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2011CriticsServices

Best Brand Force for Good
The Butler Bros

It’s difficult to meet the team at Butler Bros without feeling as though you’ve already known them forever. Accountable, honorable, advocates for positivity — these are words not often attributed to folks in the ad biz. They’re apt descriptors of this team, not just for the widely recognized and lauded branding work, but also for the humility and heart they put into everything they touch. Whether it’s a branding campaign or the annual bring-your-own-chair neighborhood event, if the Butlers are involved, count your blessings.

The Butler Bros, 2401 E. Sixth #1002, 512/482-8043, www.thebutlerbros.com

Best Caregiver Respite
Mike's Place

On any given Wednesday morning, step across the threshold at Mike's and into a world of silliness and delight. You might encounter some folks petting, grooming, or walking a small herd of mini ponies or playing a lively match of sit-down balloon volleyball or a having live piano sing-along. You'll definitely encounter some cool, poppin' tunes and a lot of laughter. For four blessed hours each Wednesday morning and once a month on Saturday, Meals on Wheels and More's Alzheimer's caregiver respite program, Mike's Place, shines with the smiles and wonder of folks in their waning years. These folks have family or friends who take care of them at home, and sometimes everybody needs a break! Spritely leader Marjorie Murphey-Camacho and her able team of volunteers (and they are always seeking volunteers) guide guests through stimulating activities, gentle social interaction, and a pause to share lunch with new friends. As the first and only respite group of its kind on the Eastside, it has the distinction of being one of Austin's most diverse. Everyone can feel at home at Mike's Place.

Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 3227 E. Fifth, 512/476-6325, www.mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org

Best East Meets West
Clark Brown Family Care Clinic/OM Health Center

East is East and West is West and never the twain shall … whut? Apparently the closed minds behind that cliché never made an appointment with this team of medical pros who work toward bridging the gap between Eastern and Western health care philosophies many assume to be incompatible. Dr. Cheryl Clark Brown and acupuncturist/herbalist William A. Wood do more than simply share office space on MLK. Should patients choose to see both, the practitioners will happily offer integrated care and work as a team, consulting with each other about the best possible path to a client's wellness. Truly, this is the best of both worlds.

Clark Brown Family Care Clinic, 2113 E. MLK #101, 512/391-9700, www.clarkbrownmd.com

Best Everything Old Is New Again
Martinez Brothers Taxidermists

In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, villain Gaston sings, "I use antlers in all of my decorating!" and so do today's broheims and brosephs. The taxidermy trend has been dusted off and is now muy de rigueur. It appears in popular hangouts like Mohawk and the Jackalope, but the brothers Martinez have been doing their part to make interior design macho since 1959. Offering the preservation and mounting of animals varying from local quail to the not-so-local elephant, the taxidermy service will help you accessorize your room with statues so lifelike, it's like they were once actually alive.

Martinez Brothers Taxidermists, 2057 S. Lamar, 512/442-7575, www.martinezbrothers.net

Best Hot Staff
Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse

Ode to the Waitstaff at Bouldin Creek in Sapphic Stanza:

You with the braids and maybe a mustache
You with the blue eyes, the spine of an acrobat
This one, a greeting, like old friends together
Also the food is delicious

Bouldin Creek Cafe, 1900 S. First, 512/416-1601, www.bouldincreek.com

Best Informal Education
University of Texas Informal Classes

Adult education was heading for a failing grade last year when the Texas Union axed its Informal Classes program. Fortunately the learned folks over at UT’s Continuing and Innovative Education office know a thing or two about ongoing education, and they saved the 40-year-old program. So whether you want to take up sculling or get the most from your digital camera, play piano by ear or study native plants at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, you can learn a lesson you’ll love.

University of Texas Informal Classes, Thompson Conference Center, 2405 Robert Dedman, Rm. 1.108, 512/471-3121, www.utexas.edu

Best Music for Your Molars
Authentic Smiles Dental Studio

In addition to receiving state-of-the-art services, patients of Dr. Shane Matt and Dr. Samera Owhadian of Authentic Smiles Dental Studio get the star treatment. You know the drill – you don’t? An avid music fan and aspiring guitarist, Matt calls himself the Rock & Roll Dentist and pipes in his favorite tunes throughout the office. He also supports Austin’s uninsured musicians by donating his services to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Fittingly, Owhadian may be the most glamorous dentist in town; her beautiful smile is her own calling card.

Authentic Smiles Dental Studio, 211 San Antonio St., 512/330-9403, www.authenticsmiles.com

Best Outcome From a Hairy Situation
West End Salon

When SoCo landmark Hairy Situations shut its doors earlier this year and its talented crew scattered in the hair-stylist diaspora, we were bereft. Luckily, the best of them – Amber Terry, Laura Rabakon, Pam Ross, Ray Ramos, Rachel McDaniel, and Johanna Escobar – found their way to West End Salon, lodged in a sweet little bungalow in the low-key, leafy neighborhood west of Downtown. We flock there for the talent, but the comfy atmosphere and the rest of the sharp, friendly staff is the icing on top.

West End Salon, 805 West Ave., 512/433-6231, www.westendsalonaustin.com

Best Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program
Developmental Counseling Center Inc.

Maybe the Betty Ford Center is a little pricey and the paparazzi at Promises in Malibu, Calif., scare you. But maybe you need help getting a grip on the problem areas of your life, or maybe you've been court-ordered to attend outpatient substance abuse treatment. However you get there, what you get out of it depends on what you put in. Developmental Counseling is a nonprofit providing quality treatment at a very reasonable cost through a variety of therapy approaches. The counselors have been through many of the same struggles as the clients, and group treatment reflects a refreshingly diverse clientele. And did we mention affordable?

Developmental Counseling Center, Inc., 2101 W. Ben White #106, 512/383-1036, www.dcci.us

Best Sliding-Scale Community Health Clinic
Lone Star Circle of Care

No medical insurance? No problem. A quick evaluation of your documentation will determine the fee, and it's usually quite reasonable. Some pay more than others, but some earn more than others. Based in Georgetown, Lone Star Circle of Care offers various branches in Round Rock, Hutto, Belton, Temple, Killeen, and in South Austin on Ben White Boulevard. With its own pharmacy and lab, Lone Star keeps costs to a fraction of the bill for a visit to a typical doctor's office.

Lone Star Circle of Care, 1221 W. Ben White Ste. 200-B, 512/462-9994, www.lscctx.org

Best Taxidermy and Home Design
Howl Interiors

Yes, taxidermy and home design. When you step into Howl for the first time, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported into a modern, steampunk Alice in Wonderland replete with furs, animals, mirrors, and settees. Every piece in the shop is perched precisely at the corner of unbelievable and “I need this.” Here, antiques meet the newly crafted, wonderful meets insanity, and all the pieces of decor and design fit together perfectly.

Howl Interiors, 705-A S. Lamar, 512/291-2123, www.howlinteriors.com

Best Tipping Policy
Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery

Outside of the service industry, it's a little-known fact that it's legal to pay waitstaff less than the federal minimum wage – as little as $2.13 per hour – which is why servers get so frustrated at cheapos who don't tip. But Black Star Co-op, the new North Central brewpub run on cooperative principles, came up with a brilliant yet obvious idea: No tipping is allowed because it insists on paying its workers a living wage. Revolutionary! "Save your money for more beer!" reads a sign at the bar.

Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery, 7020 Easy Wind #100, 512/452-2337, www.blackstar.coop

Best Way To Feel Like Barnabas Collins, Morticia Addams, or Hell, Even Edward Cullen
Haunted ATX

It's hard to miss, for sure, this black 1979 Cadillac hearse tooling around the entertainment districts of Austin. Of course, goth parties and Halloween would be typical uses (book now, baby), but what an imaginative and unorthodox way to pick up a guest from the airport or make an unforgettable entrance to a grand event. Owner Christopher English, who donates his services to numerous charities, provides tours of haunted Austin with his trademark humor and courteous, respectful service. Seating five to six, he'll do his best to fulfill requests, putting the riders in control of the experience. Yeah, the seating is a bit awkward, but hell, this thing was meant for lying down.

Haunted ATX, 512/632-8693, www.hauntedatx.com

Best Way To Get Back on Your Feet
Dr. Frank Cherpack

Feet: Everyone knows they are the window to the sole. They are also pretty important for balancing your superstructure and making sure your big heinie doesn't tump over your bidness. Basically, you need ’em – to stand, to walk, to get you here and there and back again. And when they hurt, well, that's just no good. In fact, it's bad. Whether your ills are heels or your corns are torn, your instep is out of step or your bones make you moan, for a full-service footsie tune-up, tippy-toe or run roughshod to the affable Dr. Frank Cherpack, Austin's motorcycle-riding, dog-loving podiatrist. He'll shod you good.

Dr. Frank Cherpack, 8701 Shoal Creek Blvd. #102, 343-8834, www.frankcherpack-dpm.com

Best Way To See What You're Missing
Gwyndow's Window Cleaning

Don't get the wrong idea: If you're expecting the car washing scene from Cool Hand Luke, let your fingers keep walking. The only thing the women of Gwyndow's will apply to your glass is expertise and a gentle hand, after which the whole joint will look spiff-new. You'll have saved the wear and tear on yourself and the house, not to mention the bonus prize: The reasonable per-window rates defy logic when you realize they are washing the insides and sills, too. They will also cheerfully teach you about your windows. Who knew they turned perpendicularly and slid around?

Gwyndow's Window Cleaning, 2900 W. Anderson Ste. C-200, 512/444-1954, www.gwyndows.com

Best Wrenches in the Trenches
Rolling Wrenches

Battery got you down? Brakes squealing like a stuck hog? Can't make it to work because your ball joint is out of sorts? Stay right where you are and call John Ormberget, the Norwegian god of mobile auto repair, both foreign and domestic. Rolling Wrenches is his DBA; work ethic is his DNA. Any questions?

Rolling Wrenches, 800 E. MLK, 512/589-7925, www.facebook.com

Most Over-the-Top Beauty Treatment
Elluminize Mink Eyelashes

What makes Ize Calina Drouin's Elluminize boutique special and different? The intensive skills needed for the process of applying cruelty-free mink eyelash extensions. We're not talking about strips of fuzzy fur like Jennifer Lopez wore to the Academy Awards, we're talking about thick, lustrous, and long guard hairs – up to 300 of them per eye – individually applied with an adhesive specially designed to stand up to the Texas heat. And if you don't think that will give you Bette Davis eyes, you've got another thing coming.

Elluminize, 1015 Bee Caves Woods Dr. Ste. 207-B, 512/698-4686, www.elluminize.com

Most Stylish, Unpretentious Salon
Salon d'Etoile

She says she's like Betty Boop meets the girl next door. We say she's a goddess. In either case, master stylist and colorist Johanna Esper has paid her dues and is reaping the benefits of having done exquisite work for such establishments as SoCo's legendary Pink Hair Salon, as well as having worked for the notoriously discriminating Ron King. Esper has created signature looks for several high-profile scenesters, and she demonstrates her skill daily on a devoted coterie of clients who will follow her anywhere. Her partner in style is Charlotte Belle, noted for her flair with curly hair, and with a sizable male clientele who wouldn't trust the Samson curls to anyone else. Esper and Belle's Salon d'Etoile is housed within the Maison d'Etoile and is an integral part of the high-glam, low-attitude atmosphere. Salon d'Etoile, a single, sparsely furnished room with a revolving display of fascinating art, has an inherent chicness that can't be bought.

Maison d'Etoile, 2109 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/944-2801, www.charlottebelle.com

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