fresh, never frozen, smashed onto a sizzling hot griddle and served with a toasted bun that’s been hit with butter. These gems are the highest form of burger in the city, according to our readers. Reasonably priced and available in a single, double or triple, they pair well with Krekel’s handmade shakes and delicious fries. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it can’t be the perfect meal. We love Krekel’s for understanding that.
Runners-up: Burger Bar, Red Robin

BEST PIZZA
Gabatoni’s
300 East Laurel St., 528-9629

Everyone has their favorite pizza, but Springfield’s consensus on the best pizza goes to Gabatoni’s for another year. From the pictures on the wall of dogs playing poker to the fact that it always seems crowded, Gabatoni’s has character – after all, it’s been serving up pizza for more than 60 years. But character won’t get you far if you can’t deliver good pizza. And Gabatoni’s has that down. Don’t be afraid to order the cracker-thin crust “well done” – they won’t burn it and it comes with a nice bite. Not sure where to start? Go with the EBA (everything but anchovies) and order a size larger than you think. Gabatoni’s tastes pretty good at breakfast too.
Runners-up: DiCarlo’s Pizza, Antonio’s Pizza

BEST SUSHI
Happy Sushi
846 South Grand Ave., 528-9799

Happy Sushi is a tiny “hole in the wall” that’s inspired some fierce loyalty. There can’t be but four tables in the place, and ambience is a word best left out of any description of Happy Sushi. But people stream in and out all day long. That’s because of Hiro’s wonderful sushi. Portion sizes are generous for the price, and Hiro adds a nice garnish that adds to the presentation. Come to Happy Sushi more than a few times, and it’s virtually guaranteed that Hiro will remember you. Great sushi and service – that’s why Springfield’s voted Happy Sushi number one this year.
Runners-up: Osaka Japanese Restaurant, Mimosa

BEST PLACE TO EAT SOLO
The Feed Store
516 East Adams St., 528-3355

Dining alone at a restaurant can be unsettling. Maybe it’s because we think everyone’s staring at us. Who knows? But we do know Springfield feels most comfortable dining solo at The Feed Store. It’s hard to feel alone while standing in the usually long but fast-moving line to order. And since The Feed Store’s usually quite busy, you don’t stand out as much while dining alone at a two-top table. Thankfully, The Feed Store has been serving up some delicious soups and sandwiches to Springfield for many years, and we have no reason to believe that won’t continue.
Runners-up: Café Moxo, Counter at Charlie Parker’s Diner

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Chesapeake Seafood House
3045 East Clear Lake Ave., 522-5220

You don’t usually think of Springfield as a seafood kind of town, but Chesapeake Seafood House has been bucking that notion for years. Headquartered in an 1850s mansion, Chesapeake’s menu is just as classic. They have oysters on the half shell, chowder, shrimp and fish. If you’re feeling extravagant or wanting to impress that special someone, try one of Chesapeake’s surf and turf combos and dig into the impressive wine menu. Not into seafood? No worries, there are plenty of steaks and pastas to please pretty much any palate. And don’t forget to visit the website to print out some coupons and see the daily specials.
Runners-up: Carter’s Fish Market, Old Luxemburg Inn

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Bella Milano
4525 Wabash Ave., 547-0011

Headed by this year’s winner of the Best Chef award, Bella Milano continues to put out Springfield’s favorite Italian food. Most diners get hooked by the addictively good homemade salad dressing, which we note most diners sopping up with Bella’s tasty bread. Whether you opt for pizza, pasta or a more traditional dish like Chicken Marsala, Bella won’t disappoint. In the mood for something different? Try the Boursin Cheese filet, served with a to-die-for cream cheese potato cake.
Runners-up: Saputo’s, Gabatoni’s

BEST STEAKHOUSE
Alexander’s Steak House
620 North Bruns Lane, 793-0440

You have to like a place that places its wares under glass right at the front door – that’s someone who is proud of their food. And so it is with Alexander’s, where you can pick out the exact steak you want from the fridges lining the entrance way. You can cook it yourself over Alexander’s large grill, or have the staff prepare it exactly to your liking. Don’t forget to grab a slab of Texas Toast and make sure to swing by one of Springfield’s best salad bars. It’s all good, and Springfield knows it.
Runners-up: Texas Roadhouse, Old Luxemburg Inn

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
Julia’s Kitchen and Lounge
107 West Cook St., 670-1972

Located in the Vinegar Hill mall, Julia’s Kitchen and Lounge tops the list of Sunday brunch spots in Springfield. With classics like Eggs Benedict, Biscuits and Gravy and Stuffed French Toast, it’s not surprising. The décor is eclectic and the staff is kind and attentive. Julia’s gives you the sense of being in a Southern coastal restaurant – the Mason jar glasses add just the right touch, as do dishes like Shrimp and Grits. Feeling less than perfect from the night before? Don’t worry, there’s bar service – Julia’s Kitchen has you covered.
Runners-up: Boone’s Saloon, American Harvest Eatery

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Xochimilco
2941 West Iles Ave., 546-3116
3210 Northfield Dr., 544-9206

There are plenty of Mexican restaurants in Springfield, but Xochimilco wins this category once again. We’re hearing whispers of a dynasty. So what is it that fosters such loyalty? We hear about Xochimilco’s fresh ingredients and authentic recipes like Chilaquiles. And the Carnitas (seasoned, slow-roasted pork chunks served with rice, beans and tortillas) manage to pack in an intensity of flavor that’s reminiscent of trips South of the border. Our readers say it’s the consistently excellent quality of the dishes and service that have earned their business. And that’s very high praise indeed.
Runners-up: Casa Real, AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

Little Saigon
1531 Wabash Ave., 726-9633

Although you can quibble that Little Saigon technically isn’t a Chinese restaurant (although there are plenty of traditional offerings like General Tso Chicken), Illinois Times readers think there’s no argument that Little Saigon has Springfield’s best Chinese and Vietnamese food. Little Saigon offers up some seriously good Thai and Vietnamese food – like the several varieties of the Vietnamese soup called Pho (not to be missed) or the Bun (noodles, grilled meat and a heavenly combination of heat, acid and sweetness). Don’t forget to wash it down with one of their many varieties of freezes or some ice cold Thai or Vietnamese beer.
Runners-up Best Chinese Restaurant: Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet, China Star
Runners-up Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Mimosa, Mekong


BEST CHEF
Lennie Ferrigno, Bella Milano
4525 Wabash Ave., 547-0011

Chef Lennie Ferrigno of Bella Milano is this year’s best chef in Springfield. Lennie grew up in the business, so he knows what it takes to succeed – which includes working many long hours. When asked why he thought Springfield voted him a finalist in this category, he gave a very humble answer – he made sure that we knew he wouldn’t be where he is without his staff, who have played such a big role in his success and that of Bella Milano. He also attributes his passion for food, dedication and desire to make people happy. He knows a lot of great chefs in the Springfield area and wants to give a “shout out” to all of them to let them know they are appreciated. And he wanted to be sure to thank all those who voted for him. Nice touch, Lennie, and congrats.
Runners-up: Jordan Coffey from American Harvest Eatery, Michael Higgins from Maldaner’s

BEST VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
American Harvest Eatery
3241 West Iles Ave., 546-8300

One might be tempted to think of Asian-themed restaurants as logical candidates for vegetarian-friendly offerings, but Springfield thinks a bit out of the box on this one. We like the choice. American Harvest prides itself on its farm-to-table ethos, so you know its produce will be top notch. American Harvest takes simple fruits and vegetables and elevates them. A dish like radishes, herb butter, honey Dijon vinaigrette, sea salt and grilled bread manages to take the humble radish and transform it into a complete dish. So, too, with the eggplant, tomato, fennel, feta and pine nut gremolata fettuccini. We’re glad Springfield awarded American Harvest, as it is proof that protein doesn’t have to be the main focus of a dish.
Runners-up: Gateway to India, Engrained Brewing Co.

BEST FOOD TRUCK
Cooper’s StrEatside
Locations vary, call 415-3852

Food trucks are relatively new to Springfield, and Illinois Times readers apparently thought it was about time – voting with their feet to give Cooper’s StrEatside the nod as Springfield’s Best Food Truck. Justin Cooper, StrEatside’s owner, has come a long way from kitchen manager at his frat house 10 years ago, which included attending the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Perhaps you’ve seen StrEatside’s impressive rig on Wednesdays at the OId Capitol Farmers Market. If you have, no doubt you’ve noticed the steady stream of customers lined up for some of Cooper’s lunch specialties like the Steak Chimi Tacos (flank steak topped with pico and chimichurri), Bistro Burger Sliders or the Z Chips (flash fried to perfection, ask for some garlic to kick it up a notch).
Runners-up: Chadito’s, Dew Chilli Parlor

BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS
Steak ’n Shake
3184 South Dirksen Parkway, 529-5823
1580 Wabash Ave., 787-0392
4211 Conestoga Dr., 698-9439

Looking for a place to grab some food after a late night out? Steak ’n Shake has what you are looking for. They have a wide variety of options that will suit everyone’s cravings. If you are looking for a good burger and fries late at night, you are in luck. Be sure to order your fries “well done” if you want them extra crispy. We recommend it. They are even better with a side of cheese. And if you’re feeling extra decadent, you can add a milkshake to round it out. In the mood for some breakfast instead? Steak ’n Shake has that too. The Wabash location offers breakfast from midnight to 6 a.m. as part of its up-all-night menu.
Runners-up: Star 66 Café, Dublin Pub

BEST PLACE FOR A DATE
Coopers Hawk Winery
2501 Wabash Ave., 321-9100

Coopers Hawk offers the perfect setting for a date night. They have intimate seating and low-level lighting that sets the mood. Start your date off right, tasting some of their wines as you walk in the door at their wine-tasting bar. If wine isn’t your thing, they have a wide array of drinks that are sure to satisfy all. Coopers Hawk offers a wide expanse of menu items that can get you through any date – ranging from sandwiches and burgers for the more informal, to pastas and steaks for dates you really want to impress. Make sure to try the Mexican Drunken Shrimp. It’s bacon-wrapped shrimp served with tequila lime butter sauce on top of a bed of guacamole. One word: delicious.
Runners-up: Bella Milano, American Harvest Eatery


Justin and Kendra Cooper of Cooper’s StrEatside food truck
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE

 

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