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People & Places

  • Joe Mauer

    BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD

    Joe Mauer

    Is there anyone more embarrassingly cornpone in these parts than the face of the local baseball franchise? Let us count the ways: The quasi-muttonchops were so over about 15 years ago. The Kid endorses Land O' Lakes milk by barely muttering the motto "Pour It On." He generally answers any question with the same "take it as it comes" refrain… More >>
  • Johan Santana

    BEST TWINS PLAYER

    Johan Santana

    With a change-up that's baffled more Twins opponents than any pitch since Blyleven's curve, and a pinpoint control that would do Jim Kaat and Brad Radke proud, Johan Santana is the ideal lefty strikeout machine, and the numbers he puts up make everyone else in the majors look feeble: Last season, he notched 245 strikeouts to Reds runner-up Aaron Harang's… More >>
  • BEST HAPPY HOUR

    Chino Latino

    Traditionally, "happy hour" comes after work: 4:00 p.m. till (if you're lucky) 7:00 p.m., just enough time to dish with co-workers without getting drunk enough to tell them how you really feel. But everyone knows the happiest hours come when the sun goes down—hence the glory that is the late-night happy hour. Twin Cities nightbirds are understandably fond of Figlio's… More >>
  • Former Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek

    BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD

    Former Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek

    Bonnie Bleskachek's commendable rise through the ranks of the Minneapolis Fire Department culminated in June 2004, when she was named the city's first female and first openly gay fire chief. Bleskachek was one of the first female firefighters hired by the city of Minneapolis, and in 1992 was part of the first all-woman firefighting team. In 1995, she co-founded the… More >>
  • Pat Williams

    BEST VIKINGS PLAYER

    Pat Williams

    Let us now praise fat men. In pretty much all sports aside from sumo wrestling, the fat guys rarely get their due. We are conditioned to equate athleticism with rippling muscle and lean bodies, but the truth is, sometimes the great athletes don't have six-pack abs—they have pony kegs. In his 10 seasons in the NFL, Viking nose tackle Pat… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR—ST. PAUL

    Half Time Rec

    You can tell the place has had some satisfied customers because there's photographic evidence right there on top of the bar: A sea of plastic-covered Polaroids displays happy, drink-reddened faces for posterity. (Some of the pictures feature the subject in front of the very bar of photos you're looking at, which, if one is drunk enough, can lead to a… More >>
  • William McGuire

    BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD

    William McGuire

    Of the countless appalling statistics about our absurd health care industry, none is more damning than this one: Americans now spend approximately $400 billion a year on health care paperwork, or roughly a thousand dollars per person. Who is to blame for this perverse state of affairs is a thorny question; after all, we arrived here through the self-interested actions… More >>
  • Kevin Garnett

    BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER

    Kevin Garnett

    Kevin Garnett will haunt Target Center for decades as the greatest local star ever shackled to a star-crossed franchise. Like fish, the Wolves rot from the head, so of course blame Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor. But also blame David Stern, who slapped on a salary cap that gave Minnesota less room to sign stars to surround KG. Heck, even… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR—MINNEAPOLIS

    Cuzzy's

    For a decade, more City Pages paychecks have gone toward propping up this unglamorous bar on Washington Avenue North than any other joint in town. But, alas, we've never quite come up with the right way to show appreciation for the place some of us affectionately call Scuzzy's, and others of us call our home away from...well, how about just… More >>
  • Diablo Cody

    LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD

    Diablo Cody

    Let's get the disclosure out of the way right now. Diablo Cody has written more than 50 pieces for City Pages since 2004, and her popular blog, Pussy Ranch, is a part of this newspaper's multimedia empire. These two accomplishments, while definitely noteworthy, would rank at the bottom of Ms. Cody's résumé in light of recent achievements. Her memoir about… More >>
  • Marian Gaborik

    BEST WILD PLAYER

    Marian Gaborik

    While Derek "The Boogeyman" Boogaard remains a sentimental favorite, we have to give the nod to Marian Gaborik, who may be the fastest skater in the NHL. The 25-year-old right winger heads the team's all-time scoring list and was among the goal leaders this year despite missing 34 games due to a serious groin injury. Gaborik worked just as diligently… More >>
  • BEST BEER SELECTION IN A BAR

    The Muddy Pig

    According to Chinese astrology, it's considered good fortune to bear children during the year of the pig—which it happens to be. We're not advising you to go mate-shopping at our own pig—that is, the Muddy Pig—but it's a known truth that prospective partners look better after a few pints. This Selby-Dale watering hole featured a redoubtable menu of hoppy beverages… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO MEET OTHER GAY FAMILIES

    Rainbow Families

    Places where parents meet and connect: Potlucks. Bowling parties. Movie screenings. Annual conferences. Yes, conferences, complete with nametags and packets of conference swag. Rainbow Families does all that, hosting three or four events every month where GLBT parents and prospective parents can learn about the universal aspects of parenting and also those unique to same-sex parents. Need some legal advice… More >>
  • Ron Gardenhire

    BEST COACH

    Ron Gardenhire

    Do we really need to run down the list of failed professional and collegiate coaches? Luckily, we still have Gardenhire. He's taken an under-budgeted team to the postseason in four of his first five seasons, lightly guiding the most talented young roster in baseball. Gardenhire's apoplectic spasms at umpires in defense of his boys are high comedy, and an old-school… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS

    Highway 100

    City Pages praising the highway? That prairie-destroying, Hummer-enabling, anti-neighborhood expanse of sameness leading only to more sameness? Yes, this year we've dropped to one knee for a ribbon of asphalt: the newly rehabbed Highway 100. It's resurfaced—so smooth and flat we've entertained irresponsible thoughts of midnight Rollerblading. But it's also been given a spine-realigning shake by some cosmic transit chiropractor,… More >>
  • BEST HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE

    Whitney Taney

    You don't have to know anything about high school tennis to know that Whitney Taney is good. Just look at her record: 166-0. That's 150 singles matches, 16 doubles matches, and zero losses in the Edina senior's five varsity years, easily the longest winning streak in the history of Minnesota junior tennis. Through it all, Taney collected two state doubles… More >>
  • BEST IRISH PUB

    O'Gara's

    Open since 1941, St. Paul's O'Gara's is your classic Irish pub: nice dark woodwork, two cozy rooms with booth seating, and two large bars stocked with gallons of hard liquor. The Shamrock Room features live music at least once a week (usually Tuesdays)—generally big band and jazz groups. The Garage, meanwhile, features a mix of blues, rock, and acoustic. Even… More >>
  • BEST ARCHITECTUAL TIME CAPSULE

    St. Paul Union Depot

    Before Minneapolis became the big-time cow town we all know and love today, there was St. Paul: the final glittering cosmopolitan outpost on the edge of a northern wilderness. For proof, we offer the Union Depot. Completed in 1923 and designed by then-hotshot architect Charles Frost (who designed many of Lowertown's lovelies), the Depot is a soaring example of space,… More >>
  • Dustin Schlatter

    BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE

    Dustin Schlatter

    It was a remarkably dismal year for most Gopher sports teams. Glen Mason's gridiron follies led to a humiliating 38-7 meltdown against Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. Dan Monson assembled a hoops squad that seemed more likely to suit up for Hibbing Community College. Even the Gopher women's basketball team had an off year, compiling a ho-hum 17-15 record… More >>
  • Pi

    BEST LESBIAN BAR

    Pi

    Don't insult the competition by pretending it doesn't exist: Lesbians won't abandon St. Paul's Town House or the moveable dance night Twilight anytime soon, while plenty of ostensibly gay male hotspots are also female favorites. But Pi is the first by-and-for-queer-women club since the demise of Club Metro and Lucy's Saloon in St. Paul, and it feels good. Located around… More >>
  • Midtown Exchange

    BEST RESCUED LANDMARK

    Midtown Exchange

    Last year, our major cultural institutions opened their sparkling new facilities, designed by the world's star architects, and dazzled the international press. Meanwhile, a renovated behemoth on Lake Street in the heart of Minneapolis revitalized an urban neighborhood with a stunning array of multicultural, multi-use tenants. Today it represents one of the country's most impressive success stories of adaptive reuse.… More >>
  • Seimone Augustus

    BEST LYNX PLAYER

    Seimone Augustus

    Last year's finest Lynx was also the league's best rookie. Seimone Augustus brought her work ethic, unstoppable elevation, and astonishingly efficient arc-and-swish from LSU to the Target Center just in time to replace traded veteran Katie Smith. Augustus walked into Smith's position (shooting guard by preference; small forward if need be) and has filled it admirably. At the line, she's… More >>
  • BEST GAY BAR

    The Saloon

    The Saloon is a kick-ass bar that never shies away from being, first and foremost, a kick-ass gay bar. While other joints in the area have been co-opted by the 394/494/694 crowd—visitors who seem to venture downtown only for the kink factor—the Saloon has continued to expand and grow while keeping its roots in sight. The security, though not menacing,… More >>
  • BEST ARCHITECTURAL RENOVATION OF AN OLD BUILDING

    The Chambers Hotel

    A generation ago, the stretch of Hennepin Avenue through downtown Minneapolis was notorious. Seedy bars and adult businesses drew a regular stream of hustlers, drunks, and thieves. One particular harrowing night at a cafe in the area prompted Tom Waits to write a song, "9th and Hennepin," where "all the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes." In concert years… More >>
  • BEST THUNDER PLAYER

    Freddy Juarez

    Former U.S. men's national soccer team midfielder Richie Williams was semi-affectionately known as the Ankle-Biting Midget of Death. He earned this moniker because of his diminutive stature, but also because he played the game with a tenacity more commonly associated with cockroaches and paparazzi. Freddy Juarez is the Thunder's ABMOD. Though Juarez lacks size, he more than makes up for… More >>
  • BEST COCKTAILS

    Babalu

    Finding a bar with a decent wine list is fairly easy. The same cannot be said for places with a great cocktail menu. Babalu, located in the North Loop area of Minneapolis, does just that. The decor is somehow posh and cozy—red velvet drapes, brightly painted walls, and a bar with bottles that glow like a pirate's treasure trove. Though… More >>
  • BEST BOONDOGGLE

    Corn ethanol

    In case you haven't caught a whiff of the stink from one of those brewery/ refineries, Minnesota's ethanol industry is booming. Its unprecedented growth has slowed the last couple of years, thanks mainly to lower gasoline prices and higher construction costs. But with four more ethanol plants in waiting, Minnesota is a long way from turning its back on the… More >>
  • Anthony Bonsante

    BEST BOXER

    Anthony Bonsante

    Bonsante doesn't have the best record in local fight circles. The veteran middleweight out of Shakopee has lost six of his last ten bouts—most recently, a bloody technical decision to hot middleweight prospect John Duddy at Madison Square Garden. But in modern boxing, records can be deceiving. Without question, Bonsante has faced higher-caliber contenders than any other active Minnesota fighter… More >>
  • J.D. Hoyt\'s

    BEST BLOODY MARY

    J.D. Hoyt's

    The super-size era nearly ruined the Bloody Mary, the most quixotic of all the classic drinks. Bars and restaurants were suddenly compelled to serve happy meals—rife with pickles, olives, celery stalks, baby shrimp, even beef jerky—in a glass. The booze, alas, became an afterthought. In other words, we still prefer a Bloody Mary that drinks like a drink. And one… More >>
  • Keith Ellison\'s run for Congress

    BEST CAREER MOVE

    Keith Ellison's run for Congress

    After longtime Minneapolis Congressman Martin Sabo unexpectedly decided to call it quits last spring, he set off a wild scrum among ambitious DFLers. At the time, Ellison—an attorney in private practice and a second-term state legislator from the north side of Minneapolis—seemed unlikely to emerge on top. Sure, Ellison's solidly liberal credentials were well suited to the politics of the… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO WATCH SOCCER

    Sweetwater Bar & Grille

    Viewing futbol in public is always problematic, owing to the fact that many sports bars (and sports bar patrons) regard such an act as the equivalent of swearing allegiance to the French flag. While the Local and Brit's Pub remain the most popular destinations for big-time European matches, the Sweetwater has carved out a niche as the de facto home… More >>
  • BEST MARTINI

    Moscow on the Hill

    Any place that keeps a freezer just for its specialty vodka isn't messing around. You can order up a classic gin or vodka martini, but Moscow on the Hill also specializes in martinis with a twist—though not twisted enough to technically be cocktails. Meaning, at $7.95 a pop, you are getting your money's worth. Put another way, these drinks are… More >>
  • Tammy Lee

    BEST VICTIM

    Tammy Lee

    Poor Tammy. In her hopeless bid to replace retiring Congressman Martin Sabo, some people had the unmitigated gall to make fun of her. The most egregious offense, at least in the eyes of Lee and her supporters, was a parody of the Independence Party candidate's website. "After all, she's white—just like us, and that means we can trust her," one… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO SHOOT POOL

    Brunswick's (at Grandma's Saloon) - CLOSED

    The cheapest way to play pool is also the hardest: Go to a bar, put your quarter down on a busy table, and don't lose for the rest of the night. That's fine for Minnesota Fats, but for the rest of us, hourly table rental is the only way to shoot stick. This hall—located above Grandma's Saloon on the West… More >>
  • BEST MARGARITA

    Pancho Villa Restaurant

    At Eat Street's Pancho Villa, the margaritas may come from a mix, but they're served in an atmosphere of authentic ease and celebration. The icy, pale verde elixir flows in cheap abundance here, where it's served in green, cactus-stemmed glasses with dense flakes of salt clinging to the sombrero-wide rims. Informal, busy, and noisy, the restaurant's two well-used rooms play… More >>
  • BEST CHARITY

    American Refugee Committee

    When you hear the phrase "American Refugee Committee," what do you picture? Sally Struthers teaching a big-eyed, bony-kneed child? Jimmy Carter reading poetry off the back of a white U.N. Jeep? Push those images aside, if you will. Because when you give your money to this Minneapolis-based charity, you can have a pretty good idea what you're getting. For one,… More >>
  • Memory Lanes

    BEST BOWLING ALLEY

    Memory Lanes

    If you're into the whole Zen bowling thing, as The Big Lebowski's Dude might say, you've come to the wrong place. From the garish interstellar mural above the lanes to the landing-strip lights along the sides—not to mention the disco ball, the roving spotlights, and the classic rawk cranked to 11—this is Extreme Bowling, sensory overload-style. And provided you can… More >>
  • BEST PUB QUIZ

    Brit's Pub

    Last year's winner for Best Pub Quiz has gotten even better. The popularity of Brit's quiz, played on the first Tuesday of the month, would regularly cause the Long Room to fill past the Minneapolis fire marshal's comfort level. So to accommodate all challengers, a second night has been added, and the six-round quizzes ($10 per team) now proceed in… More >>
  • BEST HELLRAISER OR ACTIVIST GROUP

    AlliantACTION

    Every Wednesday at 7:00 a.m.—come rain, snow, bitter cold, or summer heat—members of Veterans for Peace and Women Against Military Madness, and many other peace activists, gather outside the front entrance of the Alliant TechSystems corporate headquarters in Edina. The mission is to challenge the company's manufacturing of various advanced weapon systems, including missiles, cluster bombs, and landmines. The activists… More >>
  • BEST SIGN OF SPRING

    Custom cars

    Sure, the increase in exposed flesh is nice and all, but Minnesotans spend enough time indoors that such sights are kind of easy to come by even in the cold weather. It's when dusty white grime makes way for Turtle Wax gleam that spring really begins. Muscle cars skulk up University, hot rods congregate on Kellogg, candy-painted Cutlasses and tricked-out… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO PLAY PINBALL

    S.S. Billiards

    Ask anyone who knows local pinball about S.S. Billiards, and chances are they'll say, "Oh, you mean Lloyd's." They're talking about Lloyd Olson, the Hopkins arcade's owner and operator since 1979. (His mother owned it before him. She bought it from a man named Sam Snelling, hence the "S.S.") Lloyd is a fixture in the local pinball community, in part… More >>
  • BEST FESTIVAL

    Grand Old Day

    Much like the dew on the new blossom marks the beginning of spring, for many Minnesotans, Grand Old Day marks the start of summer. Or at least the summer festival season. It is, in fact, the largest one-day festival in the Midwest, as approximately 225,000 hearty souls walked the 30 blocks of festival on Grand Avenue last year. Starting in… More >>
  • BEST PICNIC SPOT

    Minnehaha Byway

    All along the Grand Rounds of the Minnehaha Creek trail there are lakes, wildflowers, sweet little wooden bridges, a crashing waterfall, a river, and, yes, even a creek! Where else in the state can you find all of this within a 12-mile strip? But don't let the mileage scare you; you can make a month of weekend picnics and never… More >>
  • BEST KARAOKE

    James Ballentine VFW Post 246

    This karaoke party has its regulars, including the angelic-voiced lady who sings Leslie Gore songs and the big guy who enthusiastically barks the lyrics to songs in homage to a band we're frankly not familiar with. But this is very much a karaoke for all skill levels. (One recent night featured a newbie horrified to discover that "Safety Dance" is… More >>
  • BEST LOCALLY GENERATED BLOG (RIGHT-WING)

    Faith Mouse

    Most political blogs have one common goal, and that's to beat the reader about the head and shoulders with the strident opinions of the author. Be it through truthiness or hyperbole, these sites deliver the red meat their followers demand, while excoriating the opposition for every infraction, real or implied. The conservative cartoon blog Faith Mouse takes a different tack.… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO WATCH A MOVIE OUTDOORS

    Stevens Square Park

    Come summertime, movies in the park are a religion in these parts. The most progressive congregants worship at Stevens Square, where the crowds are refreshingly diverse and the ongoing theme is "Cinema and Civics." Last year, the series—run by the Stevens Square Community Organization and the Stevens Square Center for the Arts—unspooled several worthy political films, including Billy Golfus's historic… More >>
  • BEST OPEN MIC

    BALLS Cabaret

    Open-mic nights come and go in this town, rising and falling with the fortunes of arty coffeehouses and bars owned by aspiring poets. Some last for only a few feeble experiments, some plod along for years. None, however, matches the import of Leslie Ball's weekly cabaret at the Southern Theater, which got its start all the way back on August… More >>
  • BEST LOCALLY GENERATED BLOG (LEFT-WING)

    The Cucking Stool

    In a concerted effort by us to appear fair and balanced, it's only right that the best local left-wing blog, like its counterpart Faith Mouse, should feature an animal as protagonist. Written by an anthropomorphized Dalmatian from Edina named Spot, and MNObserver, a lawyer and mother from St. Paul, the Cucking Stool delivers its partisan bons mots with humor, bordering… More >>
  • BEST MOTORCYCLE RIDE (URBAN)

    The Grand Rounds

    Curves and hills, scenery and urban grit—this interconnected series of parkways are an ideal place to cruise. Consisting of about 50 miles of parkways, the Grand Rounds snake their way through the heart of Minneapolis. The brainchild of Horace Cleveland some 120 years ago, the Grand Rounds offer an inner-city ride that feels more like a country lane, something that… More >>
  • Varsity Theater

    BEST CONCERT VENUE

    Varsity Theater

    To be honest, the Varsity could've won a number of categories, including Best Place to Have a Wedding, Best Bar-Mitzvah Venue, maybe even Best Place to Watch a Movie That's Not an Actual Movie Theater (which, of course, it was in its original incarnation). But the multipurpose venue is ideal for concerts. Resurrected just over two years ago, the Varsity… More >>
  • BEST LOCALLY GENERATED WEBSITE

    Bus Tales

    St. Paul web designer Rett Martin spends each workday morning and evening riding the No. 50 bus between the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul and his job at Capella University in downtown Minneapolis. When Martin would share interesting tales of his travels with his friends, they would offer commuting anecdotes in turn. These experiences, combined with an interest in eavesdropping… More >>
  • BEST MOTORCYCLE RIDE (GREATER MINNESOTA)

    Highway 61

    The North Shore, as it is often known, easily becomes a favorite of anyone who's had the pleasure to drive it. Recognized nationally as a scenic road, Highway 61 clings to the shore of Lake Superior as it heads to the Canadian border, a trip of 150 miles. Along that stretch you get bluffs and waterfalls, lighthouses and forests, all… More >>
  • BEST ROCK CLUB

    First Avenue

    There's a huge gulf between the earthly bounds of the small-capacity bar/nightclub and the teeming edifice of the 18,000-seat sports arena—not just spatially, but in the type of bands that take the stage. Fortunately, it's a gap that First Avenue has been filling admirably for decades. The feat has been especially impressive in the last few years, when First Ave… More >>
  • Chris Coleman

    BEST MAYOR

    Chris Coleman

    Count us among the cynics when it came to Chris Coleman's 2005 mayoral campaign. The former St. Paul City Council member, renowned for his moderation and ambition during the six years he served on that body, suddenly emerged as a beacon of liberalism. With voter ire at then-Mayor Randy Kelly stoked over his endorsement of President Bush, it seemed like… More >>
  • BEST BEACH

    Riverfront Park and Beach

    The better known city beaches in the Twin Cities can be mighty fine spots to while away the day. If you like to people-watch, you can check out the weirdos at Hidden Beach at Cedar Lake, the hard bodies at Thomas Beach at Lake Calhoun, or the family picnickers at Lake Phalen. But if you want the cleanest water for… More >>
  • BEST ALL-AGES VENUE

    The Garage

    For the under-18 set, seeing loud music in a club usually means waiting for all-ages shows at the Triple Rock, Station 4, the 7th St. Entry, or the Red Sea. Teen-friendly spots such as the Depot, the Toybox, the Fallout, Rudie's Coffeehouse, Club 3 Degrees, or the reopened Eclipse Records offer other options. Against that robust list, the Garage might… More >>
  • Becky Lourey

    BEST POLITICIAN

    Becky Lourey

    Granted, Lourey's two bids for governor are textbook examples of how not to get elected to higher office. To her credit, the now retired state senator from Kerrick has always been more interested in good policy than easy politics. You know how no one ever says good fish tastes "fishy"? It's kind of like that with politicians—a good politician isn't… More >>
  • BEST BIKE TRAIL

    The Midtown Greenway

    Now that its been extended to the West River Parkway, the Greenway has finally reached its full potential. It offers a wide, hugely useful path through the center of Minneapolis that's used by commuters dressed for law firms, chatty Rollerbladers, punks on novelty bikes, joggers, strollers, and joggers with strollers. The Greenway itself only covers about six miles, but if… More >>
  • BEST DANCE CLUB

    Foundation

    After thriving momentarily in the '90s as the outsider-hipster haven Rogue, the stonewalled basement of downtown Minneapolis's Lumber Exchange Building reopened as Level in 2005, only to capsize a year later. The tumultuous history of the place is emblematic of the whole shaky structure that is the Twin Cities nightclub scene. And that's good news for local clubbers, because this… More >>
  • Tom Emmer

    BEST GADFLY

    Tom Emmer

    Tom Emmer wasted no time in making a name for himself at the state Capitol when he first took office in 2005. Upon joining the Legislature, he immediately drew headlines by introducing legislation that would allow for chemical castration of sex offenders. He then attempted to strip the Minnesota AIDS Project, the state's largest AIDS service organization, of all state… More >>
  • BEST GOLF COURSE

    Meadowbrook

    The best local golf courses hew to a simple formula: They offer a fair test at a good price, and if that trudge from the final green leaves us thirsting for a cold beer, so much the better. Meadowbrook delivers on all counts. True, it will never be mistaken for its blue-blooded neighbor to the south, Interlachen, but Meadowbrook possesses… More >>
  • BEST CLUB DJ

    E-Tones

    In a Minneapolis club district yearning to be West Hollywood or South Beach, Jetset is pure Williamsburg: a coolly lit hideout of candles and white brick that's meant to be accidentally discovered, then shared among friends. (You can find the place a few doors down from Jeune Lune, at 115 North First Street.) On a typical Friday, dreamlike house music… More >>
  • BEST PICKUP SPOT FOR PARENTS

    Casper & Runyon's Nook

    Every neighborhood bar has its crowd. At the Nook, it's burgers and fries for college kids and their adult, mortgage-laden neighbors. Except on Sundays. Sundays are, after all, "Nookster" nights, meaning not only do kids eat free, but Casper & Runyon's Nook becomes the pickup scene of the Highland Park/Mac Groveland neighborhood—that is, if you have a toddler in… More >>
  • BEST TENNIS COURTS

    Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center

    Global warming hasn't progressed to the point where outdoor tennis is a viable option for more than four months a year, so to keep up your stroke, you'll have to play indoors. Reed-Sweatt—the name itself is hot—not only offers climate control, but warm service, too. Amateurs are accepted with the same hospitality as pros, and the prices for most any… More >>
  • BEST BLUES BAR

    Famous Dave's

    It may be tucked into the corner of an urban emporium, where the devil is far more likely to wear Prada than strike deals at the crossroads. But Famous Dave's Calhoun Square club is the premier spot for the blues in a pair of burgs that laps up the stuff. With the aroma of barbecue sauce wafting about and blues… More >>
  • BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

    The roof of the Tate Laboratory of Physics

    There are competing schools of thought about the best place for a first date. The dim light/strong drink theorists typically favor supper clubs. Hearty-partiers prefer bars. Tree huggers like nature hikes. They all have it wrong. Face facts: Statistically, there is a damn good chance a first date won't lead to a second one. This is why an ideal setting… More >>
  • BEST DAY TRIP

    Lake Maria State Park

    One of the few remaining stands of the state's Big Woods lies just 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities in Lake Maria State Park. This dense forest of maple, basswood, elm, red oak, tamarack, and red cedar once covered over 3,000 square miles of south-central Minnesota. Most of the trees have been cleared, but this rolling and rocky park… More >>
  • BEST BLUES BAND

    The Butanes

    Curt Obeda and the Butanes have operated at such a high standard for so long—going on a quarter-century—that it might be about time to name the best blues band category in their honor and have them retire from the competition. Not that retirement of any kind should be uttered in the same breath as the Butanes, who continue to chug… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BE SEEN WITH YOUR MOTORCYCLE

    Dulono's Pizza

    Come on, admit it. You like to ride but you also like to park and stand next to your bike, hoping the "cool" is dripping off you like sweat in the summer, eyeing members of the opposite sex or that wicked new custom. For better or worse, the place to do this is the "First Thursday" gathering at Dulono's Pizza… More >>
  • BEST FISHING HOLE (URBAN)

    The confluence of Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River

    What was once a pollution-fouled, left-for-dead stretch of the river now holds an astonishing array of species. You'll find most of the usual game fish—walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, even an occasional muskie—as well as a lot of underappreciated "rough fish." The latter group includes a good number of channel cats, common carp, suckers, bighead buffalo, mooneye, white bass, and… More >>
  • BEST JAZZ CLUB

    Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant

    No less than jazz pooh-bah Wynton Marsalis recently opined that the Dakota ranks among the top 10 spots in America to hear jazz. He's right. But don't take his word for it. Check out the monthly parade of renowned artists who grace the Dakota's stage and invariably go away singing the club's praises and raring to return. It's pretty much… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (STRAIGHT)

    Spyhouse

    When they're not out scouring the bars for attractive women, many single guys spend their weeknights at a local independent coffee shop. One of the more popular hideouts is Spyhouse, an Eat Street cafe that regularly serves up oodles of available men. They can be found curled up in red leather booths with laptops whirring, steaming dark roast in hand,… More >>
  • BEST JAZZ ARTIST

    Frank Morgan

    Instantly enamored with bebop pioneer Charlie Parker upon hearing him at age seven, Frank Morgan took up alto sax. By his early 20s, he'd launched a promising career. But Morgan also followed Bird's descent into heroin addiction and as a result spent the majority of the next 30 years in prison. Finally shaking his habit, he relaunched his career in… More >>
  • BEST FISHING HOLE (EXURBAN)

    St. Croix River

    The hell if we're going to tell you our favorite spot, but we'll give you a hint where to look. Put in midsummer at Marine on St. Croix and slowly work north, through the shallows and the rocks and the branches, into the primeval bee-loud backwaters. The water level's unpredictability and the powerboat restrictions keep the bass-fishing bastards and their… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (LESBIAN)

    Twilight

    Named for the two times of day when the sky and earth are illuminated by a sun hidden below the horizon, Twilight is a monthly lesbian dance and cocktail night about the mysterious beauty of in-between—or how to shine out of your hiding place. With no permanent residence, the event has drifted from the late downtown Minneapolis cigar bar Club… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO JOG

    Big Rivers Regional Trail

    This trail consists of four and a half miles of two-lane blacktop tracing the northern edge of Dakota County. The view from the west showcases the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, which converge at mile three. The eastern side is full of trees, rock walls, and a sprawling cemetery speckled with green and red wreaths. Runners can take a breather at… More >>
  • BEST VOCALIST (FEMALE)

    Prudence Johnson

    Soulful and skillful in a range of genres, Johnson is a double-decade veteran of the Twin Cities music scene. Over the years, she's released albums of jazz, up-tempo folk (through Red House Records), and American songwriting staples. With an effortlessly lilting voice that glides over melodies like newly sharpened skates on fresh pond ice, the sultry chanteuse can claim fans… More >>
  • 19 BAR

    BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (GAY)

    19 BAR

    This dark, unassuming Loring Park watering hole has been around since 1953, purportedly making it the oldest gay bar in the Twin Cities. The 19, however, defies all gay stereotypes. The bleary environs boast the finest pool tables in town, dartboards, pull tabs, and a jukebox with a diva quotient only slightly higher than most around town. It also has… More >>
  • Como Park

    BEST PUBLIC PARK

    Como Park

    Say what you will about the Lady Slippers in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, or the stately oaks that line the river near Minnehaha Falls, you won't find a giraffe in either spot. Nor can you bask beneath palm trees around a koi pond. No, the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is a unique treasure. Back in 1872, the city… More >>
  • BEST VOCALIST (MALE)

    Mike Gunther

    With a wail of reprobation and a warning howl, stripped-down blues barnstormer Mike Gunther sings tales of souls gone astray and the mortal consequences they face. There's high drama in his delivery: On last year's Burn It Down for the Nails, Gunther inflected his voice with rollicking country-road rhythms and dark pulpit-bark. God may not have seen fit to grace… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (STRAIGHT)

    Twins games

    With the exceptions of the Minnesota Lynx and Gopher women's basketball, local sports franchises don't draw significant female crowds, but that's exactly what happens during those magical summer nights at the old ball game. And no wonder, just look at the beefcake on the field: Johan Santana? Latin American stud. Justin Morneau? Canuck stud. Joe Mauer? Homegrown stud. And unlike… More >>
  • BEST ROCK CLIMBING

    Vertical Endeavors

    The human urge to climb is a primal one, buried deep inside our monkey brains, yet the sport of rock climbing remains intimidating to newcomers. Most ground-lubbers see it as an unattainable hobby undertaken only by svelte people with bulbous calves, ape-strong fingers, and Volvos full of disposable cash. Wrong, wrong, and wrong, say the admittedly svelte folks at Vertical… More >>
  • BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER

    Piper's Crow

    Although all four members of this phenomenal Celt band have myriad projects going at any particular time, it is in Piper's Crow that they appear to shine most brightly. The group's ensemble play on their eponymous album (issued in early 2006) is often breathtaking, an exotic assortment of bagpipes and other wind instruments conspiring with guitar, fiddle, and Laura MacKenzie's… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH

    Minnehaha Park on a warm spring day

    It's true that bars and nightclubs, just after closing time, can present some very entertaining spectacles. On the other hand, a parade of drunken sad sacks, stumbling into the night on their way to another DWI or just off to their sorry hovels, where they will collapse on their sofas, too drunk to finish themselves off properly...well, it isn't always… More >>
  • BEST SLEDDING

    Green Acres Recreation

    Green Acres is the kind of hill you can bomb—a rarity on these here plains. Actually, it's two hills: the Family Hill, for parents and their tots, and the Big Hill, which is exactly what it sounds like. There's a pond at the bottom of the big 'un, so it's off limits before January or until the ice is sufficiently… More >>
  • Jeremy Messersmith

    BEST SONGWRITER

    Jeremy Messersmith

    After a few years spent quietly distributing CD-Rs of his basement-bred folk-pop, Bible college bad boy Jeremy Messersmith made his official debut last year with The Alcatraz Kid. With their rubber-soul melodies and corduroy melancholy, Messersmith's songs purr like Elliott Smith beset with plain-old sadness rather than dangerous despair. The album's first and premier song is called "Novocain," the irony… More >>
  • Mill Ruins Park

    BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS

    Mill Ruins Park

    The ruined remains of the world's greatest flour empire may not stack up to, say, the Roman Colosseum or the Khmer temples of Angkor Wat. But the excavated tunnels, tailraces, trestles, and other 19th-century stone relics of Mill Ruins Park are still a sight to behold, more so than any other attraction on the burgeoning downtown riverfront. And that includes… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO ICE SKATE

    Van Cleve Park

    Native Minnesotans often take them for granted, but the free ice-skating rinks that dot our public park systems are a wonderful local asset. Best of all, there's always one within walking distance, which makes arguing over which rink is best sort of beside the point. Still, there's something to be said about the free skate rental—yes, you read that correctly—at… More >>
  • BEST R&B ARTIST

    J. Isaac

    Preacher's son Jason Isaac Moore still keeps the faith: As with most smooth-talking R&B seducers, coaxing a "Yes" out of women is a high priority. But the questions J. Isaac asks in his warm, mellow alto reflect religious righteousness as much as romance. For all the sexy grooves on his 2006 release Welcome to the Planet, his plea of "Do… More >>
  • BEST PUBLIC RESTROOM

    The facilities at Lock and Dam 1

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may not have been able to prevent New Orleans from flooding, but you've got to give the Corps credit for one thing: It knows how to maintain a restroom. On the trip along West River Parkway from downtown Minneapolis to Lock and Dam 1, comfort stations are in pitifully short supply. Sure, there are… More >>
  • Zenon Dance Company and School

    BEST PLACE TO LEARN TO DANCE

    Zenon Dance Company and School

    If you go to local hip-hop shows, you might have noticed something new in recent months: an influx of younger b-girls—not entirely polished, but unmistakably schooled. Ask these confident beginners where they learned to pop, lock, and body rock, and they'll invariably tell you: "Zenon." Founded in 1983 by Linda Z. Andrews, the renowned Minneapolis-based dance company and school offers… More >>
  • Brother Ali

    BEST HIP-HOP ARTIST

    Brother Ali

    There's a move that Brother Ali makes with his neck while rapping that isn't quite a full head-nod. It's a side-to-side swivel, a physical groove so slight, you'd miss it if you didn't feel it in your own neck as you listen to Brother Ali's music. This is the visual counterpart to a flow that swings harder than ever on… More >>
  • BEST URINALS

    Stasiu's - CLOSED

    Men, have you ever peed into something that was not meant to be peed into? Of course you have. Gatorade bottles. Coffee cans. We have even heard tales involving cat boxes. Now, there is no shame in going when you really need to go, but we believe that a good leak merits a certain level of decorum, and nowhere in… More >>
  • Bikram Yoga Bloomington

    BEST YOGA

    Bikram Yoga Bloomington

    Bikram yoga, as you may know, is 90 minutes of yogic postures practiced in hundred-degree heat. Even the first class is a challenge. But the instructors—studio co-owners Herb Kearse and Laiki Huxorli, along with Julie Skovran—are exceedingly tolerant of non-athletic types. Indeed, of the three very fine Bikram studios in the area, Bloomington offers the gentlest vibe. A period of… More >>
  • Dance Band

    BEST LIVE ARTIST

    Dance Band

    Good funk bands don't need to remind their audiences to dance. Then again, most don't have to deal with stiff Twin Cities crowds either, so we'll cut Dance Band some slack for their dumb name and constant imploring. "We are Dance Band, and that's what you're gonna do!" commands the group's spastic and hirsute singer, Captain Octagon. "Shake your baby… More >>
  • BEST SCANDAL

    Norm Coleman Sr.'s special delivery

    What's this nation coming to when the unbridled passions of an 81-year-old man are scorned and not celebrated? St. Paul Police were called to Red's Savoy Inn and Pizza on East Seventh Street last July to find Norman B. Coleman Sr., the father of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, canoodling with 38-year-old Patrizia M. Schrag in the parking lot. Coleman Sr.… More >>
  • Little Man

    BEST ROCK BAND

    Little Man

    It's not quite fair to say that Little Man's Soulful Automatic is the album that local thrift-store pop bands have been trying to make for years. Better to say it's what some fans of Matt Wilson, Mark Mallman, and the Owls have been waiting for: a fully realized studio work that feels at home in its sound, an album touched… More >>
  • BEST VILLAIN

    Kimanie Carter

    Thanks to the polarized nature of these times, there are few matters of morality about which we all agree. Precious few. For this reason (and no other), we owe a debt to 20-year-old Kimanie Carter of St. Paul. Carter's name may not ring a bell, but his deed probably does. Remember last summer when the story broke about some miscreant… More >>
  • Dan Wilson

    BEST OLD BAND

    Dan Wilson

    Dan Wilson found himself staring into the business end of the Recording Academy's highest honor last February, when the august body declared 2006's best song to be none other than the Wilson-penned Dixie Chicks snubber "Not Ready to Make Nice." But even if the glitz of the red carpet had never beckoned the former Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare frontman, he… More >>
  • BEST STATE FAIR RIDE

    The Space Tower

    First things first. The Space Tower is not really a tower—it's less a proper building than a giant metal erection—and it doesn't take you into space. Not even remotely close to space. Roughly speaking, space starts at around 100 km above the Earth's surface; the Space Tower is 340 feet tall. In fact, the highest point at the Minnesota State… More >>
  • Mouthful of Bees

    BEST NEW BAND

    Mouthful of Bees

    The power of great music often rests not with things as obvious as musical skill or crisp recordings, but rather with an ability to imply grandeur through sleight of hand. If Mouthful of Bees' debut album, The End, had been recorded a little better, if Katelyn Farstad's drumming were a little more tutored, if lead singer Chris Farstad's broken tenor… More >>
  • BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY

    Trempealeau, Wisconsin

    The drive to Trempealeau, along Wisconsin's Great River Road, is one of the most stunning in the area. Indeed, it is considerably more scenic than the parallel route on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi—further evidence that Wisconsin almost always edges Minnesota in a beauty contest. The deeper charms of Trempealeau become evident upon arrival. The town is a handsome… More >>
  • The Soviettes

    BEST BAND TO BREAK UP IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS

    The Soviettes

    Like Dillinger Four before them, the Soviettes made the job of producing raw yet loveable punk rock look too easy. They also made it look insanely fun, which is why it came as such a surprise to hear that they broke up during the summer of '06. After forming in 2001, the quartet—guitarists Annie and Sturgeon, bassist Suzy, and drummer… More >>
  • BEST STATE FAIR FOOD

    Mac 'n' Cheese on a Stick

    It's easy to just hit up the obvious favorites when eating your way through the State Fair each year: the pronto pups, the pickles-on-a-stick, the sweet corn, the miscellaneous fried potato products, and of course, that golden cradle of fat known as the cheese curd. But sometimes the best food discoveries are those that remain a secret, cultivating a small… More >>
  • The Plastic Constellations and Tapes \'n Tapes at First Avenue

    BEST CONCERT OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS (LOCAL)

    The Plastic Constellations and Tapes 'n Tapes at First Avenue

    Some concerts are meant to be happenings, be they CD-release shows, multimedia blowouts, or even treasure hunts. Others become happenings. Call it kismet, call it savvy tour planning, but when Tapes 'n Tapes scheduled this co-headlining bill with the Plastic Constellations for July 22 last summer, they probably had no idea it would end up being just two days before… More >>
  • BEST LIBRARY

    St. Paul Central Library

    It's a sad state of affairs that this seems unusual, but: an urban library that's open seven days a week! Actually, that's true of a couple of St. Paul neighborhood branches too, and the downtown location does have limited evening hours—just Mondays till 8:00—but that seems to fit just fine with its setting, which gets sleepy pretty early at night.… More >>
  • BEST CONCERT OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS (TOURING)

    Rakim

    Here is what happens during a bad hip-hop show: An unknown local act spends half an hour trying to prove itself, some loosely affiliated friends of the headliner wander around the stage for a while spitting the kind of stuff you'd skip over if it showed up on a mixtape, the nostalgia-fostering DJ spins a set consisting solely of the… More >>
  • BEST FARMERS' MARKET

    St. Paul Farmers' Market

    During the summer, this place is a bounteous paradise of vegetables, but the real clincher that won it the category is this: year-round local bacon. That's right, even in deepest winter, intrepid area growers are out here from 9:00 to noon on Saturdays selling their wares, which in the frozen months are mostly meats, cheeses, and eggs, with some honey… More >>
  • BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS

    Chooglin'

    The group's handle, taken from a Creedence Clearwater Revival song title meaning "to ball and have a good time," appeared on the album's cover in that goofy font made famous by the band Chicago. In other words, Chooglin' announced no need to be taken seriously, and a growing audience obliged them. Yet the presence of two former members of the… More >>
  • Mainstreet Bar and Grill

    BEST PLACE TO SMOKE INDOORS

    Mainstreet Bar and Grill

    There are some nights when a tap beer and a cig are the salve needed for a hard day's hustle, but smoking bans in Minneapolis and St. Paul make that a challenge to accomplish with any amount of convenience. So Hennepin County commissioners gave tobacco enthusiasts a gift last year when they rolled back the county's ban, allowing smokers… More >>
  • BEST BAND NAME

    Huge Rat Attacks

     … More >>
  • BEST LOCAL RECORD LABEL

    Afternoon Records

    Ian Anderson, the overachieving Afternoon Records founder, Aneuretical guitarist, and One for the Team singer whose achievements will one day warrant him a newspaper write-up that doesn't include a reference to the Jethro Tull singer (but not today), began his little record label as something of a farm team for the local indie-rock scene. It was a relationship of convenience,… More >>
  • Duluth Does Dylan Revisited

    BEST LOCAL MUSIC COMPILATION

    Duluth Does Dylan Revisited

    Good local music compilations always say something about the scene. Last year's The Best of Smoke-Free Saturday Nights Volume 3 said there were a bunch of good, unreleased female-fronted punk bands around here. DUNation.com—Volume Won said local rappers, even well-known ones, had started writing about how broke they were. Last year's Duluth Does Dylan Revisited told us to get ready… More >>
  • BEST LINGERIE

    Frederick's of Hollywood

    The idea of lingerie is to make you look more naked—or feel more naked—than if you were merely wearing nothing. It's an effect that can be achieved on the cheap (as with stripper footwear from the Love Doctor) or at worthwhile expense (as with hand-woven panties from Unmentionables in Wayzata). Somewhere in between, and on the fun side of Victoria's… More >>
  • BEST STRIP CLUB

    The Seville Club

    The Fauve-inspired poster of Louise Brooks on the back wall should be your first indication that the Seville isn't your average Minneapolis skin shack. Then there's the exposed brick, the elegant design scheme, and the shockingly non-surly staff. All the best elements of stripclubbery (candlelight, boobs, enthusiastic DJ) are present and accounted for, while the worst (bad drinks, hideous logo… More >>
  • BEST ADULT VIDEO STORE

    Nicollet Village Video

    Mr. Show defended smut with the war cry "In your darkest, loneliest hours, who is there for you? Pornography!" We say if you don't like porn then you don't like sex. For in the great pantheon of recorded rutting, there is something for everyone. Maybe you like award-winning and edgy art films. Maybe you like soft-focus, airbrushed, plot-heavy couples porn.… More >>
  • Smitten Kitten

    BEST STORE FOR SEX TOYS

    Smitten Kitten

    Upon first glance, it's not readily apparent what type of store the Smitten Kitten is. The name suggests something girly and cute, and the vintage furniture looks like the setup for a local gift shop. But then you see the dildos—dozens of them, sitting on a shelf, tilting slightly to the left like blades of grass in a windy meadow.… More >>

Best of Award Graphics

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