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2013CriticsEntertainment

Best Bar Keeping South Austin Real
Red Shed Tavern

A refurbished, historic stone cottage (former home of biker favorite Beverly's) houses this neighborhood bar that really captures what's left of the relaxed and funky old South Austin vibe. It attracts an eclectic crowd – from nearby junkyard workers and former Beverly’s regulars to lesbians, hippies, and neighborhood locals – thanks to its fantastic jukebox, dog-friendly patio, outdoor stage, pool table, and pinup girl decor. Drink selection goes beyond hipster dive bar to include things we really want to drink, like good cocktails and craft brews. Kickass.

Red Shed Tavern, 8504 S. Congress, 512/280-4899, www.redshedtavern.com/

Best Bar People
Quality Seafood

If you don't know Becca, Paige, Kathi, or Janie then, frankly, you don't know where to find the best time in town. These are the women of Quality Seafood – and, more to the point, perhaps, the women who make the experience of dining (and drinking) at the Quality Seafood bar the best way to feel right at home while dining on oysters or lobster or a bowl of chowder. In fact, it's the interaction among staff and the large contingent of regulars that make this bar scene a real treat. Come in a stranger, and you'll almost certainly leave feeling like a regular.

Quality Seafood Market, 5621 Airport, 512/452-3820, www.qualityseafood.wordpress.com

Best Beer Recommendations
Hopfields

As hard as it is to believe, not every Austinite is a beer expert, though many may think they are. So, handing over the reins to the genuinely cool servers at Hopfields down on the Drag can be a lesson in trust. With a menu of what feels like infinity – everything from Big Bear Black Stout to Green Flash IPA – it’s easy to pick a beer at random and nurse a couple over the course of the evening. But our evening was measurably improved by asking our server (a gentleman with an impressive mustache) for recommendations. The biggest trouble in the evening was remembering what he’d ended up bringing to the table. It got us all mixed up. It had nothing to do with the beer, of course.

Hopfields, 3110 Guadalupe, 512/537-0467, www.hopfieldsaustin.com

Best Cinema/Brew House Combo
Flix Brewhouse

Cinemas featuring full menus and adult beverages are kind of an Austin tradition, but Flix is a worthy contender up north with one very important trick up its sleeve. These guys serve up some awesome in-house brews, including a Luna Rosa Wit fragranced with coriander and blood oranges. Sink into your movie seat, pull up your personal food tray, and sip on bevvies for fun events like Bros & Brews and the Pajama Party.

Flix Brewhouse, 2200 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/244-3549, www.flixbrewhouse.com

Best Dangerous Body Rocker
DJ Chorizo Funk

Vacillating between up and at 'em cumbia and slow and low Afro-Caribbean jamz (or, depending upon the crowd, vice versa?), Chorizo Funk makes good on his moniker. A creature of collaboration, Chorizo Funk (née Eddie Campos) is a member of DJ/artist collective Peligrosa and works regularly with Riders Against the Storm for the monthly frenzied fiesta called Body Rock ATX. Dude digs deep in his preferred sonic wells, and the rewards are reaped by all within earshot. Boom!

Best Dark Side Ride
Darth Vader Pedicab

Dun dun dun, du dun dun, du dun dun. Um, is there anything better than the "Imperial March" theme to get you pumped up for a wild night? This aspiring Sith of a pedicab brings the dark side to drunks and assists young Padawans on their very own quests in a galaxy far, far away (like campus). Honestly, sometimes we flag this guy down even when we don't need a ride. The force is strong with this one.

Darth Vader Pedicab, 512/745-4700

Best Enabler of Our 'Adventure Time' Obsession
Mondo Gallery

Oh dear glob, this summer’s group show featuring art inspired by the Cartoon Network series beloved by adults and children alike was totally mathematical! More than 30 artists showcased their interpretive tableaux of the postapocalyptic cartoonscape, from the agony of Lemongrab to the sinister beauty of Marceline and the bathetic joie de vivre of heroes Finn and Jake. Mondo Gallery, the poster and art space arm of the Alamo Drafthouse juggernaut, illustrates again and again that when it comes to smash-ups of popular and material culture, they’ve got the market cornered.

Mondo Gallery, 4115 Guadalupe, 512/296-2447, www.mondotees.com

Best Happy Hour Lounge Act
TIE: Mike Miller at Truluck's; Margaret Wright at Skylark Lounge

It's the end of the work day, and you've got a lot to shake off. Of course, great crab cakes, crunchy shrimp, and deals on wine are a sure allure, but Truluck's has something else to make its happy hour stand out: Mike Miller, crooner extraordinaire, tinkling the ivories four hours a day, three days a week. He's a one-man wonder, so smooth on the keys with a voice you could serve on toast. Catch his show Tuesday evenings at the Arboretum location (then back Downtown, when they reopen this October). Across town in the little reclaimed dive bar on Airport, the legendary Margaret Wright rules the roost, jammin' on some ivories of her own at the intimate Skylark Lounge. With a legacy of residencies that stretch from the Seventies and include the Driskill, 1920s Club, Rusty's, et al, the beloved cabaret diva whips out standards with her signature panache and charms the friendly crowd with warm and sloshy wit every Thursday and Friday, 6-8pm.

Truluck's, 400 Colorado, 512/482-9000, www.trulucks.com

The Skylark Lounge, 2039 Airport, 512/730-0759, skylarkaustin.com/

Best Magical Realist Game Developer
Zak Ayles

With only a handful of games under his belt, Ayles has established himself as a rising star in the independent game world. His free-to-download, arcade-style releases like Punksnotdead and Sake Express Pro Wrestling added a dash of anarchy to the art-game genre. Trailers and demos for upcoming titles focus largely on art, but retain a sense of the unexpected. Take for example the AMOA-Arthouse exhibited Catering to Birds or the recently Kickstarted Lioness, the latter of which will be his first "full-length" game and received almost four times what Ayles asked for. How's that for a vote of confidence?

Zak Ayles, www.mooosh.tv

Best Multitasking 'Mo
Jeremy Timothy-John von Stilb

Forget LGBTQ and so forth. Jeremy has got the entire gay alphabet down. A is for the Alamo Drafthouse, which now hosts Homo Arigato!, a monthly film series created by von Stilb. M is for Mouthfeel, von Stilb's DJ project magnifique for those who like their parties rated X. Q is for the Q, local queer hub for all sorts of queer hubbub, to which von Stilb is bringing his crowd and marketing expertise. T is for Team ProHomo, hosts of the weekly Queer Ride and more, of which von Stilb is an active member. H is for how does he do it all? With style, flair, and care.

Best New Fest
12th Night Austin

What konstitutes a krewe? The definition is fluid, but the Krewe du Bisoux (that's "kisses" in Fraaanch), organizers of 12th Night Austin insist that, "Whatever brings your community together, decide what you are kings and queens of, and take the costuming from there." Whether that's a passion for the Passion, Cats, or a love of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, your participation in the holy day procession that winds its tentacles all over East Austin is not predicated on entrance fees or fancy forms. Improvisatory and ephemeral, 12th Night arrives and departs, marking the beginning of king cake/Mardi Gras season and the Epiphany, not to mention all of your epiphanies to come.

12th Night Austin, www.12thnightaustin.com

Best Parade for Spectators and Participants
Austin Pride

Imagine all the people – over 92 entries, 2,000 paraders, and 70,000 viewers, by all estimates and accounts – at 2012's Austin Pride Parade. The route emerges from San Jacinto east of the Capitol, onto 11th, then down Congress Avenue, a rollout of rainbow carpet headed down to the Fourth Street gay bar district. In years past, the parade boasted then-impressive numbers of 10-30,000, but the great leap forward happened last year. And this year? Hold on to your chaps: 128 entries, 3,000 paraders, and spectators that numbered in the six figures. Imagine sharing all the world (let alone that space!) and living life in peace. Imagine! We hope next year you'll join us, and Austin will roll as one.

Austin Gay & Lesbian Pride Foundation, PO Box 162924, Austin, TX 78746, 512/468-8113, www.fb.com/austinpride

Best Place to Avoid a Scene
Downtown

If the bustling bars of the once-upon-a-time neighborhood of Rainey Street or the once-not-entirely-bars-and-music venues of West and East (of the highway) Sixth are just too much to face, why not get away from the madding crowd and head just west of I-35 to the historic area known as "Dirty Sixth"? Sure, a recent visit was shared with a few disoriented tourists wandering out of El Sol y La Luna, but the sidewalks are wide and refurbished, the streets are blocked off on weekends, and there is ample parking if you are willing to pay. And did you guys know there are a bunch of bars there?!

Best Place to Party With Fido
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden

Austinites love their dogs, and one of the most fun places to take them is this Rainey Street outpost. Everyone knows the food is above your average hot dog, and the ample list of brewskies is epic. But what rules is the convivial vibe that includes our four-legged friends. Dogs are welcome anywhere in the biergarten, and well-behaved pups can go off-leash in the special fenced-in play yard. If you don’t want to share your antelope sausage, you can spoil Fido with something from the special dog menu. Don’t miss Mutt Mondays, featuring 50% off pints, 5-7pm, and free dog training courtesy of Dog School Austin.

Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden, 79 Rainey, 512/386-1656, www.bangersaustin.com

Best Public Workshop
TechShop

For those of you who have spent many sleepless nights figuring out how to form your own Grumpy Cat keychain, customize an apothecary table, heck, even sew up a wild animal onesie, the search to cure your insomnia is over. TechShop in Round Rock opened up last October and is happily serving the needs of all the creatives, inventors, and mad scientists in town. Members are welcome to take classes and use state-of-the-art technologies for welding, woodworking, painting, T-shirt making, 3-D printing, and laser cutting, to name a few disciplines. Get out there and build your dreams!

TechShop, 120 Sundance Pkwy. #350, Round Rock, 512/900-4664, www.techshop.ws/

Best Sculptor of Male Anatomy
Gina Dominguez at Vixen Creations

West-Coast transplant Gina Dominguez does dongs right, and with the various models given nicknames, like wigs in a wig shop, you can ride your Vixen Creations' Goodfella or Outlaw or Maverick (What? No Goose?) all the way home. Although, seriously, safety first: This vixen's creations are recommended for advanced players only. So hey, post-feminist, liberated Don Juan, pick up some of their patented Gemstones to match your honey's jewels, and let the graduated, hand-dipped, silicon spheres send y'all out of your celestial bodies. For polychromed pleasure projectiles, you now know how to buy local. Available at Forbidden Fruit and Q Toys.

Vixen Creations, www.vixencreations.com

Best Transition from SXSW-Austin to Austin-Austin
Uncle Doug's Chili Dog Fest at the Side Bar

Even though some may argue that it's gotten too big, or lost its indie edge, it's hard to argue that South by Southwest isn't fun. That said, even the most hardcore of us are ready to have our town back by Sunday. For the past few years, Uncle Doug's Chili Dog Fest has been making that transition a little smoother, hosting local (and local-ish) bands at the Side Bar for local music fans who didn't leave their manners on a plane getting here. And there are allegedly chili dogs, though we have always been a bit too spent to search them out too hard.

Side Bar, 602 E. Seventh, 512/322-0697, www.thesidebaraustin.com

Best Way to Heed Your Need for Speed
Circuit of the Americas

In just one short year, Austin's new COTA track ranks among the most popular circuits in the world. Built in time for the inaugural Formula One race here last November, the track – from its wild elevation changes to chicanes and switchbacks – is something to behold. Since opening, the site has been host to many high-powered events – from F1 to MotoGP, from races on bicycles to races on foot. Even though the COTA has been named by the city of Austin as a Green Business Leader for 2013, concerns linger about bringing motorsports to environmentally conscious Austin. But consider this: Developing a world-class track attracts not only the racing of today, but the industry innovators looking for a greener tomorrow.

Circuit of the Americas, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd., 512/301-6600, www.circuitoftheamericas.com

Best West Campus Bar With a Rich History
Freedmen's

Tucked between the frat houses and overpriced apartments, there lies a smattering of historic buildings, but one in particular caught our eye. Now a bar named Freedmen's, this landmark dates back to 1869, when it was built by former slave George Franklin. Throughout their storied past, these walls have hosted everything from a church to a publishing house for one of Texas' first black newspapers, The Gold Dollar. Little touches, like an old-fashioned fireplace repurposed to showcase liquor display or an antique iron sitting in the window sill, pay tribute to those intervening centuries. And as we sip our phosphate fizz and revel in the cool, cozy atmosphere, we can't help but hope this incarnation is here to stay.

Freedmen's, 2402 San Gabriel, 512/220-0953, www.freedmensbar.com/

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food
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