1996 Readers Poll
1996 Critics Picks
Best Aerobic Instructor

Daniel's 6am step aerobics class (he conducts others at more reasonable hours, too) will put hair on your chest, or his, which most likely is more preferrable. We've never seen anyone get so much enjoyment from our suffering (bad jokes and unsolicited political commentary aside) so early in the morning. Remember: The early bird gets... well, in this case... a damn good workout. Besides, the worm is so overrated, and probably full of calories.

World Gym
115 E. Sixth

Best Barber

When we feel like a neighborly chat, the latest in center-city gossip, and a gentle touch, we go see Mimi at Gaitan's Barber Shop in Hyde Park. When we're more in the mood for an action movie on TV, hot towels, and a strop with a straight razor, we head our heads over to the manly Wooten Barber Shop on the Drag.

Gaitan's Barber Shop
4224 Duval St.

Wooten Barber Shop
2106 Guadalupe

Best Booksearch

Looking for the unique, the obscure, the long-out-of-print? May we suggest you call book search expert Sam Waring at this longtime downtown literary oasis? Sam will locate the necessary book in the appropriate price range and give you a ring.

Congress Avenue Booksellers
716 Congress

Best Community Food Service

La Cocina Allegre (the happy kitchen) is an ongoing educational program at the Sustainable Food Center in East Austin that provides healthy, economical grocery shopping and cooking instruction to women and families in the neighborhood. Since the program's inception, Kerbey Lane Cafes have supported it with money, food and bilingual members of their cooking staff to act as teachers.

Kerbey Lane Cafe
3704 Kerbey, 512/451-1436
13435 Hwy. 183 N. #415, 512/258-7757
2606 Guadalupe, 512/477-5717
4301 W. William Cannon, 512/899-1500
3003 S. Lamar, 512/445-4451
2120 N. Mays, Round Rock, 512/879-2827
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/879-2820
2200 Aldrich #100, 512/879-2818

photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Cute Mechanics

Sure, it's refreshing to discover a post-Cambian mechanic who actually employs analytical thinking to fix your car right the first time -- hassle-free. But there's more to this place than meets the brain. Maybe it's the suave, black polo shirts and matching snug shorts that snag us. Or perhaps the colorful atmosphere just lures us in. But we know in our hearts that it's the boys who keep us coming back for more, more, more. Not only are they a talented, capable, and courteous lot, but every damn one of `em is a looker!

Flamingo Automotive
3512 Guadalupe

Best Daughter Of Texas

God bless Cecile Richards for standing up to the religious right. Richards, daughter of the former guv, is founder of the Texas Freedom Network, a "mainstream alternative" bunch of Texans that ain't scared of the rich and powerful Texas Christian Coalition, or the American Family Association, or the Eagle Forum, or even the Concerned Women of America, for that matter. Richards is a concerned woman in her own right. Watch for her to build an even stronger base against the extremists -- with Republicans, Democrats and women and men of the cloth on her side.

Texas Freedom Network
PO Box 1624

Best Drum Teacher

Even though we were rank beginners when we entered Ms. Baby's class, she tutored us with compassion, humor and skill. Taught by Master drummers in Ghana to play kpanlogo, Sherri Baby has carried their tradition to Austin, offering it to all who are interested -- no previous experience necessary, which is exactly what we had. Now we can play complex polyrhythms in ensemble. We can even keep time. Ms. Baby encourages the timid and patiently explains the rudiments as many times as necessary. We wish all our teachers had been like her. If you've nurtured a secret yen to beat out that rhythm on the drum, call her. Sherri Baby can make it happen.

Best Eco-Friendly Pest Control

Kitty's a one-woman SWAT team who will get rid of whatever creature happens to be making a meal of your premises -- without also poisoning your family or the groundwater in the process. Like a little Holmes, she'll come over and scope out the problem, track it down to its source and then come up with the least-toxic solution, often one involving no chemicals at all. And, have you tried to find someone in this town without pity who will come over -- without a can of Dursban in hand -- to figure out what mean-spirited, sub-terranean demon is turning your green lawn brown?


photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Guy To Drool On As Your Mouth Goes Slack

Terrified of tooth-tinkering dentists? Prefer dealing with decay over dang drilling? Fear no more, the ever kind and gentle Dr. Van Wicklen caters to the biggest fraidy-cats out there and he NEVER sends out covert, telepathic messages that he thinks you're a wimp. A human version of those Eight-Ball toys you quiz about your every curiosity, Van Wicklen answers all questions patiently, and you don't even have to turn him upside-down and shake him. Our critic, the kind of gal who has to get up and pee three times during one visit based not on her bladder but her nerves, was so pleased with a recent filling-insertion, that she's started to eat raw sugar at every meal in hopes of creating new excuses to have the gentle dentist continue to prove crowns and fillings don't have to be the nightmare some doctors make them.

Best Intellectual Auto Assessment

David Gordon could probably write a book on Zen and the art of import repair. With a fine arts degree, a dry sense of humor and a knack for assessing a used car's potential, Gordon is not your ordinary mechanic. Nor is he the cheapest. But he's (sometimes brutally) honest, fair, funny, and a master of all things mechanical.

Tower Automotive Import Repair
724-A N. Lamar

Best Medical Application Of Fast-food Technology

Why go to a full-service mechanic if all's you need is a lube? Same goes for hospitals. Why involve the entire city or the Roman Catholic Church if all's you need is some out-patient care? Smart doctors reside at Bailey, within screaming distance of Seton and the rest of the 38th Street medical community. We especially think the nurses are swell.

Best Name For An Orthopedic Clinic

It's gut-busting enough that the name of this heal hall is The Austin Bone & Joint Institute. If that doesn't bring out the Beavis & Butt-head in you, then get a load of the names of the docs who run the joint. Only true healers can get away with names like these: Dr. Schock and Dr. Burns!!!

Best No-nonsense Way To Cut A CD

You'd think it would be easy, here in "music city," for a modern CEO to create an audio CD of the company's annual stockholders' addresses. Guess again. Oh, there are plenty of so-called "full-service" recording studios which will press your CD but can't make DAT masters, or will make your CD interactive but won't do the recording and can't handle the packaging. Frustrated? Try Audio Arts. They can do it all, without making you sweat the details. Man-in-charge Jeff Moeller is a pleasure to work with; he even makes house calls (or "remote recordings" as we say in the biz). The "stockholders" of a certain East Austin business are in for a surprise when they open up their 1996 "Annual Reports."

Audio Arts Recording
1313 S. Congress

Best Non-profit Effort To Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

With 23 or so drop off-spots in and around town (including Granger, Dripping Springs, and Camp Chautauqua) and a long list of acceptables including junk mail, Ecology Action provides the most extensive and friendly recycling service around. Ecology Action uses the money it makes from the recycling to cover its costs, and tries to break even each year. They also get funds from dues-paying members but this is only about one of every 12 recyclers. At the Ninth Street spot, the staff will gladly help you recycle your stuff at their curb. It's "curbside" recycling at its best!

Ecology Action of Texas
420 Kemp

photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Old-Fashioned Service Station

The friendly customer service in this near South Austin station is a refreshing blast from the past. Harold himself will pump the gas at the full-serve pump, check the oil and wash the windshield. They cheerfully fix flats and for "Car Talk" aficionados, the mechanic on duty has a genuine Boston accent.

Best Place To Get Jacked Up

Our alternate award was titled "Proof That the Bourgeoisie Have Gone Completely Over the Top," but actually, we really like this place. Gone are the days of sitting in the lobby reading old copies of People -- now you can kick back in style, enjoying a double latte and finishing your Kerouac while the guys with dirty fingernails are out back taking care of your car. But please do try to observe the speed limit when you leave.

Xpresso Lube
3016 Guadalupe

Best Ride That Could Save Your Life

It may be the most expensive ride you'll ever encounter, but if you're in need of the services of Brackenridge Hospital's Starflight helicopter, it could be worth your life savings! A big thanks goes out to the Starflight team, who daily risk their lives to save your's and your neighbors'. Efficient, dedicated, and worked to the bone, the men and women of Starflight have proved that while the cost may be high to run their program, it can never come close to the cost of a human life.

Brackenridge Hospital
601 E. 15th

Best Tag-Team Physical Therapy

In this day of corporate takeovers and mega-medicine, it's a little frightening to turn one's self over to these giant conglomerates and trust that the individual care you need is part of the program. Anna Gonzalez was at this facility back when it was Baxter Rehab, and then Care Mark, and she will probably survive a few more. She's a stern taskmaster who'll get you on the road to recovery with little officious B.S. At the same time, she's kind and considerate and will make sure that the program she has you on is suited for your needs. Assistant Kelly Popma is handy with the balance board and big therapeutic rubberband-thingy and at the ready to crack the requisite joke in times of great pain. These sisters'll get you back into whack.

Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital
1215 Red River

photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Thing On Wheels

The affable Fritz Blau is the man behind the moniker, speedily hanging culture in the form of gig flyers, public service posters, and theatre handbills along a legal route all across town. Quite the boon to bands and bards, Motorblade Postering Service does the work so you don't have to. Though he's not always on his trademark `blades to distribute flyers, Blau is a reputable inline skating instructor in his "off" hours.

Motorblade Postering Service
Fritz Blaw, 5303 Aurora

Best Way To Keep On Ticking

Anybody will fix a Rolex. But who'd take on our beloved Smiley Cat watch, a $29 special with fish bones for numbers, its hands now lying limp and screwless at the bottom of the dial? In a word, Terr's -- for 10 bucks, while we waited. Not only did Mr. Terr (whose spartan shop belies an old lower Eastside gestalt) not make fun of our choice of timepiece, he didn't even castigate us for trying to change the battery ourselves with the help of a three-year-old. Next time, we'll go here first.

Critics: Politics & Personalities
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