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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 12:05 am

BOS '18: Food & Drinks

BEST BARTENDER – KATE CATALANO Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery
Photo by Brian Bowles

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BEST BBQ
Twyford BBQ

2562 Twyford Road, Jacksonville
Food truck locations vary, call 370-2274

Twyford BBQ comes out on top this year for Best BBQ.  With an impressive slate of BBQ awards, it comes as no surprise. Twyford isn’t your traditional brick and mortar, so if you want some of their mouthwatering BBQ, you’ll have to track down their food truck or cater them in. To make it easy, they have a “truck locator” on their website that lets you know where they will be and when. Twyford has traditional offerings such as baby back ribs and pulled pork sandwiches as well as a twist on the classic horseshoe that is a delight to the taste buds. The burnt end sandwich paired with their sweet vinegar coleslaw is a must try.

Finalists: Gilly’s BBQ, Hickory River Smokehouse, McCormick’s Smokehouse, Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill.
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BEST VEGAN, VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN-FREE OR HEALTHY MENU OPTIONS
American Harvest Eatery
3241 West Iles Avenue, 546-8300

In a new category for us this year, American Harvest gets recognized for its variety of menu options. Unlike some restaurants, American Harvest doesn’t leave those vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free eaters out.  Not only does American Harvest offer regular menu items such as its roasted cauliflower with red curry chickpea tomato stew, but it can also make many of its menu items vegetarian and gluten-free on request. For convenience, American Harvest denotes on its menu those items that are prepared as vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free.  American Harvest prides itself on its farm-to-table ethos, so the menu changes by season. Apart from their vegan, vegetarian and glute-free options, the menu is well-rounded for those watching their calories.

Finalists: Food Fantasies, Gateway to India, Three Twigs Bakery, Wm. Van’s Coffee House
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BEST BREAKFAST
BEST DINER

Charlie Parker’s Diner
700 North Street, 241-2104

Charlie Parker’s is a Springfield staple when it comes to breakfast and diners. It has been serving up great breakfast since 1992, and even though it’s changed hands, the good food has remained. The diner is located in a Quonset hut, which is just one of the things that makes it unique. Charlie Parker’s has received numerous local and national awards over the years, and was also featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  Charlie Parker’s is known for its giant 16-inch pancake and “breakfast shoe” which features eggs on toast, topped with your choice of meat, smothered in gravy, cheese sauce or both, and then topped with hash browns or American fries.  Not in the mood for breakfast? Don’t worry – Charlie Parker’s also features a variety of sandwiches, burgers and horseshoes.

Finalists: Best Breakfast: Cafe Moxo, D & J’s Café, Hamburger Dan’s Sunrise Cafe, Le Peep
Finalists: Best Diner: D&J Cafe, Ritz’s Lil Fryer, Star 66 Cafe, Sunrise Cafe
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BEST BURGER
BEST HANGOVER FOOD

Krekel’s Custard and Hamburgers
2121 North Grand Avenue, 525-4952

Krekel’s Custard and Hamburgers takes the crown in these two categories. It’s mastered the skill (art, really!) of making the perfect burger which they’ve been serving up hot since 1949 – fresh ground beef smashed on the griddle until it’s thin and crispy.  This year they added another win in one of our favorite categories – Best Hangover Food. There are few better things to cure a hangover than a good burger and fries, and Krekel’s does it right. Add one of their handmade milkshakes, which comes in 16 different flavors, to the mix and you have an even better combo.  

Finalists: Best Burger: Arlington’s, Burger Bar, Engrained Brewery & Restaurant, Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery
Finalists: Best Hangover Food: Boone’s Saloon, Hamburger Dan’s Sunrise Cafe, Star 66 Cafe, The Dublin Pub
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BEST BEER GARDEN
BEST BEER SELECTION
BEST LOCAL CRAFT BEER
BEST OUTDOOR DINING
BEST PLACE TO GO DOWNTOWN
BEST LOCAL BREWERY
BEST SPECIALTY COCKTAIL – STRAWBERRY COOLER
BEST BARTENDER – KATE CATALANO

Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery
500 S. Sixth St., 670-0627

Call it an even six-pack, plus one, as readers gave Obed and Isaac’s top ranking in no fewer than seven categories. It is the quintessential urban beer parlor, particularly in summer, when you can enjoy games of bocce ball and bring along your pooch – mutts of all stripes are welcome in the beer garden, and they serve dog biscuits. On any given day, you’ll find at least a half-dozen brewed-on-premises beers, and if there’s nothing on tap that tickles your tongue, consider a strawberry cooler, a refreshingly simple cocktail of vodka, lemonade and strawberry puree. It was a runaway favorite with readers, perhaps owing to this year’s unseasonably hot, even for Springfield, summer and fall. If you’re lucky, Kate Catalano will be behind the bar – she usually works nights, but also pulls the occasional day shift. Perennially cheerful, she knows her beers, she remembers names and she keeps throats from growing parched without being pushy. Great bartenders know their wares and their customers, and Kate presides over a pub like nobody’s business.

Finalists: Best Place to go Downtown: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Buzz Bomb Brewery Co., Hoogland Center for the Arts, Incredibly Delicious
Finalists: Best Bartender: Evan Bickett, Crow’s Mill Pub; Darcy Darland, Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery; Graham Nicholson, Floyd’s Thirst Parlor; Justin Rebbe, Club Station House
Finalists: Best Beer Garden: Boone’s Saloon, Crow’s Mill Pub, Curve Inn, Weebles Bar and Grill
Finalists: Best Beer Selection: Buzz Bomb Brewing Co., Craft Beer Bar, Engrained Brewery and Restaurant,  Finley’s Tap House, Hand of Fate Brewing Co.
Finalists: Best Local Brewery: Buzz Bomb Brewing Co., Engrained Brewery and Restaurant, Hand of Fate Brewing Co., Rolling Meadows Farm Brewery
Finalists: Best Local Craft Beer: Buzz Bomb Brewing Co., Engrained Brewery and Restaurant, Hand of Fate Brewing Co.,  Rolling Meadows Farm Brewery
Finalists: Best Outdoor Dining: Finley’s Tap House, Maldaner’s, Pao Bistro, Papa Frank’s
Finalists: Best Specialty Cocktail: Bacardi Party, Curve Inn; Campfire Shot, The Alibi; Moscow Mule, Public House 29; Mrs. Sperry, Vele
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BEST CHEF
Michael Higgins (Maldaner’s)
222 S. Sixth Street, 522-4343

Maldaner’s is a downtown Springfield fixture, and for many years Chef Higgins has been key to its success.  It’s no surprise that his hard work and excellent cooking abilities earned him the spot of Best Chef.  Maldaner’s is Green Business Certified thanks to Chef Higgins, who is a longtime gardener and created a rooftop garden on top of the building, complete with beehives.  Chef Higgins prides himself on using  fresh ingredients for his culinary creations.  He also buys fruits and vegetables from the local farmers markets.  And these are just some of the reasons Springfield honored Chef Higgins in this category.

Finalists: Jordan and Aurora Coffey (American Harvest), Justin Cooper (Cooper’s StrEATside), Corey Faucon (Long Nine Junction), Justin Richardson (Vele)
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BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS
Steak ’n Shake
3184 South Dirksen Parkway, 529-5823
1580 Wabash Avenue, 787-0392
4211 Conestoga Drive, 698-9439

Finalists: Gabatoni’s Restaurant, La Bamba, Star 66 Cafe, The Dublin Pub
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BEST CHILI
Dew Chilli Parlor
2312 Wabash Ave., 679-2940
301 North Grand Ave West, 670-2530
2690 S. Dirksen Parkway

Despite changing hands last year, Dew Chilli Parlor maintains the integrity of the original recipes and has expanded both geographically and in terms of its offerings. There is now a Dew Chilli Pub and Grill located on North Grand and a Dirksen Parkway location that opened Oct. 8.. These locations offer an expanded menu that puts a chilli twist on classic favorites.  The chilli cheeseburger is a must try. The classic Dew Chilli now comes with or without beans – the only variation from the original recipe. For those who want to kick up the heat, shakers of cayenne are available.  They have also added a new Dew Cincy-Style Chilli which has a tomato base, sweeter spices, a touch of heat and cinnamon.  This chilli also comes with beans or no beans.  

Finalists: Cook’s Spice Rack and Chili, The Chili Parlor, The Dublin Pub, Steak ’n Shake.
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BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT
China Star

1899 E. Sangamon Avenue, 789-0800

China Star for the win.  Springfield has declared China Star the best Chinese food in town for another year.  China Star has a packed menu sure to suit everyone’s fancy.  Popular menu items are sweet and sour chicken and General Tso’s chicken, for those liking a little spice. China Star also offers vegetarian options.  Make sure you come hungry, because the portions are generous.  You will likely take some home, but we aren’t complaining about that.  

Finalists: China River, Hunan Chinese Restaurant, Hy-Vee, Sunny China House
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BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Grab-A-Java

1702 South Sixth Street, 523-5282

For over 20 years, Grab-A-Java has been helping Springfield get going in the morning.  Grab-A-Java certainly has mastered the coffee scene; they offer everything from cappuccinos, lattes and mochas to breve, café’ au lait and café Americano. If you are someone who prefers your coffee cold, especially in the hot summer months, they offer iced mochas, iced lattes and java freezes. Not a coffee drinker? Fear not, Grab-A-Java still has something for you.  They also offer hot chocolate, hot tea and smoothies.  And if you need a little bite to go with your morning joe, Grab-A-Java has a wide assortment of fresh baked goods including muffins, scones and cookies.   

Finalists: Custom Cup Coffee, Free Press Coffee House, Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet, Wm. Van’s Coffee House
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BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT China Star
Photo by Brandon Turley
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BEST DELIVERY OR TO-GO-FOOD
Carter’s Fish Market

1900 S. Grand Ave., 525-2571

Carter’s only offers to-go service, although there is a table to sit outside in the warmer months.  Despite not being a traditional sit-down restaurant, Carter’s has outstanding food with large portions.  Their fish and seafood offerings include fried walleye, catfish and shrimp.  The fish is fresh, and the batter doesn’t weigh it down. Add the fact that it is fried to perfection and you have a winning trifecta.   All plates are served with pickles and onions, with hot sauce and tartar sauce available upon request.  Sides are also available for purchase and include corn fritters, hush puppies and coleslaw.  Enjoy.

Finalists: Bella Milano Family Feast, Cafe Moxo, Chadito’s Mexican American Grill, Cooper’s Alleyside
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BEST DESSERTS/SWEET SHOP
Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet

2941 Plaza Drive, 793-1840

Upon entering Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet, guests are greeted with towers of candy jars and rows of chocolate – enough to give anyone a sugar rush.  They even have big glass windows that allow customers to see where the magic happens.  Not only do they have every chocolate or candy variety that you can imagine, Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet also offers a wide variety of other pastries and desserts. Be sure to check out the many cheesecake offerings, including the Raggedy Ann Cheesecake and the peanut butter cup cheesecake.  On select Fridays from 4-9 p.m., Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet makes “freak shakes” – milkshakes piled high with cookies, cakes and candy.  It’s something you have to see to believe, but make sure to get there early, as they are known for selling out.  

Finalists: Charlotte’s Cakes, Cocoa Blue Chocolates, Incredibly Delicious, Three Twigs Bakery
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BEST DONUTS
Mel-O-Cream

217 E. Laurel Street, 544-4644
1953 W. Monroe Street, 546-4651
525 E. North Grand Avenue, 528-2303
3010 S. Sixth Street, 529-7708

Donuts are a big deal, and in Springfield, Mel-O-Cream is the place to go.  Mel-O-Cream has been in business for over 85 years, so they’re doing something right. The donuts sell like hotcakes – so be sure to show up early so your favorite isn’t gone as they are known for selling out. You can stop by and pick up a box of mixed donuts for the office (your coworkers will love you) or you can hang with the regulars to have a hot cup of coffee. We’re big fans of the glazed donuts, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Finalists: Casey’s General Store, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hy-Vee, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
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BEST DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT
Feed Store

516 E. Adams St., 528-3355

The Feed Store is a downtown staple and has been for over 40 years – so it’s no surprise that it was chosen as the best downtown restaurant.  The Feed Store serves up delicious house-made soups and sandwiches, including the ever-popular chicken salad sandwich and Wisconsin cheese soup. The soup menu varies daily.  In the summer months, the Feed Store adds gazpacho and strawberry soup to its rotating soup menu for those looking for something cool and refreshing.  For those wanting something a little on the lighter side, the Feed Store offers a variety of salads as well.  And for the sweet tooth crowd, the Feed Store offers desserts, including delicious cheesecake that changes flavors by the month.

Finalists: Arlington’s, Long Nine Junction, Maldaner’s, Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery, Vele
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BEST FINE DINING
BEST PLACE FOR A ROMANTIC DINNER
BEST WINE BAR

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

2501 Wabash Avenue, 321-9100

Cooper’s Hawk is a multi-category winner this year. Springfield has declared Cooper’s Hawk the best fine dining establishment in Springfield, and we agree.  The quality of food is what makes Cooper’s Hawk stand out from its peers. Everyone can appreciate the fact that it not only makes its menu items in-house from scratch, but also pairs them with wine to provide the best experience for diners. Not only does Cooper’s Hawk have great food, the décor and soft lighting creates a cozy ambiance perfect for diners out on a romantic date. Apart from its food, Cooper’s Hawk is also known for its vast selection of hand-crafted wine, which is why it takes home the prize for best wine bar.  Don’t miss the wall lined with bottles of wine behind the tasting bar.  Cooper’s Hawk also introduces a wine of the month every month, so there’s always something new to try.  

Finalists: – Best Fine Dining: American Harvest, Bella Milano, Maldaner’s, Vele
Finalists: – Best Place for a Romantic Dinner: American Harvest Eatery, Bella Milano, Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse, Old Luxemburg Inn
Finalists: Best Wine Bar: 3Sixteen Wine Bar, Bella Milano, It’s All About Wine, Sheedy Shores Winery
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BEST FOOD TRUCK
Cooper’s StrEatside

Locations vary, call 415-3852

“Fresh Cuisine You Can’t Pass Up” – it’s their motto and something that Cooper’s has certainly lived up to.  Locations vary, but you can check the “locations” tab on Cooper’s website or Facebook page. The menu frequently changes based on what ingredients are available, and Cooper’s is constantly adding new creations to the mix. Typically, only a handful of menu items are available on any given day, which ensures diners are getting quality dishes created with fresh and local ingredients.  Must-try items are the fresh cut fries (available with fresh minced garlic) and steak tacos. For those looking for a less heavy side, Cooper’s has “Z Chips,” which are flash-fried zucchini chips – definitely worth a try.

Finalists: AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill, Chadito’s Mexican American Grill; Gilly’s BBQ, Twyford BBQ
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BEST GYROS
Gyros Stop

2907 South MacArthur Blvd, 698-6463
2345 West Monroe, 546-3442
Since 1984, Gyros Stop has been serving up Greek-American cuisine in Springfield. Gyros Stop is the place to go when you are craving some Greek comfort food. They offer a wide variety of gyros, sure to please everyone’s taste buds.  Make sure to order it with extra homemade tzatziki – they have perfected it.   Portions are very generous for the price. If you aren’t in the mood for a traditional gyro, there’s plenty more to choose from.  They have burgers (including the gyro burger), falafels and salads. Try out some saganaki (flaming cheese) and make sure to save some room for the baklava.

Finalists: Yanni’s Gyros; Zach’s Wraps
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BEST HORSESHOE
D’Arcy’s Pint

661 West Stanford Avenue, 492-8800

If there is one thing D’Arcy’s is known for, it’s the horseshoe. Nobody does a horseshoe like D’Arcy’s and Springfield knows it, which sometimes results in a wait.  But people don’t mind the wait when they’re presented with a horseshoe piled high with French fries and drenched in cheese sauce.  D’Arcy’s has all the traditional horseshoe varieties, including turkey and ham, and for those who like to eat outside of the box they have buffalo chicken and even pastrami. For those who have a smaller appetite and can’t quite tackle a full-size horseshoe, have no fear, D’Arcy’s has a ponyshoe for you.

Finalists: Keefner’s Sandwiches, Suds & Stories, Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery,  The Dublin Pub, Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill
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BEST ICE CREAM/FROYO
Cold Stone Creamery

124 South Sixth Street, 523-6666

Finalists: Baskin Robbins, Cherry Berry, Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet, Scoop Du Jour
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BEST FOOD TRUCK Cooper’s StrEatside
Photo by Brandon Turley
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BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Bella Milano

4525 Wabash Avenue, 547-0011

Bella Milano pulled out a win for Best Italian Restaurant this year.  Everyone talks about the addictively delicious Italian dressing that Bella Milano makes in-house.  It truly is exceptional.  If there is any left on the plate after devouring your salad, make sure to sop it up with Bella Milano’s tasty bread, it really is that good.  Menu items that are popular with readers are the wood-fired pizza, lasagna and the varieties of pasta. For starters, you can’t go wrong with the toasted ravioli or the garlic cheese bread that is deliciously cheesy and served up with the house-made marinara. Bella Milano also has a sizable gluten-free menu. Need to feed the family?  Ask about Bella’s take-out Family Feast.  We’re quite fond of it.

Finalists: Gabatoni’s Restaurant, Mangia Pasta Steak & Seafood, Saputo’s, Vele
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BEST KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
BEST STEAKHOUSE

Texas Roadhouse

2540 W. Iles Ave., 698-5700

Finalists: Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Charlie Parker’s Diner, Pie’s The Limit, Pizza Ranch, The Creek Pub & Grill
Finalists: Best Steakhouse: Alexander’s Steakhouse; Old Luxemburg Inn; Nick and Nino’s Penthouse Steakhouse; Outback Steakhouse
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BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
BEST SALSA

Xochimilco

2941 West Iles Avenue, 546-3116
3210 Northfield Drive, 544-9206

Xochimilco earns top honors as Best Mexican Restaurant and in the category of Best Salsa.  We think that the quality of salsa and chips defines a Mexican restaurant. Xochimilco’s tastes like it is made on premises and hits all of the correct flavor notes. Xochimilco’s fresh ingredients and authentic recipes make it stand out among its peers.   They also have a vast menu, so even the pickiest of eaters will find something that suits them.  Their slow-roasted carnitas served with rice, beans, pico de gallo and tortillas is an ever-popular menu item that packs a punch of flavor. No matter what you order, you can’t go wrong.

Finalists: – Best Mexican Restaurant: AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill; Casa Real; Los Rancheros; Taqueria Moroleon
Finalists: Salsa: AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill, Casa Real, Cancun, Taqueria Moroleon
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BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR
Corner Pub and Grill

3271 West Iles Ave., 546-3600

Strictly speaking, Corner Pub and Grill isn’t a neighborhood joint, owing to its location in a strip mall on a busy road, as opposed to a quiet street where oak trees wave and folks walking dogs stop in for a cold one before heading home. Never mind that, though, because Corner Pub and Grill has that same sort of feel, and the food selection is better than most neighborhood pubs, where it’s frozen pizza if you’re lucky and Cheetos if you’re not. The place is spotless, there’s always a game on television and you can sit outside when the weather’s nice. An exceptionally well thought out, and well run, place.

Finalists: Bob’s Butternut Hut, Buckhart Tavern, The Blue Grouch, The Curve Inn
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BEST NEW RESTAURANT (OPENED AFTER AUG. 1, 2017)
BEST NEW BUSINESS NOT DOWNTOWN (OPENED AFTER
AUG. 1, 2017)

Finley’s Tap House

3236 Ginger Creek Dr., 572-1996

Finley’s Tap House is a newcomer to the scene and has earned the titles of Best New Restaurant and Best New Business Not Downtown.  Finley’s mission is to provide “delicious, affordable food with a menu that satisfies every taste,” and it definitely delivers on that.  Its menu goes well beyond burgers, sandwiches and salads.  They offer a wide variety of food options, including firecracker shrimp and Thai chicken sauté.  If you are looking for some heat, make sure you try the hot chicken sandwich; you won’t regret it.   While you are there enjoying food, try out one of their 20 beers on tap.  

Finalists: Best New Restaurant: Papo’s Café, La Piazza, Loukinens’ on Fourth, Vele
Finalists: Best New Business Not Downtown: HomeGoods, Kennedy Sue Gift & Home, Meraki Salon and Spa, Papo’s Cafe
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BEST DEEP DISH PIZZA
Nancy’s Chicago Pizza

2301 W. Monroe Street, 679-0456

Nancy’s boasts as being the “home of the original stuffed deep dish pizza.” Readers are just happy that they have made their way south to Springfield. They have been making it the same way since 1971, with the same original recipe.  You’ve decided that good deep dish is worth the wait, especially since it takes 30-plus minutes to fully cook.  (Tip – order ahead and avoid the wait.)  Nancy’s has found the key to creating the perfect balance of cheese to meat to crust, which others sometimes find difficult.   Nancy’s deep dish even has enough structure that it can be consumed with the hands, good news for those who cringe at the thought of eating pizza with a knife and fork.

Finalists: Godfather’s Pizza, Lake Pointe Grill, Pie’s the Limit, Razzo’s Family Pizzeria
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BEST NEW BAR (OPENED AFTER AUG. 1, 2017)
BEST NEW BUSINESS DOWNTOWN (OPENED AFTER AUG. 1, 2017)

Buzz Bomb Brewing Co.

406 East Adams, 679-4157

Buzz Bomb Brewing Co. is a recent addition to Adams Street in downtown Springfield and has landed the titles of Best New Bar and Best New Business Downtown.  On the first floor is a large bar with custom furniture, while at the back of the first floor are windows that allow customers to see where the magic happens.  Wander upstairs to the second floor and you will find another bar and more seating.  Buzz Bomb offers the perfect ambiance to sample and throw back one of their 15 beers on tap.  If you want to be especially adventurous, be sure to try their Orange Cream Ale or the Milkman Chocolate Stout. 

Finalists: – Best New Bar: 3Sixteen Wine Bar, Finley’s Tap House; Route 66 Motorheads Bar & Grill, The Lucky Lager
Finalists: – Best New Business Downtown: La Piazza, Loukinens’ On Fourth, Three Twigs Bakery, Vele
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BEST THIN CRUST PIZZA
Gabatoni’s

300 East Laurel, 528-9629

Springfield doesn’t lack for pizza joints, but our readers declare Gabatoni’s to be the spot for thin crust pizza.  For over 60 years, Gabatoni’s has been serving up pizza, so they are certainly doing something right. From the pictures on the wall of dogs playing poker to the fact that it always seems crowded, Gabatoni’s has character. But character won’t get you far if you can’t deliver good pizza, and Gabatoni’s has that, too.  If you like your thin crust extra crispy, 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 their famous EBA (everything but anchovies) and order a size larger than you think; leftover pizza tastes great the next day.

Finalists: Antonio’s Pizza, Di Carlo’s Pizza, Monical’s Pizza, Pie’s the Limit
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BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Chesapeake Seafood House

3045 East Clear Lake Avenue, 522-5220

Chesapeake Seafood has been supplying Springfield with delicious seafood since opening in 1983. Chesapeake is located in an 1850s mansion, and its menu is just as classic as the building it’s located in.  Chesapeake serves up shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller and creamy clam chowder for appetizers.  Moving on to entrees, Chesapeake features broiled lobster, fried cod and shrimp scampi. If you aren’t into seafood, Chesapeake has a variety of steaks, pastas and BBQ ribs.  The quality  ingredients are something that Springfield counts on as being the same, year after year.  We like that kind of consistency.

Finalists: Carter’s Fish Market, Old Luxemburg Inn, Red Lobster, Vele
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BEST SUB/SANDWICH SHOP Head West Sub Stop
Photo by Carol Weems
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BEST SERVER
Juan Perez (Xochimilco)


When people visit Xochimilco, they request to be seated in Juan’s section because he’s that good.  He has a charismatic personality and is very attentive to his customers, making sure their glasses are never empty and the chip basket is always full - an important quality for us. Juan is fast at serving food as soon as it’s ready, ensuring that everyone gets their food piping hot and constantly checks back all throughout the meal to make sure no one is left wanting.  Juan certainly has good service down pat.  

Finalists: Sara Bowen (Indigo); Carly Davis (Outback Steakhouse); Jade Hart (Coz’s Pizza & Pub); Morgan Hayes (Outback Steakhouse)
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BEST THAI RESTAURANT
Magic Kitchen

115 North Lewis Street, 525-6975
4112 North Peoria Road, 525-2230

It’s hard to order just one thing at Magic Kitchen, because it’s all so good. The prices are reasonable, so it’s not too big of a hit to your pocketbook if you go a little overboard.  Because who doesn’t like leftovers?   The egg rolls at Magic Kitchen are top notch.  They are perfectly crisp on the outside, while still maintaining the texture of the vegetables on the inside.  They’re served with a delicious peanut dipping sauce. Other popular dishes include stir-fried chili paste (with choice of beef, pork or chicken), Thai Po (noodle soup) and red curry. The spice levels can be customized so whether you like it mild or hot, you can order it to your preference.

Finalists: Little Saigon, Mekong Cafe, Taste of Thai, Thai Kitchen
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BEST SUB/SANDWICH SHOP
Head West Sub Stop

1124 West Jefferson, 793-9101
3311 Robbins Road, 726-9202
2432 Denver Road, 744-7990
1281 Toronto Road, 585-7990
530 East Capitol Avenue, 789-9101
450 State Street, Rochester, 498-1182
3325 S. 6th St Road, Southern View, IL 62703, (217)679-2477
136 South Oakland, Decatur, IL, 217-791-6623
401 South Main, Jacksonville, IL 62650, 217-271-1614


According to Springfield, Head West is the sandwich shop of sandwich shops. Head West is probably best known for its special sweet bread that’s made fresh on the premises. Head West has all the classic subs, including turkey and ham, all served cold on sweet bread unless requested otherwise. Trust us, get the sweet bread, you won’t regret it. In addition to the classic subs, Head West also serves up specialty sandwiches (such as meatball and Italian sandwiches), salads and soups.  In most cases, we prefer our selections toasted and with the sweet bread – except for the Reuben!  Head West makes a killer Italian dressing that is served up on its sub sandwiches, together with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and salt/pepper.  Don’t hesitate to ask for extra dressing.  Head West is located all over Springfield and the surrounding areas, so you’re never far from it.  

Finalists: Cafe Moxo, Jimmy John’s Sandwiches, Monty’s Submarines, Penn State East Coast Subs
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BEST SUSHI
Happy Sushi

846 South Grand Avenue, 528-9799

Happy Sushi may be small, but it puts out big flavor.  People are in and out all day, and that’s because of the wonderful sushi that Hiro serves up. He pays extra attention to presentation, so the sushi comes out beautifully displayed.  The portions are generous for the price, and there is an extensive list of sushi to choose from. You can’t go wrong with a traditional California Roll or the specialty Anger Management Roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese, crab, cucumber and crunch).  For the vegetable lovers, Happy Sushi also offers a variety of vegetable rolls – we’re fans of the sweet potato roll.  

Finalists: Hunan Restaurant, Kiku Japanese Steak and Seafood House, Mimosa, Osaka Japanese Restaurant
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BEST TACOS
Taco Gringo

975 Clocktower Drive, 546-9494
125 S. Grand Avenue East, 670-2905
1851 N. Grand Avenue East, 525-2666

Taco Gringo is a family-owned franchise that’s been doing things right and serving up tacos in Springfield for 50 years. Its goal is to provide the freshest ingredients in a quick serve and casual environment – and Taco Gringo definitely succeeds at that. It’s simple, uncomplicated and unfussy. Tacos come with a crispy corn shell or a soft flour tortilla and a choice of mild, medium or hot sauce.  Ground beef and chicken are your only options.  Standard tacos come with cheese and lettuce, while the deluxe option adds sour cream, onion and tomato.  Prices are more than reasonable for the size and quality.  For those not feeling love for the standard taco, they also offer quesadillas, chalupas and enchiladas.  And if you’re feeling adventurous, try out the taco burger.

Finalists: AZ-T-CA Mexican Grill, Chadito’s Mexican American Grill, Tacology 101, Taqueria Moroleon
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BEST WINERY
Danenberger Family Vineyards

12341 Irish Road, New Berlin, 488-6321

Finalists: Arpeggio Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Hill Prairie Winery,  West of Wise Winery
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BEST WINGS
Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill

2406 W. Jefferson St., 698-9256

According to Springfield, Westwoods is the place to go for the best wings, and we agree.  Westwoods offers 14 different kinds of sauces for their traditional bone-in or boneless wings. The boneless wings can be breaded or grilled.  You can’t go wrong with the traditional buffalo or sweet BBQ sauce, but if you like it hot, you can try out their spicy garlic or sweet heat.  For those who aren’t fond of wet sauces, Westwoods also offers dry rubs instead.  The wings come in several different sizes to satisfy the single diner or a larger party.  Westwoods even offers a tailgate special of 50 wings for your next party.

Finalists: Buffalo Wild Wings, Coz’s Pizza and Pub, Wing Etc. Grill & Pub, Wingstop
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