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Critics

Best Biker With a Law Degree
Lenore Shefman

If we're ever in need of a personal injury lawyer, we know who we're rolling with. Lenore Shefman of Cyclistlaw not only talks the talk, but walks the walk as an "unapologetic beast of a litigator," a fixture and friend of the Austin bike scene, and a fierce advocate for countless victims of bike/pedestrian/vehicle collisions. Then she goes the extra mile, helping her clients recover emotionally as well as financially. Accidents are the unfortunate reality of being on the road with two legs or two wheels, but we feel much better knowing Shefman has a shoulder to the wheel.

Best Community Healing
Neighborhood Acupuncture Project

We tried everything to rid ourselves of chronic insomnia, from prescription drugs to not-so-prescription drugs, but nothing ever seemed to work for the long run. But after a few sessions at the Neighborhood Acupuncture Project, we were sleeping like a baby. It seems the ancient practice still works for present-age anxieties. And with a sliding cost scale, there's no added stress about how you're going to pay.

Neighborhood Acupuncture Project, 1909 E. 38th 1/2, 512/473-8884, www.napaustin.org

Best Farmers' Market Photo Booth
VARU Photography at HOPE Farmers Market

Photo booths have evolved from private two-person boxes to open-air decorated sets able to accommodate even the most sizable of groups. So when HOPE Farmers Market added all the fixtures to capture you, your family, and your furry friends, it seemed only natural. Happy moments aren't meant to be captured in secrecy behind a curtain; they should be shared. And let's face it, there might not be a better prop out there than a bundle of carrots.

Best French Hairstylist
Thibault de Monterno at the Waterstone Salon

Ever seen a French woman with a bad haircut? Probably not, and there’s a reason: The French know best how to style hair to flatter the face (and bone structure) beneath it. French native and -trained Thibault de Monterno moved to NYC two decades ago, working there with the bold-face stylists featured in the glossies. But 15 years ago, he started visiting Austin and realized that here was the life he was missing. So now Tbo’s happily embedded at the wonderful, warm, and unpretentious Waterstone Salon. It’s a perfect fit, or a bon mariage, as they say over there.

Best Furry Friend Finders
Austin Lost & Found Pets

Almost all of Austin is animal-friendly, but Austin Lost & Found Pets goes above and beyond. Stephanie Martens and her street team do extraordinary work to reunite lost pets with their families and educate the community about resources for your furry ones. Whether you're panicking about your missing Mastiff or you've found a wandering Weimaraner and don't have a clue what to do, ALFP is your first step for support, advice, and assistance.

Best Gurus for Your Garden
Seedlings Gardening

From makrut limes to flourishing flowers, Seedlings knows how to plant the plants that thrive in Austin's 325 days of summer. That surely has something to with the owner – native Austinite Liz Baloutine – who has seen Austin during both floods and drought. Sustainability isn't just a buzzword for the small staff at Seedlings, it's a raison d'être. We wouldn't trust anyone else with our landscape.

Best Integrative Medicine Physician
Julie Reardon, MD

Please give us more of Dr. Julie Reardon’s newfangled medical practice! If you yearn for a family physician who offers more than four-and-a-half minutes and a script for antibiotics or steroids, this enlightened medical model is for you. An initial consultation with Dr. Reardon, Harvard-educated and a Fellow of Dr. Andrew Weil’s University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, might last 90 unrushed minutes. Nothing New Age-y here; the goal is a well-rounded health plan that combines the best of conventional medicine with the best complementary practices. And she returns calls and emails – promptly. Just try to imagine it.

Best Lifesaver
Hydrelief

You know you've done it – drank that last whiskey & whisky because you thought the boy sitting in the corner might be giving you eyes. Even though you are giving a presentation the next day and your boss gave you side-eye when you said you had it covered. But they'll never suspect a thing if you get one of Hydrelief's IV infusion packages, full of medicine to help you with headaches, nausea, and heartburn, that erase your hangover in minutes. They may not be the cheapest hangover remedy, but they are surely the most effective. Now go get 'em, tiger!

Best Motorcycle Repair Shop
Flash Motorbikes

Paying for a new clutch is never a cause to pop open the champagne, but we'd still like to share a beer with Flash Motorbikes owners Jeremy and Tiffany Wolf. Every time we visit, we learn something new about our bike. And their fair pricing and friendly conversation make you feel like you’re a regular – even if it’s your first time in the store.

Best No Sweat No A/C Eco House
The Main Stay by Matt Fajkus Architecture

Mixing indoor and outdoor elements – the entire living room opens up on a bright blue lap pool – MF Architecture's Main Stay House is certainly easy on the eyes. But it's also easy on the environment. The six-year-old firm's design embraces nature in a way that makes us wanna be outdoorsy from the moment we walk in the front door.

Best Old Friends
Classic Canines and Cats/Seniors Helping Seniors/PALS

Two legs or four, getting old is tough. Through Classic Canines and Cats, the Friends of Austin Animal Center make sure senior fuzzy buddies have somewhere and someone to cuddle in their golden years. Sometimes that forever home comes from an older human, so the AARP helps animal re-housings through Seniors Helping Seniors, while Meals on Wheels Austin provides free meals and vet care assistance for the pets of over 350 seniors through PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors). Who are good buddies? All of you!

Best Pet Bonding Experience
Bobbi Colorado's Canine Camp

Colorado made a name for herself by training cinematic creatures of all shapes and sizes for major movies including Secondhand Lions and Spy Kids. Then in 2003, she and husband Ken Beggs started Bobbi Colorado's Canine Camp, quickly becoming an Austin pet owner's Mecca. More than a decade later, it still has few peers in its dedication to obedience training and luxury boarding. Colorado and Beggs work miracles with the grumpiest greyhounds and the most spastic schnauzers, graduating star pupil after star pupil – even when the cameras are not rolling.

Bobbi Colorado's Canine Camp, 8929 Hwy. 290 W., 512/288-6928, www.coloradoscaninecamp.com

Best Replacement for Uber and Lyft
Ride Austin

When Uber and Lyft severed their ties with the city, plenty of transportation network companies came out of the woodwork, but only one was built specifically for locals by locals. Nonprofit Ride Austin operates with the community in mind, allowing its users to round up their fare to support Central Texas charities and recently adding a new "female-only mode." Paying attention to the rider as much as the driver, Ride Austin is the reason why the big guys packing up their wagons barely made a dent in our lives.

Best Time Warp
Marvelous Vintage Tea Party Co.

With a year filled with so many horrors, it's hard not to long for a more elegant time. Luckily, Sophie and her mad hatters are housed here and they're serving up more than just tea. Borrowing from the more classy (and sassy) decades of the Twenties through Fifties, these vintage-style soirees are absolutely marvelous.

Best Toy $ Saver
Austin Toybrary

Ever wonder where exactly Buzz Lightyear's infinity and beyond was? We think the Space Ranger most likely meant Austin's Toybrary. This lending library houses the most spectacular array of dolls, Legos, games, and trinkets most adults don't realize exist – and the best part is it's all for rent! Take the toys home and bring them back before they end up lost under a bed and covered in dust.

Best Unexpected Beauty
Scrap Pile at Austin Metal & Iron Co., L.P.

If you've spent much time on the Eastside, you have probably noticed the extensive murals along the longstanding Austin Metal & Iron Co. If you've been lucky, you've seen the gates opened to the visual cacophony of glittering spikes and tumbling refuse of their scrap pile, lifted in massive, threatening heaps. It's thrilling and industrial, dramatic and, frankly, badass.

Austin Metal and Iron Co., L.P., 1000 E. Fourth, 512/477-4640, www.austinmetalandiron.net

Best Way to Mind Your Own Beeswax
Tara Chapman, Two Hives Honey

Austin didn’t know how much we needed micro-apiaries until Tara Chapman set up shop and started her beekeeping training courses and tours. Specializing in bees’ foraging patterns and Austinites’ curiosities, Two Hives provides a chance to build a sustainable skill set, and maybe even score some honey along the way.

Best Way to Raise Eyebrows
Leslie Sazon, Body Tonic Medical Spa

Science says eyebrows are the most important facial feature, so if you're working with 1995 Drew Barrymore arches, permanent makeup via microblading might just bring those window-to-the-soul treatments up to speed. This guru's superpower is mimicking individual hairs with precision, but she's got an arsenal of other techniques to enhance your natural you.

Best Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Métier Cook's Supply

We may never compete on Iron Chef, but we sure like pretending. Luckily, we have Métier owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher (you know them as the pair behind Lenoir) to outfit our personal Kitchen Stadium. From Togiharu knives to Tilit chef jackets and vintage cast iron, the charming space has everything we need to impress the judges – even if we are still using Pinterest for all our recipes.

Métier Cook's Supply, 1805 S. First, 512/276-2605, www.metieraustin.com

Best Feminist Subscription Box
A Box of Your Own

Who doesn't want to receive a surprise in the mail every month – especially if it's a goodie box that includes everything from feminist pins, patches, or stickers, to "herstory" postcards offering a mini lesson on a female historical figure, to fair-trade snacks? Curated by entrepreneur and blogger Katie Kronbergs, each box celebrates the power of self-care. And with 10% of proceeds going to a rotating charity helping women and girls, it's proof that treating yourself and doing good can sometimes happen at the same time.

Best Force of Nature
Articulture

We don't mean to call you basic (although don't think we don't see that pumpkin spice latte), but that sad clump of sedum you have growing in a terra cotta pot doesn't exactly give us home design #goals. It's time to raise your plant game, son. Perch a tillandsia in a minimalist blackbird, hang a jade plant from a baby-blue hexagon, or take a class on how to make your own living wall. Articulture has tons of accents to instantaneously and affordably upgrade your most humdrum rooms. Now let's talk about that IKEA couch.

Articulture Designs, 6405 Manchaca Rd., 512/762-5228, www.articulturedesigns.com

Best Gift Box
Take Heart

This tiny Eastside shop is full of beautifully made objects that will impress even your most demanding aunt. Showcasing artisans from around the world and our own backyard, and Japanese design without any Sanrio Surprises, the space is all about details, like the grain of bird's-eye maple on a spreader or the seed head of a dandelion permanently captured in a paperweight. If you are lucky enough to receive something that caught owner Nina Gordon's eye, take heart that the giver didn't decide to keep it for themselves.

Best Goody Two-Shoes
Suavs

Remember when David Bowie and Mick Jagger broke into a warehouse yard to dance in the street? We can't help but think they would have looked a little less awkward if they were wearing the proper shoes. If we were around, we would have suggested Austin-made Suavs – classic, lightweight, flexible slip-ons that go with everything from sweeping dusters to voluminous pleated pants. As it turns out, it does matter what you wear.

Best Help for Your Garden
Tillery Street Plant Co.

In September, Tillery Street Plant Co. began to offer free Saturday classes on prepping and planting fall gardens. Later in the season, they'll offer complimentary and comprehensive instruction on harvesting and protecting your garden from the freeze. If you missed your chance to plant edible vegetation this season, the passionate folks at this homegrown nursery will certainly be helping the public prep their green spaces for spring bounties – and are always on hand to offer advice year-round. Drop in, wander the beautiful gardens, and photosynthesize.

Tillery Street Plant Co., 801 Tillery, 512/567-1090, www.tillerystreetplantcompany.com

Best Jewelry for City Witches
Via Christa

If your style leans more Morticia than Melania, simulated sparkle just won't do. Instead of throwing some banal bauble on top of your black velvet maxi, layer a few pieces molded in silver or gold from bat skulls, cat jaws, or hawk talons. Sure, some folks may think you're creepy and you're kooky, but you'll still be casting a spell on the rest of us.

Best No-Fuss Bath Time
Little Roseberry

Gettting your kids to eat their broccoli is difficult, but maybe you can get them to put it on their heads. Little Roseberry operates under the philosophy that what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. "Mom cosmetologist" Brizy Tait created the skin and hair care line when she couldn't find the right gentle and natural products for her son. Dinnertime may still cause some tantrums, but now bath time couldn't be easier.

Best Personal Art Objects
Q Toys

Sometimes – like Ariel says – we want more ... than luridly anatomical jellies and glittery dolphin vibes. Q Toys can't help but stand out with their well-curated strap-ons and sculptural dildos. You probably won't frame it, or arrange it into a tablescape, but you'll definitely think twice before tucking it behind your bed.

Q Toys, 6800 Burnet Rd., 512/772-1614, www.qtoysaustin.com

Best Place to Get Your Goth On
Secret Oktober

It’s been a dead dreadful year for daring dark rock – RIP David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister – but Austin’s only women-owned goth/punk/horror boutique can salve the savage beast within via their terrifyingly huge selection of clothing, footwear, badges, patches, stickers, and oh!, Bela Lugosi’s not dead corsetry. Owners Cassandra Davis and Mary Milton know the sweet smell of the cemetery all too well, and they’ll help you be a better, badder, deader person, too. Hey, can I get some spiderwebs with that?

Best Place to Sell Your Records
End of an Ear

Bad taste is a consequence of being human. We've all had copies of an Aaron Carter (or some similarly coiffed twink) record under our bed at some point or another, but when we come to our senses it can be painfully embarrassing to cash in on our past mistakes. Unlike some other record stores that give you shit for going through a Savage Garden phase, End of an Ear delights in both the good and the bad. We can't promise you they'll buy your records, but they won't shame you for them either.

End of an Ear, 4304 Clawson, 512/462-6008, www.endofanear.com

Best Roll of the Dice
Whose Turn Is It? Games

For four years, Whose Turn Is It? Games has sold tabletop, card, and miniature games. Now expanded, the store still boasts a solid collection of retail games, with more space dedicated to actual gaming. Their big draws are Magic the Gathering and miniature tournaments (think Warhammer 40K and X-Wing), but they’ve also got shelves of European-style tabletop releases available to try out for free. On most days you’ll still find owner and game enthusiast Patrick Hanschen minding the store, ready to give expert advice.

Best Secondhand Tchotchkes
Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore

If you want something eclectic for your home, it's a well-known fact that you go to a thrift store. Of course, in a city more impressed with the hairpin legs of your boomerang table than your Hepplewhite, there are few places left undiscovered. But walk past the furniture and light fixtures of ReStore, and you'll find shelves brimming with secondhand tchotchkes, kitchenware, office accessories, accent decor, and more. This is where you can buy an old-school cereal bowl featuring Kellogg's Corny the Rooster. Or snag an Austin-themed tea kettle-shaped cast-iron trivet. And the money you drop goes to a good cause – Austin Habitat for Humanity's programs that benefit low-income families.

Best Souvenir Mug
Star Seeds Cafe

We've always been of the mind that, when buying a souvenir, you should steer clear of anything that screams, "tourist" – you know, like those generic keychains and shot glasses you can find at any airport newsstand. That's why a mug from Star Seeds Cafe is the perfect alternative for people back home (or your kitchen in South Austin). Sure, the mug's pretty simple with Star Seeds' retro-looking logo on one side and its slogan on the other. But the late-night joint is an Austin institution. It's where you get cheap eats and cheap beer at 11pm before heading back to your room at the Days Inn next door. And what's a better story to tell – that you grabbed any old mug from some Sixth Street shop or that you bought this at the place where you ate a chicken-fried steak the size of your head?

Best Vessel for Your Succulent
Foxwares Ceramics

It's an Austin habit to place our succulents in anything from plastic dinosaurs to old soup cans. But we like our spaces to be extra, so not any container will do. Lindsey Wohlgemuth's mugs and bowls are meant to hold things like chamomile tea and sage granita, but we are shipping them hard with a clump of pencil cactus.

Best Way to Prepare for Festival Season – Men's Edition
Weathered Coalition

When you are considering what to wear for Austin's endless stream of festivals, don't take a cue from the dudebros who still think Make America Great Again caps are funny. Instead consider the collection of goods assembled by Weathered Coalition owners Tyler Guinn and Ben Woods. Not yet a year old, the Domain Northside shop offers basics like Western shirts and tapered denim, along with accessories like limited-edition hats proudly proclaiming you are from the ATX. They may be nodding their heads to LCD Soundsystem, but they'll definitely be looking at you.

Best Way to Prepare for Festival Season – Women's Edition
Golden Bones

We know you washed those shorts at least half a dozen times to get a perfect fringe on your cutoffs, and we bet you spent at least a couple of Saturdays researching just what culture to appropriate, but can we give you some style advice? Get thee to Golden Bones. Buy an easy crop top and a zip sequined skirt, and just sit back while your mug lands on every street-style blog.

Golden Bones, 3210 Esperanza Crossing #110, www.GoldenBonesATX.com

Best Way to Share Your Good News
Bonne Nouvelle Design

You can buy a pretty-enough Hallmark card to tell someone "thank you," or announce your wedding with a flat rectangle of card stock. But your feels should be expressed with feeling, and off-the-rack greetings just don't do the trick. Bonne Nouvelle Design ensures your announcements, invitations, and any other non-digital communication are worthy of a stamp by showcasing the gorgeous work of local illustrators and calligraphers. Something to write home about indeed.

Tightest Tights
Tramps Fashion Compression Hosiery

Everybody knows that sitting is the new smoking. But spending eight hours on your feet is no walk in the park, either. Just ask Austin entrepreneur Alex Reyes, recently named by People en Español readers one of its annual 25 Most Powerful Women. Reyes drew on her experience as a hairstylist and salon owner to launch with her designer brother Tomas the Tramps Fashion Compression Hosiery line. With products in eye-popping pink and cheetah jacquard, the Tramps team helps working women keep the blood flowing – and look darn good doing it.

Best (and Worst) Video Game Ideas
Saam Pahlavan's Twitter Account

Indie game developer Saam Pahlavan told the Twitterverse in early September he would post a video game idea for each like his tweet received. Last we checked he was up to 194 – and while there's impressive quality in the ranks, they're not all gold. The surprisingly broad scope includes everything from "a racing game where you have to find your car keys before you start driving" to "Mario but every time you die Peach thinks less of you and considers dating Luigi." Not into video games? His Twitter profile pic deserves an additional award.

Best Art for the Masses
TEMPO – temporary public art displays

In this pop-up world where things seem to change daily, the city of Austin has added a new wrinkle to the art landscape – short-term art installations in city parks that may stay a couple of months or as short as a few days. The sculptures are subtly political (large donkey piñatas), evocative (a cube puzzle), or unexpected (a podium surrounded by flagpoles). Catch the art at a park near you, because they won’t be there long.

Best Austin Film Scene Tipster
Dan Eggleston, Austin Film Casting Yahoo Group

Remember Yahoo Groups? If you thought those online discussion forums had gone the way of MySpace, GeoCities, or Wreckx-n-Effect, tell that to the current 10,426 members and counting of Austin Film Casting. Dan Eggleston, a retired middle school teacher whose cotton candy beard has since popped up in 50-plus Austin-made films, created the group in 2000 on the Miss Congeniality set by passing a notebook down the line of extras. The group kept growing from there and today it remains an essential haunt to get info on projects ranging from blockbusters to bare-bones student shorts.

Best “Not a Museum” Museum
Museum of Human Achievement

By writing this blurb, we are violating one of the tenets of the mysterious Museum of Human Achievement: "Do not share this on print or web media, as it’s not something we desire to be public knowledge." Their social media presence may be practically nonexistent and their website doesn't waste much time in telling you what they are "about," but in a city of art lovers, a secretly wonderful artist-run multimedia exhibition space that regularly hosts experimental theatre and live music cannot remain hidden for long.

Best Curative Curators
Los Outsiders

Before "curate" became a thing the in crowd did with party appetizers and Spotify playlists, it was what academics did in museums and galleries, often with a gimlet eye toward deciding what art had merit and what didn't. It could be – and still can be – dry, dusty, and insidery. Fortunately, Austin has Los Outsiders to put the "cure" in curate. This visual arts collective made up of Jaime Salvador Castillo, Michael Anthony García, Hector Hernandez, and Robert Jackson Harrington has assembled exhibits and projects that take on life in these times and our city with boldness, clarity, a political edge, and a devilish sense of humor. Whether it's their award-winning group exhibit "Gently Fried," an X-ray of gentrification; their Dada fashion show "Sew Wasted"; or their touching sociocultural tribute to Austin's District 1 in "Drawing Lines," Los Outsiders select art that connects with Austin. They're outside the art world and inside ours.

Best F. U. to Dan Patrick
Carina Magyar

Our Lite Guv may be obsessed with which restroom people use to take a leak and our governor equally obsessed with suppressing gay rights, but there's still lots of folks left in Texas who we can all be proud of. Carina Magyar's sets bring the house down with her tales of dating as a trans lesbian, street harassment, and parenthood – making the political personal and providing an antidote to the toxic rhetoric around the discussion of LGBTQ lives. With apologies to Jacula Prudentum, laughing well is the best revenge.

Best International Passport
Indie Meme

Celebrating underdog filmmakers and voices, Indie Meme’s first festival was a successful passion project that opened Austin’s eyes to South Asia’s exploding cinematic scene. Repping every genre and age demographic, plus a solid cross section of more than 40 regional languages, the lineup was as expansive as the subcontinent. We can’t wait to see what year two has in store.

Best Li’l Drive-In in Texas
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In

Originally a parking lot pop-up, owner/founder/visionary Josh Frank’s 24 frames per second dream child has since evolved to an honest to goodness drive-in, complete with Fifties-era speaker poles, a candy and popcorn filled refreshment stand, and one heck of a nifty view of the dusky Austin skyline. Frank’s mission has been so successful that satellite asphalt theatres in Miami and Denver have since opened. But we like our hometown haunt the most, where family fare, classics, and arthouse programming make Blue Starlite a must almost every night of the week.

Best Life Changer
Barry Maxwell, Street Lit

Barry Maxwell knows the power of the written word to transport people in need. Reading helped him get through his own stint of homelessness, providing connection to the greater world. Now a fiftysomething UT creative writing student, Maxwell has transformed an Austin Community College class project into a permanent source of community good – providing books to those most in need and conducting writing workshops at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless led by pros like Elizabeth McCracken.

Best Mopar Poet
W. Joe Hoppe

What do you get when you mix a card-carrying Mopar Muscle Cars of Austin member with a poet? A red-bearded wordsmith growling with steel and smoke. The Austin Community College professor originally came from Michigan, but he quickly became an essential part of Austin as a Blue Plate Poets member and a Michener fellow. He still hosts a regular reading series at Malvern Books. And his poems still have their urgency, seeking beauty and truth in the ordinary: “stainless steel hex nuts/falling like raindrops/to a polished concrete floor.”

Best Moving Image Memorial
Tower

This August, the University of Texas erected a monument to memorialize the victims of Charles Whitman’s mass murder spree from on top of the UT clock tower 50 years ago. Documentarian Keith Maitland and his extraordinarily talented team of Austin creatives have erected a different kind of monument in memorial. Tower explores the events of Aug. 1, 1966 through animated dramatizations, archival footage, and survivor testimony. It’s both a heartfelt tribute to the heroes and fallen of the day and a harrowing reminder to never forget our nation’s first mass school shooting.

Best New Look for an Old Play
Hamlet by Sarah Presson/Eye Like Design

Whether created by some talented amateur that a company's lucky enough to have among its members, or by a longtime professional who's generous enough to work a pro bono gig, the visual components promoting shows in this town are almost as important as the show itself. To wit: Sarah Presson's stark, stunning design for Present Company's performed-with-flashlights-in-the-dark production of Hamlet. While capturing the spirit of the Bard, Presson managed to avoid 400-plus years of visual cliches used to illustrate one of his most famous works. We suggest that no poster was so powerfully evocative in 2016.

Best Return of the Austin We Miss
Austin Stories Reunion

The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival made a splash in September when Austin Stories stars including Laura House, Chip Pope, Howard Kremer, and Heather Kafka came together to remember MTV's odd 1997 experiment in slackerish sitcomfoolery that created such catchphrases as "neckfurters" and "diaps." Both reviled and admired during its 12-episode run, the show now seems a wry uncle to Portlandia and a wistful window into a more innocent Austin. After the reunion, cast members trekked into Ken's Donuts with cell phone cameras rolling, Kremer touting it as the long-awaited second season. If only.

Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
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