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Best of

the Twin Cities

BEST BARTENDER

John Senkler

The nature-versus-nurture argument can't be resolved by the case of John Senkler, the young, brash drink-slinger at this St. Paul neighborhood eatery. Senkler's father, Charles, who is the co-owner of Fern's, made a career out of designing and managing bars when John was just a tyke, dragging his offspring to the job site more often than not. "I pretty much was born in a bar," 26-year-old John says now. But it's not as if the kid is just trading on the gene pool. When the Cretin grad came to Fern's seven years ago, he started as a bar back. "I was 18 or 19 years old, and I liked to come up with drinks reading bartenders' guides," Senkler recalls. Since his move to bartender, the baby-faced guy some call Johnny has become known for his wry, teasing banter with just about every regular. "You have to give shit and take it," he says. In fact, we can already hear the razzing this honor will bring. And to be fair, many bartenders or servers at Fern's could be eligible for some kind of service-industry award—it's a highly competent and personable staff. Ultimately, Senkler's faux-ego makes him the most likable and, yes, razzable staffer there. But he also possesses skills and an old-school charm that naturally drew him toward the profession. "You gotta have patience and a good sense of humor," Senkler says, while also explaining an arcane mnemonic device he uses to remember customers' names and their drinks. "You also have to like people you don't necessarily like. It's like the way a stripper can make a guy think, 'That chick really likes me.'" Pole-dance musings aside, there's also an earnestness to Johnny that makes even him wonder if he might be a lifer behind the bar—which would only be natural.

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BEST BREAD Rustica Bakery

BEST BREAKFAST Serlin's Cafe

BEST BURGER Napa Valley Grille

BEST BURRITO El Burrito Mercado

BEST CHAI Namaste Café

BEST CHEAP EATS Bombay 2 Deli

BEST CHEESE SELECTION Premier Cheese Market

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT Little Szechuan Chinese Cuisine

BEST CHOCOLATE Legacy Chocolates

BEST COCKTAILS Babalu

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BEST COFFEEHOUSE Mapps Coffee and Tea

BEST DELICATESSEN The Brothers

BEST DESSERTS La Belle Vie

BEST DIM SUM JunBo Chinese Restaurant

BEST DINER Town Talk Diner

BEST DOUGHNUTS Mel-O-Glaze Bakery

BEST FARMERS' MARKET St. Paul Farmers' Market

BEST FISH MARKET Coastal Seafoods

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT Fugaise

BEST FRESH PRODUCE Community Supported Agriculture

BEST FRIES Café Barbette

BEST GOURMET BURGER Vincent—A Restaurant

BEST GOURMET GROCERY Kowalski's

BEST GOURMET PIZZA Pizza Nea

BEST GREEK RESTAURANT Christos

BEST HAPPY HOUR Chino Latino

BEST HOT DOGS Uncle Franky's

BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Cafe

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BEST IRISH PUB O'Gara's

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (BARGAIN) Broders' Southside Pasta Bar

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (UPSCALE) Osteria I Nonni

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT Midori's Floating World Cafe

BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT King's Fine Korean Cuisine

BEST LIQUOR STORE Surdyk's

BEST LOCAL CHEF Lenny Russo

BEST MARGARITA Pancho Villa Restaurant

BEST MARTINI Moscow on the Hill

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT Salsa a la Salsa

Best Middle Eastern Bread Abu Nader Grocery and Deli

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN GROCERY Holy Land Bakery and Grocery

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT Shish

BEST NATURAL FOODS GROCERY Lakewinds Natural Foods

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BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR—ST. PAUL Half Time Rec

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE—MINNEAPOLIS Corner Table

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE—ST. PAUL Muffuletta

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BEST PIZZA Galactic Pizza

BEST PLACE TO EAT OUT WITH YOUR KIDS Big Bowl

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BEST QUEER COFFEE SHOP Wilde Roast Café

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A FIRST DATE duplex

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BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING The Oceanaire

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BEST RESTAURANT—ST PAUL Heartland

BEST SALAD Spoonriver

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT Sea Salt Eatery

BEST SERVICE AT A RESTAURANT La Belle Vie

BEST SOUL FOOD West Indies Soul Food

BEST STAR-CHEF EXPERIENCE IN A RESTAURANT The Modern's Phillip Becht

BEST STATE FAIR FOOD Mac 'n' Cheese on a Stick

BEST STEAK HOUSE Manny's

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH Victor's 1959 Café

BEST SUSHI Origami West

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BEST TAKEOUT Lucia's To Go

BEST THAI RESTAURANT True Thai

BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT Spoonriver

BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT Mai Village

BEST WINE BAR Toast Wine Bar & Cafe

BEST WINE LIST Cesare's Wine Bar