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Best Cocktail Bar
The Driskill Bar

The Driskill Hotel is notorious to locals and visitors alike. The history and haunted nature of the hotel make it a unique establishment in its own right. The hotel’s tasteful elegance extends to their bar. Located upstairs past the portrait of Mr. Driskill himself is the best cocktail bar in Austin. Sprawled across the carpet are a variety of comfortable leather couches and chairs. The walls display a variety of Texan and Southwestern artwork and antique firearms, giving you the feeling that you’ve traipsed into the past. Classic cocktails, a solid wine list, live music, and spectacular service put the Driskill Bar over the top. The atmosphere is perfect for either causal drinks or something more sophisticated for business or your girlfriend’s parents. Just make sure you bill it to someone else’s room.

The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos, 512/439-1234,

Best Dance, Dance, Karaoke

The HighBall boasts seven very eclectic and whimsically themed karaoke rooms, but we are here to talk about another, different kind of party. Ever so often, the good folks at the HighBall will clear the tables and chairs to create one mega dance floor. Why do they do this, you ask? Because there ain't no party like a music-video dance party. We can jam out to everything from Britney to Backstreet Boys with glowsticks in hand. Nineties not your thing? Don't worry, they go through many different decades for your groovin' pleasure.

The HighBall, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/383-8309,

Best Dive Bar

photo by Celesta Danger

Dark, decrepit, and oozing character, Barfly’s epitomizes the ideal dive bar. Located on top of a Burger Tex on Airport Boulevard, this neighborhood bar draws all types of residents from Hyde Park, North Loop, and surrounding areas. Up the stairs and behind the steel door, you step into almost complete darkness. Dim lights illuminate worn pool tables. The cocktail tables are small and usually occupied by two or three very different people, Lone Stars in hand, usually laughing. A jukebox shines a colorful light through the opaque air. The bartenders are friendly and the people friendlier. Barfly’s is the perfect spot to grab a few cold beers and shoot some pool. We also recommend a shot of whiskey to go along with that Lone Star. No lemon drops here, folks.

Barfly's, 5420-B Airport, 512/452-6455,

Best International Music Ambassadors

A conversation with Music Canada’s VP of Public Affairs at South by Southwest last year sparked the Austin music and film promotional project ATX6. Three months later, songwriter Chris Brecht and six hard-working, prodigious songwriters were on a plane for Toronto to represent Austin music at NXNW. Brecht, who runs Austin Independent Radio online, and company then shuttled off to Germany’s Reeperbahn Festival. This spring, he rounded up another sextet for NXNE, a crew then bound for France this week to represent the Live Music Capital. Brecht’s likely already prepping next year’s chosen ones.


Best Intimate Music Moments
Continental Club Gallery

While the Continental Club is world-famous, the Gallery is the coolest intimate venue in Austin and still a bit of a secret. Located over Southside Tattoo on South Congress, the Gallery goes from charming to eclectic with a 40-person limit. You never know what rock or movie star might show up and sit behind the scenes of the bar. The Gallery hosts a variety of jazz (Elias Haslanger, Eprhaim Owens, Mike Flanigin, Robert Kraft), singer-songwriters (James McMurtry, Jon Dee Graham, Hilary York, Guitar Pull), and jam bands (Kalu James, Matt Hubbard) throughout the week, and is home to the quarterly Tertulia (an Iberian tradition of a mix of poetry, song, and performance).

Continental Club Gallery, 1313-A S. Congress, 512/441-2444,

Best Little Audacious Film That Could … and Did!

When Richard Linklater began the marathon of Boyhood in 2002, there was scant consideration of greatness but plenty of concern that the experiment could even be completed. Making a movie over 12 years with the same cast on a pittance budget? What could possibly go wrong? And yet … hardly anything did go wrong, and so much went so right. The cast and crew met annually to create what is now considered cinematic genius. Sure, it was passed over for the Oscar (widely considered one of the most egregious errors in Academy history), so solace has to be taken in Boyhood's appearance on more critics' annual lists in 2014 than any other film.

Detour Filmproduction, 3109 N. I-35, 512/322-0726,

Best Local Entertainment App

Ever wish you could use a flux capacitor to tip that hunky server? Ever dream about ditching out early to make that movie, but can't find your server? Want an easy way to avoid those embarrassing walks of shame to get your debit card from a bar where you left it the night before? Love free drinks as much as we do? Just download the TabbedOut app, check out their loyalty program, and enjoy the ease of playing and paying right from your phone.

TabbedOut, 1135 W. Sixth #130, 866/626-8045,

Best Mezcal Selection
King Bee Lounge

photo by Sandy Carson

One may not think of a divey lounge on East 12th as a haven for this en vogue Mexican spirit. But co-owner Billy Hankey is a fan of the smokey elixir, and he has made it his personal goal to have the most complete collection of mezcal available in any Austin bar. With 35 labels and counting in all styles and varieties, Hankey is always happy to share a unique cocktail or to pour a flight of some of his favorites. He has ample knowledge of the spirit and will enthusiastically share it with one and all.

King Bee, 1906 E. 12th, 512/600-6956,

Best Movie Theatre You Should Go to More Often
The Marchesa

As the home of Austin Film Society’s impressive, ongoing lineup of archival screenings and special series (many are hand-picked by Richard Linklater himself) and also a satellite venue during festivals like SXSW and Austin Film Festival, the humble Marchesa is the place to see the best independent, classic, new, and rare films showing around town. So why don’t you go here more often? Don’t squander the fact that you live in an excellent film town, y’all. Seriously.

AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35 #3100, 512/686-3823,

Best New Draught Beer
Hops & Grain Pale Mosaic

It's not surprising that Hops & Grain’s first year-round draught is a delight. The Pale Mosaic has an aroma, flavor profile, and body that is appropriate for any occasion. As nose inches closely to pint glass, nostrils tingle with the faint aroma of pine. The beer has a pale copper hue, a cloudy appearance, and medium body. The first cold sips are crisp, and the Mosaic hop really shines with pine resin and grapefruit pith flavors tingling the pallet. These earthy and light fruity flavors are backed up with a moderate hoppiness, yet nothing near as bitter as your average IPA. Finally, there’s nothing like a smooth finish. Its subtle character gives the beer its versatility when it comes to pairings, the season, and the person. Cheers!

Hops & Grain Brewery, 507 Calles, 512/537-9756,

Best Pseudo-Healthy Cocktail
The Golden Ticket at Cheer Up Charlies

With kombucha for your gut, whiskey for your soul, and ginger for an overall health and flavor kick, the Golden Ticket at Austin’s beloved “ambiguous everybody space” is refreshing, reasonably priced, and virtuous enough to drink on the regular (we think so, anyway). It pairs perfectly with a night of dance partying or parking garage protesting, making this cheerful and effervescent cocktail one of many reasons to visit this precious Red River hang-out.

Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River, 512/431-2133,

Best Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Campaign
Doug Sahm

Now that Stevie Ray Vaughan’s officially plaqued in Cleveland, attention turns to getting Doug Sahm inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Joe Nick Patoski’s new feature documentary, Sir Doug & the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, serves as catalyst to the campaign, premiering at SXSW and raising more than $90K on Kickstarter. Meanwhile, local stars have rallied in live tributes across Texas and in promoting the official petition. It's the rejuvenation of Sahm's legacy for a new generation 15 years after the musical polymath’s passing to the ultimate Groover’s Paradise.

Society for the Preservation of Texas Music,

Best Spaghetti Western Shot in Austin
Red on Yella, Kill a Fella

Austin auteurs Duane Graves and Justin Meeks know that making a movie is to worship at the altar of celluloid past while desperately creating something fresh. Their Western Red on Yella, Kill a Fella is a case in point. The guys created the Texas Bigfoot tale The Wild Man of the Navidad and teamed with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel on the bloody Butcher Boys. Now they've taken a genre leap forward with a spaghetti Western chock-full of grit and blood mixed with an existential storyline that surprises. All we ask is an Austin premiere. Pronto.

Greeks Films,

Best Texas Wine Ambassador
Rae Wilson

Sommelier Rae Wilson started her company, Wine for the People, as a way to make wine approachable to all. As the concept grew and evolved, Wilson's role changed from educator to consultant, which fueled her passionate advocacy for Texas wines. Wilson works to connect up-and-coming Hill Country wineries with her growing list of clients, therefore giving us the opportunity to find excellent Texas wines at more local bars and restaurants. And as a winemaker, she sold out the first production of her 100% Texas-grown Dandy Rosé within two months. We look forward to any and all of her future endeavors.

Wine for the People, 512/672-9618,

Best Visions of the Future
Other Worlds Austin

Science fiction isn’t just about space ships and lasers. It’s about what it means to be a human in strange times. Austin’s first ever dedicated sci-fi film festival went to infinity and beyond in its inaugural year, with former Austin Film Festival booker Bears Fonté selecting the most bizarre, hilarious, and moving titles the genre has to offer. Before it returns this December, its year-round programming has kept highlighting beautiful and unearthly cinema. Keep watching the skies … and the screens.

Other Worlds,

Best Way to Lose Your Voice
Karaoke Underground

Sing us a song, you’re the punk rock man/rebel girl! Kaleb Asplund and wife Hannah Ford have been building Karaoke Underground’s song list since 2004. Currently at roughly 1,000 songs, there are plenty of choices to belt your heart out to: Nick Cave, Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Minutemen, etc. Don’t be surprised if you get joined onstage by a member of the band whose song you’re singing. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats once went next door to Cheer Up Charlies after playing a show at the Mohawk to join a lucky fan onstage for “This Year.” Sleater-Kinney also popped by for a Girls Rock Camp benefit to catch a glimpse of fans singing the entire “Dig Me Out” album. In addition to standing gigs at Nomad Bar and Drinks Lounge, KU has nights all over town, can come to your private event, and occasionally takes its show on the road.

Karaoke Underground,

Best Bar
Cheer Up Charlies

photo by Celesta Danger

Cheer Ups continues to top "Best of Austin" each year. Maybe it's something to do with no cover for live music. Or the resident vegan food trailer and its cult following. Or the myriad film screenings, dance parties, and wet beard contests. Under attack again by Big Development, the partial demolition of their definitive limestone amphitheatre illustrates in irony how this beloved club is a cornerstone of the music/culture/queer community.

Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River, 512/431-2133,

Best Burlesque/Cabaret Show

In true Austin style, the Jigglewatts began on the set of a low-budget zombie movie – a zombie movie with singing and dancing, natch. The world may have forgotten 2007's Z: A Zombie Musical, but we can forever thank it for bringing together the flashy and fun ladies of the Jigglewatts burlesque review. Their performances are bawdy with a sly, empowered wink.

Best Club Night/Theme Night
TuezGayz at Barbarella

Honoring Tuezgayz's Best Club Night five years and counting, we can't stay away from this packed, sweaty Red River riot. Barbarella slings the liquid courage, and the Glitoris soundtracks our midweek make-out sesh. Heteros, homos, and everyone in between get their groove and grope on in the middle of our favorite drrrty dance floor.

Barbarella, 615 Red River, 512/476-7766,

Best Cocktails
East Side Show Room

It’s no wonder readers selected this Eastside haunt. The dimly lit and artfully decorated bar offers up expertly crafted, pre-Prohibition inspired cocktails infused with fruit and floral flavors from a selection of almost 200 bottles of liquor. With a movie projector, quaint patio seating, and live music, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic date or a classy night on the town with your best pals.

East Side Show Room, 1100 E. Sixth, 512/467-4280,

Best Drag Show
Oilcan Harry's

Oilcan Harry's proves the squeaky diva always gets the greasepaint. The weekday draw of this Austin mainstay? It's the Wednesday night Drag Show Roulette, which takes a different spin on the act with a monthly pageant. On the weekend? Two snaps go to the Super Sunday Divas Show, OCH's weekly "platform" for high-heeled hilarity featuring a different Ru queen from RuPaul's Drag Race. We pause, along with the entire staff and the usually ebullient hostess Kelly Kline for a solemn moment of reflection in the great big beautiful mirror in the sky for the passing of co-hostess Jenny McCall. Soar to the stars, dear queen.

Oilcan Harry's, 211 W. Fourth, 512/320-8823,

Best Happy Hour
Salty Sow

It's not just because the shared plates average about $5 a pop, or that there's a full array of margaritas. It's because every time we step into Salty Sow, we just have the best time. Oh, and those duck fat fries are now our new religion.

Salty Sow, 1917 Manor Rd., 512/391-2337,

Best Hotel Bar/Lounge
Hotel San José

If Wes Anderson shot a movie in Austin, it would look just like Hotel San José. The quaint decor and minimalist aesthetic of this 40-room South Congress location has been a favorite among locals and visitors since Liz Lambert renovated and transformed it from an old motor court. And the wine-and-beer bar, open to all, has the best damn micheladas in town. Come for an unmistakably Texan feel, a Southern hospitality, and a European cultivation.

Hotel San Jose, 1316 S. Congress, 512/852-2350,

Best Jukebox
Deep Eddy Cabaret

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

After a tie last year, Deep Eddy Cabaret has finally dethroned Casino el Camino with its jukebox jams (a first since 1995). Craft your perfect musical recipe at this dive bar with ingredients from locals Black Joe Lewis, Dale Watson, and Gary Clark Jr. Throw in some simmering vocals from Billie Holiday or Otis Redding. Spice it up with some Ramones, Bowie, or the Clash. Now we’re cookin’! Bonus points for including tracks from the late, great Nick Curran.

Deep Eddy Cabaret, 2315 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/472-0961,

Best Karaoke

What's karaoke without a themed room? The HighBall feels ya; they have seven karaoke rooms conceived by Zack Carlson and Laura Fleischauer that vary in funkiness and feature voice synthesizers, so we can all sound like our favorite pop-princess divas. And let's face it, who doesn't wanna have a karaoke party in the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks?

The HighBall, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/383-8309,

Best LGBTQ Hangout
Cheer Up Charlies

photo by Celesta Danger

Cheer Ups continues to top "Best of Austin" each year. Maybe it's something to do with no cover for live music. Or the resident vegan food trailer and its cult following. Or the myriad film screenings, dance parties, and wet beard contests. Under attack again by Big Development, the partial demolition of their definitive limestone amphitheatre illustrates in irony how this beloved club is a cornerstone of the music/culture/queer community.

Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River, 512/431-2133,

Best Live DJ
DJ Mel

Spinning records for the Democratic National Convention and President Obama's re-election party may be the milestones in the career of this Austin Music Hall of Famer. But here at home, he is well-known for genre-defining DJ sets spanning a massive music catalog. From his Eighties-centered series Rock the Casbah to sweaty dance parties at Nasty's, DJ Mel sure knows how to make you get your back up off that wall.

Best Live Music Venue

This pillar of the cultural district knows how to keep it cool in the Texas heat. They're always tuned in to the best new alt rawk from around the country and around the street corner. Three stories of patios for the outdoor stage mean that everyone has a view, and for those wanting, the pit offers the kind of close-quarters action that any punk worth the name deserves. Aren't you glad you shelled out for that condo when you did? You've got the best seat in the house.

Mohawk, 912 Red River, 512/666-0877,

Best Local Filmmaker
Richard Linklater

There are no explosions, no chase scenes, or gun shoot-outs in a Richard Linklater film. Instead of all that Michael Bay nonsense, we get human connections and experiences. Boyhood was one of the most lauded films of 2014, and Linklater was finally given the recognition he so deserved by the rest of the world, including two Oscar nominations this year for Boyhood. But to us, he will always be good ol' Rick.

Richard Linklater,

Best Movie Theatre
Alamo Drafthouse

Long gone are the days when only Austinites had some of that sweet Alamo Drafthouse religion. Last year, the gospel spread globally when the Drafthouse stood up to North Korea to be one of the first movie theatres to book The Interview. That kind of feistiness is par for the course at the Alamo, which has built its stellar reputation on a superior watching experience (including a firm no-texting/no-talking rule – preach) and the founding principle that every movie tastes better with a cold beer and a burger. Yeah, America.

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, 409-B Colorado, 512/476-1320,

Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson, 512/861-7030,

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040,

3 more locations

Best New Club
TIE: Stay Gold, Highland Lounge

photo by Celesta Danger

New clubs are popping up in Austin like so many poppers. Two new venues remind us that saturation doesn’t have to mean lack of innovation. With delicious drinks, an ample patio, and nightly music, Stay Gold is a haven for those looking for some substance on a night out. The vinyl-covered booths and red-velvet stage curtains set the ambience of a Seventies soul lounge, and the music doesn’t disappoint on that front either. If you’re looking for something a little more rambunctious, there's Highland Lounge. Everyone loves a good drag show, and you’ll find the most fabulous of them here. Folks who prefer to be the center of attention can show up for an amateur strip night, or let their inner club kid shine on the dance floor.

Stay Gold, 1910 E. Cesar Chavez,

Highland Lounge, 404 Colorado, 512/649-1212,

Best Non-Theatre Film Venue
Cinema East at the French Legation

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

What is better than a warm summer night spent outside with some of the best independent films of the year? Add a delicious picnic and your furriest canine companions. You really can’t beat it. Get there early to talk and drink with friends on the beautiful grounds of the French Legation Museum. The screen is huge and located perfectly at the bottom of the hill which means that you don't have to struggle to see over someone's head. Cinema East screens the latest works from rising indie stars such as Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal, Onur Tukel, and Amy Seimetz. The film starts when the sun goes down, and oh boy, is there nothing better than a movie under the big Texas sky?

Cinema East,

French Legation Museum, 802 San Marcos St., 512/472-8180,

Best Outdoor Venue

Sometimes we take Stubb’s for granted; so many places and events compete for our music-loving attention. But it takes just one show, even just one sight – say, Carrie Brownstein shredding atop Janet Weiss’ bass drum – to remember the transcendent times Stubb’s delivers on the regular. Readers brought the love this year to crown the magical spot that keeps Red River rockin’ steady.

Stubb's, 801 Red River, 512/480-8341,

Best Party of the Year

photo by Sandy Carson

Every year for nine days, Austin is taken over by a party as big as Texas. Every venue possible is filled with drinks and music, drinks and movies, or drinks and technology … sometimes all in the same place. There are designated “parties” at the festival, but there's pretty much one wherever and whenever you go. You can rub elbows with rock stars and movie stars all over town, and maybe get your demo heard or your script read. Just don’t get too wild and embarrass yourself in front of all the important people.

South by Southwest, 400 Bowie, 512/467-7979,

Best Place to Dance

Shake your bits and get groovy at Thursday’s Grits N Gravy. Dance yourself into a haze at Tuezgayz. Rock your Amadeus at Footloose Fridays. Perfect for dancing with friends or strangers any night of the week. Oh, Barbs! Thank you for all of those memorable nights (and the ones we can’t quite recall).

Barbarella, 615 Red River, 512/476-7766,

Best Scenester/Mover and Shaker
Maggie Lea

Summertime in Austin (or any season, really) wouldn’t be the same without Maggie Lea. From producing the Cinema East movie series to throwing the best parties (typically featuring the coolest bands) at Cheer Up Charlies, Lea is a massive force about town. Austin’s social scene may be rapidly expanding, but Lea stays ahead of it all, setting the standard by raising the bar, with her surefire mix of art, cinema, and music. Just don't call her a scenester. Or a mover-and-shaker. At least, not to her lovely face.

Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River, 512/431-2133,

Cinema East,

Best Underground Event
Big Rick's Blouse of Big Rubes

It's often dark. Almost always dank. We are honor-bound to not say what it is, only to tell you that once you go, you'll be forever changed – for better or worse. Hotly tuned olfactories know when it's in the air, and with a discreet email query, learn where it will pop up. Intimating what you'll uncover there (a sea of smells and sweaty bods, gyrating for green and glory) is already giving too much away. Even an award can't take away its cred (nor blow its cover).

Best Video Game Studio/Developer
Rooster Teeth

As the first to beat "BOA" front-runner BioWare in this category, Rooster Teeth deserves all the chatter. This tech-savvy company, started by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey (né Fink), Gustavo Sorola, and Joel Heyman, has blossomed from the egg that hatched videos and game-related conversations into the full-grown cock of the walk it is today. From nostalgic nights watching Red vs. Blue to the annual RTX convention, this fanged fowl holds a place in Austinites' hearts, taking this prize two years in a row.

Rooster Teeth, 512/684-5980,

Best Beer-Fueled Bike Ride
Austin Beer Guide Pub Crawl

Yes, we sure did walk the bike home on the last leg of the 2013 Austin Beer Guide Bloggers Suck Bike Pub Crawl. Was it completely necessary? Hell, yes. The Sunday adventure capping off Austin Beer Week made boozy stops at Workhorse Bar, Billy’s on Burnet, Pinthouse Pizza, and Draught House Pub & Brewery. Well-organized with an emphasis on safety, the crawl delivered special brews and discounts, the company of like-minded craft beer enthusiasts, and a most-deserved hangover. It's slated again for 2014; get your butt in a seat and your bike in gear – just be prepared to push your pony home.

Austin Beer Guide,

Best Boot-Scuffed Dance Floor
The White Horse

"Anything that gets a room full of people dancing and having a good time is what we do best," White Horse co-owner Denis O'Donnell told the Chronicle last year. Indeed the Comal Street honky-tonk gets the boots sliding across the hardwood like no other bar on the Eastside, but their get-downs aren't limited to pearl-snapped patrons two-steppin' to country. Second Sunday Sock Hoppers bop to vintage rock, soul, and R&B; the Tejano crowd moves to Conjunto Los Pinkys; and Cajun music fans stomp to Gumbo Ce Soir – all falling under the umbrella of roots music you can dance to.

The White Horse, 500 Comal, 512/553-6756,

Best Collaborative Brew
Peach of a Pale

photo by John Anderson

The perfect summer beer brewed by the perfect partnership of finesse and creativity, Peach of a Pale truly delights as a hop-forward ale made with 500 pounds of organic peaches – or as the Purple One would say, “She was pure, every ounce.” Locals Pinthouse Pizza and Hops & Grain are both known for their imaginative approaches to making great beer, and as the collaborative team behind Peach of a Pale, the duo does not disappoint. Dry-hopped, fruity, but none too sweet, the beer is youthful and sprightly. It’s the girl-next-door who crawls down from her window to skinny dip and light up a joint.

Pinthouse Pizza, 4729 Burnet Rd., 512/436-9605,

Pinthouse Pizza, 4236 S. Lamar, 512/502-5808,

Hops & Grain Brewery, 507 Calles, 512/537-9756,

Best Don't Call It a Comeback; They've Been Here for Years
Richard Linklater, Matthew McConaughey, Ed Hall

Look, y'all: We knew this was going to happen. We just didn't know it would happen all at once. When we saw Richard Linklater's Slacker (1991) – Band Playing at Club played by real band Ed Hall – and Dazed and Confused (1993), wherein our man Matthew McConaughey immortalized one David Wooderson, we knew these people were going somewhere. And they did, with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success, for a good long while. But this year? This year? With the fever-pitch McConaissance and the Oscar and Boyhood roundly proclaimed a masterpiece, just, by the way, on the heels of Before Midnight? And on top of that, the reemergent brilliance of Ed Hall live? Oh, late bloomers of Austin's Nineties, we do indeed salute you.

Richard Linklater,

Matthew McConaughey,

Ed Hall,

Best Friday Afternoon Tour and Tasting
Real Ale Brewery, Blanco

On Friday afternoons at quitting time, the cast and crew of Blanco’s most popular microbrewery gather around the tasting room with a pint in hand to talk shop. Usually it’s one of the brewmasters leading the behind-the-scenes tours, and they have a special way of imparting the fun and passion of producing award-winning brews. The tasting room is open on Fridays, 2-5pm, with tours starting at 3 and 4pm.

Real Ale Brewing, 231 San Saba Ct., Blanco, 830/833-2534,

Best Garage Conversion
Empire Control Room

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

A quick glance at the Empire Control Room calendar finds shows from Ruby Jane, the Terpsichorean Nutt Generators, Pharoahe Monch, and William Beckett. That’s folk, funk, hip-hop, and rock – all packed into a 350-capacity space that until two years ago looked like it could slip into Waller Creek. The Seventh Street venue’s immersion over the past year has been steady and swift, and full of any type of tunes you’d want. Plus those tripped-out visuals.

Empire Control Room, 606 E. Seventh, 512/651-4690,

Best Lez Get This Party Started DJ
GirlFriend aka Ezra Edwards

photo by Cash Mason

Just like that special someone, DJ GirlFriend leaves a lasting impression on her audience. Unlike a first crush or a last kiss, these parties won’t leave you chasing waterfalls. Built on good music and good vibes, GirlFriend curates the kind of party people want to be a part of – and in a town filled with the “too-cool-to-dance” types, that’s no small feat. Be it the queerest middle school dance party or a ladies arm-wrestling match of epic proportions, GirlFriend has this town believing they saw the sign.

DJ GirlFriend ATX,

Best Local Brewery
Independence Brewing Co.

A state-of-the art expansion, a foray into cans, and a Good Food Award – Independence Brewing’s 10th year in operation has been marked by innovation and growth. One of Austin’s oldest craft breweries, Independence Brewing continues to up its game, year after year. Its signature brews are pure Austin as is its approach to brewing: Do what you love, and make what tastes good.

Best Lounge Side
Strange Brew

Since its founding in 2010, Strange Brew was known to the far-south side as a bustling coffeehouse with a cozy lounge – Manchaca's answer to the Saxon Pub. It's a honky-tonk where the owner might donate a round to the band, with flexible seating, and where the healthy mix of veteran and fresh-faced newbies exit the stage and mingle with the crowd.

Strange Brew Lounge Side, 5326 Manchaca Rd., 512/828-7636,

Best Riesling to the Challenge
June Rodil

If it wasn't for June Rodil, we might not know the difference between a Barbera and a Braquet. For years, she has been sharing her encyclopedic knowledge at some of Austin's finest dining rooms – now delighting our senses as the beverage director for McGuire Moorman. With charm and grace, she breaks down the often snobbish world of wine. If she recommends a bottle, we suggest you listen.

McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group, 1204-A West Lynn,

Best Rock & Roll Residence
Hotel Vegas

Jason McNeely's vision of what makes an amazing rock & roll bar extends beyond the bands. The booker/owner has proven conscientious of poster art, the look of the bandstand, and between-act playlists. He and partner Brian Tweedy's Hot Burrito organization, formerly entrenched in Spider House's 29th Street Ballroom, revolutionized the underachieving East Sixth room when they partnered with owners Christian Moses and Charles Ferraro in late 2012. Now the scene-nurturing venue, predominantly serving Austin's garage, punk, and psych milieus, stands as a clear cornerstone of the underground music community. A "hotel" it's not, but at least one local rock star lives upstairs.

Hotel Vegas, 1502 E. Sixth, 512/524-1584,

Best Room With a Brew
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.

Two months ago, ABGB partner Mark Jensen confided to the Chronicle that his West Oltorf space’s beer brews are infused with the music they steadily book. Some may think it’s actually the other way around. The multifunctional biergarten and concert space does the dance between pizza joint and dancehall with ease, often blending the two together in sequence. Plus, we hear they treat their bands like royalty.

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., 1305 W. Oltorf, 512/298-2242,

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